Green Tip of the Week: Caulk Now, Before Winter’s Chill

weather-caulk-window-mdSimple leaks can sap home energy efficiency by 5% to 30% a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means it pays to seal up gaps with caulking and weatherstripping.

Take a close look at places where two different building materials meet, such as corners, around chimneys, where pipes or wires exit and along the foundation. Use the incense test: carefully (avoiding drapes and other flammables) move a lit stick along walls; where the smoke wavers, you have air sneaking in. And heating or cooling sneaking out. (more…)

Leaf It for Compost

leaf-compost-TP-medInstead of bagging up all those pretty fall leaves and stacking them out at the curb, turn them into compost, and save energy and landfill space.

Yard waste is the second-largest component of our trash stream (behind paper), according to the EPA, and makes up roughly 20 percent of most communities' haul. Plus, trucking all those bulky bags from homes to the dump requires a lot of fuel, not to mention heaving and sweating by waste collectors. (more…)

Seal Those Ducts

seal-ducts-tip-medHeating and cooling is one of the home's biggest uses of energy, so it's important to make sure all your ductwork is tightly sealed. Now is the time to winterize your home. Studies show 10% to 30% of conditioned air in an average system escapes from ducts, reports the U.S. Department of Energy.

Clearly, you don't want to be paying for hot or cold air that is simply going to waste, and you don't want to be responsible for more CO2 emissions than is necessary. Therefore, it's a good idea to hire a professional (and experienced) service technician to come out and test your system, and fix any duct problems that are uncovered. Don't just try to slap on duct tape, because that's not very effective, despite its name. (more…)

Bust Runoff with a Rain Garden

rain-garden-tip-medThe concept of a rain garden, which mimics natural systems, was crystallized in Maryland in the 1990s. The idea is to create a depression filled with plants that collects the rainwater that runs off a building and its landscape. The plants — such as sedges, rushes, ferns, wildflowers, shrubs, trees and so on — absorb the water and release it slowly. This reduces the surge of water running off the landscape, which picks up fertilizers, pesticides, motor oil and other contaminants and carries them into waterways. (more…)

Give up Washing Your Car (at Home)

carwashWhich is greener, a commercial car wash or DIY? The answer: Go with the pros.

Commercial car washes require an average of about 45 gallons of water per car, whereas home washers typically use between 80 and 140 gallons, according to the trade group International Carwash Association. That's a big difference! Federal law requires commercial car washes to drain their wastewater into sewers, where it normally receives some treatment, versus simply running across the land. (more…)