Today we attended a home school class at the Natural History Museum on the subjects of weather and climate. The kids did an interesting experiment that went like this:
They set up 2 thermometers, one out in the open and one in a plexiglass tank and aimed infrared lamps at them. Because of refraction and reflection, the thermometer in the plexiglass tank was warmer than the one out in the open. This was to show the greenhouse effect of our atmosphere in a very basic way. Then they decided to see the effect of increased CO2 emissions. So, they dumped baking soda into the open topped tank and then poured in vinegar and let it fizz away with the top open. The temperature went up by several degrees over the next few minutes. Then the instructor blew into the tank to disperse some of the CO2. Immediately the temperature dropped by about 3 degrees. I was floored by how easily and quickly the temperature was affected and how long the elevated temperature would have hung on if we hadn't cleared out the CO2. This was a good lesson for my kids (and me) today because now they are slightly better able to understand my nagging to "TURN OFF THOSE LIGHTS!"
We found it easy to make some very basic changes years ago in an effort to decrease our energy consumption. The wonderful thing about those changes were that we were rewarded financially for our efforts by lowering our electric, gas and water bills. But, we haven't made any further progress since that point. Even worse, we have done some backsliding recently.
We replaced all the lightbulbs that we could with CFL's. We were even able to find yellow anti-bug CFLs for our porch lights and a CFL spotlight for our security light. These things really do last as it has been years since I replaced one. The cost has gone down since then and there are so many more options available now including LEDs.
We kicked the habit of leaving phone, laptop, razor and toothbrush chargers plugged in. We also try to charge them when we are around to unplug them as soon as they are charged instead of leaving everything plugged in for a whole night or day.
We installed surge protectors at our TV/entertainment station and at our microwave. We hit the switch when we aren't using them to prevent the remote controlled appliances from draining phantom power. Who needs an extra clock on the microwave to beam on all day and all night when there is a wall clock, a wristwatch and a cellphone eager to give me the time?
When we updated our hot water tank we opted for an energy efficient model that was the proper size for our household. We switched to cold water laundry washing without any ill effects on our laundry.
But once again, I ask myself, "What else can we be doing?" I have really wanted to do an energy audit, but was worried that it might be too expensive. I see now that there are ones available for around $50 and that seems doable. I know we can do something about the cold floors in the addition part of our house and I think an audit could help me to track down the most efficient answer to the problem.
As for the backsliding and nagging... I am finding that now that it is getting darker earlier we are leaving lights on in areas of our house that we aren't in. So, I have been trying to go around and shut them off. I see my efforts paying off as I think everyone is getting sick of my pestering and have started paying attention again. Funny how it just takes only one person to notice something and with a little pushing a whole household can change their habits. That is why I am glad I took this challenge. Small changes can add up. One person can make a difference. Don't ever feel silly for doing the small things that it takes to lower your consumption. Of course, the big things are nice too. :)