How to Save Energy, Water, and Money

Mike Vandeman
July 4, 2013

Last updated 11/9/2021


There is a lot of talk lately (e.g. COP26) about governments addressing climate change. But why wait for them? Itís a lot cheaper and faster to simply reduce our energy consumption!


1. Many appliances consume energy (ďvampire powerĒ) even when turned off! Put a small switch or a power strip between them and the power outlet, so you can turn them off completely: e.g. TVs, microwaves, stereos, etc. Your Smart Meter (outside your house) will tell you, in real time, exactly how much power your house is consuming. Or buy a Kill-o-watt watt meter. Also remember that the larger the TV or computer, the more energy it consumes.


2. Sell your car and buy a bicycle. I bought mine on Craig's List. Yard sales are another good source. If you have trouble riding a bike (e.g. you live on top of a hill), buy an electric bike. For long trips to places not close to public transit, you can always rent a car.


3. If you must have a car, buy a Nissan Leaf. You will never have to visit a gas station again (except perhaps to put air in your tires)! You can even power it from solar panels on the roof of your house.


4. Grow your own food. Fruit trees quickly pay for themselves. Producing your own organic food is also very psychologically satisfying.


5. If you have trouble keeping your house cool in the summer, put white shingles on your roof, or paint it white. Paint your house white. Put as much insulation in your attic as will fit. It will keep you warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. You can also insulate your walls and crawl space. If thatís still not enough, you can buy polyurethane insulation sandwiched between layers of aluminum foil, which can be placed on or under the roof to reflect the sunís heat up and indoor heat down. You can also plant trees on the south side of the house to shade it Ė blocking the sun before it even hits the house. Deciduous trees that drop their leaves in the winter would allow the sun to warm the house then. Just be aware that keeping the house cool in summer will also make it colder in winter, so you have to thread that needle (balance those effects).


6. Put solar electric panels on your roof (at least, enough to offset your electric bill), and a solar water heater. Then your power bill may be zero! Heat pumps are the rage lately, but I havenít investigated them yet.


7. Put a 5-gallon bucket in the kitchen and one in the shower, and collect greywater (in basins in the kitchen & bathroom sinks) to use in the garden and in flushing the toilet. Pour some of the water in the toilet bowl (not in the tank) to flush it, thereby avoiding the use of clean water. Never flush the toilet when it contains only urine. You will find your water consumption is cut dramatically! Unfortunately, your water bill may not be cut as much, because there are many charges that are not based on consumption. Please lobby to change our water bill so that all of it is proportional to our consumption!


8. Repair & reuse. Recycle everything that canít be reused and can be recycled. Ideally, the retail distribution path should be used in reverse to return recycled materials, so the vehicles donít need to return empty.


9. Set the temperature on your water heater as low as possible, to still be able to shower comfortably.


10. What will we do with all our unneeded petroleum-fueled cars? They can be used to solve two problems at once! Whenever we retire a motor vehicle, it should be put into a legal parking space, and the keys should be given to a homeless person. They will have a secure place to sleep, and the loss of a parking space will help reduce the use of motor vehicles. Of course, we should provide public bathrooms, as Europe does.


11. Replace all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or, better still, LED lights. They produce the same amount of light with far less electricity consumption. You can feel the difference: anything that produces heat is wasting energy.