Are you interested in ECOLOGY?  Then you might find one of these Homestead.org articles handy:

A Country Girl's Best Friends (Vinegar & Baking Soda) by Adrianne Masters

Waste Not, Want Not by Adrianne Masters

The Lost Art of Beekeeping? by Trendle Ellwood

Beginning Thoughts on Keeping Bees by Kim Flottum

Getting Ready to Get Ready for Winter by Kim Flottum 

Wintering Bees by Kim Flottum

Robbing the Bee Tree by M.J. Nutter:

Honey Health: Honey in Home Remedies and Skin Care by Karyn Sweet

How about ALTERNATIVE ENERGY?

Heating with Wood by Doug Smith

Cutting the Utilical Cord, Part 1: Electricity, by Sheri Dixon

Cutting the Utilical Cord, Part 2: Water, by Sheri Dixon

Cutting the Utilical Cord. Part 3: Septic. by Sheri Dixon

Making Alcohol Fuel: by Lynn Doxon

Nanosolar Solar Cells: Cheaper than Milk? by Chris Devaney

Roof-top Wind Farms by Chris Devaney

Living Six Years Without an Electric Bill by Chris Devaney 

Sunny or Windy, by Casey Calouette

The Homestead Woodstove by Tony Collella

 

 

 

Eco-friendly Tips for a More Sustainable Home

by Andrew Brusnahan

Most people find that making small green changes around the home is fairly easy, and definitely more forgiving towards your wallet than, for example, a fleet of expensive solar panels.  From the kitchen, to the bathroom, and everywhere else in between, the green possibilities vary by the room.  Sometimes though, this can prove to be overwhelming, conjuring up concerns of where to start (especially if you have a larger-size home).  Not to worry though, just break your house down room-by-room, tackling each room from start to completion, making sure you accomplish all the changes you set out to accomplish to begin with.

The Kitchen

If energy consumption were a party, the kitchen would be the place to be.  This is where all the energy-sucking appliances gather, including the refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, microwave, and even smaller appliances such as mixers, toasters, and can openers.  It seems apparent that this area of the house could use all the help it can get in terms of reducing energy use.

Your refrigerator may not be as cold as you think…

To effectively chill food and drinks at an optimal temperature, while fending off bacteria at the same time, the temperature in your refrigerator should be between 35 and 38 degrees F.  Bacteria will grow eventually—it’s inevitable—however, the role of a refrigerator is to slow down the growth of bacteria, prolonging the life of perishables for as long as possible.

If you are suspicious about the temperature of your refrigerator, grab a basic thermometer meant for appliances and a glass of water.  Simply insert the thermometer into the glass, and place it as close to the center of the refrigerator as possible.  Allow it to sit there overnight, checking the temperature the next morning.

If you find that the temperature is too warm or too cold, locate the temperature setting knob and adjust it accordingly.  A refrigerator that is too warm will promote the growth of bacteria, causing your food to spoil more quickly.  On the other hand, a refrigerator that is too cold means your refrigerator is working harder to maintain that colder temperature.  This can lead to a considerable increase in energy consumption.

Usually sitting atop the refrigerator, is the freezer which also needs to be set to a certain temperature setting in order to function optimally.  The ideal temperature for a freezer is between 0 and 5 degrees F.  While the temperature of a refrigerator slows down the growth of bacteria, the temperature of a freezer is supposed to be cold enough that bacteria growth ceases completely.

One too many…

How many refrigerators are in operation in your household?  If you answer that you have more than one refrigerator, then it might be time to consider a reduction.  You’re not alone though—several households have a second refrigerator or freezer plugged up in the garage or basement.

If you have a legitimate need to have two refrigerators or two freezers, then you can’t help it.  However, if you open the door to the second refrigerator only to find a few cans of Pepsi, then it may be time to give the spare refrigerator the boot; especially if it is old.

You may even find that there are utility companies, charities, and other organizations in your local area that will arrange to pick up any unwanted appliance, as well as dispose of it properly; this could be a recycling center, a needy family, etc.

It’s getting hot in here…

With solar technology creating quite a stir over the past few years, it might be hard to believe that the sun can actually promote inefficiency.  Take a look over at your refrigerator periodically throughout the day.  Does the sun shine directly on it for extended periods of time?  If so, then your refrigerator might be working harder than it has to.

Direct sunlight, when applied directly to the metal surface of a refrigerator, can cause that surface to heat up exponentially.  In order to maintain a stable temperature internally, your refrigerator will have to work harder, consuming more energy than normal.

While it may not be the easiest method, physically, moving the refrigerator out of direct sunlight would be the easiest thing to do, logically.  However, if your kitchen is similar to many other kitchens, then there may not be any other locations to where the refrigerator to be relocated.  Should this be the case, all you need to do is hang a curtain across the window to shield your refrigerator from the bulk of the sunlight.

Seal em’ up…

Your refrigerator and freezer rely on a rubber gasket to create a tight seal between the door and the rest of the appliance.  A proper seal is vital; otherwise the cold air contained within will leech out through the breached seal.  Therefore, a visual inspection of the rubber gasket is necessary every once in a while to ensure the gasket is not worn, torn, damaged, or breached in any way.

To check the adequacy of the seal, all you need is a dollar bill.  With your freezer or refrigerator door open, place the dollar bill in the path of the door and then close the door on it.  Now, give the dollar bill a slight tug.  Were you met with any resistance, or did the bill slip right out?  If the bill came right out with ease, that is an indicator that there is not a tight seal occurring, and you should probably look into replacing the gasket.

The dishwasher saves the day…

Contrary to popular belief, the dishwasher can actually be much more efficient than washing dishes by hand.  However, that concept only applies to full loads of dishes, not a few plates and a glass.  Doing dishes by hand, on average, consumes more than twenty gallons of water (probably because most people tend to leave the sink running the entire time to rinse dishes).

A dishwasher, on the other hand, consumes far less.  In fact, if a dishwasher is Energy Star rated, then it may use as little as four gallons of water to thoroughly clean a load of dishes.  Besides, who likes doing dishes by hand anyway?

The Bathroom

Yes, even the bathroom can cause your home to be more wasteful than it has to be; especially with water consumption.  Leaky faucets and faulty toilet components, among other things, can waste more than 5,000 gallons of water every month depending on the frequency of the leak.

Drip, drip, drip…

We’ve all heard that sound before.  It can only mean one thing—a leaky pipe or faucet.  Even the tiniest leaks can have a dramatic effect on water consumption.

Sure, a slow drip might only increase your water bill by a few dollars, but if left unattended, those drips can add up.  In the long run, the water produced from a leaky pipe can build up on the floor below.  Mildew, rot, and decay ensue, taking the meager fifty-cent cost of the washer the pipe needed to be replaced, and turning it into a pricey repair job.

Nothing like a long, hot shower…

Who doesn’t enjoy a long hot shower on a cold winter day?  While simple pleasures like a hot shower do not seem like much, the fact remains that a sizable amount of water is used with each and every shower.  Common sense would tell us that if we wanted to be more efficient in terms of water consumption, we should just take shorter showers.  While that is an easy option, most people would rather take a pay cut than give up their lengthy showers.

An alternative to cutting the length of showers would be to replace your standard showerhead with a low-flow showerhead.  Some showerheads are capable of producing four gallons of water per minute; therefore, a ten-minute shower would consume forty gallons of water.  Some might call that overkill.

When looking for a low-flow showerhead, look for one that produces only 1.5 to 2 gallons of water per minute.  Doing so can lead so substantial savings with regards to water consumption, as well as cut down on the cost required to heat the water.

I smell something burning…

That may be because the temperature on your water heater is set entirely too high.  The default temperature that most water heaters are set at is 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  Instead of keeping it set to that high, try reducing the temperature setting to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chances are good that you won’t even realize the change, at least not until you see the financial savings such a simple change can have.

Lowering the temperature setting of your water heater can actually work to prolong the overall life if the unit.  The lower temperature effects how the mineral deposits build up, slowing down the process, ultimately slowing down the corrosion process as well.

Shut your flapper…

If your water bill is running higher than normal this month, perhaps you have a leaky toilet.  Should your toilet be leaking, depending on the size of the leak, you could be wasting a gallon or more of water every minute.

The usual culprit behind a leaky toilet is your toilet’s flapper.  The flapper is located within the tank of the toilet, and allows water to flow from within the tank into the bowl.  They are made of rubber which, over time, can begin to deteriorate; usually due to exposure to toilet-cleaning liquids.

There is an easy way to tell if you need to replace your toilet’s flapper—all you need is a bit of food coloring.  Pick a color you like and squeeze a liberal amount into the tank of the toilet.  Run some errands, watch a movie, do whatever you can to occupy two hours.  After two hours have passed, check to see if any of the food colorings have leeched into the bowl of the toilet.  If any has, then that usually is an indicator that you should replace the flapper.

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