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Earth Day Talk: Energy Efficiency...Muellerites Invited
by langhugh on April 16th, 2009

"Three Simple Things" to Improve Your Energy Efficiency

(NOTE: While this is a Sunday morning talk in a downtown church meeting hall, please consider attending without any pressure of also attending a church service.)

I organize the Earth Day activities for First United Methodist Church of Austin. This year, we are focusing on a single efficiency in the home. To that end, I invited Ed Clark, Austin Energy's Public Information Officer to speak on the topic. He will offer his talk on Sunday, April 19th at 10:00am in the Great Hall of the Family Life Center at FUMC-Austin. Enough with the prepositions, consider yourself invited.

The FUMC-Austin Family Life Center is on the NW corner of 13th and Lavaca on the west side of the State Capitol. You may park in the parking garage on the SW corner of 13th and Lavaca

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For other details:

I am certain you'll learn at least "Three Simple Things" that you can do around your home to improve your energy effiiciency. I am including a list of 50 here that I compiled for the talk.

50 Things to Improve Your Energy Efficiency

Austin Energy

(All services can better understood by visiting

1. Take an online Home Energy Analysis, from Austin Energy. This Analysis will give you personalized feedback based on your home energy use.
2. Sign up for Austin Energy’s Free Energy Improvements if you meet certain income qualifications. Austin Energy will weatherize your home with caulk, weather strip, and solar screens.
3. Sign up for a free, programmable Power Partner Thermostat. Programmable thermostats can be very effective in managing your energy use in the summer.
4. Research the vast array of Rebates available through Austin Energy. Austin Energy vigorously tests products to determine which will have a net energy saving benefit
5. Attend a Green by Design Workshop, offered by Austin Energy’s Green Building Program. If you are thinking about building a home, remodeling, or just want to understand how energy efficient homes behave, this is a great class.
6. Play with Austin Energy’s Energy Game, “Change Your Generation”. This game allows you to be the boss of Austin Energy and make the decisions necessary to satisfy Austin’s energy and environmental needs.
7. Consider Austin Energy’s GreenChoice program if you value green energy and energy price security. You will pay a premium for wind/solar/biomass energy today, but your fuel charges will be fixed for the next 15 years.

Air Conditioning

8. Use it as little as possible during the spring and fall. Trying cooling your home by utilizing Austin's prevailing Southeasterly breezes. Open windows on the Southeast of you home and other winsdows on the Northwest in the evening and morning hours. Then during the heat of the day, close the windows if your indoor air is significantly cooler than the outdoor air. If the day is mild, leave the windows open during daytime hours as long as your home.
9. Clean or replace filters at least once a quarter. Dirty filters make your system work harder and run longer than necessary.
10. Shade outside air conditioning units. A/C units shaded by trees or other means work more efficiently and use up to 10% less electricity
11. Clean your AC's condenser/evaporator coils at the beginning of the season. Clean coils lower your energy costs, extend the unit's life and provide cleaner air for you to breathe.
12. Keep debris and high grass away from the condenser.
13. Set your thermostat at 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter. Each degree cooler or warmer will increase your energy use by 6 to 8%. For instance, setting your thermostat at 72 in the summer could increase energy use by up to 40%.
14. If you have central air conditioning, do not close vents in unused rooms This does not apply to homes or apartments with window units where closing off unused rooms will reduce cooling costs and increase comfort.
15. Consider new high efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps. They use up to 40% less electricity than older models for the same amount of running time. Check with Austin Energy for rebates.


16. Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (“CFLs”). CFLs:
a. Provides the same amount of light as an ordinary bulb, but uses about 75 percent less energy
b. Generates approximately 75 percent less heat, cutting home cooling costs
c. Lasts up to 10 times longer than a standard incandescent bulb
d. Saves about $30 in energy costs over each bulb’s lifetime.
CFLs have evolved into a very different light bulb over the last 2 years. Today’s CFLs are economically priced and provide high-quality, warm white light. Smaller and slimmer than earlier models, they can be used in a variety of fixtures such as chandeliers, ceiling fans, recessed lights and bathroom vanities. CFLs also work with dimmer switches and three-way lamps.

Around the House

17. Use the sun in the winter, defend against it in the summer. Open draperies and window coverings to let the solar heat into your home in the winter. In the summer, use window coverings inside the windows and awnings outside the house to keep solar heat from entering home.
18. Consider installing low-E, double-paned windows along with solar films or screens to block solar heat from entering your home through the windows.
19. Seal air leaks with caulking, weather stripping and sheets of plastic on large areas. Air infiltration can account for one-half of your heating/cooling costs in a leaky home.
20. Have a professional verify proper insulation levels in walls, ceilings and attic space and check to be sure it meets current standards or has not been damaged.
21. Keep all windows and doors located near your thermostat closed tightly.
22. Keep heat sources such as lamps, away from the thermostat.
23. Keep all heating outlets and return-air grills free from obstructions, such as draperies, furniture or rugs. Clean these vents regularly with a vacuum or broom.

Buying Home Appliances

24. Look for the ENERGY STAR label when you buy new appliances. ENERGY STAR products usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount.
25. Don’t stop there. Read the EnergyGuide label if available to see exactly how much annual energy you can expect the appliance to use. You'll be paying on that annual energy price tag on your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the appliance.
26. Again check Austin Energy for Rebates. They currently offer rebates for refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers too.


27. Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the fresh food compartment and 0 degrees for the freezer section.
28. Place your refrigerator and freezer away from heat sources. Keep refrigerator motor and coils clean and unobstructed. Make sure the refrigerator and freezer doors close tightly.
29. A full freezer will perform better than a nearly empty freezer. More frozen stuff, less air to cool
30. Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder. Avoid putting hot foods directly into the refrigerator or freezer. Let them cool to room temperature first.


31. Operate your dishwasher with the fullest load possible and select an energy-saving cycle. Use the “air dry” or “overnight dry” setting. Typically avoid “power clean” or “heat dry” or “rinse hold”
32. In the summer, use the dishwasher in the cooler parts of the day, such as the early morning and late evening hours. Don’t pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
33. Don’t use a dishwasher for large cookware or serving dishes that are better cleaned by hand anyway.

Clothes Washer/Dryer

34. Wash your clothes (fullest load reasonable) in cold water using cold water detergents whenever possible. Laundry detergents -- not the water temperature -- whiten your clothes.
35. If possible, ventilate the room with the dryer. Your dryer is not only an energy hog, but it will re-circulate a large amount of your indoor air with outdoor air. During the summer and winter months, that air must be cooled or heated again. If you can ventilate the dryer room, more outdoor air will circulated through the dryer back outdoors
36. Don't over dry clothes. Removing clothes from the dryer before they begin to wrinkle can eliminate ironing and save energy. Use an outdoor clothes line when possible.
37. Clean the lint filter after every dryer load. Clothes will dry faster and you will save energy. Make sure the dryer is properly vented. Inspect the outside vent opening to be sure it is clear of lint and the damper will close when the dryer is off.

Water Heaters and Plumbing

38. Repair leaky faucets promptly. A faucet that leaks a single drop of hot water each second can waste up to 200 gallons of hot water per month, as well as the energy used to heat it.
39. Wrap your water heater and pipes with insulation. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure safety.
40. Consider setting your water heater temperature at 120 degrees. Take short showers instead of baths. You can use 15 to 25 gallons of hot water for a bath. Showers use 3 to 5 gallons per minute.
41. Don't let the hot water run continuously when you wash dishes, brush teeth or shave.
42. Consider installing low flow showerheads. They reduce your hot water energy usage by one-third.

Office Electronics

43. In your computer’s Power Options, set up your PC to go into standby mode after 15 minutes of non use and set it to hibernate or sleep after 45 minutes of non use. These energy saving modes cut your PC's electric usage down to just a few watts.
44. Turn off your monitor when it is not in use. The monitor consumes over half of the energy used by a computer. Screen savers, while effective in preserving the monitor, use the same amount of energy as when you are using the computer.
45. Flat panel monitors use less energy than standard monitors.
Printing can be the most energy-intensive step, so print only pages you need. Edit documents on-screen and use print preview to reduce the number of drafts you actually print.
46. Use electronic mail instead of fax machines or copiers whenever possible.
47. Laptops use 10 percent or less of the electricity consumed by typical desktop computers.
48. Copiers use more energy than any other type of office equipment. If you need only a couple of copies, use your printer or fax machine instead.
49. It takes approximately seven times more energy to produce a piece of paper than to print on it. You can help reduce the energy consumed in paper manufacturing by using recycled paper, double-sided copying, or reusing paper printed on one side.

Your Church

50. Talk to your Church leaders about scheduling an energy audit. With three large buildings, the First United Methodist Church of Austin could derive great benefit from a professional energy audit. The audit would likely pay for itself in reasonable timeframe, and the Church could cut its energy use dramatically.

Sources: Energy Star, Austin Energy, Duke Energy, US Department of Energy
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Mueller Community

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Earth Day Talk: Energy Efficiency...Muellerites Invited
by Rod on April 17th, 2009


Great post, thanks for the information.

A press release on polluted waterways that will be discussed on "Frontline". I served on a Swiss National Science Foundation Panel held in Berne, Switzerland, about 6 months ago. One of the issues that several proposals were addressing was pollution of Swiss waterways with pharmaceuticals of various sorts. It seems that this press release is highlighting this.

"More than three decades after the Clean Water Act, two iconic waterways—the great coastal estuaries Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay—are in perilous condition. With polluted runoff still flowing in from industry, agriculture, and massive suburban development, scientists fear contamination to the food chain and drinking water for millions of people. A growing list of endangered species is also threatened in both estuaries. As a new president, Congress, and states set new agendas and spending priorities, FRONTLINE correspondent Hedrick Smith examines the rising hazards to human health and the ecosystem, and why it’s so hard to keep our waters clean.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009, from 9 to 11 P.M. ET on PBS

More than three decades after the Clean Water Act, iconic American waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are in perilous condition and facing new sources of contamination.

With polluted runoff still flowing in from industry, agriculture and massive suburban development, scientists note that many new pollutants and toxins from modern everyday life are already being found in the drinking water of millions of people across the country and pose a threat to fish, wildlife and, potentially, human health.

In FRONTLINE’s Poisoned Waters, airing Tuesday, April 21, 2009, from 9 to 11 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith examines the growing hazards to human health and the ecosystem.

“The ’70s were a lot about, ‘We’re the good guys; we’re the environmentalists; we’re going to go after the polluters,’ and it’s not really about that anymore,” Jay Manning, director of ecology for Washington state, tells FRONTLINE. “It’s about the way we all live. And unfortunately, we are all polluters. I am; you are; all of us are.”

Through interviews with scientists, environmental activists, corporate executives and average citizens impacted by the burgeoning pollution problem, Smith reveals startling new evidence that today’s growing environmental threat comes not from the giant industrial polluters of old, but from chemicals in consumers’ face creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners that find their way into sewers, storm drains, and eventually into America’s waterways and drinking water.

“The environment has slipped off our radar screen because it’s not a hot crisis like the financial meltdown, war or terrorism,” Smith says. “But pollution is a ticking time bomb. It’s a chronic cancer that is slowly eating away the natural resources that are vital to our very lives.”

In Poisoned Waters, Smith speaks with researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), who report finding genetically mutated marine life in the Potomac River. In addition to finding frogs with six legs and other mutations, the researchers have found male amphibians with ovaries and female frogs with male genitalia. Scientists tell FRONTLINE that the mutations are likely caused by exposure to “endocrine disruptors,” chemical compounds that mimic the body’s natural hormones.

The USGS research on the Potomac River poses some troubling questions for the 2 million people who rely on the Washington Aqueduct for their drinking water.

“The endocrine system of fish is very similar to the endocrine system of humans,” USGS fish pathologist Vicki Blazer says. “They pretty much have all the same hormone systems as humans, which is why we use them as sort of indicator species. ... We can’t help but make that jump to ask the question, ‘How are these things influencing people?’”

“The long-term, slow-motion risk is already being spelled out in epidemiologic data, studies—large population studies,” says Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “There are 5 million people being exposed to endocrine disruptors just in the Mid-Atlantic region, and yet we don’t know precisely how many of them are going to develop premature breast cancer, going to have problems with reproduction, going to have all kinds of congenital anomalies of the male genitalia, things that are happening at a broad low level so that they don’t raise the alarm in the general public.”

Smith also investigates the state of Puget Sound’s environment, where decades of pollution have endangered such species as orca whales, whose carcasses have shown high levels of cancer-causing PCBs.

“We thought all the way along that [Puget Sound] was like a toilet: What you put in, you flush out,” says Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, who notes that about 150,000 pounds of untreated toxins find their way into Puget Sound each day. “We [now] know that’s not true. It’s like a bathtub: What you put in stays there.”

Smith reveals that some of today’s greatest pollution threats stem from urban sprawl and overdevelopment, as new housing and commercial developments send contaminated stormwater into rivers and bays, polluting local drinking-water supplies.

Smith speaks with scuba diver Mike Racine, who describes runoff into the depths of Seattle’s Elliott Bay as a “brown, noxious soup of nastiness that is unbelievable.”

“The irony is that everybody looks at that [picturesque] scene and thinks that it’s great; everything is right with the world in Elliott Bay,” Racine says. “But in point of fact, not 100 feet away from where they are drinking a nice glass of wine off their white linen, there is this unbelievable gunk coming out of the end of this pipe.”

In addition to assessing the scope of America’s polluted-water problem, Poisoned Waters highlights several cases in which grassroots citizens’ groups succeeded in effecting environmental change: In South Park, Wash., incensed residents pushed for better cleanup of PCB contamination that remained from an old asphalt plant. In Loudon County, Va., residents prevented a large-scale housing development that would have overwhelmed already-strained stormwater systems believed to contribute to the contamination in Chesapeake Bay.

Reversing decades of pollution and preventing the irreversible annihilation of the nation’s waterways, however, will require a seismic shift in the way Americans live their lives and use natural resources, experts say.

“You have to change the way you live in the ecosystem and the place that you share with other living things,” says William Ruckelshaus, founding director of the Environmental Protection Agency. “You’ve got to learn to live in such a way that it doesn’t destroy other living things. It’s got to become part of our culture.”

Poisoned Waters is a FRONTLINE co-production with Hedrick Smith Productions, Inc. Hedrick Smith is correspondent and senior producer. The program is produced by Marc Shaffer and directed by Rick Young. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation.

Major funding for Poisoned Waters is provided by The Seattle Foundation, The Russell Family Foundation, The Wallace Genetic Foundation, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, The Merrill Family Foundation, The Abell Foundation, The Bullitt Foundation, the Park Foundation, and The Rauch Foundation. Additional funding is provided by The Town Creek Foundation, The Clayton Baker Trust, The Lockhart Vaughan Foundation, The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, The Chesapeake Bay Trust, Louisa and Robert Duemling, Robert and Phyllis Hennigson, Robert Lundeen, The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, The Prince Charitable Trusts, Ron and Kathy McDowell, Valerie and Bill Anders, Bruce and Marty Coffey, The Foundation for Puget Sound, Janet Ketcham, Win Rhodes, The Robert C. and Nani S. Warren Foundation, Jim and Kathy Youngren, Vinton and Amelia Sommerville and Laura Lundgren.

FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers and described for people who are blind or visually impaired by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation. The FRONTLINE executive producer for special projects is Michael Sullivan. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
Promotional photography can be downloaded from the PBS pressroom.

Press contacts
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Alissa Rooney
(617) 300-5314"

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