Go Green: What You Can Do In Your Home and Congregation
Creation Stewardship for Homes and Congregations
On this page:
Free: Things That Cost Nothing and Save Cash
(To Do Today: in order of amount of time each measure takes)
Turn off lights when leaving a room.
Close drapes (and windows) during sunny summer days and after sunset in the winter.
Close heating vents in unused rooms.
Adjust your thermostat. Set thermostats to 68 to 70°F in winter when you’re home, and down to 62°F when you go to bed or when you’re away. Set thermostats to 76 to 78°F when at home and 82°F when not at home when running the air conditioner in the summer (Programmable thermostats do this automatically—see below).
Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120*F). You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands.
Use energy-saving settings on washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators.
Remove halogen torchieres from service.
Check the age and condition of your major appliances, especially the refrigerator. You may want to replace it with a more energy-efficient model before it dies.
Clean your refrigerator’s or freezer’s condenser coils once a year.
Clean or replace furnace, air-conditioner, and heat-pump filters.
Repair leaky faucets and toilets (5 percent of water “use” is leakage).
Use a Clothesline. Using a clothesline will reduce your utility bill and, here in ever-sunny Texas, can often dry your clothes as fast or faster than a dryer. If you can’t line dry all your clothes, start sorting your items so you can line dry some portion of your laundry. For every time you don’t run your dryer, you are preventing some number of pounds of coal from being mined and processed for electricity. A clothesline is the cheapest solar equipment on the market!
Remove underused appliances like garage refrigerators from service and have them recycled.
Simple and Inexpensive: Things That Will Pay for Themselves in Lower Energy Bills in Less Than a Year
(Choose two adjustments per week. It will only take you a month to make a big difference!)
Install water-efficient faucet heads for your kitchen and bathroom sinks ($2 each).
Insulate the first six feet of hot and inlet cold water pipes ($6).
Install an R-7 or R-11 water heater wrap ($12).
Clean or change the air filter on your warm-air heating system during the winter and on air conditioning units in the summer ($2 - $15).
Install a water-saving 2.5-gallon-per-minute showerhead ($15).
Install a programmable thermostat and set the clock to roll the temperature automatically at night or when you know no one will be there ($26).
Offset emissions you can’t figure out how to avoid by joining Texas Interfaith Power and Light (TXIPL). Membership includes emissions offsets known as Renewable Energy Credits or RECs. Members can purchase additional RECs to get their emissions as low as possible (Individual TXIPL Membership: $30 – includes one megawatt REC
Congregational TXIPL Membership: $100 – includes four megawatt RECs).
Or buy RECs a la carte through TXIPL.
Survey your incandescent lights for opportunities to replace them with compact fluorescents (CFLs). These lamps can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescents. The best targets are 60-100W bulbs used several hours a day. New CFLs come in many sizes and styles to fit in most standard fixtures.
Visit the National Interfaith Power and Light online store to buy these and other energy efficient appliances at 10% below wholesale cost. Get the 10% savings code from the Texas Interfaith Power and Light homepage.
Getting Serious: Measures That Collectively Will Cost Up to $500 and Have Paybacks of 1 to 3 years.
Get a comprehensive energy audit, including a blower door test, to identify sources of air infiltration.
A blower door test will point out where the worst cracks in your insulation are. All the little, invisible cracks and holes may add up to as much as an open window or door, without you ever knowing it!
Once you’ve found the leaks, set about sealing them up. Caulk and weatherize all leaks identified by the test. Start with the attic and basement first, keeping in mind the worst culprits are usually not windows and doors, but utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
Weatherize windows and doors.
Shade sunny windows or add solar gain control films.
Have your heating and cooling systems tuned up regularly, at least once year.
Replace aging, inefficient appliances. Even if the appliance has a few useful years left, replacing it with a top-efficiency Energy Star model is generally a good investment.
Going All the Way: Save a Lot of Energy and Money, But Will Take 3 to 15 Years to Pay for Themselves
Foundation: insulate inside rim joist and down the foundation wall to below frostline to R-10. Remember to caulk the rim joist and sill areas first.
Basement: insulate the ceiling above crawlspaces or unheated basements to at least R-19 in cold climates. If your basement is heated, insulate the inside of basement walls to R-10 . Basement or foundation insulation is usually not needed in hot climates. You should install a ground vapor retarder if none is present.
Attic: increase attic insulation to R-38 .
Walls: adding wall insulation is more difficult and expensive, but may be cost-effective if your house is uncomfortable and if you have empty wall cavities. Installing insulation at high density will also greatly reduce air leakage.
Install more compact fluorescent bulbs. Put them in your most frequently used fixtures, including those outdoors. (2 or more hours of use per day)
Replace exterior incandescent lights with compact fluorescents and put them on a timer or motion sensor if they’re on more than a couple of hours a night.
Convert to solar water heating, and perhaps also supplementary solar space heating.
Upgrade your water heater, furnace, boiler, air conditioners, and refrigerator to more efficient models (refer to Energy Star). Newer units are far more efficient. Upgrading is often cost-effective, and definitely so if you need to replace failing units anyway. Also, if you’ve weatherized and insulated, you’ll be able to downsize the heating and cooling system. If the house is tight, use only seal combustion appliances. If the air handler will be used for ventilation or even when the furnace run time will be long, chose an ECM.
Upgrade to super insulating or at least low-emissivity windows in cold climates, or low solar transmittance windows in hot climates, if replacement is needed.
Replace high-flow toilets with modern water-efficient toilets that use 50–80 percent less water.
Install awnings or build removable trellises over windows that overheat your home in the summer.
Plant a tree to shade your largest west window in summer. You won’t save any money for years, but you’ll get an A+ for long-range vision.
What is an energy audit?
One of the most recommended ways to conserve energy and lower your bills is performing an energy audit on your home. A home energy audit will pinpoint the areas of your house that use the most energy and suggest the most effective measures for cutting your energy costs. It can be as easy as conducting a simple home energy audit yourself and contacting your local utility for tips and advice, or you can take it a step further by investing in an independent energy auditor for a more comprehensive examination.
For more general information on energy efficiency check out the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Web site to take advantage of a wealth of tools and tips.
Do-it-yourself home energy audits
By following these tips to perform a home energy audit, you can reduce your energy consumption and make a positive impact on both the environment and your monthly utility bills!
You can also use an energy bill calculator to approximate your energy bill. Enter your zip code and press go. A survey will pop up with specific questions about your home. When you are finished the site will give you an estimate on your energy bill and the best ways to save energy in your specific home.
For more energy calculators go to the EERE website.
Hire a professional energy auditor
If you want to improve the efficiency of your home, especially if you have high energy bills or your home is uncomfortable, consider contacting a professional to conduct a home energy audit. Your first step should be to contact your electricity provider to see if they offer free or discounted energy audits to their customers. If not, you can hire a home energy professional, such as a certified Home Energy Rater, to evaluate your home’s energy efficiency. Many home energy raters work with small businesses as well.
There are several options for finding a Home Energy Rater near you:
1. I recommend the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) website as the easiest way to find a home energy rater near you. The list of raters is complete, easy to read, and has full contact information including email addresses. List of RESNET raters
2. The Texas Home Energy Raters Organization (TXHERO) is a not-for-profit professional organization that promotes the benefits of energy conservation initiatives and monetary incentives to homeowners, homebuilders and businesses. Texas HERO consists of independent energy management professionals located throughout Texas. Many home energy raters work with small businesses as well. Click here to see a list of TXHERO member companies located throughout Texas. You can click on their individual websites or call to find more information about the companies listed and the locations they serve.
3. Or visit the Energy Star database to find a list of home energy raters from all over Texas. The spreadsheet is easy to read, with company names, service areas, and phone numbers, however the names are organized alphabetically, making it kind-of time consuming to find the correct location.
Texas Interfaith Power and Light is now selling Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)! For more information on RECs and how to purchase them through TXIPL click here.
For your home:
Many cities in Texas offer curbside recycling. To find out if your city offers free curbside recycling check out this database of recycling contacts for the state of Texas. Find your area by county or city name and call the number listed for more information about how to participate.
For your congregation:
Find a recycling center
A recycling center can often help you recycle a more comprehensive range of products. There is a wonderful online database on the Clean Texas website, a program of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. The database lists hundreds of companies across Texas who recycle almost any material you can imagine, from glass to gas, metal appliances to paper.
Directions to site:
1. Click on this link to access the database homepage.
2. The page should appear in a separate window. If you know the recycling company name, you can enter that in the space marked "2.". If not, click on number 1.
3. There will be a wide variety of materials listed. Select the specific type of material you wish to recycle. You cannot click on more than one material per category but you can click on one material in more than one category. So, for instance, you cannot click on two different kinds of paper recycling products but you can click on one paper product and one metal product. If you wish to do two different types of paper products, submit one query for one type and then go back and submit another.
4. If you would like to specify a location in Texas as well as the material type, do not press "Submit Query" after you enter your material type. To select your location, click on the "second step" link at the bottom of the page when you are done selecting your material.
5. Then press "Submit Query" to obtain a page of companies and their contact information in your area.
Or, for a quick and easy list of recycling centers in your area, you can go to The Recycling Center website and just type in your zip code.
Or become a recycling center for your area
Encourage members to bring their recycling items not picked up in curbside recycling to church on Sundays or at special drop-off times. This program requires space to collect the items and a few willing volunteers to drive the goods over to special recycling centers.
Short Term: Check Your Energy Provider
Many energy providers in Texas are now offering green programs for customers who are interested in renewable energy. Contact your electric company and ask if they offer, or plan to offer, a green power option. If not, consider switching (see below).
If you live in an area where you don't have a choice of your electricity supplier (for example, if you are served by a municipal utility or rural electric cooperative that hasn't opted into competition) you may still be able to purchase a green power option from your existing supplier. Many utilities, including those in Austin and San Antonio, are offering more than one choice to their customers.
Consider Switching Energy Providers
If you live in an area where you have a choice of electricity providers, choose a provider that emphasizes their commitment to renewable energy.
Depending on where you live in Texas and who supplies your electricity, you will be able to buy green power in at least one of the following ways:
1. Switch to a retail electric provider that offers green power.
This option is available to Texas electricity customers located in deregulated areas of the state. To see if switching is an option for you, visit the Texas Electric Choice website maintained by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas. After you enter your ZIP code, this site will tell you whether you can choose a retail electric provider, and, if so, what options are available. This is an amazing database where you can compare the cost of energy providers with their environmental consciousness to get the most cost-effective, green power provider available. Click on "Facts Label" to get a record of where the energy for each company comes from, i.e. how much of it comes from renewable sources and how much from high-carbon emitting sources such as coal.
Another way to compare the green power offerings against each other and against other offerings is to visit the Power Scorecard, a web-based information tool created by a coalition of environmental groups that lets consumers compare the environmental impacts of green power and conventional power products.
2. Request a green power option from your current electric utility.
If you can't switch, your current electricity provider may have already created a green power option. Some municipal utilities, rural electric cooperatives, and investor-owned utilities now offer a green power option.
Create Your Own Renewable Energy
Find A Solar Energy Installation Company Near You
Check out the Infinite Power website to find a short list of databases that can help you find a solar energy installer near you.
A Guide to the Databases:
1. I highly recommend the first database, Texas Solar Energy Society (TXSES), as the best one to try first. It is very self-explanatory and easy to use. Click on the type of renewable energy you want (in this case solar) and hit Submit Query. A list of companies in Texas that provide installations will pop up and you can click on a company name in your region to get full contact information and a brief description of exactly what the company provides.
2. The second database, Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA), requires some explanation. Click on the link that will lead to the TREIA homepage. Once there, click the green tab marked "Search Our Members". Select the type of energy you are looking for (ex: solar) and select "TX" in the state dropbox. Hit Search for a list of solar energy companies and solar panel providers that are members of TREIA. These are a little confusing to sort through.
3. The third link takes you to a long list of agencies in Texas that deal with renewable energy. The site provides excellent descriptions of each organization however the list can be a little overwhelming. If you have time/the desire to do your own comparative research on renewable energy providers this is a great start.
4. The fourth link is a guide to financial incentives for solar and renewable energy projects.
- click this link for more information