How are you trying to conserve energy?

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Image via MPR News designer Will Lager

Ground Level from MPR News examines local energy innovation in Minnesota:

As the nation continues to debate how it should fill its energy needs, many people in Minnesota are finding unique and interesting ways on their own to generate power or heat for their homes and businesses. For example, in Grand Marais, the Angry Trout restaurant captures its kitchen exhaust and uses it to heat the restaurant’s water. In Brooten, a dairy digests cow manure to generate electricity it sells to the power company. We heard from some people in our Public Insight Network about their innovative or unusual approaches to create power or heat.

Today’s Question: How are you trying to conserve energy?

  • PaulJ

    I avoid using the brakes.

  • JQP

    Started paying attention to how much energy it takes to do stuff. I don’t water my lawn. Cities pay (and charge tax payers) a hideously large amount of money to clean and distribute drinkable water and then … we spread it on our lawns. That is like washing your eye-glasses with vodka. Your city and neighbors are paying for maintenance of the processing plant, pipes and pumps to deliver drinkable water to every household … an you dump it out on the lawn. That… is waste of energy and water.

    • Fred Garvin

      I suppose your view is one way of looking at it.
      Installing and maintaining that water system employs scores of people, who live & spend their earnings in the community, thus improving the quality of life in that community.
      To many, a green lawn IMPROVES life in the town.
      A green lawn might even make living next to miserably nabobs of negativism tolerable.

      • JQP

        Fred – you’ve mis-used Nabob.
        It is almost as if you been addle-pated by the argy-bargy of authoritarian oratorical admonishers.

        • Fred Garvin

          Thanks for the addle-pated-ing.

  • Rich in Duluth

    We live in an old farm house built about 1925. Over the years, we’ve insulated all of the walls and have added 12″ of insulation in the roof.

    We’ve converted to CFL and LED light bulbs as the old incandescent bulbs burned out. We’ve replaced our windows with double and triple pane, low-e windows. We keep the thermostat between 60 and 64 degrees during the winter.

    Now that I’m retired, I’m researching wind powered electric for our home.

  • Gary F
  • Gayle

    Looked at geo heat pump. $20,000 to save $500 per year. The payback is way too long. Looked at solar for hot water. I’ll be a distant memory before that pays off. Looked at hybrid cars. At $4/gallon, payback is about 125,000 miles, but the battery life is about 100,000 miles. Hmmmm. A small, high MPG utilitarian vehicle made more sense. Got a serious energy audit. Thoroughly insulted my 1930’s bungalow. Payback was 7 years. Low-flow shower heads. Doubled the functional capacity of my water heater, payback was about 1 week. Windows? Payback was 100 years plus. Weather stripping paid back in an hour. CFL and LED bulbs throughout. No big plasma TV for me.
    Living in the city helps too. A short walk, bike or bus ride to the store, restaurant, work or fun. Small yard, big garden, motorless mower. A snow shovel is good exercise and does the job.

    • I did install a geothermal heat pump in my home. I consider the payback to be shorter since I was replacing a 40 year old furnace and I did not previously have central air conditioning. Net savings is about $1200 per year for me. It likely makes more sense for new construction than existing homes, but I think it’s a worthwhile investment for people who are planning to stay in their homes for 15-20 more years like I am.

      • Gayle

        I hope it works out for you. Comparing a new geo to a 40 year old furnace is apples to oranges. A more meaningful comparison, since you are getting new equipment in any event, would be the energy savings of a geo to a high efficiency (95% or better) furnace and high efficiency A/C (14 SEER or better). In my situation, I would have needed either a furnace or electric resistance heat as a supplement. With the electric supplement heat, my operating savings evaporated.
        As for the environmental impact, in my location the electric utility is over 80% coal generation, so a geo system would be significantly dirtier than a natural gas furnace.
        The U of M building science folks, the Energy Information people at the state and the US DOE were very helpful in my decision making, as were the gas and electric utilities.

        • Right. I should have been more clear. I chose to install an $18K geothermal system over the combination of replacing the old furnace with a new one plus adding central AC, which would have run me around $8K. So I calculate the payback based on the additional $10K I spent to have geothermal vs. a new furnace + central AC rather than the total $18K I spent. I also live in the Twin Cities where more of the electrical generation comes from natural gas after Xcel Energy retrofit their Riverside and High Bridge plants (I live near Riverside).

          • Gayle

            Are you participating in the geo study the state is doing? They are interested in real life monitoring verses mathematic modeling the performance/energy savings of these units. If you, or other readers are interested, contact Terry Webster at the state energy information office.

          • I hadn’t heard about the study. I’ll check into it. Thanks!

  • Pearly

    Any thing I can do to save a buck or two.

  • Started biking to work more regularly after the last round of gas price shocks a few months ago. For August, I was able to bike to work every day, avoiding about 500 miles of driving for the month and saving roughly 15 gallons of gas.

    • Fred Garvin

      Minus the wear & tear on the bike.
      Minus the cost of bike lanes.
      Minus the cost of doing laundry more often because of the workout.
      Minus the cost of eating more becasue your expend more calories.
      Minus the increased level of greenhouse gas called carbon-dioxide that you exhaled.
      And on and on.
      While you saved money, the green effects are much less than anticipated and advertised.

      • Sue de Nim

        Get real! Those are the kind of objections a person thinks up who has an ideological axe to grind and are not to be taken seriously.

        Wear and tear on a bike is trivial compared to that of driving a car, and maintenance is way cheaper and easier.
        Bike lanes mean less traffic overall, and more use of bikes means less need for road maintenance.
        The extra cost of laundry and eating more calories are insignificant compared to the value of the health benefits of exercise.

        And the CO2 a person exhales has zero net greenhouse effect, because metabolism doesn’t involve burning fossil fuels.

        • Fred Garvin

          1. Ideological axe?
          Maybe, but the framing of the question reveals an ideological slant as well, as if conserving energy has a moral component to it.
          It does not.
          2. Bike lanes do NOT translate into less traffic, and in fact, are more likely to contribute to vehicular congestion, thus descreasing efficiency.
          3. Health benefits: The question posed was about energy conservation, not increasing health benefits. Of course, less healthy people do not live as long; as such, their CO2 (and other energy implications) footprint is not as large. So, your advocacy of heathier lifestyles is an UNgreen position.
          4. a. CO2 is CO2–the source is immaterial to nature!
          b. Human metabolism DOES involve burning fossils fuels: the fuels needed to produce, process, transport, and prepare foods for human consumption, and the post-metabolic wastes produced.
          Myopia is dangerous.

          • PJM

            You can’t be serious about the extra CO2 produced because the person is cycling.

            The average person produces 0.04 g CO2/breath, at normal respiration this is about 500 kg/year. So about 42 kg/month – this is what you do at rest. Snyde biked for a month, so what percent of the time was he biking? 2/hrs a day is 8.3%, so for that 8.3% of the time we will double his CO2 output. So for August, Snyde output 45.5 kg of CO2, 3.2 kg more than had he not biked.

            Meanwhile, a gallon of gas puts out 8.92 kg of CO2. Saving 15 gallons, he saved 133.8 kg of CO2.

            So it looks like Snyde came out 130.6 kg ahead on the CO2 output. When you make ridiculous arguments that aren’t based in fact you really undermine your own position.

          • Fred Garvin

            You assumed that one car using one gallon = one bicyclist.
            Let’s use your figures:
            4 bicylists = 12.8 more kg of CO2.
            How much more CO2 needed to raise, harvest, process, transport and cook additional food calories for 4 exercising bicyclists for a month? Conservatively, an extra 50 kg of CO2 each month.
            How much more CO2 needed to mine, refine, and manufacture the materials to make bikes and bike repair materials needed over the shortened lifetimes of those 4 bikes? Unknown.
            How much more CO2 to build or widen roads/bike paths? Unknown.
            How much more vehicular congestion because of roadways narrowed by bike paths? Spewing 8.92 kg of CO2 with every gallon at 0 miles per gallon? Unknown.
            How many more bicyclists on the roads getting maimed and killed by vehicles? IMMEASUREABLY expensive.
            In any case, I never argued that bicycle commuting had an equivalent energy footprint as vehicular commuting.
            What I was pointing out is that bicycle commuting is not a 0 energy consumption activity.

          • Ralfy

            1. I read the question as an inquiry regarding what energy conservation steps readers are willing to share that they have taken (saving money and reducing one’s impact on the planet being but two benefits). I did not read any moral judgement implied in the question as you did.
            2. In terms of moving mass volumes, I agree that a bike is less efficient. In terms of moving passengers/square foot occupied, bikes are far more efficient than an auto with one or two passengers
            3. Measuring the entire energy food chain for, say 50,000 miles, a bike is far more efficient than a car. From the harvesting of raw materials to construct and power the vehicle to the eventual disposal, an automobile is significantly more energy intensive than a bike.
            4. The atmosphere does care where the CO comes from. Stored CO (unburned fossil fuel) is not a greenhouse gas. Burned fossil fuel changes the balance by pumping excess CO into the ecosystem. CO via breathing is far less impactful than burning distilled oil.
            Your assumption that exercise increases calorie consumption is faulty. Studies have shown (excluding vocational athletes) that caloric consumption typically stays flat or goes down. The type and “quality” of the calories changes. Those that exercise regularly tend to eat healthier foods, another reason they tend to live longer.

          • Fred Garvin

            4. Humans do not respirate CO; it would be fatal to do so.

          • Sorry, but bike lanes do actually alleviate traffic congestion:


      • KTN

        I guess in your narrow world everything is a zero sum game. Pity its such a shortsighted view.

      • NotDrinkingYourKoolaid

        You can’t fix stupid, so there’s no point arguing with Fred. Its like the climate deniers jumping on the latest climate denial pseudoscience to try to justify their unwillingness to change their selfish a-hole attitude for the good of the planet, the good of their community, and sadly the good of their children and grand children. But we can find out more about these cretins, especially when their internet foot print is only dwarfed by their carbon foot print.

  • anemone

    Replaced windows and furnace/air conditioner. Payback started immediately. Use clothes dryer rarely since I can hang laundry in basement or yard (though with the humidity this year that was not very effective). Have almost never used air-conditioner in the past but this year… Have high MPG sedan without bells and whistles, including air conditioning so save on gas and pollution. I also don’t water the lawn though I do water my garden beds once a week when we have a drought summer like this one. Have replaced light bulbs. Other major energy saving, energy conversion solutions do not have a timely payback as already noted by respondents.

  • david

    I too avoid using the brakes, but I do so by not going fast enough to need them. By going no faster then the speed limit, anticipating slow downs ahead, and just plain old common since I have 13-20% above EPA stated mileage in my car in the 2 1/2 years I’ve owned it. Did almost as well in the previous car. I also drive less then 6000 miles a year, and am lowering that through use of my bicycle.

    Don’t think there’s a single incandescent bulb in my house anymore, maybe in the microwave and refrigerator. Anyway lights are only on when they absolutely need to be.

  • Fred Garvin

    Turning off MPR?
    Not posting on
    Gee, are we SUPPOSE to conserve energy? And if so, why?

  • Ralfy

    Whatever I do conserve may seem insignificant and pointless to some, considering the grand scheme of things and how my efforts are but a drop in the ocean. But I do because its the right thing to do.
    Not throwing my gum wrapper on the ground may seem insignificant and pointless to some, considering the grand scheme of things and how my efforts are but a drop in the ocean. But I don’t because it is the right thing to do.
    Like it or not, we are all in this together. Like it or not, we have an obligation to treat our planet, our community and each other as being more important than ourselves.

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  • well explained.. thanks for sharing your thoughts..