It’s Utah Climate Week, which means that there are opportunities statewide to get involved with climate action in Utah.
But taking steps to help the environment can also start at home. Improving at-home energy efficiency will help you shrink your carbon footprint and save money.
Why Energy Efficiency Matters
According to the EPA, around 40% of energy use in the United States is for generating electricity. Salt Lake City is working to move towards net-100% renewable electricity for the entire community by 2030. This means that more renewable energy will be fed into the grid, helping power everything from your lights to your phone chargers. But in the meantime, taking steps to improve your energy efficiency will go a long way to save energy!
For example, switching to a low flow showerhead may seem simple, but it can help you save $18 annually and cut 250 pounds of CO2, not to mention the water savings.
Using a power strip to avoid energy vampires like phone chargers can help you save $96 per year and cuts 1,200 pounds of CO2!
And washing your laundry in cold water can save 1,270 pounds of CO2 annually and $92!
Reducing your energy use cuts down on emissions that contribute to global warming as well as local air pollution. As a result, energy conservation and efficiency can help build a healthier and more resilient community.
by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov
With much of the West seeing record temperatures this summer and 98% of Utah in an extreme drought, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of what we can do to keep our city a little bit cooler and ourselves safe.
While you’ve heard a lot of discussion about saving water during this drought, today we also want to talk about reducing the urban heat island effect— which helps save water, reduce ambient temperatures, and support a healthier ecosystem.
What is an Urban Heat Island?
Cities are always hotter than the average surrounding temperature because of what’s called the “Urban Heat Island” effect. Because the concrete, black asphalt, and black roof shingle material absorbs extra heat and releases it, city temperatures can rise by as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the surrounding area on a cloudless day! This, in turn, raises the energy consumption of the city, because our air conditioners have to work harder to keep us cool.
How can I reduce my home energy consumption during the summer?
What can you do to reduce the Urban Heat Island effect at your home or business?
First start with your own building. Saving energy means you’ll be more comfortable, save money, and reduce the ambient heat going into the neighborhood.
Cover your windows! When it’s hot, about 76 percent of sunlight on windows enters in the form of heat, according to the Department of Energy. Keeping blinds closed on the sunny side of the house or installing solar screens will keep your house from heating up as much.
Set the AC ten degrees higher if you’ll be gone from home all day, and set it at 78 degrees F or warmer if you are home. Cool off with cold drinks, a trip to the mountains, or turn on a fan to circulate air in the room you’ll be in.
Avoid using your stove and oven during the hottest parts of the day.
Energy efficient evaporative coolers (also called “swamp” coolers) are perfectly-suited to Utah’s arid desert climate and can cut cooling costs by 75% compared to a central AC!
Plant shade trees around your home. The more shade around your house, the less it will absorb direct heat from the sun, and the less your AC or swamp cooler has to work.
Insulate! Make sure you have the appropriate level of insulation in your home. Insulation helps keep your house warm in the winter, but it also helps keep it cool in the summer, because the fewer leaks you have, the less that cold air you’ve worked so hard for can escape.
Salt Lake City’s e2 Business Program is a free consulting and marketing program for Salt Lake City businesses run out of the Sustainability Department. The program is dedicated to helping Salt Lake’s business community run in a more environmentally and economically sustainable manner. We take pride in recognizing the achievements of our members! If you are interested in joining the program or browsing current members, please visit our e2 Business webpage.
Tracy Aviary, one of the nation’s only free-standing aviaries, will be marking its 83rd anniversary this year. Over the past decades, the iconic landmark in the heart of Liberty Park has become a leader in environmental education and conservation.
Tracy Aviary goes above and beyond their work with bird conservation, emphasizing local ecosystem conservation efforts through community science programs, as well as participating in critical global species conservation work. Moreover, Tracy Aviary has been taking steps towards reducing their own environmental impact.
A longtime member of the e2 Business Program, Tracy Aviary has marked several sustainability milestones such as the addition of 18kW of on-site solar energy, as well as a 67% recycling diversion rate. One recent achievement is in realizing their 2018 goal of reducing energy consumption by more than 10% in 2019 and 2020.
“Reducing our energy consumption and focusing on sustainable energy is one of the ways we can make the biggest impact when combating climate change. Slowing climate change not only helps native birds, who are highly sensitive to changes in their environment, but all the plants and animals we share our ecosystems with.”
Stay Hydrated! Staying hydrated will help you stay cool and healthy, even when it’s hot! Read more about the signs of dehydration here.
Use your windows! Windows can be your best friend. Try to open things up at night to help cool your space down, but close the blinds or use window coverings when it starts to get hot our during the day.
Fans: Be strategic about box fans or overhead fans – they can help keep things cool and reduce the need for AC. But save energy by turning them off before you leave the house!
Optimize Space: Keep doors shut to areas you’re not using – that way you’ll be cooling a smaller space, which is more energy efficient!
Cook Carefully: Opting for recipes that don’t use the oven or require a long time on the stove will help keep your kitchen cooler – and may even help with your indoor air quality.
Switch to LED lights: Using more efficient lighting will help you save energy and money. LEDs, and other home energy efficiency improvements, can help you cut your energy bills and keep space cooler. Typical incandescent lights also put off more heat, so switching to LED reduces the heat burden in your home.
Salt Lake County Opens Two Cooling Centers this Weekend
On Sunday, the Desert News printed an Op-Ed by David Brems with GSBS Architects and Kevin Emerson with Utah Clean Energy outlining how Utah needs new new energy codes that make buildings and homes more efficient. Here is an excerpt, you can read the entire piece online.
Air pollution is a top concern for Utah citizens. So is financial stability. Improving our air quality while saving money for Utahns is a win-win opportunity. This summer, decision-makers will be voting whether or not to adopt up-to-date building energy codes that will help new homes and buildings constructed in Utah cut energy waste, lower air pollution and reduce Utahns’ energy bills.
The average Utah home wastes far too much energy because it was not designed and constructed with energy efficiency as a priority. This is where the energy conservation codes come in. While lacking the flashy glamour of solar panels or electric vehicles, the “2015 International Energy Conservation Code” can dramatically reduce energy waste and related air pollution by incorporating common sense, readily available, yet often invisible efficiency solutions to new homes and buildings.
Industry leaders like GSBS Architects and public interest organizations like Utah Clean Energy see tremendous value in adopting the new energy code. But despite the benefits it brings to Utah families, businesses and consumers, getting the new code adopted has become a political undertaking. It shouldn’t be. Just consider the benefits from updating the energy codes.