It’s the “grill battle”!… propane vs. charcoal

grll prpaneThis coming Memorial Day weekend always seems to be the kickoff of grilling season in my neighborhood.  It’s the aroma that indicates that summer is on its way.  While some of you may be lucky enough to grill all year long, we’re just getting started… and once we get started, it doesn’t end until the snow flies. (It’s also a time for me to share cooking duties with my husband… BONUS!)

We’ve always owned a propane grill and never, ever, go the route of charcoal or (perish the thought!) lighter fluid!  (EEK!)

To me, the propane choice seems like a no-brainer, but is it really?

Take a look at the facts:

  • Overall, propane grilling creates a smaller carbon footprint than charcoal grilling, by about a third.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal comes from renewable resources, but propane does not.  It comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. (win: charcoal)
  • Carbon monoxide levels from charcoal grilling can be as high as 105 times as much as propane grilling.  (BIG win: propane)
  • The “burn time” for propane is much less than charcoal.  It only needs to be “on” when you need it.  Charcoagrll chrcoall must burn until coals are hot and then you need to wait until it burns out before the cycle is done, and it creates gasses all the while.  (win: propane)
  • Charcoal often travels a far, far distance (and creates extra emissions) before it even reaches your grill, but “not so” with propane… it’s most likely local. Plus, producing charcoal creates even more emissions than actually burning it!  (win: propane)
  • Lighter fluid for charcoal is a petroleum distillate that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burned.  (win: propane)

So, I’d say we’ve been making the right decision, especially with that last VOC issue!  But just remember that what you toss on the grill matters too – preferably local organic meats and veggies!  And when it’s time for clean-up, baking soda and warm water does wonders too!

Now, fire up that grill and let’s get the cookout underway! (My family will be right over!…)

Simple tips for cutting your electric bill (and emissions!)

(This article originally ran on Money Minded Moms, Suze Orman’s online community, where I’m a featured writer.  I wanted to  post it here also since the underlying theme of my articles are not only money-oriented but always address issues that relate to the environment.  We know that the environment gets the brunt of the greenhouse gas emissions created by excessive energy usage, so I hope you can take these tips to not only save money but also do something good for our planet while you’re at it!)…

powerstrip 2Have you ever received an electric bill that caused you to gasp? Or does your bill seem extraordinarily high every month? You might find yourself wondering what you did to create such an expense.

The problem may not be what you’re doing, but what you aren’t doing.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 20-25% of the energy used in our home is actually consumed by electronics in stand-by mode or even “turned off”. They still consume energy as long as they’re plugged into an outlet. They also estimate that this collectively costs us $7 billion per year.

Here are a few simple tips to cut those costs:

  • Use power strips – plug-in computers, printers, scanners, monitors, TVs, DVD players, TiVos/DVRs and game systems. (Up to 75% of the energy they pull is actually consumed when they aren’t being used!) With the flip of one power strip switchcphone chrgr you can nearly eliminate this “phantom” power. To cut consumption completely, unplug the power strip once you’ve flipped the switch.
  • Keep it unplugged – this includes microwaves, radios, clocks, lamps, etc. that you don’t often use. Consider even unplugging your washer and dryer. When you need them, just plug them back in.
  • Computers – your monitor consumes substantially more energy than your hard drive. Instead of letting it sit idle while you temporarily move on to another task, turn off your monitor or put it in rest mode.
  • The little things – constantly leaving your cellphone charger and infrequently used appliances plugged laptp compinto an outlet consumes energy, even when they’re not in use.

Survey your home. Use power strips or simply pull the plug from the outlet to reduce excessive energy usage. By not doing this, you could be allowing your electric bill to skyrocket (and remember, the environment pays the price right along with you!).

Simple tip: Keep your refrigerator from working overtime

frig dollrRefrigerators happen to be a home appliance that MUST consume energy at all times.  In fact, they contribute an average of 8-10% to our monthly energy bill, and that is unavoidable.

I’ve shared my simple “1-2-3” tips for ways to make your refrigerator as efficient as possible, but sometimes the energy loss has nothing to do what you’re doing… it can have a lot to do with what your refrigerator isn’t doing:  holding the cold!

Poorly sealing door gaskets may be the problem and (just like my recent tip to check water waste from your toilets) there is a simple way to find out if your fridge is failing you!:

  • Close a dollar bill (half-in/half-out) between the door gaskets. The bill should be difficult to remove.  If it slips out easily, your door isn’t sealing properly and you’re likely losing cold air… the gasket may need to be replaced.  Do this test for your freezer too.

I seem to be on a home maintenance kick, but my husband wouldn’t be surprise… he’s quite “un-handy” and dubbed me Mrs. MacGyver (while he’s more like MacGruber)!

Anyhow!… give the test a try. If your refrigerator keeps running and running… well, you better go catch it!

Simple tip: ONE way to make your dryer more efficient!

landry bsktAhh… laundry day.  It’s looming in the MGG household and it happens to be one of my least favorite of mom-duties. (I’m fine with the washing/drying part but I deeply dislike the putting-away part!)

Anyhow, I digress… so, today I just want to share one little tidbit about how to be a bit more energy efficient with the duty, aside from the long list of ways to green your laundry that I’ve shared in the past.

  • Fact:  The average American household spends $150 in energy consumption each year to simply dry their laundry.
  • Fact: ONE SIMPLE way to avoid 30% excess usage of energy – CLEAN YOUR LINT TRAP!

Yes, that’s it! That pesky, yet necessary, lint trap can actually dramatically increase the energy usage of your dryer.  The screen should be checked and cleaned after every load.

lnt trpYou should also occasionally “deep clean” the screen, the trap and the tubing.  Scrub the screen with a soft brush, mild soap and water (because there is build-up, I assure you, even if you’ve removed the fuzzy!).  Use your vacuum cleaner extension tool or long skinny brush to give a good cleaning inside the trap area.  And don’t forget the vent tube… remove it from the back of the dryer and clean out any lint or obstruction.  After you’ve done this, run the dryer on air fluff for about 10 minutes to clear out anything that remains.

You’ll be amazed at the decrease in drying time after you’ve done this simple task… and you will use less energy as a result.  Now, I’ll make you a deal… I’ll do the “task” if you do my laundry!

Simple tip: You don’t need an electric iron… ever.

wtr spray bttlSome people find comfort in ironing… I happen not to be one of those people. But who hasn’t pulled something out of a closet or drawer and thought “okay, if I wear this ‘as is’, someone will think I slept in it!”

Well, electric irons happen to use an extraordinary amount of energy to power, but I have a simple way to never plug-in an electric iron again… all you need is a simple sprayer bottle filled with water.

Depending on the garment or item all you need to do is the following:

  • Place the item on top of a flat surface, mist each side with water, smooth with your hands and give it about 15 minutes to dry. You can also hang the item and do the exact same.  On the fly, I’ve actually done this while WEARING the item!
  • For really stubborn wrinkles, saturate the area with water a bit more than a simple mist, smooth with your hands and give a bit more time to dry… and voila, goodbye wrinkles!
  • (For items that must be dry cleaned, remember these tips, but this will safely work even for dry cleaned items that get some wrinkles!)

Sure, it won’t save the planet, but truly, give it a try… it WILL save energy and you, too, may never plug-in another electric iron again!