Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


February 10, 2011

Prius Winter Mileage Trick

Category: Save Fuel,Tips – Tom Harrison – 6:13 pm

Prius in Winter

Beat The Cold

I started a new job this year, and unlike my former commute (downstairs) I have to drive. To my utter horror, my mileage dropped below 40MPG after the first few weeks. But I fixed that.

The Prius will normally turn off the engine when the car is stopped, which, for my commute is frequently — many lights, and heavy traffic in some parts. But in the winter, until the car has warmed up, the Prius decides to keep the engine on. Idling in traffic isn’t good.

But, if I turn off the heater, off goes the engine. Ha!

My mileage this week has been back up to normal (a little lower than the normal 50+ MPG in winter — in cold climates they change the fuel mix in winter so cars will run properly, even if less efficiently).

So when the car is moving and the engine is on, I turn on the heater, while slowed or stopped, I turn it off. By 10 or 15 minutes the engine is hot enough that the engine will stop on its own. It takes a little longer to warm up the car, and sometimes you need to turn on the AC to prevent the windshield from fogging up, but otherwise, it’s a pretty good trick.

Photo Credit: kalevkevad via Flickr.

June 22, 2008

Not All Hybrid Cars are Created Equal

Category: Save Fuel,Technology – Tom Harrison – 12:27 pm

It is a wonderful thing that car manufacturers are moving to hybrid versions of their vehicles.

Like many of the incremental features introduced in cars over the years, the good ones catch on. Shoulder belts, air bags, anti-lock braking, and many others have made cars safer.

And now, many cars are available with hybrid engines. This adds to the price of the car a little (or sometimes, it seems, a lot). And a hybrid system makes the car greener, right?

Why, the Chevy Tahoe is the green car of the year if you can believe that. (It costs $11,000 more to get the “green” hybrid version, so the car can get a paltry 22 miles per gallon).

A hybrid system does not make a car “green”, it just makes a car a little less of a bad thing. (more…)

December 24, 2007

Why the iPhone (actually) Matters

Ok, I’m just an iPhone fanboy. This post is entirely off-topic — it has nothing to do with the environment, energy, conservation, or any of that. I should hate the iPhone. But wait. I love the iPhone, and thus, must rationalize my purchase, as I have done in the past with my TV, TiVo, and laptop computer.

Stick with me. Going a bit out on a limb, I believe the iPhone embodies something that gives me (some) hope that us humans will manage to think ourselves out of our global warming issues in three ways (more…)

November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Driving Report: Tips for Saving Gas

Category: Little Things,Take Actions,Tips,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 10:18 pm

If you are on the road this Thanksgiving, consider this fact from the US Department of Energy: “Idling gets you 0 miles per gallon”. In fact, idling for more than 10 seconds uses more gas than turning the car off then on as needed. So if you are waiting in long lines of traffic approaching tolls, or waiting in line for fast-food, consider turning off the engine. Be safe, and don’t gun the engine (more…)

September 23, 2007

The Value of Awareness, even if the benefit is not real

Category: Little Things,Observations,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 9:42 pm

My son bought a little device that has a solar panel on it, and generates enough electricity to charge it’s internal battery which in turn can charge an iPod or other small electronic device.

Seems ok at first blush. But of course, as an earnest person on Treehugger.com observed, the total energy benefit from this device is probably negative. The cost of production, shipping, and so on is around $30 (plus shipping). The amount of electricity used to charge an iPod is fantastically small — we use a little more than $100 of electricity each month, and I am thinking the vast majority goes to lighting, the fridge, dryer, and various other significant appliances. Actually getting $40 in electrical savings from this device would take eons.

He thought about it

However, my son did something important. He thought. (more…)

August 5, 2007

New EPA Mileage Estimates: Much More Accurate

Category: Little Things,News,Policy,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:50 pm

Well folks, no more hiding behind illusions. The EPA has updated the MPG estimates that all vehicles sold in the US are required to display on their sticker. The good news is that these estimates are more realistic, because they account for things like lower fuel economy in cold weather. They also account for things like air conditioner usage, higher speeds on roads (check it out: the site shows an image of an 80 MPH speed limit sign) and faster acceleration — things that have changed since the standards were introduced in, probably 1980 or so? (more…)

August 4, 2007

Avoiding the All or Nothing Trap: Some is Just Fine

I read way, way too many eco-blogs, enviro-blogs, politico-blogs and globalwarmingo-blogs. With several exceptions (e.g. IdealBite and An Inconvenient Truth, to name several) there’s way too much polarity in the conversation — it’s all or nothing, when often the best choice is both, either or just some.

Locally grown vs. Organic food, for instance: both would be great, either is good, some is good. (more…)

March 11, 2007

“U.S. Northeast faces a hotter future” … so I can ride my bike more

Category: Big Things,Economics,Editorial,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 9:30 pm

Perhaps the fact that it finally melted a little this not-quite-spring-yet weekend is to blame, but I took my bike in to the shop to get a much needed tune-up. I’m ready to start riding to work again, and not a moment too soon. Just because this has been an exceptionally warm, or at least short winter doesn’t mean anything on the scale of global statistics, but I have to say, I’m glad. While there’s no strong evidence that extended daylight savings time actually does anything to save energy, I’m still glad, because I like light, and I don’t think it will hurt. And the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that U.S. Northeast faces a hotter future but I’m still cheery. Because I can ride.

There’s a bit of a paradox: global warming makes it easier for me to do things to reduce global warming. (more…)

February 24, 2007

Honest Assesment of What Hasn’t Worked

We have had some pretty surprising successes in our efforts to reduce energy consumption. But there are a number of things we have tried that don’t work as well as we want. (more…)

January 4, 2007

My Punishment for Driving

Category: Fun,Little Things,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:37 pm

This morning was a great day to ride. Global warming has made our normally frosty January quite mild — mid 50’s today. But I drove because I had a meeting. I could have easily taken public transit or gotten a ride with the guy I was meeting … actually in the end I did. So, I got my punishment. (more…)