Fossil Fuel

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Petroleum, Coal, Natural Gas, Crude Oil, Gasoline, Oil Shale, Tar Sands, etc.

A Thermostat That's Smarter by Half

Albert Einstein

Last fall I installed a 'smarter' thermostat as our old bimetal thermostat had started short-cycling the furnace. A local hardware store had a sale on programmable thermostats for $25, and I installed one that day. Within a day or two I had the thermostat programmed to our preferences and I haven't touched it since. The one question remaining - is the new 'smart' thermostat more energy efficient than the old 'dumb' one?

I can happily say that the new programmable thermostat IS more energy efficient!

Too Cool in the Kitchen

Oven Glow Bar Igniter

If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, your oven is probably working. We had the opposite problem recently - a decidedly cool kitchen. After weeks of our oven taking longer and longer to heat up, it suddenly stopped heating at all. Thanks to a classic Fix-It-Yourself book, Google and a bit of DIY troubleshooting I found the problem. The Glow Bar Igniter in our oven was no longer heating sufficiently to start the gas oven. Happily, it was an easy fix.

$25 Thermostat vs. $250 Thermostat

$25 Programmable Thermostat - installed

Would you rather pay $25 or $250 for an electronic thermostat? What if the $250 thermostat is incredibly sleek, artificially intelligent, and Wi-Fi networked? Would that be enough to sway you? Fortunately, the $250 thermostat was completely sold out which made my choice easy. That and I'm way too cheap to blow 10 times more money for furnace bling.

Tiny House vs. McMansion

I clearly remember wanting a room of my own as a teenager. I settled for a room in the finished basement of our family home. Austin Hay of Santa Rosa, CA has gone well beyond my teenage aspirations and is building his own Tiny House. As Austin tours his 130 sq. foot home built on a double axle trailer he notes that it is less space to clean and will have a small carbon footprint. Austin's Tiny House brings up a question, 'How big a home does a person need?'

LED Vs. Halogen at Sundown

LED (left) & Halogen (right) floodlights

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, 'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and rising electricity rates.' Mr. Franklin didn't have an electricity bill to pay, but he was definitely a frugal man. In my quest for lower electrical bills and fewer burnt-out bulbs I found a replacement for outdoor halogen flood lights.

Embrace the Sweat

Riding in the heat of summer sometimes means 'embracing the sweat'. But, there are ways to reduce your exposure to record-breaking heat. Cycling early or later in the day, stay well hydrated, and slowing your pace will help you keep cooler. Wear well-ventilated, wicking clothes in light colors, and bring a change of clothes when bike commuting. Acclimatizing to heat will also help your comfort and performance as you bike through the summer.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (and Bicycles)

Southwest Chief - Lamy, NM Train Station

The Iron Horse (aka. train) shaped much of the modern Western US. Despite that history, most of us now travel long distances by car or plane because of the supposed convenience. I've flown and driven across the country countless times, so I wanted to try something new. For a trip from Santa Fe, NM to Kansas City, MO I traveled by bicycle and passenger train. The trip went smoothly and was much lower carbon than either automobile or passenger jet. I'm now a fan of train travel and hope that train travel in the U.S. can be improved.

The Rugged Individual vs Fossil Fuels

Natural Gas Meter

Living in the American Southwest, many of us see ourselves as rugged individuals. Movies, books, songs, etc. have celebrated the image of the independent westerner blazing his/her own trail. But, bitterly cold weather has popped the illusion of independence for a great many New Mexicans. Very few of us realized that a power-outage in Texas could trigger natural gas outages for thousands of people across New Mexico.

The Downside of Takeout

Trash Can, full of disposable packaging

Ours is usually a 'half-full trash bin' sort of family. Some of our neighbors roll out an overflowing trash bin each week while our bin usually holds one small bag. Our full recycling bins and compost account for some reduction in our trash output. I try to avoid excess packaging and waste, but we definitely aren't a zero-waste family. Our trash bag filled quickly this week when we ordered takeout food that was packaged in unrecyclable styrofoam clamshells.

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