Monday, June 26, 2006

Good, and bad, ways to save energy

With gas prices hitting $3/gallon, many out there are taking rather drastic steps to reduce their energy usage--specifically buying hybrid vehicles and "flex fuel" (gasoline or ethanol) capable vehicles. Please; don't. To break even with a hybrid, one must drive about 50,000 miles per year. You'll never break even with flexible fuel--it reduces mileage, and when ethanol is competitive, it'll be a part of every gasoline mixture in the country.

Here are some more cost-effective solutions if you've got a few grand burning a hole in your pocket that you'd like to use to save energy:

1. Consider a manual transmission (savings of $500 to $1000) or diesel engine (cost of $3000 or so) in your next vehicle. A clutch saves you 5% in gas, and a diesel reduces fuel usage by 30% or so.

2. Consider replacing old appliances, especially refrigerators, freezers, and washing machines.

3. Consider driving at 55-65mph instead of 75mph or more for a 15% savings in fuel usage.

4. Consider natural gas for your next dryer or oven; the cost is similar, but less carbon will be emitted due to the low (~30%) Carnot efficiency of electric power generation.

5. Use light colors when painting and wallpapering the inside of your house--this can reduce required lighting power by up to 50%.

One can certainly calculate other easy ways of saving energy, but the primary point is certain; buying a "Prius" probably won't help nearly as much as these other steps.


Mercy Now said...

Yeah, I thought about buying a hybrid last year but by the time I calc the loss in my trade in + the premium for the hybrids, it was like paying an extra $7k! Further analysis came out to driving 8 more years in my current car to be even. Of course, if gas price hits $10, then I may change my mind:o) I'm thinking about spending $700 on a road bike to ride to work in the fall.

Oh, and uhm driving 55-65 mph on the FL highways will get run over by all other cars.

Bike Bubba said...

OK, OK, I don't drive the speed limit when I'm within 50 miles of Chicago, either. :^)

(or Detroit...but most places it works for me!)

One interesting thing; even if gasoline were to go to $10/gallon, you still might be better to do something besides buy a Prius because people will shift to other sources of energy--raising their costs proportionally as well.

(my dad notes that back in the sixties, he cut the fuel costs for the paper mill he supervised immensely by installing a "dual fuel" burner--natural gas/fuel oil--and playing the vendors off against one another. )

Marklark said...

Consider putting long-life, low-wattage compact flourescents where you use lights a lot or where your children leave them on unattended.

Marklark said...

My father had a Honda hybrid. He put a lot of highway miles on it, wrecked it (minor damage that "totalled" it) after a year or two, and got a check back for abour $4000 because of its salvage value.

Bike Bubba said...

Noteworthy is that your dad's car (the Insight?) is made mostly of aluminum--the scrap value of that alone gets you a couple grand. And if little dings on other Insights are seen as horrendous, I can see where the parts would be valuable.

Still doesn't make it a money-saver, energy-wise, but it explains your dad's experience.

Marklark said...

I am guessing that much of the salvage value came from the batteries.