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Gettin' Green

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We've decided to get greener this year, to use less energy, partly because of global warming, and partly because we're convinced that at least ten cents out of every imported petroleum dollar goes to support terrorist activities throughout the world.

The first step was to buy a car with better fuel efficiency than our 1992 Grand Marquis or our 2001 GMC pickup. We determined a hybrid-electric would be appropriate and settled on the 2007 Toyota Prius, technically the best hybrid on the market, and the first 'foreign' car we've ever owned. I place the quotes because it has been years since all-US-made cars were available. Our GMC pickup was built in Canada with an engine from Mexico.

Buying the Prius was a fun experience. The price of gasoline dipped after the first of the year. This resulted in a large inventory of Prius vehicles (what's the plural of Prius?) languishing on Toyota car lots. Their cost dropped from asking prices above MSRP to below. We paid about $1000 less than Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. Then the day after we received the price quote, Toyota countered slipping sales by offering zero percent interest for 24 months. That threw us into a quandary because we'd already pulled the money from a stock fund. We put the cash into several CDs at 5.2 percent and borrowed from Toyota. We'd traded in the stock because I was concerned the stock market was rising too fast and was due a correction. Guess what happened this week! And did I mention that gas has gone up thirty cents since we bought the car?

Our mpg with the Prius? For the first 1000 miles we averaged over 45 mpg. Now that it's broke-in, it should get better.

At home, we're fairly green already; a well-insulated two-story house with six inch walls, thermo-windows, and an earth-coupled heat pump with a SEER rating of 37. Some would rightly claim that our house is too large with too many windows, but porches provide quite a bit of shade in the summer, an un-heated sunroom collects heat in the winter, the thermostat is kept at good numbers, and I spent most days as a light Nazi going around turning off unused electric lights. Unused computers get turned off, too.

This year we've identified several things to improve. The wooden doors to the upstairs balcony don't seal well, plus each has nine panes of uninsulated glass. They'll become steel doors with insulated glass inserts this spring. I'll continue to replace our incandescent light bulbs with florescent. That is a daunting task, because we have candle bulbs with small bases in a number of fixtures. I haven't found a suitable florescent replacement for them. Also, we're still arbitrating the replacements for the three 100 watt large globes we have in the kitchen. Later in the year, we'll replace our 18 year-old refrigerator with one that is more efficient. Another item on the list is the pool pump. Fixing that energy hog may be more difficult. The first thing I'll do is install a timer to insure it's only on as long as necessary. A better long term fix would be to exchange the AC motor for a more efficient DC one that could be powered by solar panels. That probably won't happen this year.
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