Top 10 Things to Do This Summer for Your Home and Health

1      Plant a shade tree. A tree absorbs carbon dioxide, improves air quality, and controls flooding by minimizing runoff and topsoil loss. If located right it can offer free air conditioning on a sunny day for you and your home.

2      Switch all your light bulbs to LEDs (or at least CFLs) to reduce unnecessary heat gain from lights in your home. The average residential lighting energy usage is about 15% of your total energy use. Conventional light bulbs waste most of that energy as heat. An incandescent bulb gives off 90 percent of its energy as heat, while a compact fluorescent bulb wastes 80 percent as heat. LEDs remain cool. led

3  attic insulation    Insulate your attic. If your attic is like most, it could use an extra blanket. Most homes have fiberglass or blown cellulose insulation with no air sealing. With the simple idea that hot air rises, getting your attic insulated right and air tight will improve your energy efficiency along with improving comfort and energy efficiency.

4      Air-seal your electrical outlets. Since we know that positive pressure always wants to go negative we know air movement is going to happen in your home through gaps and cracks. Sealing up those holes will protect your health and improve your energy efficiency.

5      Exhaust fans. Managing the humidity in your home is difficult at best. Higher humidity in the home pushes us to adjust the thermostat instead of focusing on energy usage to improve comfort. Running the exhaust fan during and for 10 minutes after your morning shower and the exhaust hood while you are cooking is a first line of defense in keeping the humidity low in your home. Better even is to connect the exhaust fan to a humidistat so it runs anytime humidity gets higher than optimal in your home.

6      Fix leaky faucets and toilets. Wasting potable water is a huge problem in our goal of being efficient. It not only hurts us on monthly bills but also costs us a precious resource and burdens our infrastructure. Leaks can account for 10,000 gallons of wasted water in a home every year – or enough to fill a backyard swimming pool.

7      Lower the temperature on your hot water heater. Most water heaters come set at 140 degrees when installed while most households only need them to be set at 120 degrees. Turning back the thermostat on your hot water heater can protect against scalding, cut your energy bill, and lengthen the life of your water heater.

8      Collect Rainwater Rainwater is better for your plants because it is naturally soft and free of chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals. Reducing runoff also minimizes the amount of water flowing into the sewer system and local waterways – this runoff can contain pesticides and fertilizers which is damaging to the eco-system.rain water harvesting

9      Close the curtains Using curtains, shades, and / or shutters can greatly improve your home’s ability to fight off those high summer temperatures and help maintain a comfortable home.

10   Use Solar Energy to reduce your impact on the grid. When building new, plan your home for solar in the future even if you are not going to install it initially. Solar energy is renewable, efficient, and getting more affordable every day.

Harrisonburg solar design

Shenandoah Sunshine: Harvesting Solar Power in the Valley

Tapping the power of the sun?  No more utility bills? The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is sponsoring the second in a series of programs addressing the alternatives to fossil fuels.  “Shenandoah Sunshine: Harvesting Solar Power in the Valley,” will be presented Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 from 6-7:30 PM at the Massanutten Regional Library in Harrisonburg.


Is solar power a panacea or a piece of the puzzle?  Four local experts will discuss opportunities for small-scale solar power generation in institutions, churches, businesses and homes.


The first speaker, Anthony Smith, President and CEO of Secure Futures, LLC, will speak on “Developing Solar Power at Eastern Mennonite University and Washington and Lee University: Building Power for Solar in Virginia.”  Secure Futures of Staunton, VA, specializes in “making clean renewable solar power affordable for colleges, universities and other non-profit institutions.”


James Leaman, the second speaker, is a professor at EMU’s Department of Business and Economics.  He is also chair of the Creation Care Council of Parkview Mennonite Church, and has facilitated the acquisition of solar panels for his church.  Dr. Leaman will speak about “Photovoltaic Solar for Churches.”


Our third speaker, Charles Hendricks, is a LEED credentialed architect with The Gaines Group, PLC.  His firm has been awarded the Best Green Designer award by the Virginia Sustainable Building Network due to their “long commitment to the promotion of green building and sustainable development principles in Central Virginia.” Hendricks will speak on “Business Matters: Solar Photovoltaic That Makes Cents.”


The final speaker is Matthew Huffman, founder of Huffman Electrical Systems of Swoope, VA.  He has designed and installed almost 50 solar electric systems for homes, cabins, RVs, etc, over the past seven years.  He will offer “A Homeowner’s Guide to the Solar System.”


A short question and answer period will follow the presentations. For more information, write  .