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Conserving energy at home

April 7, 2008
Janelle Packer
Part three in a series.

Every environmentally friendly group, organization and person has the same advice for those looking to live a more green lifestyle — the first step is to start using energy more efficiently.

“The absolute first step, which is not talked about near enough, must be energy efficiency. Little of that has been done in Michigan,” said Jim Dulzo, Michigan Land Use Institute managing editor.

Being more energy efficient encompasses both individual level changes in energy consumption, as well as changes at the state level regarding energy use by large companies.

According to Smart Energy Living, there are numerous things people can do in their own homes to lessen the amount of energy they consume. Most of which will not cost consumers any money.

Washing your clothes in cold water and washing only full loads will help reduce energy consumption. In addition, turning down the thermostat could save consumers 3 percent on the heating bill for every 1 degree it is turned down.

Also, small things like turning out the lights every time you leave a room and going out of your way to carpool will help lessen energy consumption for consumers.

Linda Klemens, president of the Thunder Bay Audubon Society, said people have to look at both the short and long term when considering ways to lessen our environmental impact.

“We know fossil fuels are being used up at an unbelievable rate worldwide, with the United States being the world’s largest consumer and we know that we need to start to think green,” she said.

Klemens suggests taking small steps to decrease energy consumption, such as instead of making three trips to town for three different items, people should make a list and get it all done is one trip.

Over the long term, she said people can do things like buy a hybrid automobile instead of a large sport utility vehicle. Consumers should be aware of who they are purchasing their gas and oil from and choose companies that are doing their part to be more environmentally friendly.

Dulzo points to the establishment of an alternative energy portfolio in the state. This would require all energy providers in the state to supply a certain percentage of the energy distributed in the form of renewable energy sources.

“If we made it our goal to cut our energy use by 1 percent per year, by the time we start to see results a lot of other (alternative energy) technologies would have emerged,” he said.

Another alternative energy that has come under scrutiny recently is outside wood burners. Some area residents have reported success in the utilization of the new technology.

Stan Pilarski, owner of Stanson Floor Covering and Furniture in Alpena, is wrapping up his third winter with his outside wood stove.

He estimates by burning pallets in his outside stove — which previously he had to pay to get rid of — the company has saved approximately $8,000 a year.

Pilarski said it is not like a wood burner in the house. The company simply burns the wood the way it comes off the pile, whether it is wet or not. He said they have tried utilizing other products in the stove with little success.

“We have tried to burn different products in it. Cardboard smells and will give you an odor, but wood is wood. It is no different than smelling your neighbor’s fireplace burning,” he said.

Alpena Township recently passed an ordinance to allow outside wood burning stoves in certain districts, but not in others.

“We felt we should be proactive and look at how how we can make it better for neighborhood,” said Township Supervisor Marie Twite.

The ordinance does not allow the use of the stoves in subdivisions, requires a 50 foot setback from all lot lines, at least one acre of property and users are only allowed to burn permitted materials in the stoves.

Dulzo also suggests a variety of ways to proceed at a national level that would reduce our dependency on fossil fuel while lessening our environmental impact.

Primarily, he suggests replacing the entire power grid in the country to make it more easily accessible to alternative energy sources.

One of those sources could be the southwest. Researchers have discovered using concentrated solar power from the southwest region of the country could be enough to power the entire country.

“The smart thing to do is to use what the planet has already provided us that harms no one. This is where is global and national economy is going,” Dulzo said.

Ken Bradstreet, director of community and public affairs for Wolverine Power, said the company supports renewable energy but recognizes the limitations currently associated with it.

“We have a strong history of support for renewable energy, but we do recognize the potential is just not there in renewable energies to meet your baseload needs,” he said. “At the end of the day it is either going to be coal nuclear.”

Janelle Packer can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5695.

Article Photos

Four easy ways for consumers to reduce energy consumption:
1. Wash clothes in cold water and wash only full loads,
2. Turn down your thermostat,
3. Every time you leave a room turn off the lights,
4. Plug your television, computer and other electrical devices into an electrical strip and turn it off when not in use.



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