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Laundry Room & Basement

Often neglected, the laundry room and the basement offer excellent opportunities for greening your home. Through simple steps such as cleaning and maintenance, along with the purchasing of environmentally-friendly products typically used in these rooms, you can save on energy, reduce water use, and improve the indoor air quality in your home.

Laundry

Washing and drying your laundry is one of the most energy- and water-intensive chores in the home. With the average American family washing almost 400 loads of laundry each year, considering greener options when doing your laundry can save you money, as well as reduce energy and water use.

Clothes Washer

If all U.S. households installed water-efficient appliances, the country would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion dollars per year. For instance, the average washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load, and is the second largest water user in your home. High-efficiency washing machines use 35 to 50 percent less water, as well as 50 percent less energy per load. If you are in the market for a new clothes washer, consider buying a high-efficiency, water-saving ENERGY STAR labeled model to reduce water and energy use. Also, consider a model that offers cycle and load size adjustments, which are more water-and energy-efficient.

To save more water, look for a clothes washer with a low water factor. The water factor is the number of gallons per cycle per cubic foot that a clothes washer uses. So, if a washer uses 18 gallons per cycle and has a tub volume of 3.0 cubic feet, then the water factor is 6.0. The lower the water factor, the more efficient the washer is.

For more information on water- and energy-efficient clothes washes, go to:
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=clotheswash.pr_clothes_washers
http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13050

Laundry Green Practices

Green laundry practices can substantially reduce energy and water use in your home. Consider these green practices when shopping for laundry supplies or cleaning your next load of laundry:

  • Wash only full loads of laundry, and select the appropriate water level or load size option on the washing machine and dryer.

  • Buy items, such as laundry detergent and fabric softener, with minimal packaging.

  • Buy items in bulk or in concentrated form (e.g., concentrated laundry detergent).

  • Dry clothes on a line, rather than in the dryer.

  • Use cold-water wash cycles when appropriate. About 90% of the energy used for washing clothes in a conventional top-load washer is for heating the water.

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Basement Healthy Home Considerations

Moisture/Mold

Too much moisture in a home can lead to mold, mildew, and other biological growths. This in turn can lead to a variety of health effects ranging from allergic reactions and asthma attacks to more serious illnesses. In addition to health problems, severe moisture problems can lead to rot, structural damage or premature paint failure. Consider these techniques to control moisture that can occur in your basement:

  • Fix leaks, drips, and seepage problems.

  • Ensure wet areas are dry within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth. Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and consider removal and replacement of items that appear to be permanently water damaged. If mold and mildew does appear on hard surfaces, wash, and then let it dry completely.

  • Do not finish a basement below ground level unless all water leaks are sealed. A finished basement should also have adequate outdoor ventilation and heat to prevent condensation.

  • Operate a dehumidifier in the basement, if necessary, to keep relative humidity levels down. But keep in mind a dehumidifier consumes electricity, so look for an ENERGY STAR model.

For information on how to control moisture in your home, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/homes/hip-moisture.html
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=dehumid.pr_dehumidifiers

Radon

Test your home for radon. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Radon cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled, but it is easy to test for. Radon can enter and collect inside homes not built with radon-resistant techniques. Typically, radon enters the home from the ground into the home through cracks and holes in the foundation. If you are building an addition or a new home, radon-resistant construction techniques can help prevent radon from entering your home. As added benefit, these techniques may improve energy efficiency as well.

For more information on protecting your home from radon, go to:
EPA's radon Web site -
A Citizen's Guide to Radon -
Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon -
Radon-Resistant New Construction Techniques -

Hazardous Household Materials

Hazardous materials are found in almost every home and especially in the basement. If you walk around your basement or workshop, you will probably find numerous hazardous materials you didn't know you had. Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be household hazardous waste and include certain paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and electronics. Pesticides, rodenticides, chemical fertilizers, used motor oil, antifreeze, car batteries, paint thinners, solvents, fluorescent light bulbs, computer and TV monitors, compressed gases, and other toxic items should always be treated as a hazardous waste. Disposing of household hazardous wastes improperly pollutes the environment and poses a threat to human health.
You can reduce the impact of household hazardous waste from your home by:

  • Proper management - Communities offer a variety of options for safely disposing of household hazardous waste. Check with your local government for information on programs in your area.

  • Reconsidering what you use - Read labels on the products you use and ask yourself, "Do I really need to use this product?" Safer alternatives may exist.

  • Reconsidering your methods - Think about what you do in your home that generates hazardous waste and ask yourself, "Is there a safer way I can be doing this?" For example, you could use sandpaper or a heat gun instead of chemical paint strippers, or a plunger instead of a chemical drain cleaner.

For more information on managing household hazardous waste, go to:
http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/pubs/hhw-safe.htm

Deep Freezers and Refrigerators

Many homes prefer to purchase food in bulk and store it in a refrigerator or freezer that is often is housed in the basement. This can be a great way to save money and time. However, if you store food in an older refrigerator/freezer, your savings may be just an illusion. For example, a 20-year-old freezer may cost you up to an extra $40 each year to run compared to a new ENERGY STAR qualified model. Replace your old freezer with a new ENERGY STAR qualified model and use your utility bill savings to stock up on food for your family.

For more information on water- and energy-efficient refrigerators and freezers, go to:
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=refrig.pr_refrigerators
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=freezers.pr_freezers

Link to Whole House for information on windows and doors, heating and cooling, air sealing, insulation, hot water heating, and lighting.

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