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"Buresh Blog": Travel weather & winter solstice - Dec. 21st

by: Michael Buresh Updated:

Dec. 21, 2016 - Many have travel plans over the next couple weeks.  Intitially the weather pattern for at least much of the eastern half of the U.S. will be mild so a lack of ice & snow.  A trend toward colder seems to be in the offing for the end of the year/the start of the new year.  For conditions on highways & interstates, click -- here.  For air travel - here.

Winter "officially" (astronomically) arrived early Wed., Dec. 21st - the winter solstice.  It's often called the shortest day of the year though truth is the shortest day is several days earlier because the earth's orbit around the sun is not a perfect circle but rather more elliptical.  Alaskan climatogologist Brian Brettschneider posted the handy dandy map below:

Remember: the seasons are controlled by the earth's axis (away from the sun for the N. Hemisphere in winter) vs. distance from the sun (closest in Jan.!).

This time of year is often a drain on the ol' energy bill.  Duke Energy provides the following tips:

Vacation Energy Saving Tips

1.             If you have a programmable thermostat, use the “vacation” mode. If you have a manual unit, adjusting your thermostat just a few degrees (warmer when on AC and cooler when on heat) will have a significant impact. A change of just three degrees for 24 hours a day can save 30 percent on your cooling costs. Also, set the fan to “auto,” not “on.” Leaving the fan on all the time costs up to $25 a month. If the forecast is for mild weather, consider turning the system off completely.

2.             Turn off your electric water heater at your breaker if you plan to leave home for a few days. Most models will reheat the water to the set temperature in about an hour. A large amount of the cost of running a water heater is due to the "standby" lossesWater heaters are among the top three energy using appliances in your home.

3.             Most of us empty our refrigerators before heading out of town, but did you know a fully stocked refrigerator keeps cold better than an empty one? Keep the fridge and freezer full and tightly packed, and the cold items will keep one another cold. It doesn't even have to be food; you can use water containers or ice trays. Conserve even more energy by adjusting the thermostats on your refrigerator and freezer to higher settings; 38°F for the refrigerator and 5°F for the freezer. For trips lasting four weeks or more, consider emptying your refrigerator completely and unplugging it.

4.             Unplug small electrical equipment such as radios, DVD players or TVs when not in use. Electronic appliances can act like energy vampires, sucking power even when they are not in use. This is called phantom loads. Your coffee maker, cable box, game console, laptop computer and even your rechargeable toothbrushes are a few examples of these phantom power users. Use the Duke Energy energy slayer calculator to see how much you can save by pulling the plug before you head out of town.

5.             Make sure fans and lights are turned off. For security lights, consider using a timer. And, switch bulbs to LEDs or CFLs to save even more.

With these simple tips, customers can enjoy a holiday vacation and a smaller energy bill when they return home.

Light up the holidays and save

Another holiday energy-saving idea is to replace incandescent lights and displays with LED versions. Duke Energy’s holiday lighting calculator will provide estimated savings customized to your holiday lighting plans. Check out the tool -- here -- to see your savings. Just four 100-bulb strands of large-scale (C9) incandescent bulbs lit for six hours a day will add about $50 a month to your energy bill. The same setup with LED bulbs would cost just over $7 a month to light.

Duke Energy also recommends customers add timers or photo sensors to ensure displays are turned off during daylight hours.

NASA has released their satellite imagery showing just how warm Nov. was - 2nd warmest on record.

EARTH GAUGE (NEEF)

'Tis the Season to Take Out the Trash, Sarah Blount

This holiday season of giving, receiving, feasting, and decorating can come with some additional baggage—trash baggage, that is! Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the amount of trash produced in the United States increases by an estimated 25%—that’s about one million extra tons of garbage each week. Annually, Americans discard an estimated:

  • 38,000 miles of ribbon, or enough to wrap around the planet (with some left for a bow);
  • $11 billion worth of packing material;
  • And 15 million used Christmas trees.

When this holiday material is discarded it can be headed to landfills, where, far from making things merry and bright, it undergoes bacterial decomposition, which produces “landfill gas”: a mixture of predominantly greenhouse gases including methane, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The methane in particular makes landfill gas stand out—landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. Methane, a greenhouse gas with an impact on climate change more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, is the second-most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activity. Carbon dioxide, the other major ingredient in landfill gas, is the first.

This year, consider trying out a new way of celebrating the season to help reduce your holiday waste:

  • Give a gift that needs no packaging—an experience! Offer to take friends or family on a trip to a public land, or offer to pay the entrance fee for a national, state, or local park you know they would enjoy. (To be extra thrifty, check out a list of all of the 2016 federal fee-free days.)
  • Each year, an estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold in the US, or enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. Instead of a traditional card, consider an e-card or a telephone call to friends and family.
  • When shopping for holiday foods, decorations, and gifts, use reusable shopping bags. These can be stronger than traditional single-use bags, protecting your purchases and reducing the amount of paper and plastic distributed by vendors.
  • For an eye-catching gift tag, cut off the front of any holiday cards you received in the previous year. The card’s decorative front will spruce up your gift, and you can write the recipient’s name on the blank side.
  • Save on gift wrap by reusing intact pieces from the previous year, or by opting for a more durable material that you can use again and again, such as a cloth bag.
  • Once it’s time to pack up the decorations, set aside your Christmas tree for recycling. Many areas collect trees in the first few weeks after Christmas to be mulched and used for water conservation and weed control.

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