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Archive for February, 2012

Be Green and E-file Your Income Tax Forms

If you have not yet attempted to file your state and federal income tax forms electronically, be aware that e-filing has personal benefits. If you are receiving a refund, you can elect to have it directly deposited in to your bank account, and you will get your money much faster than if you wait to have a check sent to you.  By filing electronically and choosing direct deposit, the time lapse from submitting your form to getting your refund can be less than a week! And you will not be using any paper in the entire transaction.

 The IRS allows anyone to e-file their federal forms for free: Free File. 

The State of Illinois also allows e-filing: e-Services for Individuals and direct electronic deposit for refunds.

Make this the year you go electronic: save paper and time!

By julie collins on February 26, 2012 Categories: Income Tax

Tips for Weathering the Winter

•Consider using non-toxic de-icing substances such as clean clay cat litter, sand, or fireplace/stove ash to prevent hazardous waste from chemicals. Chemical de-icers can be hazardous to your pets, your trees and shrubs, and the environment. Antifreeze that leak from car engines and chemical snow melters on driveways, roads, and runways can pollute surface waters and groundwater through the soil.
•Winterize your vehicle by checking your air filter and fluid levels, checking tires for tread wear and proper inflation, and checking the condition of your windshield wipers. Ensuring your vehicle is ready for weather changes will reduce damage, which prevents waste from broken parts, and will keep you safe on the road.
•If you have a wood-burning fireplace, save your ashes in a tin instead of throwing them away. Cold wood ashes can be mixed in your compost heap to create a valuable soil amendment that provides nutrients to your garden.
•Use electric snow removal products rather than gasoline-powered ones. While electric products consume energy, they do not emit greenhouse gases. As alternatives, use snow shovels, ice crackers, and brooms to clear snow from your sidewalk, porch, or driveway.
•If you have a manual thermostat or no thermostat at all, one way to save energy and money this winter is to install an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat. When installed and used with the four pre-programmed temperature settings for weekend and weekdays, you can save about $100 each year while staying comfortable. Before leaving for vacation, turn down your thermostat (or use a programmable one) so that you don’t waste natural resources by generating unneeded heat. You can also buy outdoor and indoor lights with timers so that lights don’t stay on all night.
•Close the recycling loop. Many articles of clothing, such as jackets, scarves, gloves, and boots, are now made from recycled materials. Most fleece products are made from recycled plastic soda bottles, and certain clothing and shoe manufacturers use recycled cotton scraps and rubber tires to make their products.
•Winter storms often cause power outages. Prevent waste by keeping rechargeable batteries rather than disposable ones stored throughout your house with your flashlights. If you do use disposable batteries, prevent hazardous waste by buying batteries with low mercury content.
•Recycle old newspapers by making rolled paper logs for your fireplace. Roll newspaper sheets around a broom stick until your log is the desired size, then soak your log thoroughly in water. Dry the log overnight and use like ordinary wood. Always follow proper safety precautions when burning anything around your home.
•To make sure your heating system (boiler, furnace or heat pump) is operating at its most efficient, it is a good idea to have a contractor perform a routine check-up and any necessary maintenance on the equipment before freezing weather drives up your energy bill.
•If your heating equipment more than ten years old, it may be time for a replacement to a more energy-efficient unit. While initially an expensive investment, replacing old equipment with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment saves more energy and money in the long run.
 
See more energy saving tips from the EPA.

By julie collins on February 25, 2012 Categories: Cold Weather, Weatherization

Green Holiday Gift Ideas

Looking to purchase green gifts for your friends or family this holiday season? For ideas, check out the websites listed in this brief article from Consumer Reports Greener Choices.

By julie collins on Categories: Consumer Choices, Holidays

Kill A Watt Meters

The Mount Prospect Public Library is now offering Kill A Watt Meters for checkout at the Reference Desk on the second floor. These devices can be used to monitor the electricity consumed by household appliances and electronics on a daily basis. ComEd provided 2 of these meters to the library. Please ask for assistance at the Reference Desk. Loan periods are for one week.

By julie collins on Categories: Consumer Choices, Electronics, Energy

Winterize Your Home

As the seasons begin to change your family migrates indoors for the winter, a lot of energy can be wasted to keep your family and your home comfortable. Between 40 and 70% of all home energy is wasted, but we could save about half of that by buying efficient appliances and taking energy-saving measures.

Cover your air conditioner: If you can’t remove your window unit, consider covering it both inside and out. Besides protecting your air-conditioning unit, these covers also help keep cold air from entering your home through the space around the air-conditioner and can be a great way to lower utility bills.

Caulk it: Small spaces and gaps around windows and pipes and wires entering the home create create energy wasting drafts that can cut the efficiency of your heating system. Most caulking products cost under $10; rope caulk, one of the easiest types to apply, sells for about
$4 for 40 or 50 feet.

Block drafts: Draft blockers are foam plates that fit behind light switches and electrical outlets to reduce drafts that enter through those spaces. You can get a packet of 10 for about $3 and they’re easy to install with just a screwdriver.

Upgrade your thermostat: Changing your thermostat to a programmable one allows you to control the temperature in your home at different times of the day without you being home. Keep the heat off when you’re out of the house and set it to turn back up before you get home. Some also have a second set of settings for weekends, when people usually spend more time at home. The thermostats range from $90 to $175, but can save 12% or more on your energy bill and pay for itself within three years.

http://www.earthshare.org/2008/09/button-up-your.html

By julie collins on Categories: Cold Weather, Consumer Choices, Energy

Thermal Detection Devices

The Mount Prospect Library is now offering thermal detection devices for checkout.  These “Minitemp Noncontact Thermometers” are designed for detecting heat leaks around doors and windows. Now that the colder weather has arrived, these devices are useful for determining where to add weather-stripping or if a new window is necessary to conserve heat.

The thermal detection devices are available at the Reference Desk on the second floor. They can be borrowed for one week.

These devices are made possible through the Mount Prospect Sustainability Education Program, presented in partnership with the Village of Mount Prospect and the Mount Prospect Public Library and funded through the U.S Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG).

 

By julie collins on Categories: Cold Weather, Energy