By Rafi Sohail, Engage Minnesota
The teachings of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) point toward conservation, sustainable development, and resource management. The Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) remarked, “The Earth is green and beautiful, and God has appointed you his stewards over it.”
This holistic environmental philosophy assumes a fundamental link and interdependency between all natural elements; if one of these is abused, then the natural world as a whole will suffer on account of this.
The following article is a humble attempt to help the readers conserve energy. This effort is inspired by Islam’s exhortations to safeguard the rights of the environment and to adopt moderation in the use of natural resources.
Minnesota has just experienced one of the coldest winters this decade. January witnessed record sub-zero temperatures at International Falls, Embarrass, Tower, and the Twin Cities. By mid-April, those will be a distant memory. We live in a state that has one of the highest seasonal temperature fluctuations. Our winter windchills are comparable to Alaska’s, but in mid-summer our dewpoint heat index is no different from Louisiana’s.
An average single-family home in Minnesota pays about $1,000 each for natural gas and electricity bills annually. (According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.) We see bigger sticker shock with a gas bill since it fluctuates sharply, from just $20 in the summer to over $200 in the winter. With plasma TVs and multiple computers at home, our annual electricity consumption is a bit more constant (but constantly rising) with some variation in July and August, depending on air-conditioner usage. We also pay an average of $600 more on water consumption and garbage disposal each year.
Here are some useful tips on how to take control of saving energy by applying some energy conservation options.
- Manage your home’s temperature by installing a programmable thermostat. You can program multiple temperature changes throughout the day.
- The rule of thumb is that setting the temperature one degree below your normal set-point for eight hours every day will help you save 2 percent on that month’s heating bill.
- Change your furnace filter every month. A dirty furnace filter is the leading cause of furnace problems. It also adds to your heating bill since the furnace runs inefficiently. Furnace filters come with MERV ratings from 3 to 15. The higher the rating, the more expensive the filter is. If you don’t have any serious allergy issues, a midrange MERV rating filter will do.
- Proper caulking and weather stripping on windows and doors will prevent cold draft problems.
- Take advantage of your utility company’s home energy audit programs, especially the $100 detailed home energy audit. You will be able to see cold spots near entrances, windows, walls, and ceilings while getting a professional assessment from an expert. This is well worth the $100 spent.
- Have a furnace tune-up once a year (or at least every other year) by a licensed contractor to ensure the unit is operating properly.
- Almost all of the heating-related energy tips above are applicable here.
- Install ceiling fans to add air circulation in your house. A ceiling fan can help decrease the room temperature by almost 10 degrees during the summer.
Close drapes, blinds, and shades to minimize the radiant heating effect during the day time by keeping the sunrays out.
Keep the outside AC condenser unit clean from debris and leaves. Please don’t bang on it with your lawnmowers.
- Homes built in Minnesota since 2001 are much tighter and better insulated. However, they require proper ventilation to prevent any mildew or back draft problems. Most new homes are equipped with an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV), a black or beige colored box hanging in your utility room. This is the most neglected piece of equipment.
- Clean and rinse the ERV filters at least every 3 months. The instruction manual will show the steps. Also, clean the ERV’s air intake vent located at the side of the house. The vent has a screen that accumulates dust. An old tooth brush can do the trick.
- If it has been five years, your heating/cooling air duct system needs professional cleaning.
- Do not block the make-up air flow tubing in your utility room. This black, plastic-wrapped, flexible elephant trunk is necessary to ensure proper air flow needed for combustion and exhaust of your gas furnace and water heater. Blocking the make-up air flexible tubing may lead to safety hazards.
- The ideal relative humidity (RH) setting (for humans of course) is between 40 and 60 percent. We can tolerate as low as 30 percent. An RH below this minimum may cause throat irritation, dry skin, or nosebleeds. Prolonged dryness in a house may cause damage to your wood furniture and hardwood floors.
- Install an RH monitor that can display the minimum and maximum range inside your house. This should give you an indication of whether a humidifier is needed in the winter.
- You have to do a balancing act to set a comfortable RH level in your house in the winter without causing condensation on the windows. Prolonged condensation will lead to problems with mildew.
Lighting and Electronic Equipment:
- Install high-efficiency compact florescent (CFL) bulbs. A 15-watt CFL bulb can give the same lumens as a 60-watt standard bulb. Although CFL bulbs are expensive, they still save money and are cost-effective. Your electric utility company most likely offers rebates for these bulbs.
- Hibernate or turn off your computers/monitors at night instead of setting them on screen saver mode. A typical desktop uses from 60 to 200 watts, a 17-inch LCD monitor uses 30 watts, and a laptop can use 15 to 45 watts. With multiple computers at home, the electricity cost will add up.
- Turn off your other electronic entertainment gadgets when not in use at night. Unless we are recording a game or show, most of us only turn off the television set and completely ignore the VCRs, DVDs, and boomboxes.
- If you are replacing an old electric appliance, buy an appliance with an Energy Star logo.
- Install a low-flow showerhead if the water flow rate of your shower is more than 2.5 gallons per minute. Conduct a bucket test with a stopwatch and measure how long it takes to fill a one-gallon bucket. Your gas utility company offers one free low-flow showerhead to its residential customers each year.
- Install a new aerator on the faucets if the water flow rate from the kitchen or bathroom faucets is more than 1.5 gallons per minute. The aerator minimizes the water flow by adding air to the water. All faucets are equipped with aerators, but older aerators are not as efficient.
- Install a moisture sensor for your lawn sprinkler system. These sensors can detect rain and prevent unnecessary watering on a rainy day.
- Recycling has positive indirect savings. The amount you are paying to dispose of your garbage will be higher without recycling.
- The way I see it, we are preventing the formation of more landfills by recycling properly.
Islam teaches that humanity has been entrusted the task of being trustees to the world’s resources. As caretakers of those resources, it only behooves us that we leave behind a world that the future generations can enjoy and thrive in.
The teachings of Islam were revealed 1,400 years ago when the world population was a fraction of what it is today, and the pressure on the environment was nothing when compared to what it is today. Therefore, Islamic teachings on the importance of conservation and protecting our environment stand out like a beacon – beckoning humanity to that which benefits all for ages to come.
–Rafi Sohail has over 15 years of marketing and business development experience in the energy industry. He currently works for a local gas utility company and manages a group involved in energy conservation programs. He also servers as a board member of Al-Amal School in Fridley, Minn.