Many residents strive to be sustainable in their homes year-round, but it can be a challenge to be mindful of energy consumption and water use as temperatures rise in summer.
It seems obvious to turn off an air conditioner system when you’re not at home and to keep up with recycling papers, plastics and glass items. But there’s more that can be done to reduce your impact on the environment.
Conservation Advisory Council chairman Michelle Sterling offered a few tips for greener summer living.
“My No. 1 tip for sustainability is to check a rain sensor,” she said. “Everyone should have a rain sensor.”
The name reflects its function — the sensor simply makes sure if it just rained or is currently raining a resident’s sprinkler system doesn’t run.
“It is so wasteful if it just rained and people’s sprinklers are going off,” Sterling said. A basic rain sensor can be purchased for as little as $25, she added, but it can save hundreds of dollars in a homeowner’s water bill and the sensor might even make lawns healthier because it prevents over-watering.
Residents should also make sure there aren’t any leaks or issues with the sprinkler system.
To take it a step further, Sterling suggested a smart sprinkler controller, which is sold by Rachio for $120 to $220.
“That is easy to install, it’s Wi-Fi enabled, so it anticipates weather,” she said.
If a resident’s sprinkler system is set to operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but a weather app predicts rain on Wednesday, the sensor prevents the sprinkler from going off that day.
“I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years because my sprinklers aren’t going off if it’s just going to rain later in the day,” said Sterling.
Another recommendation is to buy a programmable thermostat. “During the day when you’re not at home or just not in the house, you can program the house [so it] isn’t kept at the coldest temperature,” Sterling said.
Instead of turning off the air conditioning system when leaving the house, the homeowner can set the programmable thermostat to create a setting that will cool down the house about an hour before the resident comes back home.
Sterling said buying a smart thermostat allows for even more options.
“The benefits are that it’s Wi-Fi enabled, so a resident can control it from their phone and it’s easier to program than the [thermostat] on the wall,” she said.
The smart thermostats also have sensors that know when someone is moving in the house, but also saving energy by cooling the space less when it’s empty.
The leader in that field, according to Sterling, is ecobee.
There are a number of different models and products available, including the sensors ($79), a thermostat ($169) and a thermostat that works via voice commands ($249). According to the ecobee website, the products work with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, SmartThings and IFTTT.
Outdoors, a homeowner can boost sustainability by using organic fertilizer.
“Residents can ask a landscaper to apply organic fertilizer,” Sterling said. “Some landscapers offer that option but, if they don’t, you can hire an outside company to do monthly fertilization.”
Two local providers of organic services include New Rochelle-based Almstead Tree, Shrub and Lawn Care Co. and Yonkers-based Nature’s Rain Organic Lawn.
Other steps, though small scale, can add up as well.
Sterling said it’s important to change the air filter on air conditioners to increase the efficiency of the system. “If you don’t change [filters], the air conditioner will have to work a lot harder,” she said.
The conservation activist also suggested residents consider investing in an electric car when it’s time for an upgrade. “There are so many incentives in buying an electric car,” she said. “It helps the air quality, they’re convenient, they’re quiet and there are zero carbon emissions.”
The sustainable food scrap recycling program, which Sterling initiated in the Scarsdale School District, currently has hundreds of homeowners participating with a curbside pickup option — another boon to the local environment.
Other measures toward being more sustainable include choosing environmentally friendly sunscreen when snorkeling and greener grilling resources.
According to themanual.com, some companies are working to produce sunscreens that are protective but good for the environment. Brands like Bare Republic, All Good and Stream2Sea make sunblock with ingredients that don’t harm reefs and other ecosystems.
Temple University published a list outlining its tips for sustainable summer fun and recommended using propane rather than wood or charcoal when barbecuing. A resident who prefers using charcoal, however, can select a natural product like Cowboy Charcoal.
Whether you choose to enjoy your summer activities indoors or outdoors, trying any of the ever-increasing range of sustainable options can help the environment thrive throughout the hottest season.