April is Earth Month, the time when we focus our attention to how we can be more eco-friendly in our lives.
Many commuters long to join the ranks of hybrid or all-electric car drivers as a way to be more eco-friendly on the roads, but currently own a gas-powered vehicle that works just fine. Resist the temptation to buy a new one, because there are plenty of ways to get more miles per gallon out of your conventional car or truck and reduce carbon emissions without the cost or commitment of a new vehicle. These green tweaks will save you lots of money and cost you next to nothing, resulting in immediate savings -- especially when compared to the price of a new "green" car.
It doesn’t matter if your car is old or new, big or small: there are many ways to make your traditional vehicle into a more eco-friendly one. Some are as simple as keeping your tires filled to the correct pressure, while others involve changes to your driving habits. To help you become a greener driver, AskPatty has collected the following easy tips to help make your vehicle more fuel-efficient and more environmentally friendly. Combine several of these tips and keep your car properly maintained, and you can save real dollars -- not just pennies -- and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.
Watch Your Weight
Having extra weight on your car will make your engine work harder and reduces your mileage.
While it might seem easier to leave the kids' sports gear, beach chairs, or cases of water in the trunk, avoid keeping unnecessary or heavy objects in your car and find somewhere else to keep those items when they're not in use.
An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce a typical car's fuel economy by up to 2%, while a loaded roof rack or carrier creates wind resistance and can decrease fuel economy by 5%. Lightening the load can have a green impact too: For each gallon of extra gasoline saved, 20 pounds of CO2 is prevented from entering the environment.
Maintain the Correct Tire Pressure.
Proper tire pressure can improve gas mileage by 3%.
Getting more mileage from each gallon can save you as much as 10 cents per gallon at today's gas prices: That's a savings of $30 to $70 depending on how much you drive, and can reduce greenhouse gasses by 1.42% to 0.69%. Low tire pressure increases your car's rolling resistance and forces your engine to work harder.
Invest in an inexpensive tire gauge and check your tire pressure monthly and before long trips or when transporting heavy items. The correct tire pressure for most cars can be found in the driver's side door jamb or the owner's manual. Properly inflated tires will also last longer, which is good for both the environment and your wallet.
Avoid Excessive Idling
An idling car gets zero miles per gallon, but still produces toxic emissions.
Everybody knows if you turn off a light bulb as you leave the room you'll save electricity. If you turn off your car you’ll save gas. In fact, idling for 15 minutes burns through an average of a quarter of a gallon. If you’re at a railroad crossing, at a long traffic light, sitting in the drive-through lane, or even waiting to pick someone up, turn off your engine. It's as simple as that.
As for warming up your car in the morning, unless you are in extremely cold environments, even the FTC recommends that you start driving within 30 seconds after the engine is started as a way to save money on gas. The fact is that, once the oil gets circulated through its moving parts, most modern engines don't need much time to warm up. The engine actually warms up more quickly once the car is operating, and will stay warm after stopping. Once you've defrosted your windows and cleared the snow from your car, it's safe to drive; if you're cold, use your seat heaters.
Change The Way You Drive
Changing your driving habits can improve fuel economy up to 37%.
Jackrabbit starts and aggressive driving habits are costing you big time at the pump, while belching lots of extra emissions into the atmosphere. All vehicles lose fuel economy at speeds above 55 mph. That’s one of the reasons it’s the most common speed limit. Driving 65 mph instead of 75 mph reduces fuel costs by 13%, while driving 55 would save 25%. FuelEconomy.gov estimates that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.12 per gallon for gas.
Reducing aggressive acceleration can save you unbelievable amounts of gas. Most drivers accelerate from 0 to 60-mph in about 10 seconds: According to Edmunds.com slowing that to a more normal city pace of 15 seconds, will provide immediate savings.
Finally, leaving earlier and building in a greater cushion to your arrival time can help you save fuel and stress during your commute or your daily round of errands. LivingGreenMag.com suggests that "If you don’t feel stressed, rushed, or harried, you’re more likely to drive safely and in an eco-friendly manner, thereby saving not only fuel but your health!"
Keep Your Air Filter Clean - Switch to a Reusable Air Filter
Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your fuel economy by as much as 10%
As long as you’re switching out your air filter, a reusable air filter is a good way to reduce waste, especially when you consider both the filter and packaging are discarded. While some things -- like paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues -- are better off being disposable, some consider it an investment in their car to purchase a high-quality reusable air filter. According to K&N Air Filters, some can go 50,000 to 100,000 miles between cleaning, depending on driving conditions. Like a re-usable coffee filter, these do cost a little more up front, but depending on how long you drive with it, can save you money over the long haul. Important tip here: make sure your reusable air filter is completely dry before reinstalling to prevent it from collecting bacteria and fungus.
Observe the Speed Limit – Use Your Cruise Control
On average, every single mile per hour increase over 50 mph reduces your fuel economy by .1 miles per gallon.
Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.
Did you know? Cruise control technology was originally invented in 1788 by James Watt and Mathew Boulton to help control steam engines. Thanks are due to Ralph Teetor, a blind mechanical engineer, who refined refined the technology in 1945 to invent today’s modern automotive cruise control. Thanks to Ralph, this handy feature now makes long drives easier, keeps our speed constant, and even helps us save money.
In Edmunds.com green driving tests, using cruise control revealed up to 14% savings in fuel economy with an average savings of 7%. Here's an important note, according to eSurance.com: if you are in a mountainous area you should turn off cruise. It will try to keep you up to the speed you've set and use a lot of extra gas downshifting to lower gears to accomplish this. Also, don't use it when driving in slippery conditions like icy roads, during and after the first rain of the season, or during downpours or hailstorms. Also, don't use it late at night or when you’re tired: When you’re sleepy, cruise control can quickly turn into snooze control.
You're even better off if you're driving a car equipped with adaptive cruise control. These systems allow the driver to set a desired speed while the system automatically reads traffic and keeps your car at a safe following distance from the car in front of you, braking and accelerating as needed to automatically keep the pre-set speed and distance.
Keep Your Car Properly Tuned.
A well-tuned car can run 4% more efficiently than one that is out or tune or has failed its emissions test.
According to the Car Care Council, regular tune-ups, maintenance, and having clean air filters will help your car pollute less and burn less gas. Getting a tune-up can improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent. Simply changing the car’s air filter can improve efficiency by 10 percent. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve gas mileage by as much as 40 percent
Maintain and repair your car as outlined in the council’s Car Care Guide. The guide helps drivers understand their car, the care it needs, and when it needs it and why.
The Car Care Council also suggest the following questions to ask your mechanic:
•What is the most important thing I should do to my car to make sure I’m doing my part to protect the environment?
•If my car emits a lot of exhaust, does this mean there’s something wrong with it?
•Is the refrigerant in my car environmentally friendly and if not, what should I do?
•Where can I take my used oil, oil filter and other fluids for recycling?
Reduce Air Conditioner Use / Close Windows
Cranking up the air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by as much as 13% to 21%.
If the weather’s nice, you might be tempted to roll down the windows instead, but this can decrease your vehicle’s aerodynamic efficiency when traveling at highway speeds. If you're toodling through town, roll them down; if you're flying on the freeway, the Consumer Energy Center recommends you use the flow-through ventilation instead of rolling down the windows.
Properly Recycle and Dispose of Car Parts and Fluids
Motor oil, batteries, and tires should all be recycled.
Most repair shops engage in proper recycling and disposal of toxic fluids and products such as used oil, car tires, and batteries. If you take the DIY approach, be sure you do, too! Check out the Environmental Protection Agency recycling website for helpful information about disposing of car waste -- like used oil, batteries, and tires -- properly.
Park in the shade or a garage whenever you can.
The cooler you can keep your car while it's parked, the less fuel you need to use to run the air conditioning to cool it off when you start driving again. Parking in a garage also decreases the energy needed to warm up on cold winter mornings. If you can't park in the shade, consider using an electric or solar car fan, or a reflective windshield shade to help keep your car's interior more comfortable.
Whether you drive a shiny new hybrid or a dependable old clunker, consider #DrivingDirty.
This is important, especially if you live in drought-ridden California: Between the gallons of water you use to soap up your sponges and the fresh water flowing unrestricted from your garden hose, washing your car at home can use between 80 and 140 gallons of water.
While a garden hose, buckets, big soapy sponges, and soaked clothing are part of DIY car wash tradition, you really don't need those things to give your vehicle a clean, green shine. Nor does giving up washing in the driveway mean you'll have to live with a dirty car. A number of premade, ecofriendly waterless car wash products are available -- simply spray on and wipe off with a soft microfiber cloth, and be sure to use light strokes to pick up dirt. Waterless washes and rinseless washes are a safe, simple way to wash your car without a water hose. Learn some of the facts and myths about waterless car washing here at EcoTouch.net
Even car manufacturers are encouraging drivers to reduce water use: Last fall, Volvo introduced its #DrivingDirty campaign to save as much as 18 million gallons of water per month by asking Californians and their neighbors to stop washing their cars for 30 days. And last summer, Toyota dealerships in Southern California launched “The Wash Can Wait” program, allowing customers to opt-out of the complimentary car wash that comes with a service appointment. Toyota dealers say the program could save as much as 20 million gallons of water.
Monitor Your Fuel Economy
Check your miles per gallon when you fill up to stay aware of your car’s fuel consumption.
Most cars these days have trip computers that will show you the average fuel economy of each tank of gas. Just press the button to reset the calculation at every fillup and track your numbers using a notebook, or use a handy smartphone app like Road Trip Lite, or Fuel Buddy or any of the other multitudes of fuel economy tracking apps that are available for the iPhone and Android users.
And if you don't have a trip computer or a smart phone, it's still an easy calculation, even for someone who's not good at arithmetic: simply divide the (miles driven between fillups) by (the number of gallons used) to identify your (average mpg for each tank.
Regular monitoring can show you trends in your fuel economy, and alert you to possible service issues early so you can avoid breakdowns.
Finally, beware of companies that try to sell you mileage-improving devices. Some claim that they will save you from 10% to 50%. When gas prices climb, products that claim they’ll save gas might look good, but according to both the U.S. EPA and Federal Trade Commission, there are no aftermarket devices or fuel additives that will boost your mileage any appreciable amount. Even worse, installation instructions for some of these devices call for adjustments that EPA would consider to be tampering with your car’s emissions control system.
Working from home just one day a week could lower your fuel costs by as much as 20%.
Working from home is easier than ever, thanks to the broad assortment of instant messaging, video chat, teleconferencing, and other world-flattening technologies. Avoiding the rush-hour trek to work and back just one day a week could extend your tank of gas by as much as 20%.
According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com nearly 50% of today's jobs are suitable for telecommuting. More than 3.6 million Americans telecommuted in 2015, and of those, 82% of telecommuters surveyed said they've lowered their stress level since they started working remotely, while 80% said their morale was higher.
Go ahead: Ask your boss or allow your employees to work from home once a week. It's good for the environment!
What other tips do you have for increasing fuel efficiency and conserving fuel with a conventional vehicle?
What does your family do to drive green and save money? Share your comments below.