Lots of us love to turn on our outdoor sprinklers for long periods of time and let them throw water into the air, eventually landing on the flowers, lawn, or other garden areas. Well, did you know that when you spray water this way you can lose more than half of the moisture to evaporation before it can ever reach your target?
In addition, if you water during the heat of the day or just after or before a rainstorm (not to mention during one!) or onto your driveway or sidewalk, you further mitigate the effectiveness of this kind of watering. Sprinklers have also been shown to deliver as much as 400 gallons of water per hour, which is more than the soil can absorb in any case before runoff and evaporation occur. This kind of watering also does not penetrate deep enough to moisten the roots.
Instead of a sprinkler, try a soaker hose, which uses between 30 and 50 percent less water, so they save you money as well as aid in water conservation. Soaker hoses, which are perforated with thousands of tiny holes that allow the water to seep out slowly, can be purchased at the Atlas True Value Hardware on Centre Street.
Place soaker hoses along the top of the ground or bury them just under the soil or mulch. You can compare different kinds of soaker hoses by their ratings, which indicate how many gallons of water per hour per foot each sort releases. With a soaker hose, the water will go just where you want it. Remember, the sidewalk will not grow, no matter how much you water it.
Another suggestion for conserving water (and lowering your water bill) this summer is to avoid washing your car using the hose in your driveway. While this might seem more efficient than going to an automated location, in fact getting your car cleaned at a local car wash like Waves Car Wash on the VFW Parkway takes 80 percent less water than if you do it yourself. Furthermore, many car washes now recycle their water rather than letting it run off into the sewer system as they once did; Waves, for example, recycles 9,000 gallons of water each week. Another plus is that Waves uses only biodegradable soaps and waxes.
If you want to save gasoline or electricity as well as water this summer — not to mention getting some great summertime exercise and contributing to the well-being of the environment and your ears — try using a push (or “reel”) mower to trim your lawn. These come in all kinds and sizes now and are much more effective than older versions. Shop around and find one that you will like using and is light enough for you to push comfortably.
And if you are paying attention to your household carbon footprint (how much your behaviors contribute to the greenhouse gases that cause climate change), remember that gas mowers put significant carbon emissions into the air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, traditional gas-powered lawn mowers’ emissions are responsible for as much as 5 percent of the nation’s air pollution. So get out there and burn some calories instead of fossil fuel, and you can reward yourself with a tall cool one.
Finally, don’t forget that here in New England you can turn off your air conditioners at night on many summer evenings when the temperatures will cool into the 60s, even during this extremely hot spring and summer we are experiencing in 2012.
Air conditioners use huge amounts of electricity to run; according to energyrefuge.com, air conditioning in the summer months is responsible for half of the amount charged for domestic electricity bills in the United States. These machines also use hydrofluorocarbons, which destroy the ozone layer, again contributing to climate change. So save yourself some money and also help the environment by limiting your air-conditioner use as much as possible. Set up a fan (blowing air into the room) in the window or set your AC to “fan only” and enjoy some free cool air at night. You’ll sleep better knowing that you are saving money and also helping the environment.
If you have any great summer tips for conserving water and energy or ways to lower your energy and water bills especially during the summer, we would love to post them on our Web site. Provide them in the comments section below — and be creative!