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Staying safe and smart in summer

Staff Writer

With summer in full swing, it is important to stay conscious about fuel and water use and to protect yourself in hot weather. Several tips are outlined below for saving money, staying environmentally conscious and being safe during summer months.

Improving fuel economy

While warm weather can actually increase a vehicle’s efficiency — the engine warms up faster, warm air causes less aerodynamic drag and summer grades of gasoline can provide slightly more energy — using the air conditioning while cruising around can counteract any fuel economy benefits the summer heat provides.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “Under very hot conditions, AC use can reduce a conventional vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 25%. The AC’s effect on hybrids … can be even larger on a percentage basis.”

Staying cool efficiently can be a challenge, as even driving with the windows rolled down can create drag, thereby decreasing a vehicle’s mile-per-gallon average.

So what can you do to increase fuel economy on a hot summer day without getting overheated? DOE recommends the following tips:

• Roll the windows down at lower speeds, then use the air conditioning at highway speeds.

• Do not use air conditioning more than necessary and keep the temperature at a reasonable level. If you are wearing a sweater or jacket while driving on a hot day, your AC is on too high.

• Park in the shade or use a sunshade so that the cabin does not get as hot.

• When first getting into your car, use windows to vent excess hot air from the cabin before turning air conditioning on, and do not idle with the AC on; air conditioning units tend to cool most efficiently when vehicles are in motion.

• Switching your ventilation system from outside-air to recirculated-air mode will also help keep the car cooler while using less energy.

Consult your owner’s manual for more tips on how to use your vehicle’s air conditioning unit most efficiently and on other ways to increase fuel economy. Keeping your engine properly tuned, tires properly inflated and using the correct grade of motor oil are all additional ways to improve your fuel economy during summer, and daily, travels.

As always, never leave children or pets unattended in a hot vehicle.

Watering in a drought

Until rain begins to fall frequently in the area, lawns and gardens depend on regular watering sessions for survival. In order to keep the vegetation around your home healthy without being wasteful, be sure to manage your water use responsibly.

If using an automatically timed irrigation system, be sure to inspect for clogged, broken or missing sprinkler heads. Improperly managed systems can use about 50 percent more water outdoors than necessary.

If points where sprinkler heads and pipes or hoses connect are leaking, look into replacing rundown equipment or try investing in new seals. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), a leak about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, roughly 1/32 of an inch, can waste up to 6,300 gallons of water per month.

Make sure water is directed in the proper location and not at the driveway, house or sidewalk.

Also, timing is everything. Watering in the middle of the day will cause significant evaporation and leave plants thirsty. Strive to water in the early morning or in the evening when temperatures are lower.

How long and how often you water will depend on the types of plants around your home and recent weather conditions. The EPA’s rule of thumb is that lawns only need about 1 inch of water a week, and shrubs, trees and other perennials will need even less, as their roots are deeper.

One recommended way to assess how much water your sprinkler is distributing in a given amount of time, is to put a few empty tuna cans around your lawn and time how long it takes to fill them up with a half inch of water. Once that is determined, try watering lawns for that amount of time twice a week and judge how your landscape responds, adjusting accordingly.

Keep a careful eye out to be sure that you are not watering to the point of having run-off or pooling. Not only is overwatering wasteful, it can actually damage plants by drowning them or causing shallow roots. Weed growth will also increase due to overwatering.

Watering by hand is the most efficient method to curb water waste and to make sure water is going where it is most needed. Shifting your landscaping methods to incorporate low-water-using and native plants is another great way to ensure your yard stays beautiful in an environmentally and fiscally responsible way.

The EPA’s website has many more tips on how to be smart about outside irrigation and how to plan landscapes accordingly at www.epa.gov/watersense/outdoor/landscaping_tips.html.

Staying sun safe

Soaking up the sun’s rays can feel great — and our bodies get necessary vitamin D from sunshine — however, it is important to stay protected from overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation when enjoying the outdoors.

Too much UV radiation, the leading cause of painful sunburns, can lead to serious health issues, including skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, cataracts and other eye damage and immune system suppression, as outlined by the EPA.

The EPA states, “Most people are not aware that skin cancer, while largely preventable, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually.”

The agency also recommends getting vitamin D “safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements and foods fortified with Vitamin D.”

In order to protect yourself from serious health problems from sun exposure, follow the EPA’s “SunWise” tips below. Keep in mind UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

• Avoid getting burned. Sunburns greatly increase an individual’s chance of developing skin cancer, especially for children.

• Avoid tanning, both outside and in tanning beds. The UV radiation from tanning causes skin cancer and wrinkling.

• Generously apply sunscreen.

“Apply about one ounce of sunscreen to cover all exposed skin 15 minutes before going outside,” the agency states, recommending all sunscreen used should have a minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30.

Reapply frequently, about every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

• Wear protective clothing to cover exposed skin and seek shade when possible.

• Remember that water and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun and can increase chances of sunburn.

Also, be sure to drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated when enjoying the outdoors.

For more information on the above topics, and many others, visit www.epa.gov.

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on July 10, 2014.