UA Experts Provide Earth Day Tips

  • April 12th, 2005

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – This year marks the 35th anniversary of Earth Day, a worldwide movement to protect our planet, our children and our future. Environmental consciousness has become more and more heightened, from recycling newspapers and plastics to driving hybrid vehicles. Through this kind of awareness, Earth Day has had an immeasurable impact in every community throughout the United States. UA experts offer commentary about how individuals CAN make a difference in their local community. Earth Day is observed worldwide on April 22.


Most consumers have become energy conscious and look for ways to make their homes more energy efficient. Dr. Stephen Kavanaugh, professor of mechanical engineering and a national heating and cooling expert, recommends numerous ways for people to make their homes more energy efficient.

  1. Make sure the home is well sealed – caulking (especially floor plates), weather stripping, and using an insert fireplace with outside combustion air rather than a standard fireplace increase efficiency.
  2. Insulation is a must for energy efficiency – Request 2″ x 6″ (rather than the standard 2″ x 4″) framing with R19+ insulation. Also, insulate foundation or crawl space perimeter and install R30+ ceiling/roof insulation.
  3. Windows let in more than light – install windows with 0.5 or less U-value and low leakage rating (<0.35 cfm/sq.ft.). Also consider installing tinted windows or add shades on east and west walls, and add a small overhang on the south wall to block summer sun but let in winter sun.
  4. Heating or cooling in non-living areas – inspect all ductwork in unconditioned spaces, such as attics and basements. For ductwork in attics, mastic all joints and put a minimum of two inches of insulation. Carefully seal any ductwork in crawl spaces or in un-insulated basements to prevent moisture and mildew in return ducts or return air.
  5. Location, location, location – do not locate equipment (furnaces, air conditioners or water heaters) in the attic because it gets very hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
  6. For new construction, consider a closed loop geothermal heat pump or a 13 SEER air-conditioner. Avoid super high-efficiency 2-speed heat pumps (SEER = 14+). The rating method does not consider the many hours of high temperatures in Alabama. This equipment is more expensive and is actually less efficient on very hot and very cold days.
  7. Best Economic Value – replace all incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs last longer, use 70 percent less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat which reduces the load on the air conditioner.
  8. Calculate how much you are spending on heating, cooling and water heating before paying extra for energy efficiency upgrades. Sometimes the return on the investment can be many years.


Oil pollution occurs every day, yet it’s only the large oil tanker spills on the ocean or the tanker truck accidents on the highway that grab attention. The accumulated impact caused by small amounts of oil dripping from a leaky gasket or someone disposing of motor oil improperly in a backyard is immeasurable and often more harmful to our environment, experts say. This disposed oil can contaminate the soil and get into the water supply that we drink.

“Used motor oil is very dangerous to the environment,” said Sheri Powell, coordinator of Project R.O.S.E. (Recycled Oil Saves Energy). “One gallon of used oil from a single oil change can contaminate millions of gallons of fresh water. It is insoluble and slow to degrade.”

Project R.O.S.E. is the state’s volunteer used motor oil recycling program. Project R.O.S.E. coordinates with nearly 600 volunteer used motor oil collection sites throughout the state of Alabama. A collection site list can be located at the Project R.O.S.E. Web site ( or by calling 1-800-CLEANUP.


Sport Utility Vehicles are the most popular vehicles on the market today. However, Dr. K. Clark Midkiff, associate professor of mechanical engineering, predicts hybrid electric vehicles, a new motor trend, will continue joining the SUV upsurge.

Hybrid electric vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic and Honda Insight, are already on the market, and motor companies will continue to introduce these types of vehicles in the next five years – including hybrid powered SUVs, Midkiff said.

“Hybrid vehicles are a small but rapidly growing segment of the automotive market,” commented Midkiff. “As the hybrid cars are introduced by more companies, people will start to see how much more efficient they are compared to traditional SUVs’ low gas mileage.”

In addition to the gas mileage efficiency, original owners of qualifying hybrid vehicles may be eligible to claim a one-time tax deduction on federal income tax returns.

Contacts: For more information on these topics, contact the respective sources: Kavanaugh, 205/348-1649,; Powell, 205/348-4878,; or Midkiff, 205/348-1645,


Caitlin Tudzin, Engineering Student Writer, 205/348-3051,
Mary Wymer, 205/348-6444

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.