Saturday, November 15, 2014

150 Tips for Saving Money, Energy, Water, and Other Resources

Ten General "Common Sense" Tips

1 - Turn off lights when not in a room

2 - Turn off radios, TVs and/or DVD players when not being used

3 - Unplug battery chargers when not being used

4 - Unplug unnecessary clocks, kitchen gadgets and so forth

5 - Set thermostats lower in the winter (wear sweaters, throw an extra blanket on the bed)

6 - Set thermostats higher in summer (electric fans can make you feel five degrees cooler)

7 - Take quick showers (less hot water used = less energy used)

8 - Buy less stuff - avoid impulse purchases

9 - Buy less stuff - go for quality over quantity

10 - Buy less stuff - shop with lists and pay cash only

Twenty-Eight Tips to Save Gasoline

These tips are from my essay Three Changes to Save Big on Gasoline.

11 - Make sure your tires are properly inflated (check weekly).

12 - Check tire rotation & balance (every six months).

13 - Change oil & oil filter (typically every 3000 - 5000 miles).

14 - Change the air filter (yearly or as needed).

15 - Service the fuel injection system (yearly or according to owner's manual).

16 - Change the fuel filter (yearly or as needed).

17 - Get a tune-up (yearly or according to owner's manual).

18 - Service the transmission (yearly or according to owner's manual).

19 - Replace faulty emissions components and oxygen sensor (as needed).

20 - Have front end aligned (as needed).

21 - Leave early enough so that you don't have to rush to get where you are going.

22 - Don't speed. Drive at least five mph under the speed limit & never exceed 55 mph.

23 - Use cruise control whenever possible.

24 - Drive evenly. Avoid jack-rabbit starts & sudden stops. Don't weave in & out of traffic.

25 - Whenever possible, don't accelerate uphill and coast downhill.

26 - Avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible to avoid time idling.

27 - Cut off the engine whenever you will be stopped for at least a minute.

28 - Clean out the trunk. Less weight means better gas mileage.

29 - Remove rooftop carriers. Less wind resistance means better gas mileage.

30 - Generally speaking, use the air conditioner only for highway driving (over 45 mph with few stops) and roll your windows down when driving around town (under 45 mph with lots of stops).

31 - Avoid driving whenever possible. Instead walk, bike, or take a bus or train.

32 - Join or start a car pool to work, or consider telecommuting if it is possible for your job.

33 - Share a ride with a neighbor to the market, church or school.

34 - Don't fall for society's obsession with being constantly "on the go." There is nothing wrong with staying at home, and your kids don't have to be enrolled in organized activities every day of the week.

35 - Learn to get much of your entertainment at home. Start a family game night. Get together with the neighbors for a weekend cookout or a video night.

36 - Plan ahead and combine errands so that you make fewer trips.

37 - Use lists & stock up on items you frequently use so that you don't have to make a special trip just to pick up something you forgot or unexpectedly ran out of.

38 - Long commute? Consider getting a job closer to home or moving closer to work.

Consumer Reports: Twenty Free Ways to Save Energy

These twenty ideas come from Consumers Report's 20 free ways to save energy.

39 - Wash clothes in cold water. You might guess that most of the energy used by a washing machine goes into vigorously swishing the clothes around. In fact, about 90 percent of it is spent elsewhere, heating the water for the load. You can save substantially by washing and rinsing at cooler temperatures. Warm water helps the suds to get at the dirt, but cold-water detergents will work effectively for just about everything in the hamper.

40 - Hang it up. Clotheslines aren't just a bit of backyard nostalgia. They really work, given a stretch of decent weather. You spare the energy a dryer would use, and your clothes will smell as fresh as all outdoors without the perfumes in fabric softeners and dryer sheets. You'll also get more useful life out of clothes dried on indoor or outdoor clotheslines--after all, dryer lint is nothing but your wardrobe in the process of wearing out.

41 - Don't overdry your laundry. Clothes will need less ironing and hold up better if you remove them from the dryer while they're still just a bit damp. If you are in the market for a dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor; it will be less likely than thermostat-equipped models to run too long.

42 - Let the dishwasher do the work. Don't bother pre-rinsing dishes with the idea that your dishwasher will work less hard. Consumer Reports has found that this added step can waste 20 gallons of heated water a day. All you need to do is scrape off leftover food. Enzyme-based detergents will help make sure the dishes emerge spotless.

43 - Put your PC to sleep. Keep your computer and its monitor in sleep mode rather than leaving them on around the clock. You stand to use 80 percent less electricity, which over the course of a year could have the effect of cutting CO2 emissions by up to 1,250 pounds, according to EPA estimates.

44 - Turn down the heat in the winter, and turn down the cool in the summer. Lower the thermostat 5° to 10° F when you're sleeping or are out of the house. "A 10° decrease can cut your heating bill by as much as 20 percent," says Jim Nanni, manager of the appliance and home-improvement testing department of Consumer Reports. And before you put on a cotton sweater to ward off a slight chill from the AC in summer, consider that for every degree you raise the thermostat setting, you can expect to cut your cooling costs by at least 3 percent.

45 - A cold hearth for a warmer house. A conventional fireplace draws a small gale out of the room and sends it up the chimney. Assuming the indoor air has been warmed by your central heating system, that means your energy dollars are going up the chimney, too. Instead, consider a direct-vent, sealed-combustion gas fireplace. Consumer Reports has found that those units have an energy efficiency of about 70 percent--and the sight of the flames is a lot more warming than staring at a radiator.

46 - Lower the shades and raise the windows. Not at the same time, of course, but your windows and shades are great tools to help moderate temperatures in the home. Because of central air conditioning, we tend to forget these time-tested, traditional ways of making the house comfortable. Shades are particularly helpful in blocking the sun from west-facing rooms in the afternoon. At night, if the forecast calls for cooler temperatures and low humidity, give the AC a rest. Open windows upstairs and down, and use window fans or a whole-house fan.

47 - Put a spin on home cooling. You can operate a couple of fans with a fraction of the electricity needed for air conditioning, and their cooling effect may make it possible to cut back on AC use.

48 - Take care of your air conditioner, and it will take care of you. Your air conditioner will run more efficiently if you clean or replace its filter every other week during heaviest use. Keep leaves and other debris away from the central air's exterior condenser, and keep the condenser coils clean.

49 - Spend less for hot water. Set the hot water heater at 120° F (or the "low" setting), which is hot enough for most needs. If the tank feels warm to the touch, consider wrapping it with conventional insulation or a blanket made for that purpose. To help conserve the water's heat on its way to the faucets, insulate the plumbing with pipe sleeves; with these, you can raise the end-use temperature by 2° to 4° F.

50 - Think twice before turning on the oven. Heating food in the microwave uses only 20 percent of the energy required by a full-sized oven. And while the second-hand heat from the oven may be welcome in winter, it can put an added load on your air conditioner in warmer months.

51 - Use the right pan. When cooking on the stovetop, pick your pan, then put it on an element or burner that's roughly the same size. You'll use much less energy than you would with a mismatched burner and pan. Steam foods instead of boiling. If you do boil, be sure to put a lid on the pot to make the water come to a boil faster.

52 - Read the label. The Energy Guide label, that is. When you shop for a new appliance, look for the label that gives an estimate of annual energy consumption. To help you make sense of that statistic, the label also states the highest and lowest figures for similar models.

53 - Dust off the Crock-Pot. Slow cooking in a Crock-Pot uses a lot less energy than simmering on the stove.

54 - Clean the coils on your refrigerator using a tapered appliance brush. Your fridge's motor won't have to run as long or as often. In addition to saving energy dollars, you'll prolong the life of the appliance.

55 - Drive steadily--and a bit slower. Hard acceleration and abrupt braking will use more fuel than if you start and slow more moderately. Keeping down your overall speed matters, too, because aerodynamic drag increases dramatically as you drive faster. If you travel at 65 mph instead of 55, you are penalized by lowering your mileage 12.5 percent. If you get your vehicle up to 75 mph, you're losing 25 percent compared with mileage at 55 mph.

56 - Roof racks are a drag. Most cars are reasonably streamlined, but you work against their slipperiness if you carry things on the roof. A loaded roof rack can decrease an SUV's fuel efficiency by 5 percent, and that of a more aerodynamic car by 15 percent or more. Even driving with empty ski racks wastes gas.

57 - Stick with regular. If your car's manufacturer specifies regular gas, don't buy premium with the thought of going faster or operating more efficiently. You'd be spending more with no benefit. Most cars have built-in sensors that adjust the engine timing to the gas in the tank. Even if the owner's manual recommends high-octane gas, ask the dealership about switching to regular.

58 - No loitering. Don't let the engine run at idle any longer than necessary. After starting the car in the morning, begin driving right away; don't let it sit and "warm up" for several minutes. An engine actually warms up faster while driving. With most gasoline engines, it's more efficient to turn off the engine than to idle longer than 30 seconds.

Saving Water Outdoors
The American Water and Energy Savers website has a list of 49 ways to save water. Here are the 16 ways they list for saving water outdoors:

59- Don't over water your lawn. As a general rule, lawns only need watering every 5 to 7 days in the summer and every 10 to 14 days in the winter. A hearty rain eliminates the need for watering for as long as two weeks. Plant it smart, Xeriscape. Xeriscape landscaping is a great way to design, install and maintain both your plantings and irrigation system that will save you time, money and water. For your free copy of "Plant it Smart," an easy-to-use guide to Xeriscape landscaping, contact your Water Management District.

60 - Water lawns during the early morning hours when temperatures and wind speed are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation.

61 - Don't water your street, driveway or sidewalk. Position your sprinklers so that your water lands on the lawn and shrubs ... not the paved areas.

62 - Install sprinklers that are the most water-efficient for each use. Micro and drip irrigation and soaker hoses are examples of water-efficient methods of irrigation.

63 - Regularly check sprinkler systems and timing devices to be sure they are operating properly. It is now the law that "anyone who purchases and installs an automatic lawn sprinkler system MUST install a rain sensor device or switch which will override the irrigation cycle of the sprinkler system when adequate rainfall has occurred." To retrofit your existing system, contact an irrigation professional for more information.

64 - Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches. A lawn cut higher encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system and holds soil moisture better than a closely-clipped lawn.

65 - Avoid over fertilizing your lawn. The application of fertilizers increases the need for water. Apply fertilizers which contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.

66 - Mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulching also helps to control weeds that compete with plants for water.

67 - Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees. Once established, they do not need to be watered as frequently and they usually will survive a dry period without any watering. Group plans together based on similar water needs.

68 - Do not hose down your driveway or sidewalk. Use a broom to clean leaves and other debris from these areas. Using a hose to clean a driveway can waste hundreds of gallons of water.

69 - Outfit your hose with a shut-off nozzle which can be adjusted down to fine spray so that water flows only as needed. When finished, "Turn it Off" at the faucet instead of at the nozzle to avoid leaks.

70 - Use hose washers between spigots and water hoses to eliminate leaks.

71 - Do not leave sprinklers or hoses unattended. Your garden hoses can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours, so don't leave the sprinkler running all day. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn it off.

72 - Check all hoses, connectors and spigots regularly.

73 - Consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your own car, park on the grass to do so.

74 - Avoid the installation of ornamental water features (such as fountains) unless the water is recycled. Locate where there are mineral losses due to evaporation and wind drift.

75 - If you have a swimming pool, consider a new water-saving pool filter. A single back flushing with a traditional filter uses from 180 to 250 gallons or more of water.

Use Your Dryer Efficiently
Drying your clothes outside on a clothes line is the most efficient way to do so, of course. But it is not always possible to dry your clothes outside due to rain, cold weather, or just not having room to do so if you live in an apartment or condo. If you must use a clothes dryer, here are some tips from the Rocky Mountain Institute:

76 - Run only full loads, as small loads are less economical. However, don’t overfill the machine—air needs to be able to circulate around the clothes to properly dry them.

77 - Dry heavy clothes such as cotton towels, jeans, or jackets separately from light clothing, such as underwear and summer clothing. Lightweight fabrics take less time to dry than heavy fabrics, so preventing them from being overheated or dried too long can extend the life of lightweight shirts, pants, and other items.

78 - Dry two or more loads in a row and make use of the hot air already in the dryer from the first load.

79 - Locate your dryer in a heated space. A dryer in a cold or damp basement will have to work harder to get your clothes dry.

80 - Don’t over-dry clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it. If it has a timer, consider shortening the drying time.

81 - Clean the fluff out of the filter before every load to allow air to circulate better. And regularly clean the lint from vent hoods and lint kits.

82 - Check the outside dryer vent. If it doesn’t close tightly, replace it with one that does. You’ll keep outside air from leaking in, reducing heating and/or cooling bills.

83 - If you have an electric dryer, install a lint kit ($5–10) to vent the exhaust heat and humidity into the house in winter—an easy project. (Exhaust fumes rule out this option for gas dryers.)

Tips For Refrigerators and FreezersAlso from the Rocky Mountain Institute:

84 - Check location: You can boost energy efficiency by making sure your refrigerator is not located in direct sunlight or next to a heat source such as the oven or the dishwasher. Also, be sure that air can circulate freely around condenser coils by leaving a space between the back of the refrigerator and the wall or cabinets.

85 - Keep the fridge top uncluttered: A cluttered fridge top can block the circulation needed to keep the compressor working efficiently.

86 - Check temperature: The refrigerator’s main compartment should be set between 36°F and 40°F and its freezer should be set between 0°F and 5°F. Use a thermometer to check the actual temperature, and adjust the thermostat if necessary. Your refrigerator can use 25 percent more energy if it is set 10°F colder than recommended levels.

87 - Clean condenser coils at least once a year: Unplug the unit and brush off or vacuum the condenser coils (located on the back of the refrigerator or behind the front grill).

88 - Check door seals: Keep door seals or gaskets clean and in good condition. If the seals can’t hold a dollar bill firmly in place, they may need replacement.

Your appliance dealer can get them for you. New seals are not cheap, however, and this may be a good time to decide whether to buy a new, more efficient refrigerator. (This test may not work if your fridge has magnetic seals; in this case, put a bright flashlight inside the refrigerator, dim the lights in the kitchen, and check for light leakage.)

89 - Check “power-saver” switch: Many refrigerators have small heaters in their walls to prevent condensation build-up on the outside. Likewise, many refrigerators have a “power saver” switch that when turned on, will turn this heater off. Ensure that this switch is on if you have the option to do so and you don’t see any condensation on the outside of the fridge.

90 - Defrost as needed: If you have a manual defrost or partial automatic defrost, be sure to defrost the unit regularly. Buildup of ice on the coils makes the compressor run longer, wasting energy.

91 - Cover liquids and foods: If your freezer is almost empty, put in a few water-filled plastic containers. The water will retain the cold much better than empty space, especially when the door is open, and it reduces the need to run the compressor.

92 - Buy a manual defrost freezer: This type of fridge consumes 35–40 percent less electricity than comparable automatic defrost models. They also cost less to run, and they do a better job of storing food, since auto-defrosters remove moisture and can dehydrate food (freezer burn).

93 - Consider chest (top-loading) freezers: They are 10–25 percent more efficient than upright (frontloading) models because they are better insulated and less warm air enters the freezer compartment when the door is open.

94 - The costliest refrigerator is the one you don’t really need but run anyway—you know that old one keeping a six-pack cold in the garage or basement. Retire it from service.

Saving Water Indoors
Here are the 21 ways that the American Water and Energy Savers website lists for saving water indoors:

95 - Never put water down the drain when there may be another use for it such as watering a plant or garden, or cleaning.

96 - Verify that your home is leak-free, because many homes have hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.

97 - Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year which will add to the cost of water and sewer utilities, or strain your septic system.

98 - Check for toilet tank leaks by adding food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear within 30 minutes. Check the toilet for worn out, corroded or bent parts. Most replacement parts are inexpensive, readily available and easily installed. (Flush as soon as test is done, since food coloring may stain tank.)

99 - Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects and other such waste in the trash rather than the toilet.

100 - Take shorter showers. Replace you showerhead with an ultra-low-flow version. Some units are available that allow you to cut off the flow without adjusting the water temperature knobs.

101 - Use the minimum amount of water needed for a bath by closing the drain first and filling the tub only 1/3 full. Stopper tub before turning water. The initial burst of cold water can be warmed by adding hot water later.

102 - Don't let water run while shaving or washing your face. Brush your teeth first while waiting for water to get hot, then wash or shave after filling the basin.

103 - Retrofit all wasteful household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors.

104 - Operate automatic dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or properly set the water level for the size of load you are using.

105 - When washing dishes by hand, fill one sink or basin with soapy water. Quickly rinse under a slow-moving stream from the faucet.

106 - Store drinking water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run every time you want a cool glass of water.

107 - Do not use running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator or by using the defrost setting on your microwave.

108 - Kitchen sink disposals require lots of water to operate properly. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste instead of using a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals also can add 50% to the volume of solids in a septic tank which can lead to malfunctions and maintenance problems.

109 - Consider installing an instant water heater on your kitchen sink so you don't have to let the water run while it heats up. This will reduce heating costs for your household.

110 - Insulate your water pipes. You'll get hot water faster plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.

111 - Never install a water-to-air heat pump or air-conditioning system. Air-to-air models are just as efficient and do not waste water.

112 - Install water softening systems only when necessary. Save water and salt by running the minimum amount of regenerations necessary to maintain water softness. Turn softeners off while on vacation.

113 - Check your pump. If you have a well at your home, listen to see if the pump kicks on and off while the water is not in use. If it does, you have a leak.

114 - When adjusting water temperatures, instead of turning water flow up, try turning it down. If the water is too hot or cold, turn the offender down rather than increasing water flow to balance the temperatures.

115 - If the toilet flush handle frequently sticks in the flush position, letting water run constantly, replace or adjust it.

Some Miscellaneous Tips

116 - Computers: Most homes have one, and sometimes more than one. They can be real energy hogs, particularly if their power management options have not been enabled and they are left on most of the time. The U.S. EPA’s Energy Star website offers instructions on how to enable power management systems for most PCs, and includes links for Mac users. Click here to go to their start page for computer power management.

117 - Paper: Manufacturing a piece of paper requires 10–70 times as much energy as the electricity it takes to print on it. Reduce the amount of paper you use when printing by using narrower margins and a smaller font. The default MS Word settings are 1 inch top & bottom margins and 1.25 inch side margins, with a 12-point font. I've changed my settings to .8 inch margins all around and an 11-point font. It is just as usable and readable as the default settings and does save paper when printing long reports. I also print on both sides of the paper and avoid printing drafts, instead doing any editing on the computer.

118 - Battery Chargers: Battery chargers for cell phones, I-Pods, PDAs and other small electronics are true electricity vampires, sucking electricity from your outlets even when not in use. Always unplug battery chargers when not in use. Or put them on power strips, being sure to turn the power strip off when not in use.

119 - Insulation: When is the last time you've peaked under your house to make sure the insulation is okay? I've seen lots of homes, including my own, where the insulation has fallen down in places. Take a few moments to check yours, and to tack it back up if needed.

120 - Air Leaks: Most homes have multiple places where air leaks occur. Check in your kitchen, bathrooms and utility rooms for places where pipes or wires come into your home. Chances are there are some fairly larges holes under your sinks. Get a can of spray foam insulation and plug those holes. The energy savings will be much greater than the five bucks you spend on the can of spray foam.

121 - Dish-washers vs. Hand-washing: Believe it or not, studies indicate that modern, energy-efficient dishwashers actually use less energy than typical hand-washing does.

122 - Switch to CFLs for Lighting: They use considerable less energy than traditional bulbs. And don't fall for the mercury scare tactics - the CFLs you buy in the stores today contain less than 25% the mercury of the old CFLs on which those concerns were based.

123 - LED Lighting: LEDs use even less electricity than CFLs, and are becoming less expensive and more available everyday. They are still more expensive than CFLs, but if you can afford it you might want to consider LED lighting.

124 - Care For Your Belongings: Taking the time to care for your belongings by keeping them cleaned and properly maintained, as well as safely put away when not in use. This will help them last longer, and will save you money in the long run. Take pride not in how much you have, but rather in how long it lasts.

Avoid Impulse Purchases

Manufacturers spend huge sums of money to get people to buy their products, no matter if they actually need them or not. Retailers spend big bucks to influence people to make impulse purchases. There are several ideas on how to avoid buying stuff you don't need:

125 - Try not to pay attention to TV, radio or print ads. Hit the mute button, turn down the volume or simply don't watch or read the ads.

126 - Leave junk mail unopened. Recycle flyers and leaflets unread.

127 - Don't use shopping as a form of entertainment or a means to relax.

128 - Shop only with lists, and stick to them.

129 - Shop with cash only. Spending cash feels more real than using checks or credit cards, so you are apt to spend less.

130 - If you do find an item you can't do without, wait at least 24 hours before buying it. Chances are the impulse will pass.

General Water Savings Tips
Here are 11 more tips from the American Water and Energy Savers website:

131 - Create an awareness of the need for water conservation among your children. Avoid the purchase of recreational water toys which require a constant stream of water.

132 - Be aware of and follow all water conservation and water shortage rules and restrictions which may be in effect in your area.

133 - Encourage your employer to promote water conservation at the workplace. Suggest that water conservation be put in the employee orientation manual and training program.

134 - Patronize businesses which practice and promote water conservation.

135 - Report all significant water losses (broken pipes, open hydrants, errant sprinklers, abandoned free-flowing wells, etc.) to the property owner, local authorities or your Water Management District.

136 - Encourage your school system and local government to help develop and promote a water conservation ethic among children and adults.

137 - Support projects that will lead to an increased use of reclaimed waste water for irrigation and other uses.

138 - Support efforts and programs to create a concern for water conservation among tourists and visitors to our state. Make sure your visitors understand the need for, and benefits of, water conservation.

139 - Encourage your friends and neighbors to be part of a water conscious community. Promote water conservation in community newsletters, on bulletin boards and by example.

140 - Conserve water because it is the right thing to do. Don't waste water just because someone else is footing the bill such as when you are staying at a hotel.

141 - Try to do one thing each day that will result in a savings of water. Don't worry if the savings is minimal. Every drop counts. And every person can make a difference. So tell your friends, neighbors and co-workers to "Turn it Off" and "Keep it Off".

Nine Final Tips

142 - Eat Locally. Support your local farmers by buying locally grown food. food shipped in from half way around the world consumes huge amounts of fuel and other resources.

143 - Eat Low on the Food Chain. You don't have to become a vegetarian, but eating less meat is not only healthier, but is less wasteful of resources.

144 - Avoid Convenience Items. Most disposable items are extremely wasteful. Such convenience items are often cheaper in the short run, but constantly replacing them actually makes most disposable items much more expensive over the long run. Don't be suckered into using disposable items because they seem cheaper at first glance.

145 - Cancel Magazines, Newspapers and Junk Mail. Cancel magazines and newspapers that you don't read, or that you can read at the library, office or borrow from a friend. Not only will this save paper and energy, but most will send you a refund for the unused portion of your subscription. Reputable catalog companies will remove your name from their mailing lists if you send them a letter asking them to do so. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has extensive information for how to get off most mailing lists.

146 - Install Energy-Efficient Windows. Not only will they help you save money each month, but you may qualify for a tax credit. Between the monthly savings and the tax credit, payback on the energy-efficient windows I had installed was about 2-1/2 years. Since then the monthly savings is like cash in my pocket. 

147 - Switch to new, energy efficient appliances. If your appliances are more than five years old, new models will offer significant energy savings. 

148 - If your vehicle gets less than 25 mpg, you may want to consider switching to a more fuel efficient model. The fuel savings will be significant, and if gas jumps back up to over $4/gallon you will be glad for the much better mileage.

149 - Many power companies offer their customers free or low-cost energy audits. If your's does, take advantage of it.

150 - Check the insulation under your house. If it is falling down in spots, replace it or at least tack it back up.


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