Keep Our Air Clean
Texas has devoted significant resources to air quality monitoring and research during the past decade in order to better understand air quality and to develop effective controls when needed. Voluntary efforts, sound science, and targeted regulations have significantly improved air quality over the last 15 years—despite Texas’ growing population. We encourage you to help keep our air clean.
Mobile sources such as school buses, cars, and delivery trucks are contributors to air pollution. Idling is when a vehicle is parked or sitting, with the engine running and not in motion. This increases the amount of air pollutants coming from your vehicle’s tailpipe. To reduce air emissions, avoid idling whenever possible. You’ll reduce fuel costs and help keep the air clean.
- Modern vehicles do not need warming up, except in extreme temperatures (below 0 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Idling longer than 30 seconds wastes more fuel than restarting the engine.
- Stay clear of drive-through windows at fast-food restaurants, drug stores, and banks. Park, turn off your vehicle, and go inside.
- Letting your vehicle idle can use one-quarter to one-half gallon of fuel per hour.
- Idling is harder on your engine and can lead to higher maintenance costs over time.
To reduce air emissions, you can carpool, use public transit, or simply combine errands when possible. By ride-sharing every day, commuters can save up to $3,400 a year on gas, reduced maintenance cost, and insurance. Removing one properly maintained passenger car from the road for one year would save an average of 17 pounds of nitrogen oxides from being discharged into the air.
- Carpool with coworkers or classmates. It’s fun and helps reduce traffic congestion on the roads.
- Plan errands ahead of time. Make a list and group your errands together to combine trips.
- Using public transit not only reduces emissions—it reduces wear on your vehicle and saves you money.
- Ride your bike or walk to school, work, or nearby errands.
- Host meetings via teleconference, and ask your employer about working from home.
- Work a compressed week. Move from five 8-hour days to four 10-hour days.
With a properly tuned engine you can reduce your car’s emissions and improve gas mileage up to 9 percent, which can save you up to 17 cents per gallon of fuel used. If you repair a serious maintenance problem, the savings can be even greater. Vehicles in tip-top shape also reduce traffic congestion caused by preventable breakdowns.
- Check your tire pressure. Tires at recommended pressure will last longer and improve gas mileage by up to 3 percent.
- Replace dirty air filters that will cause your engine to work harder and interfere with your vehicle’s acceleration.
- Pay attention to the “check engine” light; if it comes on, get your vehicle checked out as soon as possible.
- Change your oil according to the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule and use the recommended grade of motor oil to improve fuel economy and extend the engine’s life.
- Take care of your tires. Test your tire tread monthly using the penny test. Insert a penny upside down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, the tread is too low.
Fill up your gas tank, including the tank of your lawn mower and other gas canisters, in the late afternoon or evening rather than the morning. Evaporative emissions from morning gasoline fill-ups increase the likelihood of ground-level ozone formation, particularly during the summertime.
When filling your vehicle’s gas tank, don’t top it off, which can allow fuel to escape as vapor and also increases the chance for spilling gas.
After you finish filling up, make sure you properly tighten the gas cap; otherwise, gas will evaporate from your car’s tank.
Don't refuel on days with an air quality alert. Check the latest forecast for air quality conditions in Texas’ metropolitan areas.
Volatile organic compounds are emitted by a wide array of household products. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to 10 times higher) than outdoors. Using less-toxic cleaning products, hobby supplies, and paints can reduce pollutants in both the air and water, and may help improve the air quality in your house.
Avoid products with high VOC content. Look for “low-VOC” and “zero-VOC” products.
Use household products according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Buy limited quantities. Buy only as much as you will use right away.
Dispose of your household products safely. A safe and environmentally responsible way to collect, share, and dispose of hazardous household waste is to take it to a local community collection program. Find HHW collection centers or events in your area.
The EPA’s Safer Choice program labels products that can help protect the environment and are safer for families.
Whenever you save energy, or use it efficiently, you not only save money, you help keep the air clean. Energy is produced by the combustion of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and gas that release air pollutants. Through simple measures, Texans can reduce energy consumption, reducing the need for energy production and consequently reducing emissions. Using less energy also means savings on your energy bill.
Trade up to ENERGY STAR appliances. High-efficiency appliances cut energy consumption over standard models—by 12 percent for a dishwasher, 20 percent for a clothes dryer, and 25 percent for a clothes washer.
Unplug electronics or turn off power strips. Standby power accounts for 5 to 10 percent of residential energy use, costing the average household up to $180 per year.
Weatherize your home or office. Use caulk and weather stripping to seal air leaks, and add insulation to save up to 10 percent on your energy bill.
Run ceiling fans, but only while you’re in the room. Fans allow you to raise the thermostat 4 degrees.
Adjust your thermostat. To reduce energy use, set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher in the summer and 68 degrees or lower in the winter.
Turn off the lights and use energy-saving light bulbs. Turning off just one light bulb that would otherwise burn 8 hours a day can save almost $20 per year. Halogen incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs use 25 to 80 percent less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Ozone is a gas that is formed in the atmosphere when three atoms of oxygen combine. It’s commonly located in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and at ground level. The health effects of ground-level ozone (also known as smog) could cause respiratory problems. What can you do to help limit ground-level ozone?
Limit driving and idling; instead, carpool, combine errands, use public transportation, bike, or walk.
Refuel your vehicle in the late afternoon or evening and don’t top off the tank.
Keep your vehicle maintained, including proper tire pressure.
Maintain your yard equipment, including changing the oil and replacing air filters regularly. Also consider using tools without motors. Hand tools such as shears, edgers, and push reel mowers are lightweight, quiet, and easy to use, and do not generate emissions.
Don’t burn yard waste.
- Use paint and cleaning products with less or zero VOCs.
For more information, visit Ozone: The Facts.
For more information, visit Ozone: Current Levels.
Particulate matter is a complex mixture of small particles and liquid droplets in the air. These particles can be made up of acids, organic chemicals, metal, dust, or soil. PM differs in many ways including size and composition. Healthy people are unlikely to be affected by the low levels of particles present in outdoor air. Sensitive groups, such as the elderly, children, and those with diabetes, heart disease, or respiratory disease are more likely to be affected by particle pollution. What can you do to reduce PM?
Consider setting your thermostat a little higher in the summer and lower in winter.
Participate in local energy conservation programs.
Keep car, boat, and other engines properly tuned, and repair engines that smoke.
Avoid dirt roads and other unpaved roads, or slow down when driving on them.
Carpool, use public transportation, bike, or walk when possible.
Combine errands to reduce cold starts of your car and avoid extended idling.
For more information, visit Particulate Matter (PM): The Facts.
For more information, visit Today’s Air Quality Forecast.