How Your Energy Company Can Help you Save

Another month has come and gone and that means another electric bill is due. A good majority of us are guilty of just scrolling our eyes down to the bottom of the statement, only looking at the total amount due. We write out the check and then go on to open another bill. But how many times have you actually analyzed your electric bill and assessed your energy use for the month? Do you know which rooms of your home use the most energy or the time of day your energy consumption is at its peak? To help you answer those questions, most electric companies offer an in-home energy audit to help you save energy.

 

 

Energy Audit

 

Energy AuditHome energy audits can be performed by your electric company or by a professional energy auditor. During your home checkup, the auditor will inspect your attic’s insulation, furnace and duct work, as well as look for any leaks. A blower door test and infrared camera might also be used to establish any areas where the home has an unintentional air passageway. After the audit, the auditor will be able to determine where your house could be more efficient and what can be corrected to help you save energy and money.

 

 

Energy Plan

 

Energy PlanAfter the energy audit, you will be more aware of where the majority of your energy consumption is going and how to make any necessary changes to be more efficient. These proposed changes are simply recommendations made by the auditor, and are not required. However, by making the suggested efficiency upgrades, you could save 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill.

 

 

DIY Energy Assessment

 

DIY Energy AssessmentIf your energy company does not offer an energy auditing service or you do not want to pay for a professional, you can perform an energy assessment on your own. You can check for air leaks caused by gaps around windows, doors, lighting fixtures, and electrical outlets, in addition to inspecting the insulation in your attic. A home energy assessment is just the beginning of your energy savings journey, and whether performed by a professional or done by yourself, it can help you be more conscious of where the majority of your energy is being consumed.

 

 

Become Energy Efficient

 

Become Energy EfficientSo the next time you get your electric bill, take a look at your total energy consumption for the month. Consider contacting your electric company to see if an energy audit service is offered, and to identify how efficiently or inefficiently your home’s energy is being used.

   

What Your Electric Bill Can Tell You about Energy Use

When was the last time you looked at your electric bill beyond the total due? By taking a closer look at the numbers, you may identify details to help you understand your energy usage or get clues of why one month’s total differs from another. Get your past year’s electric bills together to see if you can discover ways to become more efficient with your home energy use.

 

 

Understanding the Cost

 

Understanding the CostPrimarily, the total of your electric bill comes from your monthly usage of kilowatt hours (kWh). Typically, kilowatt hours are determined by subtracting your previous month’s kWh meter reading from your current month’s, and the difference is then multiplied by the company’s energy rate.

 

But what exactly is a kilowatt hour? Each home appliance or electrical device draws wattage. Kilowatt hours are figured by multiplying an item’s wattage by the total hours it draws energy, with 1,000 watt hours of energy equating to one kilowatt hour. For example, if a 100-watt light bulb burns for 10 hours, it consumes 1,000 watt hours of energy or one kilowatt hour.

 

Equation 3

 

 

Seasonal Charges

 

Seasonal ChargesFor many of us, summer and winter temperatures force your cooling and heating systems to work overtime to keep you comfortable. Because of this, most people expect to see a temporary bill increase, but check if your company’s energy rate is higher at these times as well. Investing in a programmable thermostat and setting the temperature 15 degrees off of your comfort zone while you are at work or asleep can help you decrease your energy usage in the extreme seasons no matter what the rate.

 

 

Peak Rates

 

Peak RatesSome electric companies employ a time-of-use rate structure, which can mean your rate is higher during daily peak hours. Generally, peak hours occur on weekdays from morning until mid-evening, with all other hours and weekends as off-peak times. Can you save your laundry time or heavier cooking sessions for the weekend? During the week, does every light, television, and electronic device need to be on the moment everyone gets home for the day? Could you run the dishwasher right before you head to bed?

 

 

Energy Usage Trends

 

Energy Usage TrendsMost electric bills include your daily average energy use and electric cost. Additionally, you may see a graph showing month-to-month usage or even usage comparables from the previous year. Think about what energy increases you incurred during higher cost months because some companies charge a higher rate after you go above a set amount of monthly kilowatt hours. Did you purchase new electronics or a second refrigerator? Perhaps one month you entertained out-of-town guests, worked remotely, or had the kids home on break. Or, if the total has increased steadily, it may be time to purchase more efficient appliances or seal air leaks around older windows and doors.

 

Start using your monthly electric bill to help you pinpoint how to be more efficient with your home energy usage. Additionally, your electric company’s website will often provide you with more assistance through bill calculators, rate and meter options, and summaries with even further analysis.

   

Power Down Your Home on Summer Vacation

Summer vacations are a time to relax and unwind from the daily hustle and bustle. Unfortunately, while you’re vacationing away from your home, your energy bill is still higher than expected. No one is home and the appliances are off, so why is your energy bill the same amount as the previous month? Although you’ve stopped working, your home’s utilities and electronics have not. So before you start your summer vacation, make sure your home is on vacation mode, too.

Avoid Vampire Power

Avoid Vampire PowerBefore leaving your home, set aside some time to walk through your home and make sure all unnecessary electronics and appliances are unplugged. Although you may not be using them while you’re on your vacation, vampire power will still run up your electric bill. Any unnecessary electronic devices including lamps, floor fans, game consoles, TVs, and computers, should be unplugged while your house is vacant. These devices can also be plugged into a power strip that is then switched off. Whichever method you choose, the risk of vampire power is avoided.

Controlled Cooling

Controlled CoolingUnless there are pets in the house while you’re away on your summer vacation, you can really take advantage of increasing your thermostat to cut energy consumption. Setting your thermostat between 85 to 87 degrees will show a drop in your next energy bill. Programmable thermostats can also help with maintaining energy use while you’re gone. If you choose to turn off your thermostat while you’re away, you can program your thermostat to turn on the day of or the day before your return so that your home is comfortable to come back to.

Maintain Major Appliances

Maintain Major AppliancesOn longer summer trips, it is a good idea to clean out your refrigerator and turn it off. Refrigerators are a major culprit of using large amounts of energy; they are the Hummers of automobiles. If the trip is shorter, you can raise the refrigerator and freezer temperature to the highest temperature it can go without spoiling the food inside. You can also power down your water heater if your summer vacation is longer than just a weekend getaway. Before shutting down or adjusting the settings on any major appliance, be sure to read the product manual to avoid issues.

Close Your Blinds

Close Your BlindsThere are many things you can do to save energy in your vacant home during your summer vacation. Besides unplugging and turning off different appliances, you can also do simple, yet effective tasks, like closing your blinds and curtains. This helps maintain your home’s temperature by blocking the heat so that your AC doesn’t run more frequently than necessary. If you have window film on your home’s windows, that will provide an additional layer of protection from the sun’s rays and also help prevent fading of your window coverings. Your home’s windows provide the easiest access for cool air to escape and warm air to enter. Covering your windows also provides a level of privacy while you are away. So on your next summer vacation, be sure to follow some of these energy saving tips so you can worry less about your bills and more about relaxation.

   

Easy Energy Tips for Apartments

Of America’s 35 million apartment residents, a significant portion of them are renters. One of the best parts of renting as opposed to buying is not having to worry too much about the status of your dwelling. Big picture headaches like costly repairs and home values are not your concern—and if the place isn’t to your liking, you’re more mobile than if you’re tied to a mortgage.

That doesn’t mean there are no concerns for apartment dwellers. For one, many who live in apartments do own them. But more importantly, one of the most expensive aspects of apartment upkeep for any inhabitant is energy. Ever gone to stay with a starving actor friend in New York in the summer? There’s a reason he doesn’t have air conditioning.

Here are three easy energy tips that let you save energy and cut down on your apartment’s energy costs.

1. Wash your clothes with cold water. Air dry them.

Wash-your-clothes-with-cold-water.-Air-dry-themThe biggest energy expenditure in any apartment is temperature control. Air conditioning is, of course, going to be one of the biggest monthly energy expenditures you have—more on that in a second—but there are also other, less heralded climate controlling mechanisms in your home.

If you wash your clothes with hot water, you are spending a tremendous amount of unnecessary energy. According to Energystar.gov, 90 percent of the energy that goes into washing a hot load of clothes is the energy that heats the water. Wash your clothes with cold water.

And don’t use a dryer either, for that matter.

2. Make sure your apartment is energy sealed.

Make-sure-your-apartment-is-energy-sealed.Often, annoying energy-wasting expenditures come at the margins of your life. Mashable has a great list of things you can do that will shore up your energy-saving operation, saving you money and stress in the process. Seal your windows so the carefully cultivated climate you’ve got in your apartment stays in your apartment. Pack your freezer so as many cold items are in there as possible. Even something as small as covering cooking pots or pans can save you some valuable energy—and scratch in the process.

3. Don’t lose track of your apartment’s climate.

Don’t-lose-track-of-your-apartment’s-climateIt can be easy to forget how hot or cold you’ve set the thermostat. But if you want to save energy, it’s so important that you know exactly how hot or cold you’re keeping your home. Buy a programmable thermostat that knows when you’re in or out of the house and you can turn your apartment into an optimized energy paradise.

   

How to Buy the Perfect Light Bulb for Every Room in Your House

Lighting is a vitally important part of any home. You may not realize it, but the way a room is lit can change the way you feel about that room—its objects, the activities you do in it, and even how much time you spend there. When lighting is that important to so many facets of a room, it should come as no surprise that different rooms require different lighting. Different lighting means different light bulbs. Here’s how to buy the perfect light bulb for every room in your house.

 

 

1. Know How Bright You Want the Room to Be

 

Know How Bright You Want the Room to BeDifferent rooms require different amounts of light. For rooms that often host activities that require intense concentration—think the kitchen—you’re going to want as much lighting as possible. For more laid back spaces—think living and bedrooms—the lighting doesn’t have to shine so bright.

 

A good word to add to your lighting vocabulary is “lumens.” The term refers to the brightness of a bulb; for example, a 700 lumen bulb is brighter than a 500 lumen bulb. A room’s brightness comes from the total of lumens provided by the lights in the room. LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs are generally the brightest options, followed by incandescent bulbs, but check the packaging to make sure you’re getting bulbs with lumens to your liking. This useful article from House Logic gives the following room-by-room recommendations when it comes to brightness:

 

Kitchens: 5,000-10,000 total lumens
Bathrooms: 4,000-8,000 total lumens
Bedrooms: 2,000-4,000 total lumens
Living Rooms: 1,500-3,000 lumens
Dining Rooms: 3,000-6,000 lumens
Home Offices: 3,000-6,000 lumens

 

 

2. Know How Much You’re Willing to Spend in the Short and Long Term

 

Know How Much Youre Willing to Spend in the Short and Long TermLight bulb shopping is an exercise in short-term vs. long-term budgeting. The three major light bulb options are incandescent lights, CFLs, and LED light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs offer more inviting light, and they’re the cheapest short- term option. However, they also use the most energy and last the least amount of time. CFLs are the second cheapest short-term option, and they offer more light than incandescent bulbs by a factor of six or seven. Finally, LED bulbs are expensive up front, but they use a startlingly low wattage, and they last upwards of 25,000 hours. The bulb you choose depends on what your needs are.

 

 

3. Know When to Trust the Experts!

 

Know When to Trust the ExpertsSometimes, experts make energy planning simple for all of us. Real Simple gives us a wonderful, comprehensive room-by-room guide on which light bulb to buy. Here are their recommendations:

 

Kitchen: GE Lighting Reveal High-Definition Dimmable Bulb ($10 for two) OR EcoSmart Bright White Dimmable LED Bulb ($33 for six)
Bathroom: EcoSmart Soft White G25 Dimmable Frosted LED Bulb ($20 for three)
Bedroom: Philips Dimmable LED Warm-Glow-Effect Bulb ($8)
Living Room: Utilitech Soft White LED Decorative Bulb ($9)
Hallway: EcoSmart Soft White Dimmable LED Bulb ($30 for six)
Dining Room: Bulbrite 776609 7W LED Bulb, ($13)

 

 

You can’t go wrong when consulting the experts. You’ll notice they recommend LED bulbs for every room in the house, which go a long way toward saving energy. So for an easy way to save energy, try LED bulbs if you haven’t already. And learn more about the energy-saving power of LED lighting here.

   

How to Select the Best Programmable Thermostat

Smart spending often comes from smart technology. With heating and cooling racking up your bills each month, there’s no better reason to use today’s cutting-edge thermostats to cut down on costs. Energystar.gov points out that, when properly used, programmable thermostats can save you approximately $180 each year in energy expenditures. The key is knowing how to choose the right thermostat for your needs, and then learning how to set it properly.

 

To make the most informed decision – and save you the most money – when shopping for thermostats, start with consulting your calendar. Consider how often you’re away from home for long periods of time, and then choose from the three programmable thermostat models: 7-day, 5+2 and 5-1-1.

 

 

Find Your Match

 

Find Your Match 1

Is your schedule unpredictable from one day to the next?

 

Your thermostat: 7-day model

 

The 7-day model offers the most flexibility, because you can set a different schedule each day of the week.

 

 

Do you follow the same schedule during the work week and then have a regular weekend routine?

 

Your thermostat: 5+2 model

 

With the 5+2, you can pre-set temperatures and time periods a particular way during your 5-day work week, while setting a separate program for your days off.

 

 

Do you keep one schedule Monday through Friday, but frequently change it on Saturday and Sunday?

 

Your thermostat: 5-1-1 model

 

As its name indicates, you’ll set the thermostat to certain times and temperatures five days of the week. When the weekend rolls around, you can set each day (1 and 1) to something different to accommodate your (or your kids’) busy social life.

 

 

Set It for Savings

 

Set It for Savings

During the colder months, Energy.gov recommends setting your thermostat at 68°F while you’re home and then turning it back 10 degrees for the time you’ll be at work, on vacation, or even sleeping (if you can tolerate the chill). This can amount to a 1% savings per degree. In addition to the temperature, follow these dos and don’ts to capitalize on your smart thermostat:

 

Do:

  • Set your time periods in increments of 8 hours or more. This is why you’ll notice every programmable thermostat allows at least four temperature periods each day.
  • Install separate units in areas of your home that aren’t occupied very often, such as a guest room.
  • Use the “hold” setting while on vacation. Just be sure to keep it at that energy-efficient temperature mentioned above.

Don’t:

  • Do not install your thermostat near heating or cooling vents, your oven or microwave, electronics, open doors or in direct sunlight.
  • Do not override the pre-set programming, even if you unexpectedly came home an hour earlier. This will use up more energy than just leaving it alone until the next period begins.
  • Do not try to heat or cool your house faster by cranking the thermostat to an extreme temperature. When you pre-set your thermostat, it’s smart enough to know when to start heating up or cooling down to reach the desired temperature before you walk in the door.

Once you’ve found the right model for your household’s energy needs, sit back and let the thermostat take care of the savings.

   

Report Shows How Ultra High-Definition TVs Drain Energy

You wouldn’t think that one little word, ultra, would make such a big difference. But it turns out that going from a High-Definition (HD) TV to an Ultra High-Definition (UHD) TV does make a difference – a $1 billion difference according to a new report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

 

 

Ultra Costs

 

Ultra CostsBasically, that would be the additional annual cost to U.S. viewers’ utility bills if everyone switched to UHD TVs without the energy-efficient bells and whistles. However, there are some UHD models, such as those that are ENERGY STAR certified, that are just as efficient as the HD TVs. But since there are no regulations in place enforcing those efficiencies for all of the UHD TVs, there are many that use almost one-third more energy on average.

 

“The national energy and environmental consequences of the transition to UHD TV will be profound unless the TV manufacturing industry devotes sufficient time and resources to improve the efficiency of the TVs brought to market,” explains senior scientist Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC’s Center for Energy Efficiency. “The good news is that there are steps consumers, manufacturers, and policymakers can take to make sure our newest-generation televisions are not needlessly wasting energy.”

 

 

What Consumers Can Do

 

What Consumers Can DoIf you’re thinking about buying a UHD TV, the simplest thing you can do is buy an ENERGY STAR certified one. You can shop using filters on the Find and Compare Products section of ENERGY STAR’S website. If you already own a UHD TV, make sure to enable the Automatic Brightness Control. If your UHD TV is connected to the Internet, turn off the quick start feature, which will stop the standby power from being used, which can add up to considerable energy use. There are probably other electronics and appliances throughout your home that are also drawing unnecessary energy. To learn more, read “Save Energy by Slaying Vampire Power.”

   

Shining Innovations for LED Lighting

New advanced products and lower prices continue to make LED lights a no-brainer for conserving energy. One new standout bulb is the 9.5-watt Cree LED Soft White, a 2016 Top Ten Reviews Gold award-winner, which lasts for up to 22.8 years! For just $7.97 a pop! The manufacturer, Cree, made Fast Company’s list of Most Innovative Companies 2015 for its breakthrough LED lighting technology.

 

 

The Incandescent Light Bulb’s More Energy-Efficient Twin

 

The Incandescent Light Bulb’s More Energy-Efficient TwinCree’s new 9.5-watt LED Soft White looks just like a traditional bulb. It fits into standard-size outlets. And it operates just as a traditional bulb would – lights immediately in all directions and dims without buzzing. But it uses up to 84% less energy, which earned it the trusted ENERGY STAR certification. Cree chief marketing officer Betty Noonan explains, “As a company on a mission for 100 percent LED adoption, we take pride in being risk-takers and disrupting the lighting industry with breakthrough, innovative products.”

 

To see how much money you can save with Cree LED bulbs, check out their savings calculator.

 

 

Dazzling Impact

 

Dazzling ImpactThe U.S. Department of Energy’s 2014 LED adoption report shines a light on just how impactful LED lighting can be to saving energy and money:

“Annual source energy savings from LEDs in 2014 were approximately 143 tBtu (equivalent to a cost savings of about $1.4 billion), but would have approached 4,896 tBtu (saving $49 billion) if all applications had switched “overnight” to the best-available LEDs.”

 

Indeed, more and more communities around the world are adopting LED lighting. For example, according to CleanTechnica, India is replacing all of its street lights with LED ones in the next two years. The projected annual savings of switching the 35 million street lights is “9000 million kWh of electricity annually, worth over $850 million.”

 

 

For even more bright ideas, see how you can save energy with solar lights, too.