How Ball State Built One of the Most Energy-Efficient College Campuses in the World

We’ve always needed energy to heat our homes. For the vast majority of human existence, we’ve gotten that energy from natural materials—first firewood, then slower-burning natural oil, then fossil fuels. But while we were gathering materials to consume, we were also busy discovering perhaps the most obvious source of heat apart from the sun—the earth itself.


According to, humans first discovered geothermal energy some 10,000 years ago when Native Americans heated themselves in naturally-occurring hot springs. Ever since, we’ve been trying to figure out how best to utilize the earth’s warmth. We’ve built towns on hot springs, heated homes with piped-in hot water, and even built power plants that run on steam. But even with all that progress, we as Americans have struggled to implement an energy-efficient geothermal system in a cost-effective way on a large scale.


Until now.



Enter Ball State


It gets cold in Indiana. Heating an entire college campus is expensive, and burning fossil fuels to do so is hardly energy efficient. Luckily, Ball State University, located in Muncie, Indiana, has launched an ambitious project that, if all goes right, will reduce campus carbon footprint by nearly one half. Engineers at Ball State have bored hundreds of holes into the ground around campus to access the heat of the earth. They can now turn that heat into a sustainable source of energy.




It’s an amazing process, and it’s called a geothermal energy system. The earth’s energy warms water, which travels through pipes that snake throughout the campus, alternatively warming or cooling—whichever is necessary—any given indoor area. The investment, like most energy-saving ventures, is a true win-win-win. The campus will save money, create a culture of environmental sustainability, and create thousands of contracting jobs while they’re at it. How cool is that?



Energy-Efficient Retail Options


So good for Ball State. A college campus has the resources to implement a dynamic change like redoing its entire heating system. But how does that affect you?

We’re glad you asked! Thanks to a new startup called Dandelion Energy, Inc.—and its new partner, Aztech Geothermal—you can build your own geothermal heating system for your very own home.




“Dandelion is making geothermal heating and cooling affordable by introducing a number of process and technology innovations, including analytics-based marketing, fixed system pricing, a low monthly payment option, and an innovative drilling method,” Green Builder Media writes.

So what are you waiting for? Geothermal energy is the wave of the . . . present. Harness it, and invest in your future!


Photo Credits: Ball State University Campus, Dandelion Energy, Inc.


Here are our Top Five Energy-Saving Products for Renters

Not everyone has the ability to make the kind of substantial energy-saving upgrades that a homeowner can make. For example, it makes sense for someone who plans to live in a home indefinitely to invest in the home’s long-term energy cost. A $5000 investment that cuts an energy bill by $100 dollars per month for the next 10 years will result in a savings of more than double the initial investment.

But there are products tailored less for homeowners and more for people who simply want to update their living area. Here are five of our favorite energy-saving products for renters.

5. Belkin Wemo® Insight Smart Plug

Belkin-Wemo-Insight-Smart-PlugWe’ll do these in reverse order. This story should sound familiar to renters everywhere. You’re out of the house and you suddenly feel a sense of dread. You’ve left the hot plate on. Or, so you think. But there’s nothing you can do about it except leave wherever you are, go home, and check.

Not if you have an insight smart plugYou can turn off the outlet using your smartphone with nothing more than a flick of your thumb, save energy, and rest easier.

4. Florida Eco Products Waterpebble

Florida-Eco-Products-WaterpebbleEver get in the shower determined to duck in and out, using as little water as possible—only to hang around for minutes longer than necessary just because the gentle caress of the water is so lovely? I think all of us have probably had this experience.

The waterpebble helps us fight this impulse by tracking our water usage and actually telling us that it is time to save energy by leaving the shower, using a red-yellow-green light system. Once you see that red light, it’s time to leave.

3. SimpliSafe

This is another great idea for renters especially. You don’t want to invest in a full-out home security service, but you still want peace of mind. Get Simplisafe, an app that tracks movements outside of your home and alerts you to possible danger. You don’t need a system that makes you commit or buy tons of bulky merchandise. Just get a couple of tiny Simplicams, track on the app, and sleep better at night.

2. simplehuman® Sensor Mirror

simplehuman-Sensor-Mirror2This one is for the makeup lovers. You don’t need a makeup mirror that uses tons of incandescent light. The simplehuman sensor mirroruses a combination of natural light and LED to help you save energy and look your best. And it only lights up when you get near it—how cool is that?

1. Delta Breez Integrity Fan with Bluetooth Speaker

Delta-Breez-Integrity-Fan-with-Bluetooth-SpeakerThis one happens to be our favorite because it even entertains us while saving us energy. The fan gets your house bumpin’ with tunes you love while ventilating a room, leaving your energy bill in the basement. Give one a try today!


Some Amazing Energy-Saving Products you Should Definitely Check Out

Saving energy isn’t the only way to add some extra cushion to your bottom line. In today’s tech-savvy world, there are a variety of gadgets that can make your home slicker, more energy efficient, and even more attractive to a prospective buyer. According to our friends at Green Builder, “Smart House technology is rapidly becoming a sought-after feature for home buyers, with many saying that they only want to purchase a house with such capabilities.”


Here are some energy-saving gadgets that will bring your house up to date in awesome, innovative ways.



Delta® Breez Integrity Fan


Delta-Breez-Integrity-FanEveryone needs two things when they go to the bathroom: ventilation and ambient noise. This awesome appliance gives your home both. The fan is Bluetooth®-equipped, which makes it able to play whatever tunes you need to sing along to in the shower. But we’re also burying the lead: the fan is also extremely energy-efficient. Get one of these today, and give your vocal chords a warm up. You’ll have plenty to sing about!



Whirlpool® Compact Washer and Dryer Combo


Whirlpool-Compact-Washer-and-Dryer-ComboHome washer-dryer setups have saved millions of Americans countless hours at soulless laundromats. But they can also be a little inefficient when it comes to space—particularly if you are of the urban persuasion. Do you put your laundry appliances in the kitchen? In the garage (if you have one?) It’s not an easily answered question. The Whirlpool® compact washer and dryer combo answers it. And it does so with a couple of appliances that are among the most energy-efficient in the biz.



August Smart Lock


August-Smart-LockThis one isn’t particularly energy efficient—locks aren’t known for running up the ol’ energy bill. But even a small change like upgrading to an Internet-connected lock could pose the difference between a potential home appraiser thinking your home is a modern paradise and them thinking you might as well live in medieval times. OK, maybe the difference between a traditional lock and the smart lock isn’t that drastic. But if you want to transform your living space into a modern pad, the lock could be the perfect accessory for you and your checking account.


The Story of the Developer Who’s Trying to Build the World’s First Energy Self-Sufficient Rental Complex

When a family member or (very) close friend tells you she just found an affordable apartment, it’s hard not to at least wonder what she’s paying on a monthly basis. But even if she tells you, she’s likely to leave out an important detail. Her answer will be “X dollars” plus utilities.


“Plus utilities” is a devilish little detail. If you live in a place where energy costs are high, it can be the difference between a comfortable home and an uncomfortable home. (Let’s face it: who wants to spend the summer in Phoenix without air conditioning?)


One developer in Florida is trying to wipe that little detail—utilities—out of the equation entirely. Here’s the story of how one home builder is trying to build the world’s first energy self-sufficient rental complex, courtesy of our friends at Green Builder Magazine.



If you build an energy self-sufficient rental, will they come?


If You Build An Energy Self-sufficient Rental, Will They ComeIn 2010, developer Rick Lococo had a crazy idea. In the peak of a recession, he dreamt up the notion of the world’s first energy self-sufficient rental complex. He wanted it to be 100% energy efficient—anything that came into the house to cool it or power its appliances would stay there.


There was one major problem with his proposal: cost. Home prices were falling fast; how could he justify the luxury price tag of a home with pricey eco-friendly prices at a time when home prices were at rock bottom?


He decided to build the best version he could. And that if he did, like Field of Dreams, they would come.


Come they did. That first development, Seabourn Cove, would go on to win 2013’s multifamily project of the year from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Green Building Awards. One big idea can go a long way.



Eco-friendly amenities galore


Eco-Friendly Amenities GaloreSpeaking of going a long way, the list of energy-efficient amenities in Seabourn Cove is truly something. According to Green Builder:


“Green features included LED and compact fluorescent lighting; water-saving faucets, showers, and toilets; water piping with shorter runs to reduce heat loss; high-efficiency 16 SEER air-conditioning units; programmable thermostats; R-38 ceiling insulation; solar roof ventilation; ceiling fans; hurricane impact-resistant windows and doors; Energy Star-rated appliances; and even electric vehicle charging stations.”


Even with that amazing laundry list of appliances, however, Lococo and Co. have yet to unlock the secret to the completely energy-efficient rental complex. (Seabourn Cove did bring down energy costs significantly, however.) Here’s hoping they find it soon.


How an Energy-Efficient Home Makes You Healthier

We all know that having an energy-efficient home is good for your bottom line. (And for the environment!) Study after study has shown that better insulation, more energy-efficient light bulbs, and energy-stretching appliances save you money. But according to Code Watcher magazine, these measures—and others—have also been shown to make you healthier. Let’s explore some of the more noteworthy steps you can take to make your home an energy-saving sanctuary.



Breathe easier with an energy-efficient house


Breathe easier with an energy efficient house When we say breathe easier, we mean literally. The Code Watcher story writes that “40 percent of diagnosed asthma is associated with home exposures (e.g., moisture, temperature variations, pests), some of which can be improved through energy-efficiency activities.”


Conveniently, you can combat these health risks while you reduce wasteful energy use with energy-efficient insulation and ventilation tactics. Studies show that almost 90 percent of our lives are spent indoors, where pollutants are much less diluted than the outdoors. But if these energy-efficiency tips tell us anything, it’s that you don’t have to choose between a healthier life and a lower energy bill!



Fight cancer, heart disease, and even depression


Fight cancer heart disease even depression energy efficientWho would have thought that creating a more energy-efficient home could curb your risk of serious health consequences like heart disease and cancer? Well, according to a 2016 report published by E4TheFuture—and cited by our friends at Code Watcher—it’s true!


E4TheFuture on . . .


  • Energy efficiency and cardiovascular health: “Improvements in indoor
    temperatures and reduction of particulates from outdoor air (by filtration of outdoor air in heating systems and/or air sealing) can help to reduce conditions that can exacerbate hypertension.”
  • Energy efficiency and cancer: “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 21,000 lung cancer cases per year are associated with radon exposure. Radon exposure can be minimized through ventilation and air sealing.”
  • Energy efficiency and mental health: “Mental health can be impacted by both physical environmental conditions and financial hardships due to fuel bills.”

So, what are you waiting for? Make your home more energy efficient today and start reaping the benefits. All the benefits.


How the Urbanization Trend is Affecting Energy Savings

We live in a world that is becoming more urban every day. Three and a half billion people live in cities, more than half of the world’s population, and that number is only expected to grow in the coming decades. This transition forces us to confront a number of challenges relating to energy. How will we grow enough food, find enough fuel, or even pave over enough land to accommodate all of the people who want to move to cities?


But that’s the global outlook. America’s urbanization situation is unique. In 2002, President George W. Bush said that owning a home was an integral part of living the American Dream. In the few decades surrounding the turn of the millennium, contractors built millions of home in suburban areas, and people moved away from cities. Today, Americans are moving back to urban areas. Unlike in developing countries, the American move to the city may actually be a net positive in terms of saving energy. Let’s take a closer look at how the urbanization trend is affecting energy savings.



Transportation, transportation, transportation


Transportation, Transportation, TransportationThe biggest way that urbanization saves us energy is in our commutes. According to Pew Research, city dwellers are 3.5 times more likely to use public transportation than suburbanites. Mass transit systems are much more fuel-efficient than individual car ownership. Additionally, urban dwellers are far more likely to walk to a given location given the conveniences of population density. Why drive when your favorite pizza spot is a block away? If you move to a city, you’ll find that much of your energy savings—in your wallet and in terms of your carbon footprint—come at the gas pump.



Heating your home


Heating your homeOur commutes aren’t the only way we can save energy in the city. Unless you’re willing to shell out $50 million, urbanites own far smaller residences than their suburban counterparts. This means that city dwellers spend far less money heating or cooling their homes. Urban dwellings are also more likely to be energy-efficient than larger homes, i.e., an apartment is a better insulator than a bulky McMansion.


Of course, urban dwelling isn’t the perfect way to save energy. Urban heat islands, a process by which concrete insulates an urban environment, increase the temperatures of cities all over the world. This can mean some urban homes spend extra money on cooling in the summer. Urbanization is not perfect, but at least in the short term, the trend should help Americans save money on energy costs.


Is This the World’s Greenest Home?

Out in the high desert outside of Bend, Oregon, sits perhaps the most extraordinarily designed home ever built in the United States. Desert Rain is a five-building residential compound consisting of three residential units—and they’re currently the greenest houses in America.


The architectural project is the first residential compound in the world to be certified under the hyper-strict Living Building Challenge, as well as carrying certifications of LEED Platinum and Earth Advantage Platinum. How green is Desert Rain? To start, it makes more energy than it consumes. That’s pretty green.


This one-of-a-kind project was built as an experiment by Oregon-based Tozer Design to demonstrate the viability of sustainable and resilient communities. Lead designer Al Tozer Jr. designed Desert Rain with shades of the southwest desert as well as the home’s current location in the wilds of Oregon. Owners Tom Elliot and Barbara Scott first simply wanted to design and build a LEED-certified home that employed green technology. But they were later catalyzed by the Living Building Challenge to build the compound that would eventually become Desert Rain.



Inventing the Future Home


Inventing the Future HomeThe boundaries set by the Living Building Challenge meant a complete re-design of the project by Tozer. While a LEED certification is extreme, the Living Building Challenge takes green design to another level.


The home had to be 100% net-zero energy, allow for 100% self-contained collection of rainwater, 100% processing of waste water, and carbon neutral. The project could not contain any materials from what its organizers dub “The Red List,” consisting of dangerous substances like asbestos, mercury, and lead. But the list also includes some chemicals that are widely used in home construction including an ingredient in nearly all plastic water pipes as well as a common welding element. That meant Tozer and his team not only had to surmount challenges; sometimes they had to invent their own solutions.


However, simply meeting the technical specifications of the Living Building Challenge isn’t enough. The certification also requires projects to maintain a human scale, nods to democracy and social justice, and carry a design that integrates beauty, spirit, inspiration, and education.

Only 49 other buildings worldwide have earned the certification, and Desert Rain is the first residential project to earn the distinction. The Desert Rain home has even inspired a book about its eight-year journey to fruition.



The Costs and Benefits of Sustainability


The Costs and Benefits of SustainabilityCreating this remarkable home also wasn’t easy, or cheap. Because of the complex nature of the experiment, Tozer had to assemble a network of sustainability experts, contractors, specialists, and landscape architects, not to mention sourcing the home’s unique materials. The eventual final price tag of Desert Rain is $3.48 million, roughly three times the cost of a new, high-end modern home in nearby Bend.


Desert Rain’s owners finally fully moved into the home in 2014. In Desert Rain’s first two years as a residence, its owners used nothing but water from their rain collection system, which is recycled in their 30,000-gallon cistern. The home also generated over 13,000 kilowatt hours of power, which is enough energy to power another home for a year.


Inspiring Others to Action



Inspiring Others to ActionFor its owners, Desert Rain is meant to be an inspiration; demonstrating to homeowners, designers, and builders that it really is possible to build a better, healthier, more sustainable home, as reflected by Barbara Scott’s recent comments to Oregon Public Broadcasting.


“I think if I were to do it again, I would do it in a way where people would look at it and say, ‘Wow, maybe I can do this.'”


Find out more about the Desert Rain House by visiting


3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Refrigerator’s Efficiency

The refrigerator is America’s most popular appliance. It makes sense: the need to preserve food with spices is, in large part, what drove Columbus across the ocean blue. But are you getting the most out of your favorite appliance? Studies have shown that a significant percentage of Americans (particularly those who own more than one fridge) throw hundreds of dollars away each year on excess refrigeration. We want to help you make your home as efficient as possible. Here are three easy ways to increase your refrigerator’s efficiency.



1. Keep Your Fridge Around 75% Full


When your refrigerator hits the just-right proportion of 75 percent full, your stored foods team up with your refrigerator in a really cool way. The foodstuff, cooled to a low temperature, actually helps maintain the chilly ecosystem of the fridge when the door is opened and warm air rushes in. But be careful! Overstuffing limits air circulation, causing the unit to work with less efficiency.



2. Set Temperatures to That Goldilocks Level


Most refrigerators should be set between 37 and 40 degrees in the main section, and 0 to 5 degrees in the freezer. If you keep your food too warm, you can lose the cooling effect described in tip #1. If you cool your food too much, you are losing out on energy efficiency. In order to increase your refrigerator’s efficiency, check your owner’s manual to be sure these settings are appropriate for your unit.



3. Keep Up Your General Maintenance


Experts say that at least twice a year you should unplug your unit briefly to rid the condenser coils of dust. Once the unit is unplugged, use a long brush or the crevice attachment on your vacuum cleaner. If the condenser coils aren’t cleaned, the buildup of dust can keep heat from being dispelled and cause your unit to overheat.


Regular cleaning can dramatically increase the life of your refrigerator.


It is also important to keep the inside of your refrigerator clean. Everyone is familiar with those puddles of mystery food that form in our fridges over time; cleaning will keep your food odor-free and fresh-tasting. Every two months be sure to wipe down the inside of your refrigerator with a safe and effective baking soda and water solution.


Save Energy on National Cut Energy Costs Day

Happy National Cut Energy Costs Day! Today, and every day for that matter, is a great day to find new ways to save energy and money. There are many ways to accomplish this – it just takes a little bit of research, creativity, and lucky for you, help from


We’ve gathered a few ways to help you celebrate National Cut Energy Costs Day. What better way to celebrate than putting money back into your pocket?



Ways to Save Through Your Daily Routine


We often don’t realize just how much energy we are using during our morning, afternoon, and nightly routines. A few simple changes could go a long way for saving energy in your home.


  • Shorten the showers: your hot water heater won’t have to work as hard if you cut down that half hour shower to about 10 minutes or less.
  • For the ladies: let your hair air dry as often as possible.
  • Try carpooling: if you have little ones, carpool with other parents. Or, if you live near a coworker, have them give you a lift, or vice versa, every once in a while.
  • After dinner: you don’t have to run your dishwasher every night. Only run it when it’s full.

Small Investments Can Make a Big Impact


Not all investments have to take a chunk of change from your wallet right away. Small investments in energy-saving products can help you save some big bucks.


  • Energy-efficient light bulbs: while these bulbs are a tad more costly than regular bulbs, energy-efficient bulbs such as LED light bulbs help to preserve electricity.
  • Home insulation: we are still in the winter season, so invest in some home insulation. This will help to keep your home warmer without running up the electric bill.
  • Ceiling fans: be sure your ceiling fans work for the space they’re in. Optimize air flow by using this guide to help you pick the best size and type of fan for a specific room.  

Create Some Good Habits


Adopting a few habits can help you save energy and money over time. Not all habits have to be bad habits.


  • Turn off the lights: it’s hard to remember to do this when you are in a rush. But if you become accustomed to turning off the lights regularly, you could save a lot of energy.
  • Turn down the thermostat when you leave: a few degrees can make a world of difference. While you’re not home, your heating and air conditioning shouldn’t have to work as hard.
  • Turn off the water: you’d be surprised at how much water is wasted while you’re brushing your teeth or scrubbing your hands.








Top 5 Energy-Efficient Countries Series: The United Kingdom

Every year, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) releases a list of the top 23 most energy-efficient countries. Rankings are based on energy-efficiency for buildings, industry, transportation, and national efforts to reduce energy usage. Each country earns their spot according to accumulated efforts over the previous year.


The United Kingdom was ranked at number five. Here’s a look at a few highlights.



UK’s Mission


Top 5 Energy-Efficient Countries Series The United Kingdom - In Text Image - UK's MissionThe UK government plans to connect energy-efficient knowledge and technologies to finance, making strong returns on power savings. With those savings, the government intends to promote and fund efficiency innovation. The UK feels that it’s important for households and businesses to save money on fuel bills and create a more sustainable and secure energy system.



Government Intervention


Top 5 Energy-Efficient Countries Series The United Kingdom - In Text Image - Government's InterventionEnergy and Climate Secretary, Amber Rudd, has spoken out and revealed her policy priorities to come in 2017. She explained that the UK has already implemented an electricity system where no form of power generation, even gas-fired power stations, can be built without government intervention. For 2017, she intends to reduce the use of fossil fuels and replace coal-fired power stations with gas.



However, Some Things Could Be Improved…


Top 5 Energy-Efficient Countries Series The United Kingdom - In Text Image - Funding CutsThe United Kingdom fell behind countries like Germany, Italy, Japan, and France because the government cut off certain funds. According to this report, the UK government cut funds to various policies. There was a 33 percent cut to the Energy Efficiency Obligations target in 2014, a 20 percent cut to future Energy Efficiency Obligations spending in 2015, and a complete cancellation and pull of government backing from the Green Deal. The report explains that while the UK has some good policies in place, they were much stronger in the past.