Top Apps to Use in an Energy Emergency

Winter storms can leave you stranded far from home or stuck inside without power. This type of energy emergency may require you to seek help immediately. That’s when you turn to your trusty smartphone. Having one (or more) of these disaster relief mobile apps at the ready means you have the power in your hand – just a few clicks away.

 

FEMA Mobile App

FEMA Mobile AppThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed an impressive mobile app experience, which provides emergency preparedness tips for nearly any situation – from home fires to tsunamis. It also features a map of local disaster recovery shelters and a Disaster Reporter map. The Disaster Reporter map functions much the same as Lantern Live, where it relies on crowdsourcing to supply and share photos that illustrate critical information for first-responders and fellow citizens. You can download the free FEMA app for your Android or iPhone.

 

Lantern Live

Lantern LiveThe Lantern Live app allows you to look up the nearest operational gas station, find fuel, and view power outage maps. Using the clout of crowdsourcing and open data, Lantern Live calls on the people of a disaster-stricken community to provide updates and pertinent details. You’ll find real-time pictures and comments depicting the severity of a flooded road, while also being able to view local power outages and read useful tips on how to safely handle an emergency. Lantern Live is free but currently available only for Android users.

 

Red Cross Everyday Apps

First Aid, Blood, Flood, Tornado, Earthquake, Wildfire, Hurricane, Shelter Finder and Pet First Aid

Red Cross Everyday AppsThe Red Cross has a family of mobile apps, each focused on a different type of emergency situation. The Tornado App, for instance, provides step-by-step instructions of what to do even if the power is out and cell towers are down. You can also opt into push notifications to alert you when tornado warnings have expired, which is especially helpful when you have no power to watch local news. You can learn more and download any of the free Red Cross apps here.

 

Winter Survival Kit

Winter Survival KitMany people living in colder climates already have a survival kit packed in their car. If you don’t, this app provides a list of everything you need on hand in case of an emergency. On top of that, Winter Survival Kit will track your location should you get stranded in the middle of nowhere and need help contacting emergency services. The app’s Gas Calculator comes in handy by estimating how long you can run your engine with the fuel you have left in the tank. To help protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning, you’ll get an alert every 30 minutes to turn off your car and check the exhaust pipe for snow buildup. Get it free on  iTunes.

 

Power Outage Alarm Pro

Power Outage Alarm ProFor those with second homes or week-long travel plans, Power Outage Alarm Pro is extremely useful. It notifies you via text message or audible alert if any electrical equipment suffers a power cut while you’re away from home. The most popular uses include monitoring a fridge/freezer, fish tank, sump pump and heating system. Power Outage offers simple peace of mind when you download it on your Android device for $3.99.

 

You can also check apps from local power companies, such as Ready Virginia and OCFL Alert. These serve very specific markets, but their growing popularity could bring more targeted assistance to an area near you.

 

See Also: Fall and Winter Energy Saving Tips

   

How Glass and Window Film Work Together to Save You Energy

It has long been a well known fact that window film can help anyone cut down on energy costs. In 2013, the Department of Energy wrote that “there are a variety of options for consumers who are looking to improve the energy efficiency of their existing windows” before highlighting window film as one of those wonderful options. But simply purchasing window film is not enough. If you really want to get the most out of your energy-saving window film, you’ve got to make sure your film and your windows are working together.

 

Windows-and-window-film-an-energy-savers-best-friend
 

Windows and Window Film: An Energy Saver’s Best Friend

As the old saying goes, windows are the windows into your energy-saving soul. (Editor’s note: this is not a saying, and it’s honestly barely a sentence. But just go with it.) If your windows don’t fit perfectly on your house, you’re going to see that reflected in your unnecessarily-high energy bill. Although top-notch window film will mitigate the energy-wasting effects of leaky windows, if you want to get the most out of your film, you’ve got to make sure your windows are shored up.

 

If you’re tight on cash, inexpensive window treatments like caulking or weatherstripping could be viable short-term solutions for your home. Energy saving is all about getting the best bang for your buck. Don’t let your air conditioning or heat escape from your home, along with your hard-earned money. Once your windows are secure, they’re ready for film.

 

When-applying-window-film-have-a-plan

 

Let the Big Savings Begin

 

Installing window film can be incredibly tricky. Fortunately, professionals are available to provide you with hassle-free installation. Just be sure to communicate with them about what exactly you want done. Before the installer comes to your home, there are several things you should do to prepare your home.

 

First, remove all blinds, curtains or drapes from the windows receiving film. Remove any picture frames or knick-knacks from windowsills and surrounding areas as well. Any furniture that would hinder access to your windows should be moved. Then, on the day of your install, try and keep all doors and windows closed to minimize dust and airborne contamination. Your installer will probably turn the heat or AC off when he arrives, but you needn’t suffer. Keep the thermostat set at your comfort level until he or she arrives.

 

The beautiful, complex, challenging mystery of window film is that every energy saver has different needs. Make sure you know what yours are, and you will get your windows working with your window film to save you energy like the energy-saving pro you are.

   

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!

   

5 Products You Will Be Shocked to Learn Are Made From Recycled Materials

We’ve all heard that recycling is good for the planet. We’ve all dragged our designated materials to the curb and stuffed them in that dull-colored bin. But it’s possible that we’ve never truly appreciated the realized process of recycling. After all, products are actually made from those recycled materials—pretty remarkable products. Cans aren’t just recycled and turned into more cans. Here are five products you’ll be shocked to learn are made from recycled materials.

 

 

United States Soccer Uniforms

 

uniforms-easy-energyAccording to Time Magazine, Nike has made soccer uniforms for both the U.S. men’s and women’s national team from recycled materials. Your old plastic bottles are on the pitch helping our boys take down Algeria! Nice.

 

 

ReCycle Bikes

 

ReCycle-easy-eneregyThat’s right. There’s an entire company that makes bicycles from recycled aluminum and cork. As if cycling didn’t save enough energy in the form of conserving fossil fuels, this pun-friendly company took conservation to another level. This is just more evidence that recycling is truly a wild ride.

 

 

Graduation gowns

 

Graduation-easy-energyIt’s always a magical moment when caps fly through the air to commemorate the achievement of a hard-earned degree. But the next time your heart swells thinking about your family member’s upcoming commencement ceremony, allow it to swell an extra size or two, Grinch style. According to Global Citizen, there’s a decent chance your favorite grad’s outfit was made from energy saving recycled materials.

 

 

Lumber used for building

 

Lumber-easy-energyYou’d never believe what’s holding up some building in Norway. We’ll give you a hint: it’s black and white and read all over. No, it’s not a sunburned penguin; for one thing, you’ve got to work on your homophones. For another, sunburned penguins are unionized. Too expensive.

 

The recycled material is newspaper! And the wood made from a newspaper is actually really useful, per City Metric, because it’s flame retardant. Who knew?

 

 

Toothbrushes

 

Toothbrushes-easy-energyWe know what you’re thinking. “Why would I want to brush my teeth with garbage?” We assure you, the Preserve toothbrush is perfectly clean, recycled from plastic bottle caps. (And they’re very cheap!)

 

Every time you use a recycled material, you’re saving energy because the production process involved in making raw materials is taken out of the equation. Even if you don’t make the U.S. Men’s or Women’s National Soccer team, you can do your part. Consider buying recycled materials, and the planet will thank you.

   

Tools for Monitoring Home Energy Usage

You don’t have to be reliant on your monthly electric bill to enlighten you on your home electricity usage. There are devices that can help you identify your biggest household electricity loads and calculate electrical expenses, which can help you convince your family to adopt energy-saving behaviors.

 

 

Plug-In Watt Meter

 

In-Text Plugin-Watts

Cost: $25-$80

By measuring the watts of electrical devices, a watt meter helps you find your home’s energy hogs and their costs. These inexpensive, easy-to-use meters can be found online or in hardware stores, and come as handheld devices or in the form of power strips. Simply plug any electrical device into the meter, and plug the meter into a socket. Turn on the device, and the meter’s LCD display tells you how much electricity the item is drawing at that moment, or leave it plugged in to see the energy usage over a period of time. Most meters allow you to enter your electric company’s cost per kilowatt hour (check your electric bill for the rate), and then calculate cost by the day, month, or year.

 

Use your watt meter on an old freezer in the basement or a space heater while it warms up a cold room. You may be surprised enough at the costs that you’ll feel compelled to test all of your appliances, televisions, and computers. Don’t forget to check your cell phone charger even when your phone is not plugged into it! If you plan to buy a new appliance, use the meter to measure your current one, and compare its wattage/cost with the projected cost of new ones in the store.

 

 

Whole House Energy Monitor

 

In-Text House-Monitor

Cost: $150-$500

Gain even more insight about energy usage and power costs with a whole house energy monitor. Typically, these monitors connect to your home’s main breaker panel, electric meter or electrical supply cables. You can install the system yourself, but it is safer to have an electrician do it for you. Once set up, the monitor provides real-time usage readings every 3-30 seconds from either a wireless counter top monitor, a website, or a smartphone app. Basic systems display your home’s total power usage so you can see the time of day or months you use the most energy. The monitors give you a direct cost readout and will archive years of data.

 

Also found online and in stores, whole house monitors are ideal for calculating costs on non-plug components, such as alarm systems, lighting circuits or central air units. But depending on your home’s electrical setup, more advanced systems will also gather data for individual rooms, circuits and appliances, and allow you to raise or lower thermostat temperatures remotely. Many monitors allow you to set daily energy targets to alert you via email or text when you’ve exceeded your total.

 

Whether you use a simple meter or an advanced monitor, you will get a return on your investment only if you use the data to help you determine how to adjust your family’s energy consumption. Then with a strategy in place, you can begin to reap the benefits of saving money on your home energy bills!

 

* Whole House Energy Monitor Image Credit

   

ENERGY STAR Announces Top Cities for 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency recently disclosed what it considers the nation’s most energy efficient cities. The 2016 ENERGY STAR® Top Cities rankings reflect how a city’s buildings contribute to “stronger economies, healthier communities, and cleaner air for all of us.”

 

 

Number One

 

Number OneFor the second year in a row, Washington, D.C., took the top honor as the city with the most ENERGY STAR buildings for 2015. It was followed by Los Angeles and San Francisco. Atlanta and NYC rounded out the top five.

 

On a side note, The Washington Post reported Boston as the “top city in the country for saving energy” in 2015, based on the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) City Scorecard. The ACEEE placed the nation’s capital in third place.

 

 

The Ranking Process

 

The Ranking ProcessThe ENERGY STAR survey ranked each city on the energy efficiency of its buildings. The top cities’ energy savings added up to millions of dollars, while also sparing the environment. The EPA claims that city buildings consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy, even while taking up just two percent of the global landmass.

 

 

What’s at Stake?

 

What’s at StakeBy reducing emissions via energy efficiency, ENERGY STAR rated buildings have saved more than $3.8 billion since 1999. The EPA explains, it would take roughly 2.6 million homes to prevent the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 

Healthier Environment, Healthier Economy

 

Healthier Environment, Healthier EconomyEnergy efficiency in city buildings not only contributes to cleaner air and healthier communities, it also improves the economy. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explains, “Money saved on energy bills can boost the bottom line and be reinvested.”

 

 

On a Smaller Scale

 

On a Smaller ScaleIt’s not just the major metro areas making an energy impact. Smaller cities are doing their part, too. San Jose, Honolulu, and Virginia Beach took top honors for mid-size cities. Midland, Texas, Sioux City, Iowa, and Martinsville, Virginia, were the top three small cities.

 

 

See where your city ranks in the 2016 ENERGY STAR Top Cities.

   

Rain Barrels Save Water and the Environment

What’s happening in California provides further evidence that water is a limited resource. Overuse not only hurts the environment. It also hurts those who live in it. According to a Tampa Bay Times article, rain barrels can be an effective solution for conserving water.

 

 

Choosing the Right Rain Barrel

 

Choosing the Right Rain BarrelYour best choice depends on your budget, space, and to a lesser degree, your sense of style. Whether you search online or head to your local gardening shop, you should find a good selection available. Be careful to check the measurements of both the barrel and the space it will occupy. Prices typically start at more than $100. If cost is an issue, you can find directions for creating your own at DIY Network.

 

 

Placement of Your Rain Barrel

 

Placement of Your Rain BarrelSince a typical summer rainstorm can easily fill most rain barrels and cause overflow, make sure you place yours in an area that can effectively drain water – without ruining your home’s foundation in the process. Some barrels have overflow spouts allowing you to direct the drainage.

 

Be careful not to block a sidewalk or frequently used area. A full rain barrel can be extremely difficult to move.

 

 

Using Water from a Rain Barrel

 

Using Water from a Rain BarrelThe captured water needs to be easily accessible. In most cases, this will mean dunking a watering can into the barrel. If your barrel has a spigot, make sure a reasonably sized can will fit underneath the valve.

 

 

Safety Precautions

 

Safety PrecautionsIt’s important to have some type of screen closure covering the top of your rain barrel – preferably one that latches. The goal is to keep mosquitoes out and children safe. Don’t create an environment where mosquitoes can lay eggs, or children could endanger themselves. You’ll find additional safety tips here.

 

 

No Effort Is Too Small

 

No Effort Is Too SmallEven a little water collection is better than none. Returning groundwater to the ground – while bypassing our overworked sewage system – is a win-win for the environment and its inhabitants – especially those who like to flush their toilets frequently.

   

Become an Energy Conservation Advocate

There are endless ways you can be an advocate for energy conservation, from simple, energy-saving tasks that you can do every day to spreading the word to family and friends by, perhaps, sharing this blog. (Please do!) But there’s also a lot you can do at the government level and there’s an organization in Washington, D.C. called Alliance To Save Energy (ASE) that makes it easier than ever to get involved.

 

 

Explore ASE.org

 

Explore ASE.orgLog onto ASE.org, go to the Get Involved page, and click on the Take Action box. There you’ll find information on important initiatives that you can contact your government officials about, whether it’s your congressmen, governor or state representatives. Each initiative has a page with the pertinent information and statistics surrounding it, making it easy to understand. You’ll also find a “Legislator Lookup” box on the right side of the page that lists all of the legislators in your area and their contact information.

 

The ASE also provides several ways for you to stay informed. Alerts about the latest initiatives and how you can help can be emailed right to your inbox. You can also sign up to receive the latest news on issues that are important to you. Their News and Resources page gives you access to their newsroom, blog, energy conservation issues that are trending on social media, and much more.

 

 

Energy 2030

 

Energy 2030You can also learn more about their grassroots approach, Energy 2030. They’ll be visiting a total of 12 states throughout 2015/16 to drum up support for their energy policy recommendations. Energy 2030’s goal is to double energy production in the U.S. by 2030. Their mission also aims to lower energy costs, create jobs, lower imports, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

So check it out and up your game on energy conservation. ASE makes it easy to become a part of the movement. You may even be able to eventually call yourself a bona fide activist. Mother Nature thanks you in advance.

   

Energy Calculators and Other Nifty Tools

Because it’s in everyone’s best interests to lower our energy consumption, there’s a surprising amount of tools out there to promote energy conservation. Here’s a look at a few resources offered right online.

 

 

ENERGY STAR Calculators

 

ENERGY STAR CalculatorsThe U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set strict guidelines for products to prevent greenhouse gas emissions. Products that meet these high standards are awarded with an ENERGY STAR designation. They’ve also made it possible to see how much energy and money these ENERGY STAR products can save with interactive calculators.

 

The calculators vary from product to product but they’re all designed to provide a ballpark of savings. For example, the calculator for an ENERGY STAR central air conditioner has you choose your city and fill in such information as your electric rate, cost of the unit, and its Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating – or you can just use their average default values. Then it calculates how much you can save with an ENERGY STAR central air conditioner and gives you a summary of benefits, which in this case is the following:

 

energy-savings-calculator

 

ENERGY STAR Home Advisor

ENERGY STAR Home Advisor
With the ENERGY STAR Home Advisor program, you create an online profile of your home’s energy use. It then analyzes your data and gives you customized recommendations on how you can improve your energy efficiency. Then, you can create a to-do list and keep track of your progress, making it easier to manage the process and ultimately, save more energy. Pretty cool, huh? Check it out.

 

 

Energy Incentives by State

 

Energy Incentives by StateDSIRE – a nationally-funded initiative at the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University – makes it easy to see what incentives are available in your particular state with an interactive map of the U.S. You click on your state, choose a program type and a technology, then a list of incentives appears. It also lists the latest policies that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. Updated in real-time through database content, it’s the most comprehensive resource of this type of information in the nation. Take a look at the incentives offered in your state. It’s encouraging to see that so many rewards and policies are in place to help shape a more efficient future.

   

The Mind-Blowing Benefits of Wind Energy

From creating thousands of new manufacturing jobs to being a clean and renewable energy source, wind energy has been the energy industry’s darling for more than a decade. Here are some interesting facts from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

 

Wind power in the U.S. is…

 

  • Generating electricity with zero emissions, pollution and water use
  • One of the fastest-growing sources of new electricity supply
  • The largest source of new renewable power generation added since 2000
  • The employer of 73,000 people in more than 500 manufacturing facilities
  • The generator of enough electricity in 2014 to power the equivalent of 16.7 million homes

 

 

Blow Off Your Power Bill

 

Blow Off Your Power BillConsider this: according to the AWEA, a small wind turbine could generate enough energy to cover the electricity costs of the typical American home. It’s true that a small wind turbine isn’t cheap – you’re looking at least $4,000, but you can fully recover the cost in as little as six years. The U.S. government also gives a 30% federal Investment Tax Credit for fully certified wind turbines. If you’re thinking of buying one for your house, here’s the list of certified small wind turbines.

 

As appealing as never having to pay your power bill again sounds, wind energy is, unfortunately, not for everyone. There are some basic requirements:

 

  • You live in an area that has adequate source of wind
  • You live on at least one acre of land
  • Your area is zoned to allow wind turbines
  • Your electricity bill is $150/month or more on average

If you’re still interested, learn everything there is to know about small wind electric systems in this consumer’s guide from the U.S. Department of Energy. And you can still support wind energy by joining the AWEA’s community of advocates.