4 Spring Cleaning Tips for Energy Savings

It’s been a year, which means it’s time to start asking yourself a few questions. In the last 12 months, have you worn those bright red skinny jeans? How many times have you used two blenders at the same time? Did you change your furnace filter? When you think spring cleaning, you typically imagine going through closets-full of clothes and any overflowing cabinets. But if you aren’t thinking about cleaning up your home’s energy usage, you’re falling short.

As you overhaul your home this spring, think about these four energy-saving tips.

 

 

Tip 1: Dust it Off

 

Tip 1- Dust it OffDust balls don’t just make you sneeze. Even a thin layer of filth can inhibit the performance of your computer, ceiling fans, light bulbs and air vents. When your light bulbs are crystal-clear, they provide more light so you may not need to turn on as many. Energystar.gov estimates that just one extra bulb left on for eight hours a day can cost you $20 per year. Meanwhile, PC World says the buildup of dirt, hair and other debris can affect your computer’s cooling fans, or even push components out of place. This could not only cause your computer to run slowly, but possibly not at all. Take a minute to clean up your electronics before assuming they’re better left for the trash.

 

 

Tip 2: Filter Through Filters and Bulbs

 

Tip 2- Filter Through Filters and BulbsWhile you’re dusting off light fixtures, replace any incandescent bulbs with compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs that last much longer and pay for themselves in just over a year. Though you won’t be replacing CFL bulbs as often, you’ll still need to change furnace and air conditioning filters regularly. Otherwise, a dirty HVAC filter weighs down your system and makes it work harder than usual.

 

 

Tip 3: Plant a (Money-Saving) Tree

 

Tip 3- Plant a (Money-Saving) TreePlan to spruce up the outside of your house, too? Well, you should. Sunnier days and spring showers offer an opportune time to plant trees and flowers that will ultimately cut down on your home’s energy consumption. On the south and west sides of your house, plant a few trees that will lose their leaves in the fall. This smart and simple landscaping will shade your home in the summer and allow the sun to shine through the windows in the winter – it’s like free solar heating.

 

 

Tip 4: Seal the Deal

 

Tip 4- Seal the DealWhile washing windows and sliding glass doors, check to see if any of them could use weatherstripping or even just a good cleaning. You may have already sealed their edges, but this is a good time for a status update. The weatherstripping may need to be replaced completely, or the tracks may need to be wiped down. Clean tracks will help keep the seal tight, so air doesn’t escape or come in. According to Energystar.gov, you could save up to $200 annually by sealing air leaks and keeping your home well-insulated.

 

With a completely cleaned-up home, you’ll feel productive, your home will run more efficiently and your bank account will relax – at least until summer vacations start.

   

How to Save Energy at Work

If you’re like many homeowners, you’re trying to make your home more energy efficient so you have a lower electric bill. But energy efficiency doesn’t stop at home, you can also practice energy efficiency at work. Whether a business owner or employee, you can save energy at work and reduce the company’s electric bill with these simple tips.

 

 

Energy Vampires

 

Energy VampiresJust like at home, your office can fall victim to vampire energy. Vampire energy, also known as standby power, is when your appliance or electronic device is plugged in and uses electrical power regardless of whether it’s turned on or off. Most office equipment experiences only a small amount of energy drainage; however; that adds up over time, making up 10% or more of your electric bill. Avoiding the wrath of these energy-sucking vampires can be as simple as unplugging your phone charger when not in use. You can also purchase a power strip that kills the energy drain from these devices when powered off. Once you’ve determined the best power strip for your needs, you will reduce wasted energy consumption and your electric bill.

 

 

Office Electronics

 

Office ElectronicsComputers, monitors, copiers, and modems are the major office appliances that use the most electric in the office. A study done by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that computer notebooks use up the most amount of energy on standby power. These larger pieces of office equipment also contribute to internal heat gain. So even when you’re not using your device, heat still builds up and the AC continues to run. To avoid these issues, there are several steps you can take.

 

  • Avoid screen savers as they do not conserve energy and make computers a major target of vampire energy.
  • Sleep mode reduces your computer’s watt usage. If you are going to a meeting or making a coffee run, turn your computer to sleep mode to save electricity. In most cases, when you have your device on sleep mode, you can save more than $100 dollars per year. Major office appliances should be equipped with the sleep mode feature, and you should check with your manufacturer to ensure that your device is running as efficiently as possible.
  • Turn off your devices if you know you will not be using them for an extended period of time. This is the cheapest and easiest way to save energy on those office electronics because you do not need to spend any money and it only takes the effort of remembering to power down your device. If it’s plugged into a smart power strip, remember to shut off the device and then shut off the power strip. This can save you as much as $44 per computer annually.
  • Unplug your device if it is seldom used. It is important to remember that once the device is turned off, it should then be unplugged from the outlet to avoid vampire energy.

Try to be more conscious of how your office equipment is using up energy and identify what needs to be plugged in and what doesn’t. It could save you and your company money in the long run.

   

4 Wacky Ways to Save Energy

There are obvious ways to save energy on bills, such as installing a programmable thermostat or properly insulating your home from top to bottom. Then there’s alternative energy, like solar panels on your roof. Beyond that is a world of off-the-wall, out-of-the-box energy-saving ideas, which you may find surprisingly useful.

 

 

Pedal for Power

 

Pedal for PowerPedal-A-Watt is a bike stand that turns human power into energy watts. A well-conditioned cyclist could generate up to 400 watts, which is enough to power small household appliances. Pedal-A-Watt says a quick, 20-minute ride could power your laptop for over an hour.

 

 

Put Plants on Your Roof

 

Put Plants on Your RoofThis refers to a vegetative layer grown on top of your home, also known as “green roofs.” Depending on the structure and surface area you’re working with, this could mean a two-inch covering or a flourishing park with trees. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a conventional rooftop can get up to 90°F warmer than the air temperature. Green roofs, on the other hand, absorb heat, cooling the surface to below that of the surrounding air temperature. This natural insulator means you’ll be less reliant on traditional heating and cooling systems, helping you save on energy bills.

 

 

Outfit Your Outlets

 

Outfit Your OutletsYou’ve insulated your attic, basement and walls, but have you thought to clothe your outlets? What about your light switch panels? Well, it’s an option – and maybe a good idea. Covering these small, easily forgotten spots can help reduce drafts in your home. To create an airtight seal, you’ll need a pre-cut foam gasket that fits snuggly behind the outlet or switch plate. Look for a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listed foam, which means it’s been tested for flammability and approved for application.

 

 

Text to Turn on the Lights

 

Text to Turn on the LightsA 2012 study revealed American smartphone users ages 18 to 24 sent an average of 2,022 text messages per month. With that in mind, an innovator named Alexander Parker created a concept dubbed Push to Charge technology, which is based on piezoelectricity. Piezoelectricity is the electrical charge created by applied mechanical stress, or putting pressure on something. Parker’s idea is to utilize the effort of tapping buttons on a cell phone to generate watts. In theory, each button would create 0.5 watts every time it’s pressed. Doing the math, that means an average of 0.115 kW would be created each day, while most cell phone batteries require only about 0.012 kW a day to hold a charge. This same technology could be applied to keyboards to power a laptop that uses 15 to 45 watts per hour. Parker says his design uses all metal, so it’s recyclable, reusable and more efficient than using wall outlets as a source of energy. Though Push to Charge has yet to come to life in full form, piezoelectricity as a whole is still largely being studied for its potential applications.

 

Even if these unique – and somewhat quirky – concepts aren’t realistic for your home, hopefully they’ve inspired you to think beyond basic energy-saving tactics for the most money-saving benefit.

   

5 Tips to a Lower Water Heater Bill

In one day alone, the average household uses 64 gallons of water, equivalent to 23,360 gallons of water per year. It’s no wonder your water heater makes up almost 18% of your utility bills and is the second largest expense in your home. There are several ways you can reduce your water heater expenses which can be as simple as changing your habits.

 

 

Water Heater Maintenance

 

Water Heater MaintenanceDraining and cleaning your water heater every six months will make the system run more efficiently. It also avoids the chance of the bottom of your water heater rusting from sedimentation buildup. Debris can clog pipes and pollute your clean water, disrupting the water flow and costing you more money.

 

 

Use Less Hot Water

 

Use Less Hot WaterBetween showering, washing your hands, and running the dishwasher or washing machine, you use a large portion of hot water, driving up your water heating bills every year. According to Home Water Works, dishwashers use up to 15 gallons of water per load, a washing machine uses up to 40 gallons per load, and a shower uses an average of 2.5 gallons per minute. That is a large amount of hot water being consumed, but it can be managed. By reducing the time in the shower by two minutes per day, you would save 1,825 gallons of water per year!

 

 

Turn Down the Heat

 

Turn Down the HeatLowering the temperature of your water heater to 120⁰ Fahrenheit can reduce costs dramatically. You can cut energy costs by as much as 5% for every 10 degree drop in temperature.

 

 

Insulate Your Water Heater

 

Insulate Your Water HeaterIf you have an older water heater, chances are it is not insulated. Having an insulated water heater will reduce its standby heat loss by as much as 45% and can save you anywhere from 4% to 9% in costs. Insulation jackets should be placed around the water heater, but should not cover the thermostat or other appliance components mentioned in the manufacturer’s recommendations.

 

 

Buy a New Water Heater

 

Buy a New Water HeaterApproximately 27 million U.S. households have a water heater greater than 10 years old, which becomes problematic as the average useful life ranges from 10 to 15 years. If you have the funds, the last option is buying a new, more energy efficient water heater altogether. There are many different styles to choose from. The most efficient type is a solar water heater, saving 50% more energy than gas or electric water heaters.

 

Try some of these different tips to see how they reduce your water heating costs.

   

Saving Energy in Every Room

Not sure how to lower your energy costs? There are opportunities in every room of your home to become more energy efficient. You just have to know where to look!

 

Saving Energy in Every Room-Infographic 002

 

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Here’s a closer look at more energy saving tips by room:

   

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.

   

A Week’s Worth of Energy Saving Tips

No matter what day of the week it is, there’s always an opportunity to employ simple energy saving tips to help you in your home.

 

 

Sunday

 

SundayTime for laundry. Unless you have heavily soiled items, wash with cold water. According to the energystar.gov website, water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to operate the washer. You can help your dryer run more efficiently by cleaning the lint filter after every use, and not over-drying your clothes. If 50 minutes works, don’t set the time to 70 minutes.

 

 

Monday

 

MondayBegin the energy savings process before heading off to work by preparing your home for the decrease in family activity time. Unplug electronics and chargers; turn off lights and fans; close curtains from summer heat, or angle blinds upward in winter to capture daytime sun warmth. Raise or lower your thermostat to keep it from running too frequently in an empty house.

 

 

Tuesday

 

TuesdayFrustrated with the electric bill that came in the mail today? Walk over to the water heater and check the temperature setting. Most water heaters are set at 140 degrees, but could be just as effective at 120 degrees, which according to the EPA, provides the potential to cut costs by 6-10%. For electric water heaters, save money by installing an inexpensive timer that turns it off at night when you aren’t using hot water.

 

 

Wednesday

 

WednesdayYou’re going to need extra coffee this morning to get through “hump day.” Instead of leaving your coffee maker’s warmer on while getting ready, shut it off as soon as the brewing is complete and pour the rest into a thermos to keep it warm. Why? Even immediately powering down this simple appliance offers nearly 23% energy savings compared to leaving it on for more than an hour.

 

 

Thursday

 

ThursdayRunning errands? Pop in the hardware store, and get caulk or weatherstripping to seal air leaks. Dirty spots on your ceiling paint and carpet may indicate air leaks that need caulking at joints and joists. Hold an incense stick near plumbing fixtures, electrical boxes, and ceiling fixtures. If the smoke moves horizontally, seal up these air leaks as well.

 

 

Friday

 

FridayBackyard get-together tonight! Conserve water by cleaning driveways and sidewalks with a broom instead of a hose. Accent your space with solar lights and candles in place of bulb energy. Leave the stove off, and put your grill-master to work. Unplug your portable music player, and use rechargeable batteries to power up background music. Get the kids away from energy-draining video games, and plan some electricity-free competitions!

 

 

Saturday

 

SaturdayWhen you get the duster out to clean, don’t forget to use it on light fixtures and bulbs. Dust can absorb 50% of light, making you want to turn on more lighting than necessary. Dusty air conditioner or furnace filters, refrigerator coils and vents all add to more energy usage as well. Even dust on electronics can force their fans and motors to run harder, eating up more electricity.

Every day brings a chance to make little changes in your life and home, and that includes small steps you can take to become more energy efficient.

   

Have Yourself An Energy Efficient Christmas

Christmas is one of the most energy-consuming times of year for homes. Before you untangle those bulky, traditional bulbs again, consider these lighting options that can help you save energy and money.

 

 

LED Lighting

 

LED LightingWhat’s the big deal with LED (light-emitting diode) holiday lights? You can reap up to 70-90% energy savings! Your old incandescent or florescent lights consume between 40-175 watts of power per string, while an LED string consumes just 2-4 watts. According to the energystar.gov website, the energy of one 7-watt incandescent bulb can power 140 LED bulbs, which equates to two 24-foot strings. Additionally, low-wattage LED lights allow you to connect up to 24 strings end-to-end without overloading a wall socket. You may pay a little more at the register for LEDs, but their expected lifespan is up to 50,000 hours, which means you won’t have to replace strings as often—if ever.

 

 

Rope Lights

 

Rope LightsTypically, rope lights use miniature incandescent bulbs spaced apart in flexible plastic tubing. There are LED rope lights on the market, but if you can’t find them in your store, you can still save energy with standard ropes. The tiny incandescents consume only 0.5 watts of electricity per foot and can last more than 20,000 hours.

 

 

Fiber Optic Tree

 

Fiber Optic TreeThinking about getting a new Christmas tree? Save energy with a fiber optic tree. These trees use a single bulb to transmit electricity along tiny fibers throughout the branches. The fibers light up the entire tree, often in alternating colors, and stay cool to the touch. With only one 5-20 watt bulb consuming energy on your tree, you are saving money and eliminating the task of hanging and removing lights.

 

 

Energy Saving Timer

 

Energy Saving TimerWhatever lights you use, leaving them on all day or after you’ve gone to bed runs up your electric bill unnecessarily. Invest in timers to turn on and off your outdoor and indoor lights for you. Inflatable decorations are some of the most energy-sucking items you can display (150-200 watts per hour), and timers eliminate the need to remember to shut off their fans and lights after viewing time has passed.

 

 

Electricity Free Decorating

 

Electricity Free DecoratingCandles are a great electric-free option that can be used in outdoor luminaries. Even with shorter daylight hours, solar-powered luminaries, strings, and ornaments can soak up enough sunlight to illuminate your yard or tree for plenty of enjoyment. If you just can’t give up tree lights, cut down the amount by decorating with shiny ornaments, garland or tinsel that reflect light and add brilliance. Turn off overhead lighting when your tree is on, and the soft glow will still provide enough light to navigate the room.

 

Even if you are competing to have the best neighborhood Christmas lights, it doesn’t mean you have to face the worst electric bill. Keep energy efficiency in mind during the holidays, and put a little extra holiday cash in your pocket.

   

Three Lessons We Can Learn From One Couple’s Quest to Make a Zero Net Energy Home

When Dan and Christine Fisher of Tampa built their South Tampa home more than 20 years ago, they knew they wanted it to one day be a zero net energy home. But they weren’t sure quite how to transform their home into one that produces an equal or greater amount of energy than it consumes. Twenty years later, after a series of trial and error upgrades and improvements, they’ve accomplished their goal. Here’s what we can learn from their quest to turn their 3,000 square foot home into a zero net energy dwelling.

 

 

1. A home any size can be a zero net energy home

 

A-home-any-size-can-be-a-zero-net-energy-homeAccording to 2010 U.S. Census data, the median square footage of an American home is just over 2100 square feet. The Fishers’ home is 42 percent bigger than that; it’s not exactly the type of floor plan one thinks when they think “energy efficient.” Many homes that are marketed for their energy savings are significantly smaller than even the average American floor plan. This makes sense logically: it’s easier to keep a small space warmer or colder than the outside environment.

 

But the Fishers’ journey shows us that size is not everything when it comes to energy efficiency. Their energy-saving measures—including the application of Madico’s Exterior 20 window film to all of their windows—brought their energy bills down a staggering 97 percent. You can accomplish this in your home, too, if you have enough patience, persistence, and know-how.

 

 

2. You don’t have to compromise

 

You-dont-have-to-compromiseThe Fishers knew that Florida’s tumultuous summer weather could pose a threat to their goal of a zero net energy home. A zero net energy home is all well and good, but it doesn’t count for much if a hurricane blows the roof off. Luckily, they invested in the kind of improvements that allowed for both a sturdy, hurricane-resistant structure and energy-saving goodness. When you’re considering energy-saving upgrades to your home, it’s important to remember that you can have it all.

 

 

3. Details matter

 

Details-matterWindow film might not be at the forefront of your mind when contemplating energy-saving upgrades to your home. But even small improvements matter a great deal in the long-term game of energy savings. The Fishers’ Madico Exterior 20 window film brought down their energy bill by four percent all by itself. If you’re smart like the Fishers and invest in a series of small but noticeable upgrades, you too can achieve the dream of owning a zero net energy home.

   

Fall and Winter Energy Saving Tips

Have you started backing off on your air conditioning? Maybe you’ve even pulled out a jacket to wear at night. That means it’s fall, and winter is not far behind. Prep your home for colder weather with these energy saving tips that keep you comfortable without increasing your energy bill.

 

Use Natural Light

 

Use Natural Light In textUse the sun’s heat to warm your home on sunny days by opening the window coverings of your south- and west-facing windows. You can warm rooms significantly with natural light even when the days are shorter, and you’ll get the maximum benefit of this tip if you keep your windows clean. Just be sure to close the blinds after sunset to keep drafts away.

 

 

Reverse Ceiling Fans

 

Reverse Ceiling Fans In TextMost of us will turn back the clock for the winter months, which is also a reminder to change your smoke alarm batteries. While you have the step stool out, change the direction of your ceiling fans, too. In colder months, ceiling fans should rotate clockwise. You know that hot air rises. By reversing the fan’s direction, you draw colder floor air to the ceiling, mixing it with warmer air and sending it back down your walls. This trick allows you to turn down the thermostat a bit to give your heating unit a break, but keep fans on the lowest setting or too much moving air can chill you instead.

 

 

Service Your System

 

Service Your System In TextWaiting to service your heating system after your unit breaks down is no fun. Think ahead and have your furnace or boiler professionally cleaned now. You’ll benefit from a thorough safety check as well. At the least, save energy by replacing your furnace filter every month as dirty filters force your unit to work harder. While doing fall cleanup outside, use a broom to dust off leaves and grass clippings around your HVAC equipment to help it run more efficiently.

 

 

Prep the Fireplace

 

Prep the Fireplace In TextIf you have a fireplace that isn’t used, seal it off to keep heat from escaping. For working fireplaces, keep the damper closed when the fire is out to avoid warm air going out the chimney. To push heat away from the chimney, the Department of Energy suggests opening the bottom dampers in the firebox or open a nearby window an inch and close the door to the room. When you throw a log on and snuggle up, don’t forget to lower the thermostat to 55°F.

 

 

Program Your Thermostat

 

Program Your Thermostat In TextAn electronic programmable thermostat saves energy by allowing you to change the temperature of your home throughout the day. These thermostats can store multiple daily settings and allow you to override them when needed. You can get up to 10 percent savings on heating costs by setting the thermostat 10-15 degrees lower while you are away or sleeping. Program the thermostat to heat up your home 30 minutes before you arrive or wake and you won’t sacrifice your comfort.

 

The crispness in the air that you’ve noticed is a sure sign the fun of fall and winter is on its way. By taking a few energy saving steps now, you’ll be set to keep your heating bill down and keep up the cozy in your home.