Game-Changing Energy Conservation Apps

Every day we see technology changing our world in ways we never dreamed possible. Too many apps to count hold the possibility to impact our daily lives, including those that help us conserve energy and fight global warming. Here’s a look at a few that are inciting change from the ground up by engaging individual action.

 

 

Making the Invisible Visible

 

Making the Invisible VisibleMost people have a hard time getting their heads around something as abstract as a carbon unit. To paint a clearer picture of your carbon footprint, My Earth – Track Your Carbon Savings, tracks your energy savings with the visual of an iceberg growing bigger – complete with a cute polar bear perched on top. A user-friendly diary format enables you to keep track of the energy you use and suggestions are given on how you can conserve energy. The more suggestions you implement, the bigger your iceberg gets. This app’s ingenuity lies in the fact that it provides an eye-opening look at your own true carbon footprint and how small changes in your day-to-day life can make a big difference.

 

 

Green Is the New Black

 

Green Is the New BlackAccording to Ian Monroe, the creator of the app Oroeco, going mainstream is a much more galvanizing way to bring about climate change than radical activism. His app also makes conserving energy an easy and fun game, but goes one step further by making the app linkable to Facebook, where you can compare your conservation performance to your friends. As you lower your footprint – and convince friends to – you earn points that can be redeemed for sustainable products.

 

To learn more, check out these “Top 10 Energy Efficiency Smartphone Apps” by the Alliance to Save Energy.

   

Nest: A Smart Thermostat That Promises to Save Energy

Making your home more energy efficient can be as simple as installing a programmable thermostat. There are many models on the market, so it’s important to be informed before buying one to ensure it fits your home’s needs.

 

 

The Buzz About the Nest

 

One brand that’s getting a lot of buzz is the Nest thermostat. Here’s what it’s reputed to do:

 

  • The Buzz About the NestNest takes programmable thermostats to a new level, according to the product’s website: it learns your heating and cooling habits after a few days, and then automatically adapts to those preferences to help you save energy.
  • Most people change the thermostat when they wake up, but Nest offers a an “Early-On” function touted to allow you to wake up to the exact temperature you want at the exact time you want.
  • Nest works in sync with the type of air system you have in your home, whether it’s forced air or radiant heat.
  • Some programmable thermostats flash or beep to remind you to change your air filter every 30 days. The Nest smart thermostat, however, gauges the condition of your air filter based on how you use your heating and cooling system — which may mean you could wait another month before changing your filter.
  • There’s an “Auto-Away” function, that according to the website, can activate as quickly as 30 minutes after you’ve left.
  • There’s an app for that! The Nest mobile app allows you to control up to 10 thermostats between two homes. Nest is compatible with most smartphones and tablets.

 

Consumers Put Nest to the Test

 

Consumers Put Nest to the TestConsumer Reports considers the Nest an innovator in its space, yet it doesn’t give this smart thermostat the top rating among other remote access models. According to Consumer Reports, the Nest’s greatest asset is its sleek display. That doesn’t mean it’s not easy to use. In fact, many users tout what a breeze it was to install their Nest, as well as the convenience and ease of controlling the unit remotely.

 

Some hang-ups mentioned in user reviews include a shaky WiFi connection and a faulty backplate, which can inadvertently run your A/C at the same time as your heat.

 

A Cnet.com editor took the Nest for a spin in his own home and found the Auto-Away and remote access features to be his favorite features. Again, set-up was considered as simple as installing a light fixture. However, the Cnet.com editor did mention that the Nest was not designed to sync perfectly with his 60-year-old home. Older wiring can be problematic even for the newest Nest model.

 

Another potential drawback for potential Nest users is the investment, at approximately $250 per unit. Homes with significant square footage may require multiple units, causing a larger upfront purchase and a longer wait for savings to offset the price tag.

 

 

The Bottom Line

 

The Bottom LineThe Nest thermostat is one example of the increase in popularity of smart technology in programmable thermostats. With nearly half of your monthly energy bills coming from heating and cooling, there’s great potential to save money with these types of devices. The Nest may be one option worth your consideration.

 

Photo Credit: Nest Thermostat

 

See Also: 5 Ways to Reduce Your Air Conditioning Bill – Now!

   

Buying a Home? Look for These Energy-Saving Features

A white picket fence, two-car garage and grade-A schools are no longer enough to sway today’s discerning homebuyers. If you’re in the market for a new home, your focus is likely on lower utility and maintenance costs, greater comfort and – naturally – a home that will appreciate in value over time.

 

A National Association of Home Builders’ survey from 2013 revealed that nine out of 10 shoppers would willingly pay up to 3% more for a house with energy-efficient functionality. When you’re looking for four walls to call your own, these five features can have the greatest impact on your long-term investment.

 

 

1. Economical Heating and Cooling

 

Economical Heating and CoolingHeating and cooling costs account for nearly half of your utility bill. Though a solar heating system would be the most efficient, it’s still a pretty rare find (and often too expensive). No matter what heating and cooling system is installed in a home, look for insulated ducts and a programmable thermostat.

 

 

 

2. Insulated Air Ducts

 

Insulated Air DuctsAccording to energystar.gov, about 20% of the air that moves through a home’s duct system is lost to leaks and holes. Insulating air ducts will help prevent this significant loss of energy and keep air temperature consistent and comfortable throughout the entire house. It may not be the first feature you look for when touring a home, but this sneaky energy waster is well worth a peek before purchasing.

 

 

3. Solid Walls

 

Solid WallsIn addition to the air ducts and windows, walls should be properly insulated to avoid heat lost through drafty spots. Eyeing a 1920s Dutch Colonial house? It may look sweet and charming on the outside, but its walls are most likely cavity walls. As the name implies, cavity walls have a hallow space between a sheet of brick and a sheet of concrete. Unless the previous homeowner made updates, there might not be insulation in these walls. Ask your Realtor®.

 

 

4. Proper Water Drainage

 

Proper Water DrainageHome Energy Rating System (HERS), a nationally recognized energy performance rating system, suggests checking how a home manages the flow of water. Angled drainpipes and graded landscaping should direct water away from the home to prevent damage to the walls, roof and foundation. Keeping moisture out of a home can help secure the air quality inside. These measures also protect the integrity of the home’s insulation and HVAC system, so they can continue to run effectively and efficiently.

 

 

5. ENERGY STAR Appliances

 

ENERGY STAR AppliancesThe National Association of Realtors® found that 68% of homebuyers want energy-efficient appliances, and who could blame them? An ENERGY STAR certified washing machine uses 50% less water than its conventional counterpart. From refrigerators to bathroom ventilation fans, all ENERGY STAR certified appliances use less energy and save you more money.

 

While location and price may be at the top of your must-have list, these five energy-saving features will largely determine how much money you save during your term as a homeowner.

 

See Also: Tools for Monitoring Home Energy Usage

   

4 Free Energy Savings Apps for Your Smartphone

Taking steps to save energy can be as simple as pulling out your smartphone. Download these apps to help make you smarter about energy efficiency. Best of all, they are free!

 

Click the app icons below to view and download in iTunes.

 

 

Energy Cost Calculator

 

Energy CostThe Energy Cost Calculator assesses the operating cost and energy usage of electrical equipment. First, enter your consumption per hour, the number of hours used daily, and the cost per wattage. The app breaks down your cost and energy usage per day, week, month and year. Available on iTunes.

 

 

JouleBug

 

JouleBugJouleBug is a fun tool that teaches you how to create energy efficiency habits that save money. The app guides you to perform simple sustainability tasks, and you are awarded points based on the cost savings and impact to the environment. Along with information on local initiatives, you’ll get supplemental educational stats, videos, and links that educate you further on the tips. The app gives you the ability to share to Facebook or Twitter and allows you to connect to your utility account to track your home energy usage. Available on Google Play and iTunes.

 

 

WattBuddy

 

WattBuddyFor data crunching junkies, Wattbuddy will measure your exact electricity usage all the way down to hourly intervals. Scan your analog electricity meter like a bar code or access your digital meter’s data and the app will also plot your historical usage to help you note patterns, fluctuations and inconsistencies. Depending on your location, the app can show you energy deals as well. Available on iTunes.

 

 

GasBuddy

 

GasBuddyWhy not save money on your vehicle’s energy usage, too? The easy-to-use GasBuddy directs you to the cheapest gas prices based on your current location. The app’s information is generated through its community of users. For every gas location and price you report, you earn points towards prize giveaways, including the daily opportunity to win $100 worth of gas. Available on Google Play and iTunes.

 

These days, you can find a mobile app for every aspect of your life, including energy efficiency. Right at your fingertips, these tools can help you save energy and might even decrease your budget in the process.

   

Energy Saving Tips for Your Basement and Attic

Your attic and basement might not be used as much as the rest of your home, but these spaces drain energy, too. In fact, the attic and basement can be a significant source of energy loss, so it can sometimes prove to be the greatest opportunity to make your home more energy efficient.

 

 

Basement

 

Fill Cracks Basement InTextBBasements are a common place for significant air leaks. If you have an unfinished basement or crawlspace, look for spider webs. If there is a web, there is a draft. Inspect vents, ducts, pipes, and electrical wires that lead to the outside. The Department of Energy recommends sealing small gaps with caulk, filling holes with spray foam, and covering large holes with spray foam and foamboard. Seal air ducts with mastic or foil tape and avoid cloth-backed, rubber adhesive. Be sure not to cover any of the vents for combustion appliances.

 

 

Basement Insulation InTextBasements are particularly susceptible to poor insulation, and a large amount of heat can be lost from an uninsulated basement. While insulating the basement ceiling or floor is a less intensive project, you’ll get better energy savings by adding insulation to the walls. Hire a certified professional to determine if you need interior or exterior insulation, estimate the return on investment, and install it properly to help avoid moisture issues later.

 

Waterheater InTextIf the water heater or washer/dryer is located in the basement, check if it’s time to upgrade to newer, more energy-efficient models. Insulate your water heater, as well as ducts and hot water pipes that pass through unheated areas of the basement. If you have a little-used old refrigerator or freezer in the basement, unplug it until it is needed.

 

 

Attic

 

Attic Fan InTextMake sure your attic is ventilated properly. In the summer, some attic power fans can draw cool conditioned air out of the house and pull in warm air into the house, causing your A/C unit to work harder. In the winter, decrease heat loss by covering your exhaust fan using a box to seal around the duct where it opens into the attic. Check that your vents are not blocked by insulation or later construction.

 

Attic Window Seal InTextThe attic is another location known for considerable air leakage, adding sometimes hundreds of dollars to your energy bills. Caulk wire holes and exteriors of windows and door frames, and seal around electrical boxes, air ducts, and returns. Pull-down attic stairs can be a huge source of air leakage so be sure the access door is properly sealed with weather-stripping and that it closes tightly.

 

Attic Insualtion InTextOnce you’ve finished air sealing, adding insulation to an unheated attic can make a big difference on energy savings, especially if you have hot or cold ceilings or uneven temperatures between rooms in the house. Check if you can see your ceiling joists. If so, it’s likely you need additional insulation. The Department of Energy notes that upgrading your attic insulation from three inches to 12 inches can cut heating costs by 20%, and cooling costs by 10%.

 

By taking steps like these, you’ll be able to keep your attic and basement energy efficient and ultimately save on your electric bill.