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 Saving Tips For Your Bathroom

Large amounts of heat, water and lighting are used daily in the bathroom by every member of the household. Consider these tips to make your bathroom most efficient, use the least amount of energy, and save the most money.

 

 

Shower

 

Shower Energy Saving Tips For Your BathroomNearly half of water consumed in a home comes from the bathroom. Conserve water simply by switching from baths to showers. The average bath uses 35-50 gallons of water, whereas a 10-minute shower uses 25 gallons. Change your showerhead to a low-flow fixture of -2.5 gallons per minute, and you’ll save up to $145 per year on electricity, too.

 

 

Sink

 

Sink Energy Saving Tips For Your BathroomAt the sink, it pays to turn off the faucet when brushing teeth, shaving, or washing your face. Take a Saturday to fix a leaky faucet. A hot water leak can add $40 to yearly costs. One of the most cost-effective conservation measures is to install a faucet aerator. Aerators lower flow by adding air to the spray and for a few dollars, you can save 4-7% of total water consumption.

 

 

Lighting

 

Light Energy Saving Tips For Your BathroomBathroom lights are one of the most used light sources in the home, so turn them off when leaving the room! Vanity lighting is pretty but requires a lot of energy. Make the switch to ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). They provide quality bright lighting, use 10-50% less energy, and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

 

 

Toilets

 

Toilet Energy Saving Tips For Your BathroomMore than 25 percent of water used in the home is for the toilet. Older models use up to five gallons of water per flush, but high-efficiency toilets cut usage to 1.6 gallons. Dual-flush toilets have two flush buttons: a 1.6 gallon flush for solids and 0.9 for liquids, saving 50% of water used per flush. Water displacement devices like a brick or water bottle can work in the short-term, but be aware they may cause damage to the flushing mechanism. To test if you have a leaky toilet add a few drops of food coloring to the tank, and wait 15 minutes. If the dye appears inside the bowl, you have a leak to fix.

 

 

Air Flow

 

Fan Energy Saving Tips For Your BathroomMoisture causes more than mold. It can shorten the lifespan of lightbulbs and produce larger problems in attics and your overall structure. Make sure your bathroom fan is vented to go outside and not into upper home areas.

 

For maximum energy efficiency, clean your bathroom fan regularly, and install a timer to shut off the fan 15 minutes after showers. In the winter, set up a fan in the doorway to bring in warm, dry air and to force moisture back into other rooms. Older fans often bring in cold outside air, especially if they are left on, but you can retrofit a butterfly value to stop intake. Ultimately, it’s best to replace your old fan with a new high-quality one that sucks moisture out quickly and has a built-in timer and butterfly valve.

 

By implementing even a few of these ideas, your energy efficiency efforts in the bathroom will save you money down the road.

   

Celebrate the Energy-Savings and Other Benefits of Window Film!

There is no better season to celebrate window film and its amazing benefits than the holiday season! Between energy savings and health benefits, we really can’t find a reason why you shouldn’t invest in window film in the new year. Thanks to the International Window Film Association, here are 10 reasons we are celebrating window film to ring in 2017!

 

  1. Window film can help cut home cooling costs: reduce the heat in your home with window film. Your central air system shouldn’t have to work so hard.
  2. Go “green” or go home: did you know that many neighborhoods offer incentives for green projects? You can even receive tax reductions for window film installation. 
  3. Say goodbye to glare: don’t you hate when there’s a glare on the television or through the window? With window film, glare is never a problem.
  4. Protect your home and your family: you never know what could happen. Whether severe weather strikes, or the neighbor’s lawnmower throws a rock at your window, window film can stop the glass from shattering. 
  5. Alternative to window replacement: wanting to save energy in your home but don’t want to invest in new windows? Try window film instead—it’s less expensive!
  6. UV rays penetrate your home and car windows: however, with window film, you’re protected. The most harmful UV rays are blocked by window film.
  7. Customize, customize, customize: give your windows a sleek look with your choice of window film. Whether you want something tinted or transparent, window film can help give your home or office a look of its own.
  8. Sight for sore eyes: did you know that untreated windows only protect your eyes from 25 percent of UV rays? Window film can increase that percentage!
  9. Protect your investments: home furnishings aren’t cheap. Protect them with a layer of window film and keep them from undergoing sun damage.
  10. Large, small, high, or low, window film doesn’t discriminate: regardless of the size or location of your windows, window film can be installed no matter what!

 

Save money and energy, protect your home and family, and add some design and aesthetic to your home. There’s no downside to window film, so celebrate with us and put it on your to-do list for the new year!

   

Top 5 Energy-Efficient Countries Series: Japan and Italy

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, national, and transportation efforts to reduce energy usage. Each country earns their spot according to accumulated efforts over the previous year.

 

Italy and Japan have tied at number two. Here’s a look at a few highlights.

 

 

National Efforts

 

National EffortsJapan came in second in the national efforts category based on the ACEEE report. The country has made a large reduction in energy intensity between 2000 and 2013. Japan also has strong energy saving goals, such as regulating criteria for energy efficiency and setting minimum energy performance standards for energy-consuming devices. With one of the most efficient thermoelectric power systems, Japan is able to utilize heat from solid waste. Italy, on the other hand, needs to improve its national efforts and invest more money into energy efficiency programs. Even though Italy is committed to an energy-savings target under the European Union’s Energy Efficiency Direction, it only saw a 9 percent reduction in overall energy intensity between 2000 and 2013. However, Italy’s strong showing in other areas helped it to tie for the number two spot.

 

 

Transportation

 

TransportationBoth countries tied with 16 points in the area of conserving energy through transportation. Italy participates in the EU’s vehicle standards program and plans to reach up to 56.9 mpg fleet-wide by 2025. Currently, Italy’s average mpg per vehicle is about 38.6. Japan established the first fuel economy program for heavy-duty vehicles in 2005 and is one of only four countries to do so to date. Japan also hopes to reach a fleet-wide 45.9 mpg by 2025.

 

 

Industry

 

IndustryItaly has set standards in the industrial sector by establishing energy conservation targets. The country now requires all plant managers to meet these targets while implementing periodic audits. According to Italy’s report, a market-based energy efficiency scheme is the key to achieving the country’s industrial sector’s savings goal, which is set at 5.1 Mtoe (Million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent). Japan also did very well in this section of the analysis. Japan’s efforts toward a more energy-efficient industry include regulatory measures and voluntary actions. For example, The Act Concerning the Rational Use of Energy set mandatory requirements for designated industries back in 1978 and continues to be the foundation of standards, updated every year.

 

 

Some of these requirements include appointing an energy manager that reports the status of energy consumption annually and implementing a benchmark system that requires companies to set medium and long-term energy-saving goals. However, Japan could also improve in this section of the analysis by implementing more government support and financial backing.

   

Save Energy This Thanksgiving Holiday

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the time has come to start planning for the big family meal and gathering. Between deciding on side-dishes and finding the juiciest turkey, thinking about the excessive amount of energy wasted while cooking the Thanksgiving feast simply just doesn’t make it on the list of “to-dos”. Lucky for you, we’ve done the thinking for you, and have a few tips to keep you from gobbling up energy this Thanksgiving holiday.

 

 

Before the Festivities Begin

 

Before the Festivities Begin - In-Text ImagesGo ahead and plan out your meal by thinking about what side-dishes can be cooked at the same time the turkey is in the oven. If certain dishes can be cooked at the same temperature, you’ll cut the amount of time your oven is working dramatically. Also, consider turning down your thermostat. The oven will keep your home relatively warm, not to mention the extra bodies from out of state roaming around the house.

 

 

While You’re Cooking

 

While You're Cooking - In-Text ImagesUsing ceramic or glass cooking wear will allow you to turn your oven down about 25 degrees and achieve the same results. Ceramic and glass retain heat very well, so your dishes will continue the cooking process even when they’re taken out of the oven. Also, stay mindful of your microwave, toaster oven, and slow-cooker. These devices use a lot less energy than your oven and stovetop, and can produce the same products without overworking your other appliances. That being said, make sure you resist the temptation to peek inside your slow-cooker. Each time the lid is removed, heat is released and can add about 25 minutes to cooking time. This rule goes for your oven as well!

 

 

The Cleanup

 

The Cleanup- In-Text ImagesThere’s nothing worse than having a full belly and cleaning the dishes of your entire family. But what if we told you that your traditional way of cleaning up after the Thanksgiving meal is not only wasting energy and water, but also wasting your time? A lot of people tend to rinse their dishes fully before putting them in the dishwasher. This actually wastes a lot of water and frankly, isn’t necessary. Dishwashers are designed to extract those tough food remains from your dishes. So, try dry scraping your dishes rather than washing them before placing them into the dishwasher. To save even more energy, turn off your dishwasher before the heated dry cycle begins. Simply open the appliance door and let the dishes air dry.

   

Skylights: Where Interior Design Meets Energy Savings

It’s no secret that a skylight can draw a lot of positive attention to a home. They’re stylish, provide beautiful natural light, and add a modern touch to the traditional ceiling. However, they do much more for a home than amping up its interior design. Skylights do a lot for energy savings and have become a favorite amongst “green” homeowners.

 

Skylights have become such a popularity because of their ability to provide the warmth and brightness of natural light. Lightening up even the darkest of corners, skylights are a great source of light for large living areas. Using more natural light can lower an electricity bill significantly, not to mention the benefits of losing that harsh iridescent light in a home.

 

These ceiling windows are also a great source for both heat and crisp air. For those who live in colder climates, a skylight can provide warmth during the winter months by emitting heat from the sun into a living space. They can also be opened and closed, allowing a home to be filled with colder air, lessening the need to run the air conditioning.

 

 

Types of Skylights

 

Skylights- Where Interior Design meets Energy Savings - VentedVented: this is what most would consider the “traditional” style. This skylight can be opened to provide ventilation to a room and also allows natural light to fill the area below. The vented style is often sold in the more traditional square and rectangular shapes.

 

 

Skylights- Where Interior Design meets Energy Savings - TubularTubular: rather than the traditional square or rectangular style windows, tubular skylights are rounded and meant to emit smaller amounts of light. This style ranges from 10 inches in diameter to 21 inches in diameter. Tubular skylights are not used for ventilation.

 

 

Skylights- Where Interior Design meets Energy Savings- FixedFixed: this style does not open to allow ventilation, but does, however, still provide a beautiful natural light to any room. The fixed style is used mostly for design and warming abilities and can vary in shape.

 

 

These beautiful windows can make a very efficient and stylish accent to any home. Not only are skylights perfect to modernize and increase the interior design of any living space, but they also provide energy savings, which in turn, means monetary savings as well!

 

Enjoy even more energy savings by adding Madico Window Films to your skylight! To find a dealer in your area, call 888-887-2022 or email windowfilm@madicomain.wpengine.com.

 

 

Image credits:
Veluxusa, Solatube

   

How is Your Local Grocery Store Saving Energy?

Companies everywhere are taking the initiative to “go green” and adopt better practices to save energy and benefit the environment – even your local grocery chain. Check out these chains and their plans to be more conscious about conserving energy and preserving natural habitats.

 

 

Publix

 

PublixPublix Food and Pharmacy has devised a plan to focus on energy conservation, reduce waste, recycle, and conserve water. Beginning at the root with the chain’s associates, Publix is encouraging all employees to create environmentally responsible habits both at work and at home.

 

Publix has saved over one billion kilowatt hours, which is equal to 760,000 tons of greenhouse gas through lighting and refrigeration improvements. Companywide, Publix has reduced electricity usage by 9.6 percent. The chain is also working with Florida Solar Energy Center to introduce photovoltaic systems into retail operations.

 

 

Kroger

 

KrogerIn an attempt to make more environmentally safe decisions, Kroger has committed to minimizing waste at all of its locations.

 

Many of its newer stores are developed with multiple energy-efficient features. They’ve implemented LED lighting, variable speed drives, anti-sweat heat control, and distributed refrigeration systems. They have also taken on the “zero waste” initiative through recycling, donating to food banks, and reducing packaging. Kroger also saved 16 million gallons of water in 2015 with water conservation techniques such as recirculation.

 

 

Harris Teeter

 

Harris TeeterHarris Teeter prides itself on “balancing business practices with its environmental responsibilities”. The chain also encourages its suppliers to explore the benefits and eventually incorporate “green” practices as well.

 

As a part of the GreenChill program, they have implemented the use of environmentally friendly refrigerators. Not only does this conserve energy, but it saves the chain money as well. Harris Teeter’s produce bags are 100 percent biodegradable and the paper grocery bags are produced from 100 percent recycled paper as a part of their paper reduction and anti-waste plan.

 

 

Walmart

 

WalmartWalmart, one of the largest grocery/retail stores in America, has committed to multiple programs that promote preserving the environment.

 

With the Zero-Waste-to-Landfill program, 81 percent of the materials are being diverted from landfills. Walmart has also committed to finding cleaner and more affordable energy for all of its locations. Not only has the company itself taken on more responsibilities to “go green”, but they have also helped their suppliers make more environmentally conscious decisions so that customers can trust in the brands they sell.

 

While these are only a handful of the grocery stores making efforts to “go green”, many stores across the country and around the world have begun programs to become more environmentally friendly. Take a look around your local grocery store: what have they done to conserve energy and reduce waste? Think of ways you can become a part of their program and take the pledge to become environmentally responsible and “go green” as well!

   

Fannie Mae Finances Energy Efficiency

If you’ve ever considered energy efficient upgrades for your home, you now have an added incentive. In addition to federal tax credits and rebates, you can now get assistance for financing the improvements with help from Fannie Mae, reports DWM Magazine.

 

 

HomeStyle® Energy Mortgage

 

HomeStyle® Energy Mortgage-In-Text ImagesHomeStyle® Energy mortgage is a new Fannie Mae option that allows borrowers to finance energy-efficient improvements, such as insulation or window enhancements. Homeowners can borrow up to 15 percent of the appraised, as-completed value of the home in order to purchase the upgrades. Financing is available to both those looking to purchase homes and those who want to update their current homes.

 

 

Where to Find It

 

Where To Find It-In-Text ImageHomeStyle Energy mortgage is available from all approved Fannie Mae lenders. Borrowers can finance up to $3,500 in upgrades without an energy report, or upgrades above this limit with an energy report. Lenders are required to place funds into an escrow account.

 

 

Why It Makes Sense

 

Why It Makes Sense-In-Text ImageAccording to Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief credit officer, Carlos Perez, “HomeStyle Energy mortgage will be particularly helpful to borrowers who want to pay off debt for existing energy improvements. It will also benefit homeowners who want to make their home more comfortable and efficient.”

 

An article in Mother Earth News further validates the investment, explaining that, “Home energy efficiency improvements are good for your bank account, too, because money you invest in energy efficiency or renewable energy systems will pay off over time in reduced energy bills.”

 

 

What You Should Know Before Applying

 

What You Should Know Before Applying-In-Text ImageIn addition to making these loans available, Fannie Mae also makes them more affordable than typical home equity lines of credit, unsecured loans or vendor loans. Although most Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans aren’t eligible for Fannie Mae mortgages, they can be paid off using this option.

 

 

Learn more about HomeStyle Energy mortgage from Fannie Mae, or explore additional financing options and federal incentives offered for energy efficient upgrades.

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Bicycle Parking for a Healthier Planet

In a previous post, we discussed the first of three recent winners of Climate CoLab contests. Climate CoLab, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Center for Collective Intelligence, is the crowd-sourcing platform designed “to harness the collective intelligence of thousands of people from all around the world to address global climate change.”

 

Today, we look at the second Climate CoLab contest winner, this one in the category, “Designing High-Density Urban Bike Parking.” Participants were asked, “Is there a design solution that provides high-density, accessible, cost-effective bicycle parking in the urban context?”

 

 

The Flycycle Bike Rack

 

The Flycycle Bike RackThe winning design, submitted by Julia Hanson, a former urban planning student, and Jeff Olinger, an architect, built on previous rack designs to address the specific conditions of Cambridge’s Kendall Square. The team’s flycycle bike rack design took into consideration factors such as cost of materials, usable locations in the area, as well as the city’s bike rack regulations. Additional factors, such as compatibility with the square’s architecture, were also considered.

 

 

Fit for the Environment

 

Fit for the EnvironmentThe flycycle rack holds two bicycles on each frame in less space than the typical lollipop rack or inverted U rack, making it well suited to high density areas. Although Kendall Square offers many available locations for bike parking, these areas often disappear after a heavy snowfall. The flycycle bike rack cleverly elevates one side to lift an attached bike above a six-inch snowfall. The design also fits well with that of existing buildings, acting much like “attractive street furniture.”

 

flycyle 1

 

 

The Real Contest Winners

 

The Real Contest WinnersThe ultimate winners in the Climate CoLab series will be the inhabitants of our planet. Climate CoLab breaks down complex problems of climate change into smaller, more manageable ones, before asking its 130,000 community members to submit proposals. MIT plans to piece together the winning solutions to address the much broader issues impacting climate change. Anyone can join or participate in the process.

 

 

If you’d like to learn more about Climate CoLab contests, or how to become a member of the community, visit the Climate CoLab website.

   

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.