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 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 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.





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.





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!


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



Image credits:
Veluxusa, Solatube


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.



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.


Stars in the Fight Against Climate Change

As global warming and climate change continues to be an important issue and an increasingly prevalent part of the American conversation, here’s a look at some of its main activists.



In Hollywood


In HollywoodWhile there are too many Hollywood stars to name that are devoted to this issue, one stands above the rest because of his recent Oscar win as best actor. Leonardo Di Caprio has been acting for decades and finally won the grand prize this year. But he devoted almost all of his acceptance speech (broadcasted to the masses) to a message about climate change: “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” Watch the whole speech in the clip below.



In Washington, DC


In Washington DCSen. Bernie Sanders shares Leonardo’s view. Of the 2016 presidential candidates, he is by far the most dedicated to this issue, calling climate change “the single greatest threat facing our planet.” His solution? To invest in clean energy and create millions of jobs. In contrast, Donald Trump tweeted in 2012: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Here’s a recent NBC News story that gives an overview about how all of the presidential candidates feel about global warming and climate change.



Around the World


Around the WorldOne of the leading organizations that’s fighting climate change is, with an emphasis on uniting activists from around the world and implementing grass roots initiatives. One of its biggest fights in the U.S. was against the Keystone XL pipeline. According to Moyers & Company, was named for “what climate scientists say is the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — 350 parts per million (ppm). (We’ve now passed 400 ppm.)”


If you want to join the fight, here are some simple things you can do from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.


Wonders of Recycling: Plastic-Bottle Homes

According to EcoWatch, Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. So it’s good to know that there are now initiatives around the world that are building houses out of plastic water bottles.



Recycled Home Sweet Home


Recycled Home Sweet HomeEcotech developed the technique to build solid walls out of water bottles. The bottles are filled with sand and stacked sideways, then bound together with mud or cement. TakePart’s article reports that the structures are “well insulated, incredibly strong (20 times stronger than brick), fire resistant, and even bulletproof. A typical two-bedroom home with a toilet, a kitchen, and a living room requires 14,000 plastic bottles and costs a quarter of what a conventional house would.”



Community Initiatives in Developing Countries


Community Initiatives in Developing CountriesWhile the price is right, there is still much effort required by many people to collect bottles and fill them with sand. But the technique has proved to be successful in many developing countries with large homeless populations. Ecotech projects have organized clean-up campaigns and recycling drives within communities.


Locals also help to fill the bottles with sand and those who are unemployed and handicapped are trained to do the construction. In addition to homes, Ecotech has used water bottles to build everything from schools and community centers to water tanks and urban benches.


Check out these pictures from to see plastic-bottle homes, offices, buildings, greenhouses, and other structures in Honduras, Bolivia, Africa, Serbia, Taiwan, Argentina, and Tokyo. There’s even a picture of a bottle wall constructed in the world-famous Morimoto restaurant in New York City. It was made with 17,400 plastic bottles!



More Plastic Facts from Eco Watch


Before you go, here are a few more surprising facts about plastic.


  • Over the last 10 years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
  • The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production.
  • It takes 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade.

Get the complete list of facts here.