Cool Roofs

Made of reflective paint, tiles, or shingles, a cool roof can stay more than 30 percent cooler than a standard dark roof by reflecting more sunlight and absorbing less heat. So it can help you lower your air-conditioning costs and conserve energy. Pretty cool, huh?



Cool Benefits


Cool BenefitsWhen many buildings in a community have cool roofs, it can lesson what is called the “urban heat island effect,” which is the phenomenon of buildings soaking up the sun’s radiation and then re-radiating that heat after sundown. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lowering the amount of energy used to cool buildings “reduces local air temperatures; lowers peak electricity demand, which can help prevent power outages; and reduces power plant emissions, including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and mercury.”



Cool Savings


Cool SavingsMany types of cool roofs are the same price as standard roofs and some utility companies offer rebates. Beyond that, you’ll enjoy savings from a lower air-conditioning bill year after year. You can also receive up to $500 in a federal tax credit for a cool roof. Learn more about this federal tax credit.



Cool Roof Types


Cool Roof TypesThere are many different cool roof systems for both existing and new roofs. They all use thick coatings with reflective pigments. Some also offer restorative features and water protection. The Cool Roof Rating Council is a nonprofit organization that was created to conduct third-party tests and give accurate ratings on cool roof systems. You can search their online Rated Products Directory to compare options and find the cool roof that meets your needs. Check it out – it’s free!



Cool Walls, Too


Cool WallsYou can also use reflective paint on your exterior walls to cool your house – especially if you live in a warm climate. These “cool paints” are on the Federal Energy Management Program’s Promising Technologies List, which prioritizes technologies that help save energy but are underused.


3 Great Energy Conservation Websites for Kids

If you’re passionate about conserving energy and protecting our planet, one way you can help is by teaching the younger generation about energy conservation. These fun, interactive websites were created especially for kids and are filled with information about energy conservation. Pass on these links to the kids in your life. “The Quickest Ever Slideshow on Global Warming” to fun facts, this colorful site is filled with engaging activities and information. To show kids how they can save energy every day, it features a typical kid’s bedroom with interactive stars on items (click on “You Can Make Big Changes”). When you click on different stars, a window opens up to show how you can save energy with that particular item. Another neat feature is a section for parents and teachers (click on any internal page to see the gray “Parents & Teachers” tab on the bottom of the right side of the page) where you can download games and activities. website from the U.S. Energy Information Administration also acts as a resource for teachers, providing a whole range of energy lessons across all subjects and grade levels. In addition to giving all the basic information on energy, it offers a wealth of games and activities, including riddles, puzzles, and quizzes. Kids can learn about the latest adventures of “Energy Ant,” who travels all over the country on different energy field trips. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers “A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change” on this informative website. Kids are invited to go on climate change expeditions around the world where they watch videos to learn about different issues and complete challenges. They’re also invited to calculate their own emissions with an interactive calculator. These are just two of the exciting experiences that help kids learn about climate change, its effects, and ways they can save energy to help stop it.


Report Shows How Ultra High-Definition TVs Drain Energy

You wouldn’t think that one little word, ultra, would make such a big difference. But it turns out that going from a High-Definition (HD) TV to an Ultra High-Definition (UHD) TV does make a difference – a $1 billion difference according to a new report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).



Ultra Costs


Ultra CostsBasically, that would be the additional annual cost to U.S. viewers’ utility bills if everyone switched to UHD TVs without the energy-efficient bells and whistles. However, there are some UHD models, such as those that are ENERGY STAR certified, that are just as efficient as the HD TVs. But since there are no regulations in place enforcing those efficiencies for all of the UHD TVs, there are many that use almost one-third more energy on average.


“The national energy and environmental consequences of the transition to UHD TV will be profound unless the TV manufacturing industry devotes sufficient time and resources to improve the efficiency of the TVs brought to market,” explains senior scientist Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC’s Center for Energy Efficiency. “The good news is that there are steps consumers, manufacturers, and policymakers can take to make sure our newest-generation televisions are not needlessly wasting energy.”



What Consumers Can Do


What Consumers Can DoIf you’re thinking about buying a UHD TV, the simplest thing you can do is buy an ENERGY STAR certified one. You can shop using filters on the Find and Compare Products section of ENERGY STAR’S website. If you already own a UHD TV, make sure to enable the Automatic Brightness Control. If your UHD TV is connected to the Internet, turn off the quick start feature, which will stop the standby power from being used, which can add up to considerable energy use. There are probably other electronics and appliances throughout your home that are also drawing unnecessary energy. To learn more, read “Save Energy by Slaying Vampire Power.”


Shining Innovations for LED Lighting

New advanced products and lower prices continue to make LED lights a no-brainer for conserving energy. One new standout bulb is the 9.5-watt Cree LED Soft White, a 2016 Top Ten Reviews Gold award-winner, which lasts for up to 22.8 years! For just $7.97 a pop! The manufacturer, Cree, made Fast Company’s list of Most Innovative Companies 2015 for its breakthrough LED lighting technology.



The Incandescent Light Bulb’s More Energy-Efficient Twin


The Incandescent Light Bulb’s More Energy-Efficient TwinCree’s new 9.5-watt LED Soft White looks just like a traditional bulb. It fits into standard-size outlets. And it operates just as a traditional bulb would – lights immediately in all directions and dims without buzzing. But it uses up to 84% less energy, which earned it the trusted ENERGY STAR certification. Cree chief marketing officer Betty Noonan explains, “As a company on a mission for 100 percent LED adoption, we take pride in being risk-takers and disrupting the lighting industry with breakthrough, innovative products.”


To see how much money you can save with Cree LED bulbs, check out their savings calculator.



Dazzling Impact


Dazzling ImpactThe U.S. Department of Energy’s 2014 LED adoption report shines a light on just how impactful LED lighting can be to saving energy and money:

“Annual source energy savings from LEDs in 2014 were approximately 143 tBtu (equivalent to a cost savings of about $1.4 billion), but would have approached 4,896 tBtu (saving $49 billion) if all applications had switched “overnight” to the best-available LEDs.”


Indeed, more and more communities around the world are adopting LED lighting. For example, according to CleanTechnica, India is replacing all of its street lights with LED ones in the next two years. The projected annual savings of switching the 35 million street lights is “9000 million kWh of electricity annually, worth over $850 million.”



For even more bright ideas, see how you can save energy with solar lights, too.


Energy-Efficient Clothes Dryers Make a Big Impact

​According to the EPA, dryers use more energy than any other appliance in a household. This coupled with the fact that dryers are in 80 percent of American homes means more efficient dryers could make a huge impact on saving energy. While advancements in washers have resulted in dramatic drops in energy use over the years, more energy-efficient dryer options have only recently become available. Early in 2015 the EPA announced that new Energy Star-certified dryers were available across the U.S. from major brands like Kenmore and Maytag. These dryers are at least 20 percent more efficient than conventional dryers but most are comparable in price.

The EPA provides a pretty compelling snapshot of the energy-saving possibilities:


“If all residential clothes dryers sold in the U.S. were Energy Star-certified, Americans could save $1.5 billion each year in utility costs and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to the electricity use from more than 1.3 million homes.”


The specifications for Energy Star-certified dryers are set by collecting information from a number of different groups, from manufacturers to the U.S. Department of Energy. Most of the dryers meet the requirements by shutting off when clothes are dry, which is detectable through advanced sensors. Some of the Energy Star-certified dryers boast energy efficiency that surpasses conventional models by up to 60 percent. These dryers’ advanced technology use heat pumps to recycle the hot air.



Find An Energy Star-Certified Dryer


Find An Energy Star-Certified DryerThe Energy Star website has a page where you can learn about all of the certified dryers. The page makes it easy to shop, from the ability to filter your search and compare models and their features side by side. The site also has a number of other helpful tools in your search for an Energy Star-certified dryer:


Store Locators – where you can find Energy Star-certified dryers in your area
Special offers – find rebates and other special offers in your area
Video – watch the “Ask the Expert” video about Energy Star-certified dryers


If you’re not in the market for a dryer at this point, you can still take the Energy Star pledge and learn about other ways to save energy in your home.


Become an Energy Conservation Advocate

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





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


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



Energy 2030


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


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


Introducing Homeselfe: The Selfie Craze Meets Energy Efficiency

It’s an app that’s “fun, easy, and free” with a relevant name and a very relevant cause: energy efficiency. Homeselfe gives you a DIY snapshot of your home’s energy efficiency. Its user-friendly design teaches you where your home is wasting energy and what actions to take, listed in order of importance.



Taking the Homeselfe


Taking the HomeselfeHomeselfe creates your personal home snapshot through your answers to a series of questions. These questions focus on areas in your home that have the biggest impact on energy conservation, including:

  • Air Sealing
  • Appliances / Electronics
  • Attic Insulation
  • Duct System
  • Heating / Cooling System
  • Lighting
  • Refrigerator
  • Wall Insulation
  • Water Heater
  • Windows & Doors

Then you’ll receive your Homeselfe – a report that tells you where your home is most and least efficient and a plan of action, complete with energy-saving tips. If major upgrades are required, your Homeselfe will connect you to contractors, special offers, and government incentives in your area.



Going Green from the Ground Up


Going Green from the Ground UpHomeselfe joins a growing list of apps that aim to bring energy conservation down to a grassroots level. According to this article on Homeselfe’s website, “Many people get overwhelmed when thinking about how they could help reverse the effects of climate change on an entire planet; but every little decision to become more energy-efficient makes a difference and has an impact on the environment.”



From the White House to Your House


From the White House to Your HouseHomeselfe aligns itself with President Obama and his latest executive actions to fight climate change. “Our team here could not agree more with the president about our obligation to take steps toward a cleaner environment,” said Sukant Jain, creator of Homeselfe and CEO of Energy Datametrics. “We took that common passion and developed a tool to help homeowners.”


So go ahead, download the app and take a Homeselfe. Think of it as a very special selfie, snapped especially for Mother Earth.


Let’s Chat About Energy Conservation

John Portrait In-Text ImageToday we feature a conversation with green builder John Hill. He’s a graduate of Appalachian State University, a leading school for sustainability education and home to the longest running sustainable development program in the nation.



Q: Have you always been passionate about protecting the environment?


A: I’ve been interested in renewable energy technology since high school. So when I was ready to attend college, I researched universities and found Appalachian State. They had been teaching appropriate technology for a couple of decades and their list of courses looked super interesting. I worked my way through all of the course work and then some, eventually earning a degree.


Lets Chat About Energy Conservation - In-Text Quote 1 I really enjoyed the renewable energy courses as I thought I would, but ended up being more passionate about energy efficiency. The building science and sustainability courses forced me to consider the bigger picture of our energy use and consumption, as well as its generation. It was an eye opener to see how many systems and details need to work together to make the most durable, comfortable, and efficient buildings possible. As it turns out, our built environment uses a tremendous amount of the energy we produce. Also generating power is one of the largest impacts we have on planet earth and therefore on all of its present and future inhabitants. Which means building smarter, smaller, and more durable buildings can make a real impact. Low hanging fruit really.



Q: How did you get involved in the green building industry?


A: Once my wife and I settled into Boone, North Carolina (where Appalachian State is located), we realized that rent costs were pretty darn high. We decided to build a house while we were there, thinking we could use some of the strategies and technology that I was learning in school. The building business was booming in the area at that time and I couldn’t find a contractor interested in taking on a small alternative home, so I entered the building industry out of necessity. My wife and I, along with friends and occasionally a hired builder, eventually finished the project. We ended up with a great little house and a great big education. I later went to work for one of the builders that had helped with the project and I’ve been working in the field since.



Q: What were some of the special features of your first green house?


A: Our main design goal was to create a low-impact home that would appeal to people because of its functionality and comfort – not just that it didn’t cost a lot to power. We spent a ton of time designing out wasted space, and figuring out how to get multiple uses out of certain areas so that we could keep the footprint small. That was the hardest part. We used high ceilings, plenty of daylighting, and an open floor plan to help the space feel big. We designed one bedroom to open up to the great room so we could expand the living space for entertaining.



Lets Chat About Energy Conservation - In-Text Quote 2Fortunately, almost everything you do to make a house more efficient also makes it more comfortable. For instance, by using heat recovery in the ventilation system, you not only save on heating and cooling energy – the fresh air that supplies the house is a more comfortable temperature. By orienting the house to the sun and using passive solar strategies, you can capture solar energy during the winter while avoiding overheating in the summer. That’s a win-win for year-round comfort. Of course, we made the shell of the house super resistant to heat and air transfer and chose efficient appliances, all of which increases performance and lowers energy use. Our solar water heating system was significantly more complex and expensive to install than a traditional water heater, but month after month, it used free solar energy to do most of the water heating, offsetting around a quarter of the house’s energy needs. The payback for that effort is more than financial – it just feels good to take a shower and know the water was warmed by the sun, not a power plant or oil well. In the end, the home we built operated on less than half of the energy of a typical new home in that region and we made plenty of mistakes on our first try.



Q: What’s new in the green building industry that’s exciting to you?


A: I really like the tiny house movement for exposing us to how much downsizing is possible while maintaining or probably improving one’s lifestyle. I also dig electric drive vehicles, especially bikes. I think plenty of us could trade a 5000-pound auto for a 50-pound electric bike and have a hell of a lot more fun getting around, using a fraction of the energy.



Q: What are your top energy saving tips?


A: Localize or regionalize your diet. Live near where your main activities are in the smallest residence imaginable – and think hard about this one! Turning off electronics that you’re not using is helpful, too.



Q: How do you envision our world in 50 years?


A: We should all be living in buildings that produce more energy than they use and zipping around in lightweight electric vehicles powered with renewable sources. Maybe by then we will no longer be harming our planet, but sustaining it and repairing it – leaving it cleaner and more resilient for future residents.


Honda’s Smart Home

Yes, that’s right. Not a smart car or a smart phone – a smart home. Considering that 3D printers are printing food these days, a smart home is not such a stretch. In fact, Statistica says revenue for smart houses in North America will hit $9.4 billion next year – a 42 percent jump from 2012. Honda’s smart home hints at the direction we’re heading, and it’s unique in that it was developed to show how both a house and an electric car can be powered by renewable energy. According to Michael Koenig, the project leader for the Honda smart home, the initiative was designed to showcase “Honda’s vision for zero-carbon living and personal mobility.”



Welcome to the “Zero Net” World


Welcome to the Zero Net WorldAll of the energy used in the house and to charge the car is monitored and controlled by a Home Energy Management System (HEMS) designed by Honda. Solar energy is stored during the day and then used at night when more electricity is demanded and the car needs to be charged. All in all, the 1,944-square-foot Honda smart home actually produces more energy than it uses – 75% less than a typical home – which makes it a “zero net” home. It’s fitting that Honda’s smart home dwells in an entire community that’s zero net, UC Davis West Village in California – the largest of its kind in the nation.



Bye-Bye Old-School Heat and AC


Bye-Bye Old-School Heat and ACWhat may be most amazing about this home is that it remains comfortable to live in without an air conditioner and heater. This is achieved in a number of ways, from sloping eaves on the windows, to thicker walls, to a roof that reflects light. But the real star of the heating and cooling show is a unique heat pump system that regulates the indoor temperature. Holes are dug into the ground to use the earth’s temperature to heat or cool water, which is then run through the house in pipes under the floor and in the ceiling on the second floor. This isn’t a new idea. What is new is the size of the holes they dug. Typically, they’re dozens of feet deep and small in diameter. Honda’s smart house heat pump holes are 24 inches wide by 20 feet deep. According to Jonathon Woolley, one of the engineers at UC Davis who designed the system, this can reduce the cost of the heat pump system by 90 percent!


With innovation like that, smart homes could become mainstream before we know it. To learn more about Honda’s smart home, check out this video.



The Mind-Blowing Benefits of Wind Energy

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


Wind power in the U.S. is…


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



Blow Off Your Power Bill


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


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


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

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