How Ball State Built One of the Most Energy-Efficient College Campuses in the World

We’ve always needed energy to heat our homes. For the vast majority of human existence, we’ve gotten that energy from natural materials—first firewood, then slower-burning natural oil, then fossil fuels. But while we were gathering materials to consume, we were also busy discovering perhaps the most obvious source of heat apart from the sun—the earth itself.


According to, humans first discovered geothermal energy some 10,000 years ago when Native Americans heated themselves in naturally-occurring hot springs. Ever since, we’ve been trying to figure out how best to utilize the earth’s warmth. We’ve built towns on hot springs, heated homes with piped-in hot water, and even built power plants that run on steam. But even with all that progress, we as Americans have struggled to implement an energy-efficient geothermal system in a cost-effective way on a large scale.


Until now.



Enter Ball State


It gets cold in Indiana. Heating an entire college campus is expensive, and burning fossil fuels to do so is hardly energy efficient. Luckily, Ball State University, located in Muncie, Indiana, has launched an ambitious project that, if all goes right, will reduce campus carbon footprint by nearly one half. Engineers at Ball State have bored hundreds of holes into the ground around campus to access the heat of the earth. They can now turn that heat into a sustainable source of energy.




It’s an amazing process, and it’s called a geothermal energy system. The earth’s energy warms water, which travels through pipes that snake throughout the campus, alternatively warming or cooling—whichever is necessary—any given indoor area. The investment, like most energy-saving ventures, is a true win-win-win. The campus will save money, create a culture of environmental sustainability, and create thousands of contracting jobs while they’re at it. How cool is that?



Energy-Efficient Retail Options


So good for Ball State. A college campus has the resources to implement a dynamic change like redoing its entire heating system. But how does that affect you?

We’re glad you asked! Thanks to a new startup called Dandelion Energy, Inc.—and its new partner, Aztech Geothermal—you can build your own geothermal heating system for your very own home.




“Dandelion is making geothermal heating and cooling affordable by introducing a number of process and technology innovations, including analytics-based marketing, fixed system pricing, a low monthly payment option, and an innovative drilling method,” Green Builder Media writes.

So what are you waiting for? Geothermal energy is the wave of the . . . present. Harness it, and invest in your future!


Photo Credits: Ball State University Campus, Dandelion Energy, Inc.


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 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.




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.


Earning Rebate Dollars with a Window Film Installation

One of the primary benefits of a window film installation for the home or office building is the energy saved through reduced cooling costs. More consumers every day are catching on to the way film can save close to 40% of a cooling bill.


Consumers aren’t the only ones paying attention to this energy-saving measure, though. Electric utility companies across the U.S. have offered or are currently offering incentives for their customers to install window film. These incentives most commonly come in the form of rebate dollars from the utility, either as an account credit or a check.


Want to know what rebates or incentives you can get? Check out this website where you can select your location to see what rebates or incentives are available in your area.



A few points to remember while you research the availability of utility company rebates for your window film project.


First, utilities and their rebates vary, from state to state and even within larger states, where there is more than one utility company.

Second, most if not all rebate programs are for pre-approved window films, professionally installed and with a warranty.

Third, the incentives are calculated most often as a function of dollars per square foot of window film installed. The per-square-foot rebates range from $.50 to $2.00.

And fourth, many window film rebates are often limited or “capped”, no matter how much film is installed.


If you’re considering a window film project for your home or business, it can pay to do a little homework and learn whether your local utility company offers rebates. Depending on the size of the installation, the rebate can become a significant subsidy to the cost of saving energy in the long run.


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.





SundayTime for laundry. Unless you have heavily soiled items, wash with cold water. According to the 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.





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.





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.





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.





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.





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!





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 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.


Save Energy by Slaying Vampire Power

You’ve heard of vampire power, right? The term is not as scary as it sounds, but it will make your energy bill creep up on you. You won’t need a cross or garlic to avoid being a victim, and you can take simple steps to rid the “phantom load” of its power.


Vampire power is termed when plugged-in electronics and appliances continue to draw energy even when they are turned off or in standby mode. According to the Department of Energy, these silent energy loads can cost U.S. households an average of $100-200 per year.



Hunt the Vampires in Your Home


Hunt the Vampires in Your HomeTrack down these power sucks by looking around your home for devices that have power adaptors or black power-supply cubes. Look around for electronics that use a remote control or have a built-in chargeable battery. Do a survey of equipment with a digital display such as a clock or LED status light. You may spot obvious vampires such as your coffee maker, DVR or computer speakers, but beware that others are lurking about.


Electric shavers and toothbrushes, digital picture frames, and cordless vacuums pull energy when not in use. Another sneaky vampire is your cell phone charger, which continues to draw energy after the phone is charged and even after you take your phone with you. The biggest phantoms are game consoles and plasma televisions. The Department of Energy notes that a plasma television’s standby power can cost up to $165 a year alone!



Remove the Energy Drain


Remove the Energy Drain In TextThe simplest method to kill vampire energy is to unplug electronics when they’re not in use, but that can be a time-consuming daily task. Cluster electronics into a power strip, especially ENERGY STAR qualified strips that are registered to have lower standby, and flip one switch to turn off all plugs. Or, take it up a notch and invest in smart power strips, which can be set to turn off idle devices for you. You can find them online and at electronics retailers.


A basic smart power strip is controlled by programmable timers, which allow you to schedule turning on and off plugged-in devices automatically. Some strips allow you to control an entire room from your smart device. Advanced strips include outlets controlled by a motion detector to turn on when you come into the room and powers off when you leave or after a set time of vacancy. The smartest vampire killers are able to detect when a primary device such as a TV or computer enters sleep-mode or is turned off, then shuts down any connected outlets like printers or external hard drives. Turn the main device back on, and the accessory outlets come to life.


The vampire load of one device may not attack your utility budget, but a household of phantoms will frighten you! Battle them all with smart power strips, and watch this unnecessary energy drain disappear.


Here are our Top Five Energy-Saving Products for Renters

Not everyone has the ability to make the kind of substantial energy-saving upgrades that a homeowner can make. For example, it makes sense for someone who plans to live in a home indefinitely to invest in the home’s long-term energy cost. A $5000 investment that cuts an energy bill by $100 dollars per month for the next 10 years will result in a savings of more than double the initial investment.


But there are products tailored less for homeowners and more for people who simply want to update their living area. Here are five of our favorite energy-saving products for renters.


5. Belkin Wemo® Insight Smart Plug


Belkin-Wemo-Insight-Smart-PlugWe’ll do these in reverse order. This story should sound familiar to renters everywhere. You’re out of the house and you suddenly feel a sense of dread. You’ve left the hot plate on. Or, so you think. But there’s nothing you can do about it except leave wherever you are, go home, and check.


Not if you have an insight smart plugYou can turn off the outlet using your smartphone with nothing more than a flick of your thumb, save energy, and rest easier.



4. Florida Eco Products Waterpebble


Florida-Eco-Products-WaterpebbleEver get in the shower determined to duck in and out, using as little water as possible—only to hang around for minutes longer than necessary just because the gentle caress of the water is so lovely? I think all of us have probably had this experience.


The waterpebble helps us fight this impulse by tracking our water usage and actually telling us that it is time to save energy by leaving the shower, using a red-yellow-green light system. Once you see that red light, it’s time to leave.



3. SimpliSafe


This is another great idea for renters especially. You don’t want to invest in a full-out home security service, but you still want peace of mind. Get Simplisafe, an app that tracks movements outside of your home and alerts you to possible danger. You don’t need a system that makes you commit or buy tons of bulky merchandise. Just get a couple of tiny Simplicams, track on the app, and sleep better at night.



2. simplehuman® Sensor Mirror


simplehuman-Sensor-Mirror2This one is for the makeup lovers. You don’t need a makeup mirror that uses tons of incandescent light. The simplehuman sensor mirroruses a combination of natural light and LED to help you save energy and look your best. And it only lights up when you get near it—how cool is that?



1. Delta Breez Integrity Fan with Bluetooth Speaker


Delta-Breez-Integrity-Fan-with-Bluetooth-SpeakerThis one happens to be our favorite because it even entertains us while saving us energy. The fan gets your house bumpin’ with tunes you love while ventilating a room, leaving your energy bill in the basement. Give one a try today!


Energy Efficiency Rebates and Incentives For Your Home

Buying high-efficiency products can help you reduce utility bills, but did you know that you could get help to cover the cost of those upgrades? Financial incentives offered through local utilities and federal and state government agencies can take many forms: rebates, loans, and direct income tax deduction. A savvy way to learn about incentives available to you is to get a certified energy audit, which provides you with a prioritized report of money-saving recommendations, along with information about rebates and loans available to you.





If you plan to upgrade appliances like a refrigerator, washer, or water heater, you can get rebates up to several thousand dollars by purchasing ENERGY STAR certified products. Check your local utility website beforehand for rebate details, as you will likely need to choose from a list of qualified dealers and specified products as well as submit an online form within a certain time frame after purchase. As a bonus, you can get an additional rebate just by having your local energy provider haul away your old model for recycling. Keep an eye out for rebates on smaller items, too, such as light bulbs, ceiling fans, and programmable thermostats.





Most states offer energy efficiency loans to help pay upfront costs for wall insulation, HVAC, or air/duct sealing upgrades by providing financing for purchases and installation. Terms include zero or low percentage interest rates with low-payment options on a fixed amount (anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000) and improvements must be performed within a set time period. In some cases, you can build your loan payments right into your utility bill. To receive the incentive, you might be required to be pre-approved and undergo an inspection after installation.



Tax Credits


There are ways to reduce your taxes when you make energy efficiency upgrades to areas like exterior windows, doors, or roofs. The U.S. federal government offers tax credits that allow you to claim a percentage of the cost as long as you have the manufacturer’s credit certification statement and proof of warranty. Usually, a home energy audit must be performed before improvements in order to be eligible for the tax deduction. There is often a cap on the credit, so refer to the IRS website or your tax preparation company for the latest values.


You can reap even bigger benefits without a cap for installing alternative energy equipment. According to the IRS, the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit that runs through 2016 allows you to write off 30% of your costs to put alternative energy equipment in your home such as solar water heaters or residential wind turbines.


When you make home energy improvements, you enjoy the benefits of lower energy bills and increased comfort, and taking advantage of efficiency incentives means you can get paid back for your efforts as well. To find out more about incentives available in the U.S., check the Department of Energy Incentive Programs and the Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency.



Managing the Sun’s Heat with Window Film

While window films aren’t typically thought of as glamorous, these products perform an impressive array of functions. Security, aesthetics, privacy, safety in the event of shattering glass – all are jobs that window films do well.


It’s in controlling the effects of the sun’s energy, though, that window film’s most important work gets done. Heat and light from the sun benefit humankind tremendously, of course – and at the same time cause damage to skin and property, and require consumption of energy to manage, mainly in the form of electric kilowatts for cooling.


How does window film control the effects of heat on the interior of a building or automobile? Through reflection, absorption, or a combination of both. The sun’s rays are composed of three types of energy: visible light, and infrared and ultraviolet energy that we can’t see, but can only feel.


Depending on its construction, window film allows most or all visible light to pass through the glass to which it’s applied, while reflecting and/or absorbing most of the heat energy from the sun before it’s felt inside the building or car. Reflective window films bounce much of the sun’s infrared (IR) rays back into the atmosphere, while non-reflective or dyed films simply absorb or block the IR rays.


Controlling the amount of heat that passes through glass by installing window film slows fading of furnishings and carpet, and significantly reduces cooling costs. An experienced, reputable window film professional will help you determine which window film product is right for your home, building, or automobile.


Teach Your Kids to Save Energy at Home

You are never too old or too young to learn how to save energy at home. While the kids may not be able to help you with big energy efficiency projects, every little effort helps to lower your utility bills. Get the family together and introduce one of these tips at a time until each becomes a habit. You just might find yourself becoming more consistent at conserving energy, too!



Power Down…Everything


Power Down EverythingThe big energy drain that kids AND adults are guilty of is forgetting to shut off lights when leaving a room. If you are going to be away for even a few minutes, it’s worth the energy savings to flip the switch to off. But don’t stop at overhead lights. Add the television, gaming consoles, computers, electronic devices, and chargers to the list. Make it a before-bedtime game and walk through the home together to power down.



Conserve Water


Conserve WaterBathtime can be fun, but so can a competition to keep bathing to a 5 or 10-minute shower. Set a timer, and if the child is out (and clean!) before the bell, then they get a sticker on the calendar or more book time with you before bed. Extend the water conservation efforts to the sink and practice shutting off the faucet between brushing your teeth and rinsing. And have them make sure the faucets are completely off or not dripping.



Switch to CFL


Switch to CFLA great counting exercise to do with kids is to add up all of the light bulbs used in your home. From that total, how many of them are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs)? By changing standard bulbs to ENERGY STAR certified CFL bulbs, you will use a lot less energy, and they will last longer, too. According to the Energy Star website, one CFL can save $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb. A fun way to teach kids this concept is an interactive online game provided by Kids use the keyboard to move an animated character named CFL Charlie around a house to install CFL bulbs, shut off lights, and get the energy usage total down to zero.



Bedroom Energy Assessment


Bedroom Energy AssessmentHave your children assess how much energy they use in their bedrooms. Look together for vents and registers to make sure furniture, toys, and wall coverings are not blocking them. Could you teach them about alternative energy by switching to a solar-powered nightlight? Or have the kids hold a ribbon up close to the window seams. If the ribbon flutters, you may have an air leak that needs to be sealed. They can try this test throughout the house and draw a map of the problem locations for you. What is their view out the window? Could you plant a tree together that would shade the room in the summer or block wind in the winter?


Saving energy at home is a team effort, and the youngest one in the household could become your leader. When you teach by example, your children will grow to be adults who care about saving energy and the future of their planet.