The stockings might be hung by the chimney with care, but have you looked beyond your mantle this year? Your fireplace is likely a focal point in your home—but it’s also a major potential hazard if you don’t follow some simple guidelines. No matter if you have a wood burning or natural gas model, there are easy steps that you can take to save energy, improve efficiency and ensure your fireplace is operating as safely as possible.
Wood Burning Fireplace Tips
- Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned by a professional each year. Buildup of a substance called creosote is a major fire hazard, and you don’t want to accidentally roast any squirrels who may have built an unwanted nest.
- Resist the urge to flank the hearth with throw pillows. There are few items on planet Earth more flammable than little squares of cotton filled with polyester. (If you’re worried about kids bumping into the mantle or hearth, there are fire resistant padding products available.)
- Don’t use it much anymore? Inflatable fireplace balloons, available at home improvement stores, can be installed just inside the chimney to block frigid downdrafts from entering your home.
Natural Gas Burning Fireplace Tips
- Clean and dust the gas logs and synthetic coals annually.
- Consider shutting off the gas pilot light completely during the summer months or when leaving for vacation.
- Never add any additional items that were not specifically manufactured for your specific gas fireplace model.
Seriously never even consider:
- Using a liquid accelerant or gasoline to start a fire indoors.
- Burning your Christmas tree at the end of the season.
- Adding wood logs to a gas fireplace.
- Going to bed before a fire has been properly extinguished.
Finally, consider storing a small fire extinguisher in a nearby closet, and make sure to change the batteries in your smoke detectors every 6 months.
Now that your fireplace is safety ready, please share a favorite fireplace memory. Hopefully it did not require the use of the nearby fire extinguisher!!
Note: Information sourced from the Hearth, Patio, & Barbeque Association.
Leave a Comment
While the word Hanukkah has two meanings, first and foremost, it means ‘dedication’. So if your family is setting out a Menorah this year, why not take the opportunity to dedicate yourselves to new traditions as you also celebrate the old?
Saving energy is good for people, our planet, and the family budget, too. Talk to your family about the importance of making smart energy choices. Then, for each of Hanukkah’s eight nights, learn about a new energy saving tip together. This exercise can show your children that by working together—just like the Maccabees!— you can make a big difference.
Tip 1: Replace incandescent bulbs with more efficient CFL or LED lighting.
Tip 2: Turn the temperature setting on your refrigerator down. It was designed to work just fine on the lowest dial setting.
Tip 3: Vacuum refrigerator coils once a year. Too much dust makes it work harder.
Tip 4: Change your air filters. Ask kids to keep an eye out and report when an adult needs to change them in the future.
Tip 5: Get a new TV recently? Try turning down the brightness. Most come out of the box optimized for the showroom floor, not a dim living room.
Tip 6: Appoint a different child each week to be the official energy monitor and keep the rest of the family honest!
Tip 7: Send the kids on a spider web hunt. Tiny spiders are drawn to naturally drafty areas to build their cobwebs. If they appear in the same places, it’s a sure sign of an air leak.
Tip 8: Grab a Dreidel and break out the Gelt! Spend a power free evening playing games by candlelight.
Leave a Comment
Now that the holidays are here, exactly how much free time do you find yourself with…? If you’re like me, there’s a long list of things to do and buy, punctuated by weeknight parties, school recitals and end of year reports at the office.
With the rush, the bustle and the outright fatigue, people can fall into one of two camps. The first group, after doing a beautiful job decorating, can’t even manage to get home before 9pm to turn their lights on. The second group, inundated by cleaning or wrapping or writing out cards, collapses into bed and forgets to turn their lights off, wasting energy and irritating neighbors.
You can save time, energy and hassle while maximizing enjoyment of your outdoor masterpiece by picking up a few holiday light timers. These handy little gadgets cost only a few dollars and can last for years. There are multiple styles that can range in price based on their features. Below is a guide to some popular models.
Single Device / Single Time Timer
This most basic model allows you to set one predetermined on/off time for just one device, like a strand of lights.
Multiple Device / Dual Time Timer
A dual time timer allows you to set two distinct on/off times for two or more devices. These are especially handy for decorations that include audio. Your neighbors don’t need to hear ‘Frosty the Snowman’ for five consecutive hours each night for the next month.
Digital timers can accommodate multiple devices and very specific settings, since they rely on digital technology rather than pins. Some units can be programmed to turn a single device on and off at different times, depending on the day of the week. These models are more costly, but can be effective if you wish to leave decorations lit longer on special evenings or during the weekend.
Photo-sensitive timers are some of the easiest to use because they require no programming at all! The unit senses when the sun goes down and turns decorations on automatically. The potential downside is that these timers only shut decorations off when the sun rises in the morning, meaning whatever is plugged in remains on all night. Consider photo sensitive timers for hard to reach accent decorations, like an over-the-garage wreath.
In addition to saving time, energy and money, automatic timers pack an added benefit: home security. Putting exterior and interior lighting on timers can give would-be burglars the impression that someone is home, even if your family is over the river and through the woods this holiday season.
Have a timer tip you’d like to share? Post it in the comments!
Leave a Comment
Ah, fall! The season is filled with so many great traditions. After you hit up the apple orchard and pumpkin patch, bake off the season’s first fruit pie and contemplate all the ways your costume is going to win first prize at the Halloween party this year, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and actually prepare for the cold months ahead. Because October is Energy Efficiency month, it’s the perfect time to combine fall cleaning and organizing with energy saving strategies, so you’ll stay comfortable and sane once Old Man Winter stops in for a long visit.
Rotate and Organize Closets
After a lazy summer, most families’ closets and mudrooms need some serious attention. Enlist spouses, roommates and older kids to determine what can stay and what can go. Grab a large plastic storage bin from your local home store and pack away things like sandals and flip flops, beach towels, outdoor toys and citronella candles. Break out the heavy coats, scarves and mittens and organize the remaining leftover items. Wait a minute… is that a half of a box of free CFLs that you ordered from Duke Energy earlier this year buried on the top shelf?
Install Free CFLs
Seriously. Install the rest of your free CFLs RIGHT NOW. You can’t save energy if you don’t use them. If you’re particularly squeamish about throwing away old incandescent bulbs before they burn out, try putting them in fixtures you use the least often, like your attic stairs, closets or a spare guest bedroom.
Change Air Filters
Sure, it’s cold, but it shouldn’t look like it’s snowing inside your house! Dirty, clogged air filters make your HVAC work harder than it needs to, on top of being flat-out unhealthy and gross. Follow the instructions for your specific system, but it’s a good rule of thumb to replace air filters once every 3 months (or when the seasons change!)
If you’d like to learn more about CFLs and see if you qualify for a free energy efficiency kit, visit: http://www.duke-energy.com/whycfls/
Leave a Comment
Still confused about how to make the transition to compact fluorescent light bulbs or CFLs? Well, thanks to new laws, all light bulb packaging now features a “Lighting Facts” label that includes information about brightness, energy cost, life expectancy, light appearance (warm or cool light), wattage and mercury content. The goal of these FTC-mandated labels is to standardize how the lighting industry markets light bulb features, while providing consumers with a simple and quick way to compare bulbs.
At the same time, the front of light bulb packaging has moved away from the long-trusted watt to classification by lumens. Lumens are an accurate measurement of brightness, whereas wattage (a measurement of energy used to light a bulb) doesn’t accurately convey the brightness of a light bulb.
For comparison, a traditional incandescent 100-watt bulb, a halogen incandescent 72-watt bulb and a compact fluorescent 23-watt bulb all deliver the same brightness – about 1,600 – 1,700 lumens. Just remember, the higher the lumen number, the brighter the bulb. The new world of light emitting diode (LED) bulbs falls into this regulation as well.
CFLs still cost more to purchase, but their energy efficiency and lifespan deliver a solid return on investment. Because a CFL uses an average of 75 percent less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and can last up to 10 times longer, you should easily save more than $40 over the lifetime of a CFL bulb. And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to sign up for Duke Energy’s free CFL offer. Click here to see if you qualify.
Now you can shop smart, save money and enjoy the ambiance created by any number of lighting styles. Share with us how you’ve transitioned your home to CFLs in the comment section below.
Leave a Comment
If you’ve found this website, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re interested in learning more about how to save energy and money. So if you’re one of the many folks whose ready to get serious about saving, the first thing to do is know where you stand today—and that’s easy to do with a Personalized Energy Report!
Your Personalized Energy Report (which we call a PER [pronounced ‘purr’] around the office. Cute, huh?) is a free, easy and powerful tool. After completing a brief energy survey online, you’ll immediately get personalized recommendations tailored to your home and your life. With easy to understand explanations and helpful charts, you will see your home’s energy usage is broken down by heating, lighting, water and more.
After you learn more about the way you use energy today, your PER will pinpoint specific energy saving opportunities that you can do right away to start saving.
Here’s how it works:
- Log in to Duke Energy Online Services.
First time here? Then register for your free account.
- Click Personalized Report page on the right side of your Online Services home page.
- Complete the Home Energy Survey.
- You’ll immediately get personalized recommendations on ways you can conserve and save.
Have you gotten your PER yet? Where did it help you start saving energy? Share your experience in the comments!
Leave a Comment
Summer! It’s finally here—and so is a barrage of graduations, first communions, weddings, BBQs and family reunions. If you’re on the hook to host, then you know: after shelling out big time for a bouncy castle, live band, open bar and pony rides, the last thing you’ll need is a huge energy bill the following month. So check out these tips and hopefully the only thing ‘electric’ on your mind will be your killer moves to The Electric Slide.
Rent a Tent
Hot, sunny outdoor spaces might feel nice for a few minutes, but eventually folks will be searching for a place to cool down. Rent a tent from a local company or borrow a few folding canopies from friends and neighbors. You’ll save energy and precious cool indoor air by cutting down on the in-and-out churn of guests through your door. Bonus: hang solar powered lanterns or rope lights for an easy day-to-night transitional space.
Cool Kiddy Pool
For kids and kids at heart, a few strategically located kiddy pools can act as a mini oasis on a hot summer day. Set one designated for splashing—and maybe even a sprinkler or two—in a corner for kids. Set an adult only pool with chairs around it, so your mom’s gaggle of second cousins can roll up their pant legs and soak their toes while they chat.
Break Out the Cooler
Keep beverages in a cooler on ice in a shady spot outdoors. You’ll save major energy by minimizing foot traffic through the house and reducing the number of times you or your guests need to open up the fridge. Bonus: dump cold cooler water over the top of a select guest of honor, creating fond memories for years to come.
Give the Real Goodies
Sending people home with a party favor after your event? Consider treats that save energy or encourage people to go enjoy the great outdoors. Seed Bombs are a beautiful way to encourage everyone to turn off the TV and get outside.
Do you have a trick for saving energy while hosting guests? No matter if the party is large or small, share your ideas in the comments!
Leave a Comment
One of the great things about Father’s Day is that it comes after Mother’s Day, so, really, there’s no excuse for missing it. You received all the warning you needed in May. For something to go along with the greeting card that will undoubtedly tout a father’s love of beer, couch surfing, or gaseousness (really, those seem to be the only options for Father’s Day cards) look no further for some great gifts that are also great for the environment.
The days of falling asleep in a hammock, with a book splayed across your chest, may be gone. But that just means they’ve made way for lazy afternoons spent lounging around in a hammock with an e-reader, right? As technology is becoming more advanced every day, an e-reader is the perfect way to update Dad’s library to a portable, all-in-one device. Consider loading some of Dad’s favorite books before he even opens the gift.
If you’re looking for a gift that fits Dad like a glove, why not try a recycled oven mitt? Kitchen activities are gender neutral, and those old potholders and trivets made in elementary school art class have lived noble lives. It’s time to upgrade, and the environment (and Dad’s hands) will thank you.
If it’s a dirty job, and someone’s got to do it, doesn’t it usually fall to Dad? No one likes cleaning up after the dog, and using a shovel to secretly flick it over into a neighbor’s yard when no one is looking (or so you hope) doesn’t exactly do much to further neighborhood goodwill. That’s where flushable dog bags come in “handy.” Found in most pet stores, flushable, biodegradable bags make it easy for Dad to dispose of the mess.
The sun may not provide enough power to cook a good steak, but it can at least help light the way there. With a solar-powered grill light, Dad can keep the home fires – charcoal or gas – burning well into the night. And, the best part of cooking on the grill, besides the food, is that no one has to clean up the mess and your kitchen stays cool!
Does your dad constantly grumble about the cost of running the A/C in the summer? Then maybe it’s time to look into Duke Energy’s Smart $aver incentives. Depending on where you live, you can get rebates for upgrading your HVAC, getting your current HVAC serviced, and even having the house insulated and sealed.
Who doesn’t sound good singing in the shower, at least to themselves? To help Dad release his inner Sinatra and fly himself to the moon, check out a water-powered shower stereo—no batteries required! Earplugs for everyone else are a good idea. You’re welcome.
What you getting for dear old dad for Father’s Day? Share you inspiring ideas in the comment section.
Leave a Comment
Summer time is nearing and that means higher bills as temperatures soar and A/Cs struggle to keep your house cool. To help here are three quick and easy summertime energy-saving tips you can implement in your home for less than $100. We even threw in a couple of freebies too.
Out of sight, out of mind. With a programmable thermostat, you can set up your house to maximize efficiency, particularly when no one is home to argue about whether it’s too warm or too cold. Programmable thermostats can be set to automatically adjust and control the temperature inside your home, increasing the temperature when no one is home and automatically beginning a cool-down cycle when people are likely to come home from school or work.
Go west, young man. Or south. Then plant a tree. Planting a deciduous tree on the west or south side of your house can provide shade that will help keep it cool in the summer. And, when the leaves fall, it will let more light and warmth through in the colder months, helping keep the house warmer and brighter to help fight off those winter doldrums. Don’t forget to plant away from power lines and call before you dig by dialing 811.
Take a look at your weather stripping. Energy efficient windows and all the insulation in the world won’t do much good if conditioned air is running wild through the gaps and and cracks around improperly sealed doors. According to the Family Handyman for less than $20 per doorway, you can easily upgrade that existing weather stripping that has fallen victim to a) time; b) an impatient cat or dog; c) bored fingers attached to growing children; d) all of the above.
Something for nothing:
Air your (clean) laundry – Air-drying clothing and dishes is a quick, easy way to keep energy costs low. By many accounts, water heating and laundry can account for as much as 40 percent of monthly electricity costs. By drying laundry on an outdoor line, you can save a ton of energy and, some would argue, the clothes smell much better. They make candles that smell like line-dried clothes; isn’t the real thing better?
Check refrigerator and freezer temps – place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator and check it after 24 hours. The ideal refrigerator temperature is between 37 and 40 degrees. For the freezer, place the appliance thermometer between two frozen packages check the reading in 24 hours. The ideal reading for the freezer is about 5 degrees.
Have you tried any of these? If so, what other tips do you have to share?
Leave a Comment
Summer is finally here—and that means it’s time for sun, fun and food with friends! Forget hot ovens and complex recipes. Here are four delicious and quick dishes that will keep the party going without adding a single cent to your energy bill.
Zesty Avocado Salsa
Coarse chop 2 -3 ripe but still firm Hass avocados, 2-3 Roma tomatoes and ½ of a medium red onion. Combine together in a bowl and add 1 tbsp garlic powder, juice of one lime and salt and pepper to taste. Chopped fresh cilantro is a great touch, but optional. Stir gently to combine flavors, serve with tortilla chips or crusty fresh bread and enjoy.
Refreshing Sun Tea
In a large pitcher (preferably one with a lid, but plastic wrap will do) add 3 cups of ice and fill with water. Select 6 – 8 single serving bags of your favorite tea (I prefer Jasmine) submerge them in the water and secure strings firmly to a handle or a straw so you don’t have to go fishing for them later on. Select any favorite herbs you have growing at home—mint, lemon balm, stevia and even basil all add a unique twist—and add a few sprigs to the water. Cover securely and place the pitcher outdoors in direct sunlight for 30 minutes to an hour to brew. Shake gently every few minutes to help mix. To serve, pour over glasses filled with ice and a lemon wedge and enjoy.
Healthy & Delicious Spinach Salad
Slice ripe, sweet in-season pears in ¼ inch thick sections and toss with 3-4 cups of rinsed baby spinach, a handful of crumbled gorgonzola cheese, ¾ cup of dried cranberries and ½ cup of walnuts together in a large serving bowl. When individual plates are being made, drizzle the salad with fresh local honey and a light, tart vinaigrette of your choice.
Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad
Chop 2 – 3 stalks of celery, 3 Roma tomatoes, and ½ medium red onion into small sections and combine in a serving bowl with one can of rinsed garbanzo beans, aka chick peas. Add 2 oz of extra virgin olive oil, 4 oz of unfiltered kosher apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Stir mixture gently to combine flavors. Makes a great crunchy and tart compliment to richer items off the grill, like ribs or chicken.
Do you have a favorite no-appliance summer recipe? Share it in the comments and we’ll pick our favorites to post on our Facebook page!
Leave a Comment
Who doesn’t enjoy a good list? And everyone likes energy efficiency, right? Then we’ve got just the thing.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a list of the U.S. cities with the most ENERGY STAR certified buildings. By the end of 2011, all of the country’s nearly 16,500 ENERGY STAR certified buildings will have helped save nearly $2.3 billion in annual energy bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual energy use emissions of more than 1.5 million homes, according to the EPA.
We asked you the week of April 30 what you thought were the cities with the most Energy Star certified buildings. We think we had a hometown bias, with Charlotte leading the way at 27 percent of the vote and Cincinnati coming in a close second at 23 percent. Four percent of you selected the correct city, Los Angeles.
We’ve provided a quick rundown below, and the full list is here. Also, if you don’t live in one of these areas, ENERGY STAR also has a search function that allows readers to locate ENERGY STAR certified buildings near you.
No. 10 – Boston; Beantown has the oldest major league baseball facility in Fenway Park, probably not the most energy efficient, but the Massachusetts capital makes its first appearance because of its 161 ENERGY STAR certified buildings.
No. 9 – Riverside, Calif.; The 12th largest city in California with just about 304,000 residents, Riverside, located in southern California, sneaks past Boston as a first timer in the ENERGY STAR top 10 with 164.
No. 8 – Dallas-Ft. Worth; Really, really hot? Sure. And the Dallas Cowboys have a colossal home in nearby Arlington – the largest domed stadium in the world – but the Dallas area is also a leader in ENERGY STAR certified buildings, with 178.
No. 7 – Houston; Don’t mess with Texas, as the Lone Star State adds the energy capital of the United States to its list of accomplishments with two cities in the Top 10, back-to-back, with Houston at 231.
No. 6 – New York; It’s the city so nice they named it twice. While all eyes lately have been on the progress of 1 World Trade Center, New York has 261 other buildings that are ENERGY STAR certified.
No. 5 – San Francisco; Sure, San Francisco has a nice bridge, and cable cars seem pretty energy efficient. But, one of the country’s more progressive cities is a regular near the top of the ENERGY STAR buildings list with 270.
No. 4 – Chicago; The city with arguably the best skyline has made sure it is dotted with energy efficient buildings, as Chicago is a regular in the ENERGY STAR Top 5 and stays there in 2011 with 294.
No. 3 – Atlanta; Atlanta is sneaky big, isn’t it? One of the busiest airports in the world, host of the Olympic Games, and a lot of ENERGY STAR buildings, with 359. Traffic? That’s another list.
No. 2 – Washington, D.C.; The nation’s capital practices its energy efficiency preaching and has the second-most ENERGY STAR buildings (three years running) in the country at 404.
No. 1 – Los Angeles; The perennial No. 1 on this list, LA had 659 ENERGY STAR certified buildings in 2011. Sure, the EPA gives the City of Angels an F for air quality, but at least they’re trying.
Leave a Comment
Snackwell Effect: a slang term describing a phenomena where people use or consume more of a particular product when that product is low calorie or more efficient, resulting in the opposite of what that product intended to save or help.
During the brainstorming session where the topic for this post was discussed, I panicked a little bit. Why? Because I am sooo busted. Yes. Me. The lady whose job it is to write about saving energy.
A little bit of history: my husband and I built our house in early 2006 and moved in a few weeks after we got married. Between planning the wedding and planning the construction, it was one of the busiest (and most expensive!) times in my life. We focused on bigger energy saving features like an ultra efficient air conditioner and radiant barrier roof, but when the honeymoon was literally over, CFL bulbs were not in our budget.
I knew that my bills could vary widely month to month, and while a lot of that had to do with the weather, a lot if it had to do with the choices that I made too. So I never left a room without turning off the lights and I only ran the washing machine with cold water, totally full. But over the following years, the price of CFLs decreased significantly. And then, no plug intended here, I learned about free CFLs from Duke Energy. (But while I’m on the subject, have you gotten yours yet? Seriously? See if you qualify at www.duke-energy.com/freeCFLs) When the box arrived on my porch, I felt great. I felt proactive. I could practically feel the savings starting to happen.
And then… I got really stinking lazy.
I ‘reasoned’ that because my porch light was so much more efficient, I shouldn’t care if it stayed on all night long. So I was wasting energy—and letting myself fall victim to the ‘Snackwell Effect’ in the process. Take a moment to glance around your home: as your devices have become more efficient, do you become worse about policing their use? Now that I realize the error of my ways, the porch light is off as soon as it’s time to turn in for the night.
So now that I’ve come clean, it’s time to ask yourself: are you maybe letting yourself fall victim to the ‘Snackwell Effect’ too? Share your plans to reform old habits in the comments!
Leave a Comment
It’s the end of yet another school year—and that means a new crop of freshly minted graduates are packing off to college or hunting down their first real job. Tuition, rent, pizza and beer are costing more these days, so if you’re looking for a more creative gift idea than cash, you might want to consider an energy (and money!) saving gift to help your grad save now and for years to come.
Portable Gadget Solar Charger
Having a dead phone is just plain annoying, but who has the time to sit around and wait? Portable solar chargers make it easy to charge smart phones, tablets and MP3 players on the go. Ranging from $30 – $80 and about the size of a standard cell phone, these handy accessories can charge gadgets while students lounge in a sunny spot in the quad or relax in the park during lunch. Talk about multi tasking!
Smart Power Strip
We extol the virtues of smart power strips on this blog regularly, and for good reason: plugged in electronics and devices, even those that are shut off, continue to drain power from the grid and run up the monthly bill. No matter where your grad is headed next, they’re probably heading there with a half dozen or more gadgets, electronics and appliances, making a smart power strip a great gift idea.
Okay, so this isn’t a gift, per se—but what could be more helpful than helping your grad get better organized for the fast pace of the real world? Kids these days don’t carry around check books and stamps and run to the post office. Since so much of what they do takes place online, helping set your grad up with Paperless Billing from Duke Energy is a great way to make their lives just a little bit easier. You can sign up here: www.duke-energy.com/paperless
Leave a Comment
Youtility is full of energy (and money) saving ideas. From dusting light bulbs to installing new HVAC units, these ideas, tips and tricks run from low to high commitment and from low to high impact.
The week of April 9, we asked you in our weekly poll, “What would you do to save energy?” The results were insightful.
We gave you the following choices:
- Drive a hybrid or PEV;
- Unplug my cell phone charger and lamps when not in use;
- Push the “energy saver” button on my fridge;
- Install CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs);
- All of the above;
- None of the above.
Of those options, 58 percent of respondents said they would do all of the items listed to save energy. That’s a high number, but probably to be expected on a site dedicated to helping you control your energy use.
The next most selected item (25 percent) was install CFLs. That’s a great low commitment item can deliver substantial savings. Just order some free CFLs from Duke Energy, swap them out, and then enjoy the savings for the next 5-10 years.
Drive a hybrid or PEV, unplug my cell phone charger or lamps, and push the “energy saver” button on my fridge, all garnered between 2 and 4 percent of the clicks. That’s okay though, because 58 percent of respondents will be doing all of these things, which puts those numbers above 60 percent in every category.
Four percent of you said you would do none of the above to save energy. That begs the question – if you won’t do the things listed, do you have any other ideas (and of course it’s okay if you don’t)? Tell us in the comment section below.
Leave a Comment
Around your home: CFLs
Changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) just makes sense. CFLs last longer, use less energy and save you money. In 2011 we distributed 20 million CFLs to our customers, saving enough energy to power more than 65,000 residential homes or offsetting the carbon output of 130,000 passenger cars.
Join the growing number of people who are switching to CFLs. If you’re a Duke Energy customer you may be eligible to order free CFLs. Check your eligibility and order today at www.duke-energy.com/freeCFLs.
Leave a Comment
Mojo. So much comes to mind when you hear this word. Mojo. N. 1. Self-confidence, Self-assuredness. As in basis for belief in ones self in a situation. 2. Good luck fetish / charm to bolster confidence.
Why energy and mojo? Because we all want confidence, know-how and control over our energy use; we want to be that smart neighbor, responsible parent, or even the environmental hero – in our homes and for our community, even for the world. Finding our energy mojo is a mentality we embrace to then act.
You’re likely doing a lot already to be energy efficient, but what about other forms of sustainability that also suck energy? What if you looked at the relationship between water and energy? Did you know that heating and storing water uses a significant amount of electricity? And that considerable amounts of electricity is needed to move water around our cities and neighborhoods to accommodate our “on demand” need for water.
Mojo motivation #1. Toilets are by far the main source of water use in the home, accounting for nearly 30 percent of an average home’s indoor water consumption. Older, inefficient toilets are a major source of wasted water in many homes. If every American home with older, inefficient toilets replaced them with new WaterSense labeled toilets, we would save nearly 640 billion gallons of water per year, equal to more than two weeks of flow over Niagara Falls!
Mojo motivation #2. Showering is one of the leading ways we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use, or about 30 gallons per household per day. That’s nearly 1.2 trillion gallons of water used in the United States annually just for showering, or enough to supply the water needs of New York and New Jersey for a year! Check out your shower head and look for a WaterSense label (much like EnergyStar).
So save water, and save energy. Find a new connection and broaden your view of energy. Get that mojo working.
Leave a Comment
It happens to the best of us: after getting married, buying a house and having a kid or two, you start to put a few extra on. Kilowatt hours, that is. It all starts with that big new TV and slowly spirals out of control. By the time you notice, your energy use has ballooned to double the size it was in college. Luckily, you don’t have to get depressed over a bloated bill. Kick start a healthy new routine with the action plan below.
Know Where You Stand
You can’t start saving until you have all the details. A Personalized Energy Report is an awesome free tool that will show you detailed information about energy problem areas.
Stop the Yo-Yo
Ever wonder why your bill changes month to month? Try the free Bill Analysis Tool, for an in depth look at your month to month usage.
Want to stop that yo-yo for good, and have more predictability every month? Sign up for Budget Billing! Based off of your own previous usage data, a representative will work with you to set up a fixed amount that’s predictably consistent month to month.
Get Free Tools
When going on an energy diet, every little bit helps. Make sure to sign up for your free CFLs and install them as soon as the box arrives.
By taking these steps to understand and get your energy use under control, you’ll reign in the excess that’s been weighing you down. Are you up for the energy action plan challenge?
Leave a Comment
Ladies and gents: if you’ve ever read a magazine during a pedicure or while you waited (and waited) for an oil change, chances are you’ve taken one of those little quiz things. I know. It’s okay; you usually just do this out of desperation. But today? Today will be different. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out what style of jeans look best on your back side, I’m challenging you to get down to brass tacks and look at something that matters. Let’s see how much—and how well—you understand your energy use.
1.) Are the appliances and devices in my home working harder or working smarter?
You probably have between five and ten major appliances in your house, and occasionally, they can be at odds with one another. First, check for and use energy savings modes wherever they’re available. Second, look at timing. If it’s 90 degrees outside and your air conditioner is really cranking, throwing a load of towels in the dryer while roasting a turkey in the oven is going to cost you later.
2.) Am I ignoring a bad habit out of convenience?
Sure, mornings are hectic and you need to get to the office on time, but it takes just one extra second to unplug the hair dryer, curling iron and cell phone charger. Even when these things are turned off, as long as they’re plugged in, they’re drawing current.
3.) Am I up to date on maintenance and service appointments?
This is my personal biggest mistake. I’m calling my HVAC technician for my annual spring service appointment this morning, I swear. It’s on my list! Many other appliances benefit from regular cleaning and maintenance, too. Check your owner’s manuals.
4.) Are the members of my household on the same page?
Talk to your family or roommates about why saving energy and money is important to you, then agree to a plan together. You can run around unplugging appliances and adjusting the thermostat all day long, but if someone is in the next room letting the A/C blow out an open window, you’ll be wasting energy and your time, too.
5.) Do I make adjustments depending on the seasons?
External temperatures can play a big role in how much energy your family needs to be comfortable, but they can also work in your favor sometimes. If your water heater is located in the garage, there’s no reason why you can’t adjust the setting down during the warmer summer months.
Leave a Comment
Make Earth Day a family event this year with the Earth Day family challenge. Ask your family to participate in one or more of the following activities—you’ll save energy by unplugging the TV and getting outside, you’ll all learn something new and best of all, you’ll all spend important, distraction free time together.
Start a Family Garden
There is nothing more satisfying or delicious than a home grown tomato! Seed packets are everywhere this time of year, even at the grocery store. Set aside a small plot of land in the yard or fill good-sized patio containers with fresh soil. Plant the seeds together and take lots of pictures. Pull the camera back out to snap photos of the first harvest, too!
Build a Compost Bin
Compost bins are ideal for large and small spaces, and can be easily constructed with a few feet of 2 x 4’’ lumber and a small roll of chicken wire. Have an adult drive 2’’ screws into each section, making a rectangle or square appropriate for the space. Finally, wrap the exterior with chicken wire and secure to the ground with a landscaping spike. It’s amazing how grass clippings and kitchen waste can become next year’s premium garden soil!
There’s no better way to celebrate Earth Day and save time for the rest of the year, too! Take out the laptop after dinner and have kids help make a list of all the bills you currently receive paper statements for. Let them put these last-ever ones in the recycling bin while an adult signs up for electronic billing or auto-draft instead. (You can sign up for paperless billing from Duke Energy here: www.duke-energy.com/paperless.)
Go on a Hike
Plan a route through your neighborhood, a local park or a nearby nature preserve. Pack a picnic, a blanket and a camera. Make a list of local area birds and hold a contest: the first child to spot each bird on their list wins the game.
Does your family have an Earth Day tradition? Please share it in the comments!
Leave a Comment
The kitchen—the heart of the home! If you enjoy saving money as much as a home cooked meal, check out these super easy tricks that you can do right now with no equipment and no hassle.
- Here’s a reason to rummage through the bottom cabinet to hunt down that stubborn lid: water boils faster if the pot is covered.
- Unless you’re making an epic pot of chili for 18 people, your meal will cook just fine with the smaller sized heating element on your cook top.
- Turn the cook top or oven off just before the meal is done. You already paid for that residual heat—use it!
- Reheat leftovers in the microwave instead of the oven.
- Speaking of leftovers: plan for them. Double your recipe and freeze half for a stress free, energy saving meal later on.
- Think small, save big: slow cookers, pressure cookers and small electric griddles use less energy than larger, full sized appliances without sacrificing flavor.
- Check the temperature setting on your fridge. Unless you’re chilling down a champion Jello mold, it was designed to work and keep food fresh on the lowest setting.
Leave a Comment
Spring cleaning is a great time to take advantage of many of the energy saving tips that can be found here on Youtility. For example, you can dust your light bulbs or switch them out for CFLs, change your HVAC return filters, program your thermostat, make sure your ceiling fans are turning counter clockwise for the wind chill effect and vacuum your refrigerator coils. Duke Energy customers – the Halpins, from Charlotte, N.C. – were kind enough to let us in their home to show us how easy it is to be energy efficient. Watch the video and then download and print this checklist to get your family started on the right track this spring!
Leave a Comment
If you’ve ever paid an energy bill before, you probably noticed the word ‘kilowatt hour’ somewhere on your monthly statement (sometimes abbreviated as kW·h, kW h or kWh). If you’ve ever been confused by what this means, you’re in good company—it’s not as straightforward as a gallon or a degree or a day. And that’s because a kilowatt hour is actually measuring two different things at once: energy (in watts) and time (in hours).
So if you have a 1000 watt microwave, and you decided to pop a bag of popcorn for an hour, it would use one kilowatt hour, or 1 kWh. It would also smell really bad.
Many appliances and gadgets are labeled with the maximum wattage they draw to operate, but the best way to know exactly how much energy your stuff uses is to measure it with a watt-hour meter, like the wonderfully named Kill-a-Watt, which you can buy here.
Once you know the watt usage, it’s time to closely estimate two additional figures: the number of hours per day and the number of days per month the device or appliance is used. The final equation will look like this:
Watt Usage X Hours/Day X Days/Month, divided by 1000 = Kilowatt Hours used that month
For my hair dryer, this would look like:
2000 watts X .5 hours X 15 days = 15,000 watts, divided by 1000 = 15 kWh per month.
At a rate of 9.6 cents per kWh, it costs about $1.44 a month to have dry hair.
Now, consider larger appliances like air conditioners given the above information. Hopefully it’s a little easier to understand just how much your personal preferences can impact your bill—and how much control you truly have over your energy use.
Leave a Comment
While growing up in Upstate New York, I would accompany my grandpa on one of the most gravely critical missions a 6 year old could undertake: chasing squirrels out of the attic. Every winter, they’d chew their way back inside the three story historic structure built in 1909. So he’d march up, more determined every year, to plug, seal, block and fill every nook and cranny. Once, he was so mad that he actually patched a hole with asphalt. In terms of animal management, this seemed like a good strategy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good air management strategy—and the hot, moist air that was trapped during the summer months caused major energy and mold problems over time.
If you’ve ever hauled anything up to your own attic on a warm summer day, then you know just how HOT it can get. With the sun shining down on dark shingles, it can start to feel like an oven. Add to that the moisture that rises from everyday activities—like breathing or cooking or taking a hot shower—and you have a recipe for all sorts of mold, mildew and rust. Yuck.
Depending on building codes, the area where you live and the age of your home, your house was probably built with a ventilation system in the attic. In most cases, this system is a passive one, made up of a few styles of vents that are positioned to provide constant air exchange—aka—when stale, hot or moist air is vented out so new, fresh air can replace it. It can seem counter-intuitive that venting is an important way to save energy when we hear so many virtues of insulation and caulk. But venting, especially in the attic, can help:
- Extend the lifespan of your roof shingles by keeping the underside of the roof cooler in very hot weather.
- Reduce the burden on your air conditioner by allowing hot air in the attic to escape to the outdoors.
- Prevent moisture build up that can fuel the growth of mold, mildew and rust that can cause expensive structural damage, and even irritate the systems of sensitive family members.
The really good news is that in most cases, there isn’t much you need to do. Your system was designed to work all by itself all year long for free—and how many things in life can you say that about? What you do need to know is how to recognize the early warning signs of venting problems before they cause expensive damage. Here are a few things you should be on the lookout for:
- During cold winter months, check the underside of your roof and rafters for frost. Frost is a signal that too much moisture is trapped in the attic; it just condensed and froze, making it easier to detect.
- Look for any water stains, dark or blackened wood, mold, mildew or rot.
- Examine all exposed metal, including brackets, nails and screws for signs of rust.
- Survey your insulation. Is any of it matted or compacted in a specific area? This can be a sign of a roof leak.
So grab a flashlight (and maybe a broom, if you suspect a squirrel or two) and head up to inspect your attic this weekend. It should take less than 10 minutes and give you peace of mind for the rest of the year. In the unlikely event you discover a warning signal—it’ll be less expensive in the long run to call a professional right away.
Have you had a venting problem in the past? Share your story in the comments!
Leave a Comment
SEER rating: sounds delicious, right?
Sadly, I’m not going to talk about the best ways to cook a steak today. But I hope the promise of saving energy and money will be almost as enticing.
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. Essentially, SEER ratings are a grade given to stand-alone air conditioning and heat pump equipment units to help consumers better understand a given appliance’s energy efficiency.
How do the fine folks who grade these things arrive at their final conclusion? SEER ratings are calculated by the “cooling output” (aka: how much cold or hot air can it blow) divided by the total amount of electric energy the unit uses in watt-hours. An easier way to think about a SEER rating is to compare it to the miles per gallon (MPG) rating on your car. In both cases, these ratings measure how much work a machine can get done with a set amount of energy. And just like a higher MPG rating is good for your wallet, so is a higher SEER rating.
As you’re probably all-too-familiar, as temperatures rise, so do our energy bills. Here are a few things to think about as we get ready for the summer months ahead:
- If you’re currently in the market for a new air conditioner or heat pump, pay attention to the SEER rating and ask questions about energy efficiency. You might spend less money over time with a unit that is more expensive but more efficient.
- Check to see if you qualify for Duke Energy’s Smart $aver® program, which offers cash rebates for qualifying high efficiency central air conditioners and heat pumps. You can learn more here.
- Schedule a yearly maintenance visit for your existing A/C before the cooling season gets underway with a local heating and air company. Your unit will operate more efficiently when it’s free of debris and in top working order.
- If you have exposed ductwork that is easy to access in a basement, crawlspace or attic, give it a quick visual inspection for major leaks, gaps or holes. You’ll want to avoid a situation like this.
- Change your air intake filters. All of that dirt and dust makes central heating and cooling systems work harder and waste energy.
Be good to your cooling and heating units and they’ll return the favor to you and your wallet. Now who’s ready for some steak?
Do you know the SEER rating on your air conditioner? Share it in the comments!
Leave a Comment
It’s the middle of a cold, dark night. You wake up, thirsty, and decide to tip toe to the kitchen for a glass of water. As you walk past the den, you see them: sinister, glowing in the dark. A dozen tiny flashing lights. Each one is an energy vampire, slowly draining your wallet.
So maybe it’s not quite as creepy as a scene out of Paranormal Activity, but energy vampires are no laughing matter, either. Even when you turn off your television, computer or coffee maker, they’re still drawing current. The good news is that you can easily and affordably stop energy vampires cold by installing smart power strips in key areas of your home.
Smart power strips look a lot like the regular power strips we all know and love, but they boast some extra technology. On an average smart power strip, you’ll find a handful of different outlets. Some stay on all the time—perfect for a cordless telephone or a home security system. Other outlets are monitored, which means that your smart power strip can tell when a device goes into standby mode.
There are several styles of smart power strips available at local electronics and home improvement stores with unique features, and all aim to cut power to devices that aren’t in use, automatically preventing waste:
- One style groups appliances to a “master” device. These versions are great for home entertainment centers, where turning on the TV can trigger ancillary devices like game consoles, DVD players and home stereos.
- Another style of smart power strip features an infrared motion sensor that turns devices off once a room has been empty for whichever amount of time you determine. And when you come home from work, voila! Everything is ready to use.
- A third type of smart power strip comes with a remote control that uses radio frequencies to communicate through walls. No more running around, jamming your arm behind the sofa. Set your remote on your nightstand and power down your entire house from bed. (Now, if only it could bring you a glass of water in the middle of the night!)
Do you have a smart power strip in your home? Share what style and where in the comments.
Leave a Comment
If you’ve ever bought a new car at a dealership, chances are you paid close attention to two different numbers: the purchase price and the miles per gallon (MPG) rating. Since the MPG rating is tied to how often you’ll be stopping at the pump to fill up the tank, it’s easy to see why this number plays an important role in a purchase decision.
Just like cars, home appliances come with two price tags. But because an appliance will sit plugged into the wall, the second price—the average annual energy cost—isn’t always so obvious.
If you’re heading to the store to invest in equipment that can last 10, 15 or even 20 years, it’s a good idea to bring a notepad. Thanks to large yellow tags featured prominently on the front of each appliance, it’s easy to calculate and compare the lifetime operational costs of the units you’re considering buying. When I started to calculate the lifetime operational cost of a new washer and dryer, I realized that I was looking at a significant amount of money. Depending on your unit styles and family habits, appliances can account for 10% – 18% of your household’s energy consumption.
Appliances make our lives easier, safer and more convenient, but they also use a significant amount of energy and stick around for a pretty long time. Refrigerators last an average of 14 years, clothes washers last about 11 years and dishwashers typically last about 10 years. So if you’re lured towards a certain model on the showroom floor because it is $200 cheaper, double check that yellow tag. You might break even or actually save money over the long term by choosing a more expensive but more efficient appliance.
Efficient appliance shopping tips:
- Look for appliances that offer specific energy efficient design features. New “double” ovens partition the same amount of space you would find in a regular, standard oven into two drawers. So on pizza night, you’ll only need to heat one rack instead of the entire oven.
- When you do shop for a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. ENERGY STAR products usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount.
- The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy provides information to consider when deciding on new appliances.
- Research your fuel choice. Some appliances come in gas, electric or combination versions. Certain fuel choices may be more or less efficient based on the type of appliance. (For example, electric ovens are more efficient than gas ovens, while gas cook tops are more efficient than electric cook tops. New hybrid ranges offer an electric oven/gas cook top combination for maximum efficiency!)
- Look for appliances with more sophisticated temperature settings and automatic shutoff features.
We want to hear from you: if you bought a new appliance lately, did the average annual energy cost factor in your decision?
Leave a Comment
We’ve all seen one before: a standard water heater. A big, cylindrical drum sitting lonely and forgotten in the corner of a basement or garage. While they look unassuming, standard water heaters use energy around the clock to keep water hot, even when your family is at work or school or on vacation.
You probably already knew that heating and cooling costs account for the majority of the average home’s energy bill. But did you know that hot water accounts for up to 30 percent of those heating related expenses? That begs the question: is a standard water heater the best for your family? Should you consider a tankless model? Or are there alternative hot water sources?
- Tankless water heaters have been getting a lot of attention recently. These small wall mounted units don’t store any water at all. When hot water is “ordered” inside the home, high-powered gas or electric burners quickly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger.
- There’s a small delay before hot water arrives, but some homeowners prefer the inconvenience to having to keep 75 or more gallons of water hot all day, every day.
- According to Consumer Reports, the tankless water heaters were on average 22 percent more energy efficient than standard gas-fired storage-tank models.
- While the tankless version would provide an average annual savings of $60 – $90 annually, at that rate, it would take over 20 years to recoup the investment costs of these very expensive units.
- In addition to the unit price, there can be additional significant up front costs should you need to upgrade your electrical or gas systems during the installation process.
- Consumer Reports also noted increased service and maintenance costs, with one manufacturer recommending units be flushed annually by a technician.
- If your standard water heater is located in a cold area, like a garage, you can visit your local home improvement store and purchase a specialty insulation blanket to wrap around the outside of the tank. In most cases this will keep water hot while using less energy.
- Turn down the temperature on your current unit. If water is hot enough to be uncomfortable at the maximum settings, you’re wasting energy by over-heating. Why keep water practically boiling just to mix it with cold water?
- Additional alternatives are in development, including solar and heat pump styles. These concepts will ‘harvest’ heat from the sun or from the inside of the home during warm months to supplement traditional heating methods and help offset costs.
Do you or a relative have a tankless water heater? We’d love to hear your opinion of how it’s working in the comments.
Leave a Comment
So you’ve decided to remodel something. Congratulations! While the next few days, weeks or months will be filled with dust, phone calls and tripping over things, you’ll eventually walk into that gleaming new space of yours and sigh with satisfaction. While it can be exciting to dog ear pages in Architectural Digest Magazine and borrow all of your sister’s Restoration Hardware catalogues, there’s an opportunity you could be missing while you agonize over whether oil rubbed bronze fixtures look vintage enough for the midcentury French theme you have your heart set on: designing for energy efficiency.
Sure, the whole point of remodeling is to make your space uniquely yours, but for most people it’s also about maximizing the potential resale value of the property. By designing a room to be energy smart, you’ll get the best of both worlds: energy and cost savings for as long as you own your home, and a nice boost in resale value, too.
In the Kitchen
If you’re getting ready to overhaul those Kelly green laminate countertops and banish the floral wallpaper forever, make sure to take a look at your appliances, too. Energy Star rated refrigerators, ovens, cook tops and dishwashers can make a big dent in your energy use. In terms of lighting, there are many CFL and LED bulb styles that will fit almost any recessed can, fixture or lamp.
In the Bathroom
That avocado sink seemed like such a good idea 40 years ago, right? Tastes aren’t the only thing that’s changed. Sinks, showerheads and toilets are all available now with low flow technology to help significantly reduce your water use. If you’re keeping a sink or showerhead in place, special aerators are available to help reduce the amount of water used. And as we mentioned above, there are many CFL and LED bulb styles that will fit almost any recessed can, fixture or lamp. There’s even a new natural light style bulb ideal for applying makeup.
On the Exterior
If you’re getting ready to break out the paint, think about the bigger picture. If the siding is looking tired, the roof and windows might need a little extra TLC, too. New roofing products offer heat barriers and deflectors. New window products on the market boast a layer of inert gas between panes to reduce heat transfer or offer a convenient mini blind feature to block the sun without gathering dust. While these jobs can be a big investment, they’ll greatly improve the value and comfort level of your home. If you’re working with a general contractor, negotiate a new layer of attic insulation into the price they quote to help sweeten the deal (and the savings!).
Have you undertaken a big remodel job recently? Did you design with energy savings in mind? If so, tell us what you did.
Leave a Comment
A Homebuyers Guide to Existing Homes and Energy Efficiency
Looking for a new house can feel like an invigorating challenge. That, or make you want to drive headlong into a brick wall. Either way, there’s a lot to consider when making what will likely be one of the biggest purchases of your life. While most buyers mull over school districts and upgraded features, there’s another not-so-small detail that many forget to add to their list of criteria: energy efficiency.
Buying an efficient home or making energy efficient upgrades might be a little more expensive, but it has the potential to pay you back every single month for as long as you own your home. So if you’re thinking of taking the plunge and buying a new home soon, read on for a quick checklist of things that can help you save energy and money over the long haul.
Buy an Energy Star Home
It’s possible you’ve heard about Energy Star appliances, but did you know that Energy Star certifies entire homes, too? Energy Star rated homes rely on multiple energy efficient upgrades to reduce energy consumption over a typical home by 20% or more.
Run jointly by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, the program uses third-party inspectors to ensure that qualifying homes are 20 to 30 percent more efficient than typical houses. They also celebrated a recent milestone when inspectors certified their one millionth Energy Star rated home!
Make an Upgrade or Allowance Contingency
It’s no secret that it’s a buyer’s market out there—so many motivated sellers are ready to do what it takes to get you to sign on the dotted line. If you’re considering an older existing home, try negotiating for certain upgrades or a cash allowance at closing to use towards the EE project of your choice. Have a home inspector point out areas that might need the most attention and use that information to close the deal in your favor. Some great and reasonably priced things to consider would include:
- New Energy Star Appliances
- Attic insulation and/or radiant barrier
- New EE windows or UV window tinting
Put it on the Punch List
One of the more fun aspects of moving into a new home is getting the chance to redecorate, remodel and add the special touches that make a space your own. So while you’re dreaming of and budgeting for new floors or a patio or a full mosaic Greco Roman bath in the basement, make sure to add energy saving upgrades to the list, too. It might not seem glamorous to forego a 70″ TV to free up some money for insulation, but it’s important to remember two things: it’ll be much easier to get upgrades out of the way before you move in, and the sooner a project is done, the earlier you’ll start to recoup your costs through energy savings.
Look for Special Financing
There’s no denying it—an energy efficient home is going to cost a little more than an average model. From insulation to appliances to windows, better made, higher quality and specially designed building supplies are bound to be more expensive than run of the mill materials. Luckily, if you have your heart set on a more efficient home, special financing is available in most areas to help cover the additional costs. Known as an Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs) and Energy Improvement Mortgages (EIMs), many mortgage companies offer loans that credit a home’s amount of energy efficiency savings to help qualify borrowers for larger loan amounts. Talk to several lenders about the options they offer. Most will require a simple home inspection prior to closing.
So if you’re currently house hunting, good luck! Let us know how the search is going in the comments.
Leave a Comment
Even if the moving van drove away, say, five years ago—if you’ve built a new home in the last few years, there’s a good chance you can save more energy with a few quick upgrades. It’s true that most newer homes are more energy efficient than homes that are 30 or more years old, but many builders still pay closer attention to local and state building codes than energy efficiency when making construction choices. So whether you’re still picking out the details or have had a little while to settle in, check out these ideas to help you save energy, money and time for years to come.
Look for ENERGY STAR Appliances
If your friends are asking you about your new appliances, and all you can tell them is “OMG they’re stainless steel!,” it might be time to do some extra homework. Like lots of other goods, appliances can vary significantly in cost and efficiency. When you’re standing in the appliance store, saving $300 on a new refrigerator sounds like a good idea—but—it can cost over $300 a year to power the average fridge. Spending just a little bit more on a more efficient style can pay you back several times in energy savings.
Ah, a white picket fence and a tree in the yard. Sounds nice! While landscaping can be a matter of personal taste, there are a number of things you can do to help Mother Nature help you. Try planting a large, deciduous tree (like a Sugar Maple or Oak) to the south side of your home, where the sun shines hottest in the summer. When the tree loses its leaves, the sun can help warm your home during winter. Similar screening techniques are great for outdoor A/C units. The hotter your A/C gets, the harder it has to work. Tall, narrow trees or shrubs (like Pencil Holly) can block the sun’s rays and help keep your AC cooler. And if you live on a large, flat lot, planting a row of tall, narrow evergreens (like Leiland Cyprus) on the North side of your property can cut down on wind, which can steal precious heat or air conditioned air from your home all year round. If there are power lines nearby, be sure to check out this handy planting guide.
Decorating is a great way to show off your unique style, but it can also be a great way to save energy, too. The right window treatments can still look great while also helping to prevent heat loss or solar gain. Taking your local climate into account, consider where each window faces and the amount of sun, shade or wind the window is exposed to. For sunny windows, consider room darkening shades that block out the sun on hot summer days. For windows exposed to wind, pair a standard wood blind with heavier full length draperies that you can close in winter.
I’m assuming you’d also like to relax in your new home now that you have it, right? If you’d like to save a few minutes each month, sign up for paperless billing. And with auto draft options available, you can automate the entire process for a hassle free future!
Leave a Comment
On a chilly, snowy or drizzly day in January, it can be tempting go into hibernation until April or move to a tropical island. Since most of us have appointments to keep, families to feed and jobs to do, cranking up the heat seems like the next best option. Except for this not-so-little detail: kicking your furnace into overdrive wastes tons of energy and money. In fact, heating and cooling your home can account for as much as 50 – 70% of your total annual energy bill! So before you send that monthly bill into the stratosphere, try taking advantage of these free or low cost tricks to stay warm and cozy this winter.
Join the Counter Culture
Warm air rises and unless you’re a superhero, you probably spend your time occupying the lower half of the room. Change your ceiling fan to rotate counter-clockwise, so you can enjoy the warm air you’ve already paid for.
During the winter season when the sun is lower in the sky, it’s super easy to let those gorgeous rays shine through your windows. Open blinds and shades fully and take advantage of the free heat!
One of the easiest and fastest ways to warm up is to layer up. Evaluate your wardrobe and invest in some cozy, comfortable items to warm yourself up before you warm the whole house up.
No matter what your diet or taste is, there’s a plethora of soup, stew and chili recipes that will keep your family feeling warm and satisfied. Skip the salad and warm yourself from the inside out.
A nice glass of red wine on a cold winter night? Enough said.
Let’s Get Physical
If you’re feeling energetic and need to banish the chill, pop in a favorite workout video or fire up the Xbox or Wii. You’ll be feeling warm in minutes and getting your daily dose of good old fashioned exercise.
Hug It Out
There’s no better way to warm up than to cuddle with a loved one or a pet. So grab a blanket, pop in a movie and snuggle up.
Have a favorite way to warm up during winter? Please share it in the comments!
Leave a Comment
It’s January—and the crisp air of the New Year brings a renewed sense of enthusiasm. You wake up, excited about a project you’re planning at home or the office. After a quick shower, you grab a favorite outfit. The outfit you always get compliments on. You are so going to own 2012.
And then you realize: your pants won’t close.
Silently cursing the cheese dip, you scramble to find a roomier pair of slacks to slip on—and decide that getting healthier is a goal you need to add to your list.
Sound familiar? It’s my story every year. But I’m not the type of person who can get excited about walking in silence for 45 minutes on a treadmill. Finding the willpower to take on the challenge requires some new gear to get excited about. And this year, there are a number of neat gadgets that can help power a great workout with no power from the grid. The best of both worlds, these gadgets can help you can get in shape with no extra energy vampires adding to your utility bills.
Portable Solar Cell
Especially convenient for hiking and camping enthusiasts, you can harness the power of the sun to charge any MP3 player, personal fan or other device. Fits on a standard keychain. $80 at solio.com.
A special pair of workout bottoms under prototype at designboom.com lets you personally generate all the energy you’ll need to rock your tunes. Just plug your MP3 player into a small cell in the pocket, and become your own human battery.
A small, mascara-sized tube that you pop into your purse generates enough kinetic energy to charge your MP3 player for a jog after work. One minute of walking equals one minute of play. $160 at NPowerPeg.com.
Do you have a favorite energy saving workout secret? Please share it in the comments.
Leave a Comment
The holiday season is officially around the corner, and with that comes all of the fun, excitement and semi-insanity of friends, family, shopping, cooking, party-going and entertaining. The next four weeks can feel like a marathon; after expending a huge amount of energy and effort, you cross the New Year’s finish line feeling dehydrated, dizzy and sore.
With everything that you’re about to have (literally and figuratively) on your plate, now is the perfect time to make sure your HVAC system is 1. working and 2. operating efficiently. Why bother with this extra step on your already jam packed checklist? Because you don’t want to hear Aunt Thelma complain for the next three years that she had to eat Christmas dinner wearing a parka—nor do you want to open a bill in January that’s three times higher than you were expecting.
The first step requires minimal effort but a small investment: calling in a professional heating and air technician for an annual furnace check-up. Some new systems can cost as much as a small car, so think of it like bringing your wheels to the mechanic for a yearly inspection. Ask your neighbors for a reputable reference, and keep the technician’s phone number handy if they did a good job. Reliable contractors are worth their weight in gold, especially if an unforeseen issue pops up in the future!
Step two requires a little bit of legwork, but will pay off in the long run:
- Examine and replace all of your air intake filters. (My house has two intake vents which are awesomely two different sizes. To minimize frustration and trips to the store, I bought 6-packs of each filter size and keep the extras stashed in a closet.)
- Walk through each room and examine vents on the floor, walls and ceiling. Make sure they’re all open and unobstructed. (I used to think that closing vents in underutilized areas, like a guest bedroom, was saving me money. Not the case!)
- When you are home set that thermostat at 68 degrees and keep it there. (I mean it. Really. Exercise some self control and layer up if you must!)
- When you aren’t home, lower your thermostat by 10 degrees. This can really help you save. (And if you can figure out how to program your thermostat, you can make sure your home is nice and toasty when you return home!)
And if you have more HVAC tips, please share them in the comments.
Leave a Comment
Give Thanks for Savings!
Thanksgiving: a cherished time to gather around a delicious meal and reflect on the many people and opportunities that we are lucky to enjoy in life.
Or, you know, the day each year when you completely freak out because your toddler is streaking through the house while your turkey is on fire and your in-laws are sitting on the front porch smoking cigarettes and judging you.
No matter what your perspective is of this annual tradition, it’ll be here next week. If you’re the lucky designated host, you may want to consider these energy and time saving tips to make your holiday less stressful and less expensive.
Right pot, right burner
If your pot of water seems to be simmering even more slowly than your frustration, cover the pot with a lid rather than moving it to a larger burner.
Shut that door!
Frequently opening your oven wastes tons of energy and can lead to longer cooking times. Keep the internal temperature consistent and use your oven light to monitor progress.
Your microwave uses way less energy than an oven and cooks food faster. Less money, less time. What’s not to love?
Load that dishwasher
You know Uncle Ted will be loaded—so why not load up that dishwasher, too? Sure, over imbibing is a little different than packing dishes strategically, but you don’t want a hangover-worthy headache from high bills next month.
A few simple steps can help you save big—without having to sacrifice. So turn on the parade, mix yourself a cocktail and just remember: you have way more control over your energy use than just about any other thing on Thanksgiving.
Have a holiday EE tip? Share it in the comments!
Leave a Comment
If you’ve turned on your TV recently, then you know that the content provider wars are almost as dramatic as the shows they broadcast! Traditional staples like cable and satellite are going up against new services like Hulu and Netflix. While it’s each provider’s job to talk up the unique benefits they offer, there is a hidden cost beyond the subscription price that I hadn’t considered until recently: the amount of energy each proprietary device requires to operate.
Beyond your actual TV, there’s always some form of additional hardware that you’ll need in order to watch the programming you’re paying for. I happen to subscribe to both cable and streaming services, so I decided to put my DVR and streaming consoles head-to-head in an energy match with my trusty Kill-A-Watt measurement tool.
The first contender was my IP streaming device. Built by a 3rd party manufacturer called Roku, this particular box centralizes all of my IP streaming content into an easy to navigate format. The device itself is only 1” by 3” by 3”—much smaller than a DVR or gaming console—and it also came with a tiny remote control.
On standby, the device pulled .06 amps.
When streaming or buffering content, it pulled .09 amps.
The next contender was my DVR console, issued by my cable company. I couldn’t locate a manufacturer name, but the device is roughly 3” by 9” by 12”. I suspected this device would probably use more energy due to an internal cooling fan I could hear blowing on the inside. It also features a back-lit clock and digital channel display.
On standby, the device pulled .46 amps.
When recording new content or playing saved programming, the device pulled .94 amps.
The results were more shocking than I’d thought. With two DVRs in my house, I realized that they draw nearly 1 amp collectively all day long, even when I’m not home! After an entire month, that’s really impacting my bill.
Take a look around your own house tonight and see what’s plugged into your entertainment center. If you’re like most people, you likely have multiple broadcast and gaming consoles. You can talk to your family about unplugging these electronics when not in use, or consider a smart power strip to help you manage the flow of power to hungry electronics!
Leave a Comment
I’m always thinking about ways to save energy—but how do you know what you’re spending or saving when you can’t see it? I know the price a gallon of milk, but it’s hard to put a number on something that’s invisible. Heck, just one device could be screwing up all of the other energy saving steps that I take.
So I was feeling pretty clueless until one of my teammates here mentioned the ‘Kill-A-Watt’ energy monitoring tool. And this thing is SO cool. It costs around $20 online, and it’s super easy to use. The Kill-A-Watt gets plugged directly into any outlet, and then you plug your appliance or device into it. This tool even measures electrical flow like 8 different ways if you feel you need to get that specific.
Armed with my new toy, I looked around the house to see what would be fun to measure first. My friend suggested that I try a hair styling tool showdown, which was brilliant. How many of you have blown a fuse when you turn on your clothes iron and your hairdryer at the same time? Exactly. These suckers must take a lot of juice.
For my first-ever energy match, I picked two seemingly similar tools: my curling iron and my flat iron. Since both of these heats up to about the same temperature, my guess was that they’d draw about the same amount of power.
Wrong. The flat iron drew .08 amps while the curling iron drew .88 amps: exactly eleven times more power. I’m probably not going to change my hairstyle anytime soon, because the difference isn’t likely to break the bank. But it makes me think twice about unplugging all of my styling tools before I leave in the morning. Ever come home to a semi-fried countertop? Sigh. That’s probably another blog post.
Which appliances or gadgets should go head to head next week? Leave your vote in on our Facebook page!
Leave a Comment
Sure, you know about how much to spend on lunch today. But how much will you spend on power for your home?
Leave a Comment
The pace of technology today can seem breakneck: there’s a new device practically every day. While we do live in an exciting time, some of the most life-altering technological advancements didn’t happen last year… they didn’t even happen in the last century!
It’s appropriately fitting that great ideas are sometimes referred to as light bulb moments, since the light bulb itself was a pretty darn good one. Refined for wide use with a carbon filiment by Thomas Alva Edison in 1879, the incandescent light bulb completely revolutionized the way we live. It made streets safer and businesses more productive. And it gave people hours of time for activities like reading, writing or sewing that had previously been difficult by dim candlelight. But as life changing as this invention was, the incandescent light bulb is just one of many late 19th century inventions that we still love today.
Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876. Original prototypes relied on a series of electromagnets, membranes and cemented iron to reproduce sound.
Levi Strauss patented denim pants reinforced with copper rivets in 1873. Called “waist coveralls,” the rugged work pants were marketed to miners who flocked to California’s gold rush.
James Naismith, a Canadian physical education teacher, invented Basketball in 1891 to keep students active during long, cold winters. The original version of the game was played by throwing a soccer ball into a peach basket, with the bottom still intact.
George Eastman, looking for ways to make photography more portable, created the first flexible roll of film in 1882, eliminating the need for inconvenient glass plates.
It’s interesting to consider just how far many inventions have continued to develop. Telephones are small and smart. Jeans come in millions of styles. Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world. And photography has gone from glass plates, to flexible film, to entirely digital. Yet, one of these inventions has remained virtually unchanged for over a hundred years: the incandescent light bulb.
Think about how many incandescent bulbs you still have in lamps and fixtures throughout your home. Now ask yourself: what other technology do rely on that hasn’t been improved upon in over 130 years? Today’s CFL and LED bulbs might cost a little more at the register, but they’ll save you big over the long term by using 75% less electricity. It’s time to hang up the 1879 technology for 2011!
If you’re a Duke Energy customer, you may qualify for free CFL bulbs. Visit www.duke-energy.com/freecfls to see if this offer is available in your area.
Leave a Comment
College bound kids? Save energy and streamline your service by following this easy checklist.
Soon enough, the days of crispy brown lawns and lazy afternoons by the pool will give way to flurry of packing, sorting and moving for hundreds of thousands of college students across the United States. And from roommates to meal plans to class schedules, it can feel overwhelming.
With all of the technology students rely on these days—like laptops, cell phones and iPods—it’s important to make an energy plan. So consider the following list to make sure you or your student is set for success this school year.
Do you need to order service?
Living Greek life in a fraternity or sorority house? Are you or your student finally scoring off campus housing with a group of friends? Many traditional dormitories still include utilities in their regular fee, but an increasing number of schools now offer townhouse and apartment options that require students to open an account. Check to make sure, and make an appointment in advance if you need to. During this busy move-in season, there can be a wait to have power turned on—and lugging boxes around in the dark doesn’t sound like fun.
If you or your student needs to open an account, make sure to sign up for paperless billing right away by visiting duke-energy.com/paperless. Classes, homework, parties and friends make college one of the busiest times in a person’s life—and opening, sorting and paying paper bills won’t be high on anyone’s priority list. Avoid hassle, save time and paper. What could be easier than that?
Get the Right Gear
Making a shopping list? Right under those new skinny jeans and that important box of Ramen Noodles, make sure to add compact fluorescent light bulbs, power strips and weather stripping, if the future residence has a front door to the outside. Energy saving CFL bulbs use up to 75% less electricity, so you can save big while you’re pulling all-nighters before the Chem test. Power strips are a convenient way to help protect against damage from a possible surge, and offer a central point to unplug devices when everyone leaves for homecoming weekend. And new weather stripping can help save big on heating and cooling costs, if there are doors that lead to the outside elements.
So help make the 2011-2012 school year the best one yet, by saving energy, time and money. Class dismissed!
Leave a Comment
“It’s too hot!”
“It’s too cold!”
“No… it’s just right!”
When it comes to the thermostat setting, the conversation in my house sounds a little too much like an all-too-familiar children’s story. For years, it’s seemed like we could never agree on one temperature to set our thermostat—so it was adjusted daily, depending on what we were doing or cooking or wearing. Luckily, experts are agreeing on a number to cool your house to during the summer so we can stop bickering: 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since heating and cooling your home can account for more than half of your home’s total energy usage each month, it’s important to keep your thermostat as close to this guideline as possible if you want to save energy and money. In fact, a study in the state of Florida found a 12% average increase in energy use with every single degree drop in the thermostat setting. Think about that: you probably won’t notice the difference between 75 degrees and 78 degrees. But those 3 degrees can save you a whopping 36% more energy! Granted every home is different, and depending on a lot of factors, you might see more or less savings.
The next time you’re near your thermostat, check the dial to see where you stand. If you air condition your home like a walk-in cooler, try increasing your setting by just one degree each day instead of changing it all at once. If you find your family still at odds, try making a compromise. At my house, we can live with 78 on the first floor, but set the second level at 75 so it’s more comfortable to sleep. Do you have a different strategy? Why? I’d like to hear about it on the Youtility Facebook page! And for a more personalized calculation, you can try the Duke Energy thermostat calculator form.
Leave a Comment
Heading out for a summer getaway? Even if the reservations are made and the bags are packed, you aren’t ready to go just yet! Before you lock up the house, follow these easy steps to make sure your house takes an energy vacation while you are gone.
- Unplug appliances. Well, maybe not the refrigerator. But anything with a clock—like your stove, microwave or coffee pot—all draw power.
- Shut down the entertainment systems. Televisions, cable boxes and gaming consoles are among the most power hungry devices in your home.
- Use timers. Don’t leave lights on all day to give the appearance that you’re still at home. Use timers to limit lights to a 4 or 5 hour period.
- Patrol the house for chargers. Don’t leave laptop and phone charges plugged in when not in use; though small in size, these modern necessities can be a big consumer of power.
- Turn off televisions and radios. It’s unlikely the sound will deter a burglar, and you’ll instead be a victim to higher-than-necessary power bills.
- Turn your thermostat up or off. Depending on how long you plan to be gone, turning your thermostat up a few degrees—or off completely—can save big. But only turn the air conditioner off if you plan to be gone for a week or more. Otherwise, it could take more energy than you saved over a long weekend to make your house comfortable again.
- Close your blinds. Keep shades and blinds closed to fight solar gain, the heat caused by sunlight entering your home.
By following these simple steps, you might just be able to justify an extra splurge or two during your time away, since you’ll be saving so much extra energy and money at home!
Do you have any other tips for saving energy while you’re away? We’d like to hear from you, so share your tips on the YoutilitySM Facebook page.
Leave a Comment
For some strange reason, it just isn’t as fun to get mail these days as it was when I was a kid. (That probably has something to do with the fact that my late grandfather loved to send my sister and I money for just about every holiday…) Now though, if the letter isn’t a bill, it’s just junk. And I don’t like to waste my time or paper.
After a seriously bad junk mail day (12 pieces!), I started thinking: I’m on the national Do Not Call registry, and I have a pretty solid spam filter on my email. So why not investigate ways to take back my mail box, too?
Here’s what I’ve tried able to do so far:
- Convert all paper bills to paperless billing. Duke Energy, like many other companies, offers a paperless billing option. This is super simple for me, because I’m always chasing a 2 year old and seem to be perpetually out of stamps. Now that my mortgage, utility and cable bills are automated, I don’t have to worry about missing anything.
- Cancel my paper catalogs and opt-in to store email programs instead. Paper catalogues were doing me no favors, and usually just piled up in inconvenient places. I canceled the booklets and opted into email programs, and got an unexpected bonus: coupons! I didn’t realize that many of my favorite stores were publicizing deals online that I was missing out on.
- Sign up on free opt-out websites. There’s a handful of free websites that allow you to opt out of many of the largest direct mailing lists. These free services won’t cover everything, but signing up is a big head start. There are also several paid subscriptions available through websites like 41pounds. I haven’t signed up for a paid subscription just yet—but am seriously considering it.
- Be proactive. Be wary of sweepstakes, product warranty cards and other non-essential cards that require your name and address in exchange for small tokens. More often than not the data being collected is sold directly to large volume mailing lists.
With a few simple steps, hopefully you’ll find the volume of junk and bills decrease significantly—so when you open up that mailbox, there will be mail you actually enjoy opening. SO follow the steps listed above and start taking back your mailbox today.
Leave a Comment
Despite the fact that they use up to 75% less electricity than an incandescent light bulb, compact florescent light bulbs (or CFLs) haven’t always been showcased in the best possible light. Since their widespread introduction in 1999, some people have remained skeptical about their safety and visual appeal. I think it’s easy to understand some peoples’ initial hesitance, since those first generation bulbs looked pretty funny. When lit, they’d flicker for several seconds before finally illuminating the room in an unfamiliar cool blue tone. And at a hefty $12 – $25 a pop, outfitting every lamp in the house was a pretty steep proposition.
Today, some people still cite concern about the safety of CFLs. It’s true that they contain a small amount of mercury inside the glass tubing, but no mercury is ever released unless the bulb is broken. Light bulbs have always been made of glass, so handling them with care isn’t exactly a new proposition. CFL or not—broken glass is no fun! The good news is that if a CFL bulb ever does break in your home, the EPA has some simple guidelines for a quick, safe cleanup.
Today’s CFLs have advanced dramatically over the last decade, offering a wide range of decorative options. They’re available in several tones of warm and cool light, and are designed fit several different applications—from recessed (or canned) lighting to designer chandeliers. On a recent trip to the store, I even found a CFL black light for an upcoming children’s party and a CFL outdoor bug light to keep pests away from my door.
Besides looking great and giving you options, CFLs also:
- Last up to six times longer than an incandescent bulb
- Use approximately 75% less energy
- Can save up to $30 on your energy bill over each bulb’s lifetime
- Now cost as little as $2 per bulb
According to the US Energy Star program: “If every American replaced just 1 bulb in their home with a CFL, the resulting energy savings would eliminate greenhouse gasses equal to that of 800,000 cars.”
EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND CARS!
Today’s CFLs look great, are more affordable and continue to save you money, all while being better for the planet. What’s not to love?
Do YOU qualify for free CFLs from Duke Energy? Programs may vary by state. Please visit www.duke-energy.com/freecfls to see if you qualify today!
Leave a Comment
You know you need one: a serious vacation. But for many of us, the bill for the days spent unwinding can be more stressful than getting stuck in rush hour traffic. With flights and high gas prices, hotel, food and activity costs, a few days in paradise can easily cost $2,000 or more. I recently considered a four day trip to Florida, but the costs began to add up quickly. At first, staying at home seemed out of the question—until I considered all of the things I’d love to do but never have time for.
After looking at the budget, I realized that a trip to Florida would cost about $2,160 while packing in four days of activities and top restaurants in my own city would cost $700—way less than half! Think about where you live and the places you’ve heard friends or family mention—like restaurants, museums, stores and other attractions—that you’re just too busy to see or try during a normal, hectic work week. Plan your days off the same way you’d plan to be far from home: buy a new outfit, swear off any unnecessary chores and charge up the camera.
Start to brainstorm your staycation with these ideas:
- Talk to friends about new restaurants in town. What are people recommending?
- Many museums rotate or update exhibits—so even if you’ve been before, they can be worth another look.
- When is the last time you bought tickets to cheer on your home sports team? Pack a big tailgate for a pre-game picnic.
- Pitch a tent and go camping—at a local campground or in your own backyard.
- Rent a kayak and go for a paddle on your local lake or river.
- Many cities offer free or low cost walking or bicycle tours, where you can learn exciting things about your area’s history.
- Visit a nearby fair or festival for great rides, games and food.
For way less than half of what it would cost to travel out of state, you and your family can enjoy some exciting activities and try fun new restaurants—all while learning to appreciate the place where you live. Save energy and money and enjoy being a tourist in your own backyard with a great staycation this summer.
Do you have any smart staycation tips? Let us know on the Duke Energy Youtility Facebook page!
Leave a Comment
It’s July, and it’s HOT. In this heat, it can be a challenge to park the car, walk to the mailbox and then back to the front door without feeling like your clothes are beginning to stick. So I’ll admit—it’s tempting to want to run inside the house, lock the door, crank the A/C, and plop right down in front of the TV.
Really, though, we shouldn’t sweat some sweat or try too hard to beat the heat. With a little bit of planning, it can be fun to unplug the electronics and take yourself, family and pets outside – and keep your electric bill from skyrocketing!
Dress for Success: formal clothes you wore to the office or church are going to make the heat even more oppressive. Exchange those clothes for lightweight, breathable cotton and avoid dark colors. It’s amazing how a simple wardrobe change can make you feel!
Set a Timeline: be realistic. Is it over 85 degrees Fahrenheit today? Plan a hike or a picnic with a start time and end time, so you can enjoy the outdoors without risking your health.
Pack Refreshments: your outdoor trip can be extra fun when a snack is in your future! Old-fashioned baskets or newer thermal backpacks give ample room for a comfy blanket, thermos of your favorite cold beverage and a snack or meal. Bonus: bring a camera to capture some favorite scenes.
Be Fido Friendly: Bringing your four legged friend along? Plan for your breed. My 185 lb Great Dane, Winston, will happily snooze under a tree after a short walk. Smaller breeds can be very high energy, but can entertain themselves with toys or a swim in a pond. Pack extra water and plan for your dog’s preferences, and you’ll find the entire family enjoying the afternoon.
So why not pick a convenient night in the next week and set a date? Pack dinner, games and a camera, and head to your local park, playground or nature area. One family in my neighborhood, weather permitting, has family picnic night once every week—and they find themselves looking forward to it all day long. Give it a try! It can be surprisingly easy to re-charge when you un-plug.
Leave a Comment
So you’ve probably noticed by now that this entire website is here to help you reduce your energy bill. Hopefully you’ve watched a few videos of the Powers family, and read through some of our top summer cooling tips.
Now that you see what’s in it for you, you might still wonder why Duke Energy – the power company – wants to encourage their customers to buy less of their product. What could possibly be in it for them?
Let me begin by introducing myself. I’m Brittany, and I’m here to help. I’m a Duke Energy customer too, and my reason for writing this blog is to share ideas and listen to your questions and concerns. And as a fellow customer, I understand what a potentially high summer power bill means to a family on a budget.
Duke Energy wants to help customers take control of their energy use for many reasons, but there are two big ones:
- We understand that you have other things besides a power bill that you’d rather spend your money on.
- Demand for electricity keeps growing every year. During the hottest days of summer when demand is highest, we bring older, less efficient and more expensive plants on line to meet everyone’s needs. Reducing peak demand saves money and the environment.
Now that you understand why we’re here, I hope that you’ll join me on this journey in the months and years to come. Click the links above to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and tell your family, friends and neighbors. Each week I’ll share new ways that you can save on your energy bill with minimal but long-term adjustments to your daily routine – from minor home improvements, to appliance guides to recipes! We’ll also check in with industry experts on all of the hottest green trends, like compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and new plug-in electric vehicles. So get ready to save big and have fun.
Leave a Comment
Summer 2011 is just getting started, but for most of the United States, the heat has already arrived! Did you know that the hotter it is outside, the harder your air conditioner needs to work to keep the inside of your house cool? While it might be tempting to drop the temperature to combat the outdoors, turn your thermostat up by a few degrees and try some of the tips below. You’ll beat the heat and your energy bill, and hopefully have some fun in the process.
Break out the bathing suit.
Who said you can’t have a beach party in the middle of your living room? Slip on some swimwear while you watch a movie or do your chores.
Set up the sprinkler.
Kids and pets can be at a greater risk for overheating than healthy adults, but they can also feel cooped up indoors during a beautiful summer day. Set up a sprinkler, fill up the squirt guns and invite the neighbors’ kids over. At the end of the day, you’ll have a cooled off, tired out and happy bunch.
Take a mini ice bath.
If you’re looking for indoor options, try a mini ice bath. Fill one large or two medium, shallow containers with cold water and add a few ice cubes, place them on a hard-surfaced floor. Carefully step into them for 20 seconds to one minute – and keep a towel handy! We naturally radiate most of our body heat through the head, arms and feet, so just a little cold soak can quickly lower your body temperature.
Let Mother Nature help.
During the evening, open your windows and use ceiling or box fans to create a cross breeze. Circulate cooler evening air through all of your rooms, and make sure to close windows early in the morning. Night air will keep your home cool for most of the morning, and your air conditioner won’t have to work as hard when it does turn back on later the next afternoon.
Close your blinds.
Solar gain – the heat caused by sunlight entering through windows – can cause a significant rise in temperature in your home. Make sure to close blinds and curtains during the day to block out the sun.
Make a smoothie.
Keep a few bags of your favorite fruits in the freezer. A few handfuls of fruit, a scoop of ice and a splash of milk or yogurt, and you have a healthy, cool treat the whole family will love. For grown-ups, add a splash of a favorite tequila for an instant stay-cool party!
Leave a Comment
Summertime! The season often conjures up images of relaxing weekends by the pool or vacations with friends and family. While you’re taking a much needed break, there is at least one thing working much harder this season: your air conditioner.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the warmer it is outside, the harder your air conditioner has to work to keep the inside cool—so it can be frustrating that we can’t adjust the weather (and seemingly, our bill). Luckily, we’re not at the complete mercy of Mother Nature, because there’s a lot we can do inside to help keep our homes cool. And the daily actions we take can add up to make a big difference.
One of biggest culprits that can zap precious cool air from your home during hot days is the oven. To see just how big an impact it would make, I decided to run a little experiment at home. So last Tuesday night, I chopped some sausage with onions and peppers, tossed it together with diced tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, and popped that Pyrex full of love into the oven for 1 hour at 400 degrees.
Using an indoor thermometer, I tracked the temperature of my kitchen about every 20 minutes until dinner was ready. As you’ll notice, the change was dramatic: the temperature in my kitchen rose by 5 degrees in just one hour and did not return to the original temperature until we were heading up to bed much later that night.
So my personal verdict is in: during the next few warm months, I’m going to let my oven take a long vacation. Instead, I plan to use my grill to cook meats or veggies that I might ordinarily roast, or opt for a no-cook recipe like a fresh salad. I might even opt for the ultimate “energy saving” solution… and head straight to my favorite restaurant.
Leave a Comment