Exotic vacations to Europe, trips to the beach, or camping in the mountains… Spring Break is the perfect time to get out of town and recharge your personal batteries. If you don’t already own one, it might be a good idea to invest in a few electric outlet timers. Not only do outlet timers help save you energy and money by managing your interior lighting for you, they can also provide an added security benefit when you travel, giving enterprising would-be burgalers the impression that someone is home.
If you’re dreading buying one, you should know that timers have evolved quite a bit from original designs that employ a number of circular dials and resemble the cryptex device from The Da Vinci Code. These simple devices are still around and very effective, but for greater piece of mind (and to avoid having the living room lamp shut off in the middle of Jeopardy! on a random Wednesday night) consider buying a programmable digital timer.
Dusk to dawn timers have an electric eye that activates the light when ambient light levels drop and shuts the device off again when the sun comes up – these types of timers are available for as little as $10 and you basically never need to touch them again after you’ve plugged them in. Some photo cell timers can also be activated by wireless remote as well. The conventional dial timers are usually available at home improvements stores for about $15, and digital programmable timers and power strips cost a little more than that, depending on their size and functionality.
The digital timers allow greater randomness in programming, allowing lights and radios to come on at different times on varying days, to cut down on the predictability that enterprising would-be thieves may pick up on.
And for an easy way to save even more energy and money while adding a little bit of extra security to your home? Sign up for free CFLs to put in all those light fixtures: www.duke-energy.com/freecfls
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It’s that time of year again!! Decorations, holiday cookies, eggnog, time with family (leading to more eggnog). And as much as I love the eggnog, I really love the decorations!
Walking my dog on a crisp winter evening (with a travel mug of eggnog) and looking at the lights in my neighborhood is one of my favorite holiday pastimes. And although I’m more of an understated candle lights in the window with a few more tastefully strung in trees/bushes kind of girl I sincerely appreciate people who go all “Clark Griswold” on their houses.
Of course more lights = more energy = higher bills! And who can afford that especially with all the pressure to find the perfect gift in an economy that continues to struggle?
The good news is that, on average, holiday lights cost just pennies a day. Especially if you are more of an “understated” kind of decorator like I am. But if you do fancy yourself the neighborhood Clark Griswold, you should read on!
On duke-energy.com I found an article that states elaborate displays using large incandescent bulbs can add as much as $80 to a monthly power bill. Yikes!! But luckily there are alternatives to incandescent bulbs. The same article goes on to state that the same style bulb that uses an LED in place of an incandescent would increase the electric bill by only $7. And using mini-lights will reduce it even further – about $1 a month. Duke even created a handy-dandy calculator to help you figure out how much your lights will add to your bill.
So unless you want to give up your Clark Griswold fantasies and instead become the neighborhood Scrooge (Bah! Humbug!), maybe it’s time to be smarter about the type of lights you use. Look into updating your tangled strings of incandescent bulbs for some new (and not yet tangled) LED bulbs. The money spent on new bulbs will quickly be recovered in energy savings. (Just plug the information into the calculator to make your case!) That is enough to make even Scrooge sing “Joy to the World!”
Do you or your neighbors go all out decorating for the holidays? If so, we’d LOVE to see the pictures! Please share them on our Facebook page.
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Across the globe, people eat certain foods on New Year’s Day that are thought to symbolize good luck. Asian countries eat noodles to bring long life. Mediterranean countries believe pomegranate is associated with fertility. Other countries eat fish to help them move forward into the New Year. In the Southern United States, it’s about good luck and prosperity! i.e. black eyed peas and greens.
And since I can certainly benefit from good luck and prosperity in the New Year, I have tracked down a recipe for Hoppin’ John. I can’t guarantee good luck if you eat this on New Year’s Day, but you will at least save a little green by using the slow cooker rather than the stove top. (That’s a step in the right direction for prosperity, right??) And it’s yummy!
What foods does your family eat to usher in the New Year? We’d love to hear about them…especially if they use the slow cooker.
Happy New Year!!
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This Christmas my family is doing a homemade gift exchange. I am knitting everyone scarves, hand warmers, and ear muffs. Although I will probably develop carpal tunnel syndrome before this endeavor is complete, I have really enjoyed skipping the hustle and bustle of malls or frantically searching for the best deals online. (I mean how much can I really save on that coveted toy my niece has asked for by going to an additional 13 websites??)
And then I realized I still need stocking stuffers…. (My knitting skills do not extend beyond scarves, hand warmers, and ear muffs just yet.) This is going to require at least one trip to Target where I will have to fight the masses for a parking spot within a half mile of the store. So much for my retail free Christmas.
So I started thinking…. Since I have been working with Duke Energy my thoughts have been much more attuned to energy efficiency. I figure that so far my homemade Christmas has been pretty energy efficient. No trips to the mall, just a ball of yarn and some knitting needles. How could I extend the energy efficiency to stocking stuffers? A quick search on the internet and I found tons of ideas!
Now I will admit that many of the ideas I found (and will use) are more on the “green” side than the “energy efficient” side. (For example, fill stockings with fruit rather than candy.) And although “green” is a good thing (at least I think so) this website is about saving energy, so I am going to focus there. Here is what I found:
- Programmable thermostat (Energy Star)– I know it sounds like a boring gift, but in my book there is nothing worse than getting out of my warm, cozy bed on a cold winter morning before the heat has been turned on. I have programmed my thermostat to kick up the heat about 30 minutes before my alarm goes off. This ensures the bathroom is not an ice box as I get ready for work. I promise the cold natured person in your life will LOVE this gift!
- Solar chargers – “Plugged in” is the phrase of our times, but maybe we can find a way to be “plugged in” without physically plugging in. Invest in a solar charger for your smart phones, tablets, music players, etc. This will allow you to skip the plug and use the energy provided by Mother Nature.
- Smart Power Strip – Everything in my house is on a power strip. My dad swears by them – “just in case there is a power surge.” And of course it allows me to plug way more in than the 2 allotted outlets that are built into my wall. A smart power strip gives you these benefits with the added benefit of cutting power when it’s not in use. This is the equivalent of crawling behind the cabinet (and through the inevitable dust) that holds all my electronics and unplugging everything every time I turn off the TV or stereo!
- Ecobutton – This one is new to me, but it looks pretty cool! It is a device that you connect to your computer via a USB cable. It sits right on your desk top and is lit up to help grab your attention. Each time you hit the button it puts your computer in energy saving mode AND it tracks how much energy you save to help encourage a change in behavior. Considering the fact that my computer is on almost ALL the time, I think I’m going to ask for this stocking stuffer myself!
- CFLs – I know! We always talk about CFLs. But they fit so perfectly in a stocking! I just couldn’t leave them off the list. Maybe break down and replace some of those decorative bulbs you hadn’t gotten to with a specialty CFL bulb.
What other energy efficient stocking stuffers have you seen?
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Got a craving for a holiday snack?
Thanksgiving is over. Now it is time to unpack the holiday decorations, string the lights, and hang the mistletoe! Of course my favorite part of the season isn’t the holiday decorating…it’s the holiday eating. Sweet or salty, crunchy or chewy, I am in! (Unless of course it contains coconut. I do not like coconut.)
But before you jump straight to your old favorites, you should look into no-bake holiday cookie recipes. Now I’m not suggesting skipping out on the family favorite that is only made during the holidays. Some traditions just shouldn’t be messed with. But no-bake holiday cookies might be a good option to mix things up or replace the not so popular recipes you have used in the past (if you happen to be cooking for me think coconut….) And not only do no-bake cookies use less energy, they are frequently less time consuming to make than traditional baked cookies. And if there is anything I know everyone can use more of its time and money (i.e. lower bills)! Especially during the holiday season!
Attached is a simple no bake recipe that I’m going to try.
Do you have a favorite (or new) no-bake recipe that you want to share? We’d love to see it. Even if it has coconut….
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We asked you the week of April 16 – how are you participating in Earth Day?
Thirty-four percent of our readers said they would plant a tree on Earth Day – a traditional way to celebrate Earth Day, good exercise and a nice way to provide shade for your home during the hot summer months.
We were pleased to see that more than 30 percent of you said you would request free CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs) from us. Thank you for ordering CFLs and including us in your Earth Day plans. 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. To learn more about CFLs, make sure you watch the video we posted last week.
Turning down your water heater, getting outside with your family and taking our home energy survey completed the list.
More than 15 percent of you said you would be doing something not listed in the poll on Earth Day. We even listed some additional ideas in a blog on the subject.
We’d love to hear where you went and what you did to celebrate the day. Tell us your stories in the comment sections below.
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In late 2011, Duke Energy was approached by Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity to participate in a ground breaking energy efficiency project. Our ears perked up at the phrase “energy efficiency….”
In conjunction with the City of Charlotte and corporate sponsors, they were working to turn a local vacant home into a model of energy efficiency for affordable housing in our region. Aptly named the Goodwill/Habitat ReHouse, the effort would rehab, remake, repurpose and repopulate a foreclosed home for a future Habitat for Humanity family.
How cool is that? Not only does the project give us a chance to help spread the word about energy efficiency, it also helps the community and a deserving family. Obviously, we were in!
The home, located at 2420 Barry Street in Charlotte’s Villa Heights community, was donated to Habitat by the City of Charlotte, and construction was led by Goodwill Construction Services. It was completely renovated with Energy Star-rated products and materials, including special roofing, siding, low-flow water fixtures, compact fluorescent lighting and drought-resistant landscaping. And construction is now complete!
To celebrate, an open house event is being held this weekend (2/18 from 12-5 and 2/19 from 1-5). Tours will be given of the house to teach folks about energy efficiency, tell them why it is important and show them the “good, better, and best” ways to make a home energy efficient. This includes information on sealing and insulating walls and roof, buying Energy Star products, and updating windows.
So come on out this weekend, see the great work the Goodwill/Habitat teams did on the house and learn how we can help you make your home more energy efficient – even without the help of the Goodwill Construction Services team!
Note: Parts of the project description were stolen shamelessly from the ReHouse website. I couldn’t see a reason to reinvent the wheel :).
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It’s that time of year again… . The time when weather personalities stop all scheduled programming and predict dire snow storms causing a rush on bread, eggs and milk – at least in grocery stores all over the south.
While Duke Energy cannot forecast the weather, we do offer winter weather preparedness and energy saving tips via email that our customers can put in use during such events. Now you can feel better about adding a bottle of wine to the cart when you pick up the obligatory bread, eggs and milk to be enjoyed while you watch the snow mound up in the yard. So sign up for Energy E-lerts email today before the first big storm of the season. It’s easy – just click on the link below.
Energy E-lerts >>
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We’ve all heard that classic prank phone call. But I thought I was being pranked when I heard about the terrible shape my air ducts were in.
Let me back up and mention that I LOVE my house! It is an adorable little 1940s bungalow. I have carefully restored the kitchen, added a master suite, painstakingly chosen every wall color and piece of furniture. I keep an eye out for things that need to be repaired and updated.
At least, I thought I did.
I recently had the house treated for pests. (Creepy crawlies are not approved décor.) While the pest control guys were in the basement (a part of the house I avoid if at all possible) they noticed that a piece of the duct work had come loose from one of the vents. Huh…how did that happen? So I called my HVAC guy. Apparently this was not the only piece of duct work that needed to be repaired. It ALL did. They estimated that approximately 60% of my a/c was leaking through massive corroded holes in the piping and into my basement. Yikes!
How did I not notice this?!? My bill wasn’t that high. Yes, my house is a little warm in the summer and chilly in the winter… but I am my father’s daughter (i.e. cheap) and keep the thermostat at a level that has been called “hell-ish”. And, of course, inspecting my duct work hadn’t even crossed my mind. So maybe it isn’t all that surprising.
So I had the duct work replaced. It hurt the wallet, but I have been assured that I will see multiple benefits:
- Lower energy bills
- Less dirt in the house
- Less humidity in the house
- No basement mold
- And just maybe my guests won’t sweat/shiver in the future?
Only time will tell. The job is only two days old.
So learn a lesson from me. Take a look at your duct work – especially if you are in an older house. And even if it isn’t all rusted out like mine, when was the last time you had your ducts cleaned? Dust can really build up and hurt your HVAC’s efficiency too.
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