The average American spends roughly $1,000 annually heating and cooling their home, which equates to approximately 40 percent of their total energy usage. If you live in a home with an HVAC system that is more than 12 years old, you could be spending even more. As summer approaches you may be contemplating a new AC unit. Here are a few things you should consider before putting a shiny new box in your side yard.
1. Can I just purchase a new outdoor unit containing a condenser coil and compressor?
Central air and heating systems are separate units, but matched to work together. They share many common components, like blowers, duct work and return air grilles. If both the cooling and heating units aren’t matched and sized properly, you won’t get the ultimate performance from your AC equipment.
The most common style of AC unit is a split system, which includes the outdoor equipment as well as an indoor evaporator coil, usually installed in conjunction with your furnace or air handler. During the summer your heating system works in tandem with your air conditioner. Within your AC unit, air is cooled as it is blown over the cooling coil, which is most often connected to the air circulation fan of the furnace that then blows cool air through your ducts for distribution across your home.
One of the many things to think about when considering a new furnace is the motor that runs the electric fan. Older, standard furnace fans use considerably more energy than new energy-efficient ECM (Electronically Commutative Motor) fan motors. An ECM (sometimes called variable speed) fan motor alters its speed as needed to meet demand and optimize output.
2. Initial capital outlay v. lowest monthly energy bills?
High-efficiency air conditioners cost more up front than mid-range or minimum-efficiency units, but they deliver the lowest monthly energy bills and often include additional energy-saving features. High-efficiency 14 to 23 SEER (seasonal energy efficiency rating) air conditioners are a good choice if you want to make a long-term investment, live in an area with a long summer, and are willing to pay more at the time of purchase so you can reduce your use of electricity.
SEER is a measure of a central air conditioner’s efficiency and performance. The higher the SEER, the greater your energy savings can be. Typical SEERs range from 13 to 18, but some new systems carry ratings as high as 23.
Most high-efficiency air conditioners are two-stage units, which operate on high only during hot summer days and low on milder days – up to 80 percent or more of the time. The lower power setting allows the units to work more efficiently and produce more even temperatures in your home when compared to single-stage units. Two-stage units may also feature quieter operation and more efficient humidity controls. Your home may also need ductwork renovations to accommodate a high-efficiency unit, which would add additional installation costs.
Government regulations mandate that new central air conditioners have SEERs of at least 13, and with Duke Energy incentives or government rebates, you may be able to purchase a central air conditioner with mid-range efficiency (14 plus SEER) without having to pay more than a low efficiency unit. A mid-range air conditioner probably won’t feature energy-saving upgrades like two-stage cooling, but when you factor in the purchase price they may be the best value for your home. Many of these units also include extra insulation against noise and more weather-resistant hardware than low efficiency options.
While they are not as efficient as mid-range or high-efficiency central air conditioners, low-efficiency air conditioners are still highly efficient when compared to standard units installed only 10 to 15 years earlier. So, if you’re replacing a unit that is at least 12 years old, then even a low-efficiency unit will likely reduce your electricity usage by as much as half. If you’re on a tight budget and no rebates are available in your state, a 13 to 14.5 SEER air conditioner may be your best choice for overall value.
3. What size is right for my home?
When considering the size of your new unit, you must remember that bigger isn’t always better – right-sized is the only way to go. Unfortunately, selecting the right size unit isn’t as easy as looking at your current system. Your current system could be sized incorrectly, which could lead to under-sizing or over-sizing your new unit.
A unit that is not big enough will have to work extra hard to try to cool your home and provide the comfort you expect. Installing an over-sized unit can have even worse ramifications, adding unneeded expenses to the project and contributing to moisture-related problems in the future.
Thorough contractors will start with a load calculation – many of them using the Manual J® residential load calculation procedure, the official standard for residential load calculation. Contractors should measure your home and evaluate its insulation, window sizes and quantity, and current internal loads, like lighting and appliances.
4. What else should I consider?
Once the proper system is sized and selected, you should carefully consider your home’s duct work, return air grilles and supply air registers.
Properly installed and maintained duct work may last twenty years or more, but time, heat and humidity can prematurely degrade a duct system’s insulation and efficiency. Ducts also collect contaminates over time that need to be cleaned or removed.
If you purchase a high efficiency AC, you may even consider replacing your duct system to get the maximum benefit from your new system. An evaluation should be conducted to determine that the system is clean and configured in a manner that delivers the proper amount of air to each room.
Your return air grille(s) and supply air registers also play an important role in providing heating and air conditioning comfort. There may be occasions when replacing one or more of these devices creates a noticeable improvement in your home’s comfort.
Return grilles that are undersized can reduce the efficiency of your air conditioning system as well as the comfort in your home. Your contractor should verify that these devices are sized and operating properly and offer suggestions for improved performance.
5. What type of HVAC system qualifies for Duke Energy’s Smart Saver incentives?
Many residential refrigeration technologies qualify for incentives assuming the matched components achieve 14 SEER, can be verified with an AHRI reference number and include an ECM fan motor for the home’s air distribution system: Heat Pump (HP) or AC split systems, HP or AC single package (self contained) systems, geothermal heat pumps including direct geoexchange systems.
To learn more about Duke Energy’s Smart Saver program, please visit duke-energy.com/smartsaver.
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Two hundred thousand Duke Energy customers are voluntarily allowing their air conditioning use to be reduced during the hottest days of the year. Why? To save money! While programs vary by state and climate, Duke Energy customers who participate in the Power Manager program receive bill credits each year.
That’s not enough, you say?
By participating in Power Manager, you will help keep electricity costs low by reducing demand for electricity and delaying the need to build additional power plants in your region.
I know that got your interest. Am I right?
You’re eligible for Power Manager if you’re a Duke Energy customer, own your single-family home, and have a functional central air conditioning unit with an outside compressor.
Now that we’ve confirmed your eligibility, here’s how the program works:
- Duke Energy installs a small device near your outside air conditioning unit.
- Using this device, your air conditioner may be temporarily interrupted for a few minutes each half hour during the few times a summer when demand for electricity reaches critical levels.
- During these infrequent “cycling events,” your air conditioner will be turned off and on in coordination with other Power Manager customers to reduce the overall demand for electricity.
- Your indoor fan is not affected and will continue to circulate air to help keep your home comfortable.
- Power Manager will not be used on nights, weekends or holidays (except in a system emergency).
Cycling events may occur a few times per month during the months of June through September. In some years, cycling events have occurred on six to ten days. The number of events depends on the type of summer we’re experiencing. If the summer is mild, cycling may not occur at all.
Please visit our website for a full FAQ on the Power Manager program or call us at 1-888-463-5022 to enroll by phone. Details vary by state, so be sure to read up on the specifics for your area.
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Saving Energy on Vacation
By many accounts, Americans are already one of the most overworked, under-vacationed groups of workers in the world. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll indicated that a little more than half – about 57 percent – of American workers use all the vacation time they’re allotted, compared to 89 percent of French workers. Many Germans take as much as three weeks off in August each year to spend time travelling with their families.
Regardless of cultural differences, it’s important for one’s well-being to get away. This summer, look for ways to help save energy where ever you go (or don’t go). Here are just three ways to use less energy on a summer vacation. See if you can come up with some other alternatives and share them with us in the comment section below.
The Staycation – It’s a phrase that is relatively new to our lexicon (maybe because it’s a portmanteau or maybe because it makes good financial sense in rocky financial times), but there is certainly no shame in staying close to home during time away from work. A staycation can be an opportunity to spend time with your family without the hassles and expenses of traveling. Staycations are also a good excuse to patronize local museums, restaurants, theme parks, waterparks and other local attractions. While you’re at home, try saving some energy on your staycation by camping in the backyard with your solar powered HDTV of course, firing up the grill and making some ice cream with an old school hand crank ice cream maker. Just make sure that your work email takes a vacation too.
Alternative Fuel Vehicles – Another way to use less fuel on vacation is to travel in an alternative fuel vehicle. Car rental companies in many cities now offer hybrid and EVs as an option to conventional rental choices, allowing vacationers to save on fuel costs. Have your own hybrid or electric vehicle? Take it on the road instead of flying and save on expensive airline tickets and baggage fees, and while your fellow travelers pull of the Interstate for more fuel, you can keep right on trucking towards the beach. While alternative fuel vehicles will cut down on fuel stops and your vacation expenses, they won’t unfortunately eliminate “are we there yet?”
Eco-Tour Vacation – A third energy-saving option is a vacation that is tailored specifically for the environmentally conscious, in a unity of conservation efforts with sustainable travel practices. Ecotourism and adventure travel are among the fastest growing segments in tourism. From small carbon neutral planes that whisk you away to remote destinations, to solar panels that power everything from ceiling fans to pool filters, these resorts have considered it all. Ecotourism options can take travelers to sensitive natural areas by conserving the environment and minimizing the impact on these areas and the people who live there, including direct financial benefits for conservation efforts. Need some ideas on where to go? Check out thedailygreen.com’s list of the 17 best eco lodges in the world – it’s sure to get your imagination going!
And, if you do head out on nice vacation this summer, don’t forget to turn up your thermostat, close all your blinds, turn down your water heater, and put your front porch lights on a timer. No reason to use a lot of electricity if you’re not at home.
What ways are you going to save energy on your vacation this summer? Staying home? Hitting a eco-tour destination? Driving a fuel-efficient vehicle on your own version of National Lampoon’s Vacation? Tell us below!
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The week of April 30, we asked you what you thought was the most power hungry device found in homes. The race was behind a dishwasher, toaster, coffee maker or plasma TV. The right answer, which 22% percent of you selected, was none of the above.
The fact is you don’t need to follow a political campaign or tune in to the wheeling and dealing on the latest reality TV show to get an up-close glimpse of the power hungry. The true reality is that they live and breathe (and heat and cool) among us. They are, in fact, some of the most trusted and relied upon appliances in our home. Take a look at these five biggest home energy eaters and see how a little conservation can go a long way to savings.
No. 5 – Refrigerators: the irony that the appliances we rely on to curb our hunger are also the hungriest in our kitchens is not lost. Despite the efficiencies technology has provided, a refrigerator is still one of the biggest energy draws in a home. There are two things to remember: one, listen to your mom and shut the door; and two, refrigerators don’t have to work as hard when they’re full because there’s less air to cool.
No. 4 – Dehumidifier/Air purifier: clean, dry air is pretty important, yes. But a dehumidifier uses twice as much energy as a 27-inch TV and an air purifier uses 60 percent more energy than a refrigerator. If your climate or a physical condition requires their use, be sure to monitor that use to ensure they are not operating at times when windows or doors are open.
No. 3 – Water heater: washing clothes in cold water and limiting showers to a couple of minutes can help dramatically reduce run times. An electric water heater might run for as long as an hour filling its tank during these typical everyday tasks. You can also turn down the thermostat on your water heater – if your water is too hot to touch when turned all the way to hot, then you are overheating your water and wasting energy.
No. 2 – Air conditioning units: it’s hard to believe that there was once a time when air conditioners weren’t a part of every home, but it’s also hard to believe that people used to walk to school uphill each way (and in all that snow!). To stay comfortable and save money, make sure you’re using a programmable thermostat and setting the temperature a few degrees higher when you’re not at home.
No. 1 – Heating system: another critical appliance, yes. But the cold of winter likely requires the most energy for homes warmed with electric heat. It is not unusual for a heat pump to run 12 hours a day on the coldest of days, with a typical consumption of about 15,000 watts. This can add up to several hundred dollars each month, more than enough to buy some nice sweaters that will allow you to program your thermostat a couple degrees lower. Do it when no one is looking; they probably won’t even know.
And bigger doesn’t always mean the most gluttonous. Always be vigilant for ways to drive a stake through the heart of your energy vampires, the small “always on” devices or chargers that continually draw power, even when the devices they power are not connected. Officials with the Electric Power Research Institute estimate that the average home 30 years ago had three “always on” devices. Today? Try 30. Here are some places to look to help keep energy costs down:
Digital picture frames – EPRI estimates that, if every American home had a digital picture frame running around the clock, it would require five power plants to keep them running.
Un-used chargers – it’s certainly more convenient to keep cell phone and laptop chargers plugged in, but these still draw energy. Pull the plug until you’re ready to charge, or make it easier on yourself and connect these devices – and others, like printers and CPU speakers – to a power strip that can be turned off when you’re away.
Share how you’re taming the power hungry devices in your house in the comment section below.
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How much can a new cooling system save?
Here at Youtility we’ve been talking a lot about new energy-efficient air conditioning units the past few weeks. So, how much energy can you really save by installing a new unit? If only there was app for that. Oh yeah, there is – Duke Energy’s own Cooling Calc or Cooling System Calculator, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.
After entering your zip code, type of home and details regarding square-footage, current air conditioner age and furnace type, our Cooling Calc provides an estimated lifetime savings based on the installation of a new energy-efficient cooling system.
The calculator also provides savings estimates broken down into annual dollar, lifetime dollars, kWh and CO2. New unit estimates are broken down by system type, size, replacement cost and annual energy cost.
If you’re considering a new unit, you can find more information about purchase incentives and a list of participating contractors, who can provide you with further details on costs and estimated savings, at duke-energy.com/smartsaver.
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Break Down Your Bill
Figuring out your energy use shouldn’t require an engineering degree or an advanced Excel spreadsheet. And, thankfully, if you’re a Duke Energy customer, it doesn’t. Our Bill Analysis tool is available for use night and day.
The Duke Energy Bill Analysis tool allows you to compare your current month’s energy use to previous months or other set periods of time so you can see how your energy use trends throughout the year. The tool even presents weather information that coincides with each billing period so you can see how the weather affected your energy use and it provides for tips specific to you on how to better manage your family’s energy use. You can also update your profile in the system to see how any new appliances may be affecting your bill.
The more information you enter, the more detailed the tool becomes. It’s a great tool. And, it’s free.
Simply log in to Duke Energy Online Services. You can click the Bill Highlights section on the middle of the page for a snapshot of your monthly bill or the Bill Analysis link to get an in-depth view of your account.
Have you used the Bill Analysis tool? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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Have you ever hooked a pedometer to your waistband and monitored your daily steps? Some people do it out of curiosity. Others might do it because a doctor recommend they see how much they are (or aren’t) moving around during the day. Whatever the reason, how close do you think you could come to accurately guessing your daily mileage? More than likely the number of steps you take would surprise you.
The same likely holds true with your home’s energy consumption. Sure, you can probably guess within a couple of dollars, depending on the time of year, how much your monthly electric bill is going to be. But, if you could take a closer look and see which devices or appliances that money was spent powering, and, as a result, take steps to curb or quell that usage, wouldn’t you? Take a look at the following types of energy monitoring devices – from simple to complex – and see which system works best for you.
Outlet Monitor: Outlet monitors are a great way to spot-check certain appliances or electronic devices. Monitors cost about $30 and serve as an intermediary between the appliance and the outlet, providing a reading of the amount of energy consumed, including customized monthly or annual costs. These are good for smaller homes, as the monitor can be periodically shared among a variety of the home’s electronic devices – from a single lamp to a 42-inch LCD TV – to provide regular updates.
Whole House Monitoring: These systems are much more complex, but also offer greater monitoring capabilities (obviously). Current transformers monitor incoming power levels as they enter the home at the main circuit breaker. These transformers then monitor and log the home’s energy throughout the day and night. Depending on the monitoring configuration, systems can be designed and installed to monitor individual circuits or the entire system as a whole. Additional detail allows greater flexibility in efforts to lower your home’s energy bill by pinpointing areas that cause energy spikes or use during higher system loads.
There are even wireless devices that allow you to walk around your house with a wireless monitoring device that shows how much power you’re using in real time – shut off a light and watch the meter change in real time or see how your dishwasher affects your power draw. These monitoring devices can be found for as little as a $100.
Smart Homes – Smart homes take circuit-monitoring systems and add a control factor, allowing homeowners to systematically track energy use throughout the house and control and adjust appliance and device use as a result, creating an optimized system. Many smart home systems feature an integrated control panel that provides the ability to turn lights, televisions and other electronic devices on and off remotely, maximizing efficiency. There are even apps available that allow you to control your lights and other electronic devices from your smart phone. For the serious gadget hound, or control freak, this is the way to go.
What are you doing to monitor energy use in your home? Tell us in the comment section below.
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Appliances Are Getting SMARTer
Attention aspiring television producers: here’s a great new idea for a show that could be a big hit with viewers in the coming years – Are you Smarter Than a Washing Machine? Even if you can spin and agitate with the best of them, sadly, save for the few bold Mensa members, the answer is likely “not even close.”
Technology is a wonderful thing, but it won’t be long before our appliances are the smartest things in the room. Continual advances have helped make life easier, more efficient, more connected.
At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, manufacturers unveiled the latest round of appliances that will soon organize our household tasks. Appliances are being equipped with the brainpower to accept commands from smart phones, tablets and PCs via integrated management programs that do more than provide users with assistance in making the most efficient use of time and energy. Users can remotely monitor and control cycle times for washers and dryers. Robotic disc vacuums can hunt down unsuspecting dust bunnies on their own. Your refrigerator can let you know when that applesauce in the back is about to expire.
Integrated LCD control panels also allow users to view real-time Twitter feeds, check the weather, and even stream the ball game or TV show they were watching in another room.
Fans of Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near, know it may not be long before artificial intelligence begins to outpace human intelligence at an exponential pace. But did you really suspect it could be refrigerator that would zoom by you in the passing lane? If only your refrigerator could offer a gentle reminder that the post-dinner snack you’re planning isn’t a good idea – oh wait they can do that too.
What new feature will your favorite appliance have in the future? Share with us in the comments.
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If you could control the energy use in your home, would you? According to a study recently reported on by Reuters, given this option, a majority of Americans would take advantage of an opportunity to manage their own daily energy usage.
Most people (82 percent) are diligent in their efforts to curb home energy use by turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, or shutting down televisions and other appliances when not in use. Even replacing incandescent bulbs with compact florescent lamps (58 percent), using power strips (56 percent) and looking specifically for energy efficient replacement appliances (55 percent) are common practices with a majority of the more than 2,000 adults polled in February 2012.
Provided an opportunity to control energy use and, ideally, lower costs with a computerized dashboard, 48 percent said they would take advantage of such a cost-saving initiative, even though that would mean disciplining themselves to actively manage their energy use. By controlling energy use, homeowners said they would rather vary the maximum amount of energy allotted during peak hours themselves than allow their energy provider to manage this use.
The report also dials down into details by region regarding energy saving activities and even looks at who changes air filters more frequently.
Take a look to see how your region stacks up in energy saving activities and see if there are some areas you can improve your home’s efficiency. You can also take advantage of Duke Energy’s Personalized Energy Report to help manage your energy use.
Tell us what you’re doing to save energy at home in the comments section below.
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We asked, you answered: see what regular folks think about their energy use.
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What’s a slice of pizza worth to you? Calories? Carbs? Fat? Sodium? What about a couple of watts?
While there’s little debate in what makes your favorite slice (or two, or three) of pizza taste good, simple physics says fuel in, as food, equals energy out. Science.
It’s time to sweat the details. What if you could burn off the day’s one guilty pleasure (or two) and get in a workout that also provided some energy atonement. Connecting a stationary bike with a generator is an easy way to pedal off the pounds while powering the PC.
Oregon State University harnesses power generated from 22 elliptical machines to help power the recreation center in which they are located. FOX employed a team of cyclists to ride 42 stationary bikes, for 12 hours a day for four straight days, generating enough energy to power its Super Bowl Pre-Game Show for 30 minutes in 2008. This is a far cry from the digital clock powered by a potato.
Now, find your ride. It should have multiple gears to make the most efficient use of your workload. And, you’ll want a comfortable seat. If the bike is strictly for indoor purposes, something that isn’t roadworthy will work. You’re not likely to plow into any walls, ideally.
Find a suitable rear-wheel bike stand, one that holds the bike securely upright, elevating the back tire off the floor as directed. Motor kits can be easily purchased for a nominal cost, though some purists would likely condemn anything other than a converted washing machine motor that is equipped with a voltmeter to help power small electronic DC devices. Typical appliances draw anywhere from five watts to charge a cell phone, to 10 watts for a laptop, all the way to 200 watts for a large TV. Watt ratings are typically included on the back of an appliance, near the power cord. By most accounts, a rider can generate about 200 watts with steady pedal power.
Oh, and the calories burned running a 100 watt television for one hour is about the equivalent to one piece of pizza, so you might want to watch The Godfather and stay in it for the long haul.
*The information in this blog is for informational use only; no products or websites referenced are endorsed by Duke Energy.
*FOX is a registered trademark of Fox Broadcasting Company.
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SEER 14? Say what? Get the FYI on your HVAC with Nathan Cranford of Duke Energy.
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How your lawn looks defines you. Dandelions are your nemesis. Crabgrass? Not on your watch. You don’t just care for your lawn. You baby it. You fertilize, aerate, seed, prevent, water and mow. You edge and you weed whack. Your perfect blocks of dark green are expertly manicured, cut in perfectly parallel 45-degree rows.
If this describes you, then you know the horsepower of your mower’s engine, the precise blade height for every month of the growing season and the advantages to both bagging and mulching. And, if you know all this, then maybe this article isn’t for you.
But, if you’ve never had a sign in your yard that reads, “Yard of the Month,” then you may be interested in the variety of lawn mower technologies at your disposal this spring.
We took a quick test drive with three different lawn mower styles – the gasoline engine mower, the electric mower and the reel mower. Mostly, it was for fun, but we did learn some things along the way.
Let’s look at the gas-powered mower first.
The keywords here are horsepower and range. If you have a big lawn filled with lush fescue, a gas-powered mower is going to be hard to beat. You may even need a sweet tractor – who doesn’t want one of those? The main reasons to use a gas-powered mower are:
- Your long, thick grass requires a powerful engine.
- You don’t have any local noise restrictions to consider (our mower ran at 96 dB according to the Decibel 10 app on our smartphone – that’s just shy of a jet coming in for a landing.)
- You don’t mind doing a little light maintenance, such as oil changes.
- Your 100-ft. extension cord won’t reach to that far corner of your yard.
The next option to consider is an electric lawn mower.
Quiet, light and easily maneuvered, my first time behind one of these silent assassins was just short of life changing. The specific model I tested didn’t have the same cutting power as our gas mower, so it struggled a bit with our long, thick fescue lawn. But for sheer ease of use and the ability to hear yourself think during operation, you may want to seriously consider making a switch. There have been big advancements in electric mowers, including self-propelled models, so power isn’t the issue it used to be.
There is also a new crop of battery-powered electric mowers that eliminate the cord hassle, but make sure you check that the battery power is adequate for cutting your lawn. Most battery-powered lawn mowers will list the size of lots that a fully charged battery can handle.
Here are the main criteria for considering an electric-powered lawn mower:
- Your yard is small and flat with a low number of trees and playgrounds to mow around.
- You want to save some money. (Electric mowers are generally less expensive than their gas-powered rivals to both purchase and operate, especially when considering the fact that gas is nearing or exceeding $4 a gallon and that you can power your whole house for about $4 a day.)
- You like to hear yourself think (the model we tested ran at 86 dB).
- Your gas-powered mower is getting a little too heavy to push around.
- You’re not very handy with a screwdriver.
- You’re tired of pulling a cord to start the engine.
- You’re not scared by the term “cord management.”
And, that brings us to the human-powered reel mower. Before last week, I hadn’t used one of these in probably 20 years. The nostalgia factor was high. I enjoyed watching the clippings fly through the air with the rhythmic clatter of the turning blades. That is where the fun stopped. Our test grass was just too long for this mower type. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
So, why should you consider a reel mower?
- You’re looking for a very engaging workout.
- You like sharpening blades on a regular basis.
- You have a very small, flat yard and like to mow it multiple times a week.
- You think mowing the lawn should be no louder than a soft golf clap.
- You’re a traditionalist.
There is a wealth of information online to pour through before making a decision on a new lawn mower. We found outdoorpowerbuddy.com and lawnmowersworld.com to be great resources.
Let us know what type of lawn mower you use and why in the comment section below.
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When you compare the skylined cities of New York and Charlotte you might not think they have much in common. On the surface it’s cul-de-sacs vs. boroughs, Bobcats vs. Knicks. And now, Cam vs Tebow. But if you dive a little deeper you find both cities have something very unique in common. Both have launched innovative approach to illustrating energy usage data.
If you like tracking energy use in your home, you may be really intrigued to see what’s happening in New York City. Thanks to a website developed as part of a research project conducted in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University in Manhattan you can see the city’s energy consumption block by block.
This interactive aerial map details an estimate of delivered energy consumption by tax property, contingent on the weather and building function. The data reflects public information such as building square footage (tax lots) from city planning maps, detailing two residential categories, and facilities dedicated to education, healthcare, warehouse, office and retail (differentiated, for the most part, by borough – an office building in Manhattan likely has energy needs different than those of an office building in the Bronx). Buildings that include first-floor retail with supplemental floors of office or residential space are also accommodated – they thought of everything.
If you know the address of your favorite building, you can zoom in and find out their estimated annual energy use. For example, the Empire State building’s estimated annual electricity use is 26,372 (103) kWh. Pretty cool, huh?
In Charlotte, Duke Energy has partnered with Charlotte Center City Partners, Cisco, Verizon and others to launch a unique sustainability program called Envision Charlotte that takes energy usage data even one step further. Envision Charlotte, uses Duke Energy’s Smart Energy Now® to display near real-time energy data to commercial buildings in the urban core. The program is creating awareness and driving behavioral change through interactive kiosks and grassroots outreach with office workers throughout uptown Charlotte.
With a goal to cut energy use up to 20 percent by 2016 the program hopes to transform uptown Charlotte into the most environmentally and economically sustainable urban core in the country. This will avoid approximately 220,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases or, simply put, save enough energy to power 40,000 homes. You can see the real-time data at www.SmartEnergyCharlotte.com.
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The crack of the bat. The smell of lush green grass. The gentle whoosh of a low flow, energy efficient urinal. It can only mean one thing: major league baseball opening day is here, and with it comes an opportunity to see which teams LEED the standings in energy efficient stadiums.
While many major league baseball teams may be not be immune from gambling on a multimillion dollar contract for a left-handed middle reliever that may or may not pan out, more teams are recognizing that taking steps to make their cathedrals of baseball more energy efficient pays good dividends – financially, and as environmental stewards.
Recent stadium construction projects in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and now Miami have taken steps to achieve LEED certification. The city of Los Angeles has announced intentions to build a LEED certified football stadium; after that, all they’ll need to do is find a team to play there.
Miami Stadium, the new home of the newly renamed Miami Marlins, is a bit of an engineering marvel as the first LEED silver certified ballpark with a retractable roof. The three heat-reflecting roof panels that span the stadium collectively weigh 19 million pounds but can still move at a pace of 39-feet per minute when opening or closing, more than can be said of several of the league’s heaviest (literally) hitters. Powered by 76 10 horsepower electric motors, the roof can open or close in about 15 minutes at a mere cost of about $10 – good luck spending less than that during one trip to the concession stand. Large glass panels at the ends of the stadium will also reduce the need for lighting.
And a tropical location is not a prerequisite for having an energy efficient stadium. Target Field opened in 2010 in Minneapolis and also is LEED certified. The stadium includes a large cistern that wraps around the field’s warning track, collecting rain water that is filtered and reused to irrigate the field and wash down the seating bowl. Target Field also is a hub for public transportation options, including rail, bike and bus routes. A team of low-emission sled dogs will also be considered for use in fan transportation in April and September.
Also, Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., was the first stadium to earn LEED silver certification when it opened in 2008. As with the stadiums in Minneapolis and Miami, the park was built on a former brownfield location. The inclusion of efficient field lighting is expected to reduce energy costs by nearly $500,000 over 25 years, and additional measures, including Light Emitting Diodes powered scoreboards and heat-recovery ventilation in the locker rooms will drop costs further. Low-flow faucets, dual-flush toilets and air-cooled chillers – instead of water-cooled, will save nearly 10 million gallons of water each year.
With all of this saving, these teams should have plenty of money to spend on that spaghetti-armed middle reliever.
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