Last week, Duke Energy published its seventh Sustainability Report – the first since the merger with Progress Energy in July 2012.
To be honest, I’ll skim it today. I’ll stop to mull over some interesting fact – like the $2.5 billion the company has invested in renewable energy since 2007.
Next week, I’ll probably skim it again, double-checking the percent of Gen X’ers in the company’s workforce – 32.7 percent.
The following week, I’m back again to see what the typical cost per kilowatt-hour is for a U.S. resident (12.83 cents) versus the typical Duke Energy customer in Kentucky (8.77 cents).
Do you see a trend? Duke Energy’s 2012 Sustainability Report is a great reference tool all year long. It’s a comprehensive overview of all that we’re doing to be a more sustainable company – filled with facts and data you’ll be looking for soon enough.
It also showcases Duke Energy employees in the “Living it” section – reporting on what they are doing to support sustainability in their personal lives.
As Duke Energy seeks to be more transparent with our stakeholders, the company has laid out interesting facts and figures about the operations of our company, and the goals the company is striving for. Some of the data is being published for the first time.
- As part of Duke Energy’s $9 billion generation fleet modernization program, the company will retire more than 3,400 megawatts of older coal-fired units by the end of 2013. That number will grow to 6,300 megawatts of coal capacity retired over the next few years.
- Investments in new power plants and upgrades at other units have reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 83 percent and nitrogen oxides emissions by 64 percent since 2005.
- The company has set a goal of owning or purchasing 6,000 megawatts of wind, solar and biomass energy by 2020.
- Since 2010, Duke Energy and Progress Energy combined have distributed nearly 37 million CFLs to customers.
- Economic development efforts helped attract more than $3.5 billion in capital investment and about 13,000 jobs to Duke Energy service territories in 2012.
So don’t worry about not reading it all today. Feel free to browse, scan, peruse, skim – maybe just look at the photos. If you’re like me, you’ll be back.
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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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Range anxiety – how long before we look back and laugh about our earlier fears? Like any new technology, the battery industry for electric cars is fast improving with a variety of innovators promising more range, higher energy density and smaller, lighter batteries.
IBM has taken up the challenge to design a 500-mile range battery that is 1/10th the size and weight of current batteries, but with a twist. Instead of focusing on lithium-ion batteries, the company is taking an “air-breathing” battery concept from the 1970’s, and trying to make it a reality. Here’s how it works: when the electric car starts, this battery will take in oxygen from the air, which will then mix with lithium-ions to create a chemical reaction producing electricity and propel the vehicle. Once the battery is recharging, it releases the oxygen – as though it were exhaling – and the cycle begins again. IBM and its partners hope to have a working model by the end of 2013.
A team at Stanford University has taken a different approach, looking to improve upon the current lithium-ion battery by increasing the capacity and number of times the battery can be charged in its lifetime. They use silicon as a way to bind lithium-ions, as opposed to the current method using graphite. The team has already created a battery that continues to work at 85% capacity after 6,000 charges/discharges, which, when compared to current lithium batteries usually only last up to 1,000. The team believes that the use of silicon opens up the possibility of a lithium battery holding 10 times the current power density.
These are just two of many exciting advancements in battery technology, as the industry continues to announce contributions to this space. Duke Energy is bringing this new technology to the next level by testing many types of battery chemistries and evaluating the benefits of energy storage to the grid. These projects range from using energy storage at a large utility scale wind farm all the way down to the transformer level in a customer’s backyard. These tests will allow Duke Energy to determine not only the best location for energy storage on the grid, but also its application such as energy shifting, renewable smoothing, and frequency regulation.
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Good news for you smartphone users: Our new mobile website is up and running! Here’s a rundown of the features.
- Report outages
- Check the status of outages
- View your account
- Find payment locations
- Contact Duke Energy
- Update your contact info
- Pay your bill (coming in spring 2013)
If you want to manage your account from your phone, you’ll need to log in using your Online Services username and password. If you don’t have an Online Services account yet, sign up for one today.
What’s so different about using the mobile site (as opposed to visiting the full site from your phone)? Basically, it’s a whole lot easier to find what you need, and to keep an eye on your outages and account. And you can always click over the full site anytime.
The new Duke Energy mobile site is now available on Android-based smartphones and tablets, Apple smartphones and tablets, and BlackBerrys with operating system 7.0 or higher.
Give it a try and let us know what you think!
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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 year resolve to simplify your life by combining your Duke Energy billing and payment options. Combining payment options is the easiest way to pay! Paperless Billing, Equal Payment Plan/Budget Billing and Automatic Monthly Payment work great together to make paying your monthly bills as easy as possible. Combine all three and you’ll be surprised at how simple it can be. Each payment option offers its own unique convenience to save you time and effort.
- Paperless Billing lets you receive and, if you choose, pay your bill online. No paper. No check. No stamp. No fuss. Easy. Paperless Billing is a free service providing you the convenience to receive, view and pay your bill online.
- Equal Payment Plan/Budget Billing is a free service that makes managing your cash flow easier by providing predictable monthly payments. Add Equal Payment Plan/Budget Billing and know what to expect from your monthly bill. Then pay it in an instant with e-Bill.
- Automatic Monthly Payment will pay your bill automatically with bank draft. Combined with Paperless Billing and Equal Payment Plan/Budget Billing, it makes receiving and paying your bill nearly effortless. The Automatic Payment Plan is a free service that automatically pays your energy bill by drafting funds from your bank account on or after your payment date.
It’s so simple to simplify! Visit http://www.duke-energy.com/equal-payment-plan/ to enroll into one or a combination of payment options. Happy New Year!
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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.
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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.
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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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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!
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Today, Duke Energy has a fleet of more than 12,000 vehicles and mobile equipment. To do its part for shareholders, communities, and the environment, Duke’s Fleet Services is always exploring new technology vehicles to extend useful life, and reduce fuel consumption and pollutants. To stay up-to-date with and to support this new technology, Duke Energy recently attended and was a major sponsor of the 12th annual HTUF (High-efficiency Truck User Forum) national conference. This is a premier event for the advancement in commercialization of medium- and heavy-duty hybrid and high-efficiency trucks. HTUF has been a catalyst to speeding up product development in commercial transportation.
Duke Energy purchased three of its first hybrid bucket trucks by participating in one of the HTUF projects. Currently, we use 18 medium duty hybrid bucket trucks that use 30% less fuel, provide quiet operation at the job site, and substantially reduce diesel engine emissions. We also plan to continue our efforts to bring more PHEVs to our fleet as they fit our operational needs and make it more cost efficient. Being involved with HTUF and several vehicle manufacturers across the country, Duke Energy better understands how new technology vehicles fit our fleet’s needs and also helps shape products in the best interests of the commercial transportation market.
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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/
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Happy National Plug In Day!
Oh wait, you didn’t hear? This is the second annual celebration of the amazing technology of Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PEV), and 50 cities nationwide are participating.
PEV drivers and enthusiasts will come together to share stories, brag about the longest they have gone without filling up on gas, and how much they love their PEV (or multiple PEVs). Some cities will hold PEV parades, presentations, educational booths and a possible chance for PEV fans to sit in the driver’s seat.
Come out and join the fun on September 23rd:
195 N. Rosalind Ave.
Orlando, FL 32801
(Event will occur at corner of E. Central Blvd & N. Eola Park)
7235 East 96th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46250
Durham, North Carolina
318 Blackwell St
Durham, NC 27701
Interested in other locations? Check your local area for the nearest event!
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With the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy, the combined company’s territory spans two areas that will soon be the largest political hotspots this year. Beginning August 27th, Tampa, Florida will host the Republican National Convention (RNC), while nearly six hundred miles away, Charlotte, North Carolina will host the Democratic National Convention (DNC) beginning September 3rd.
Although Duke Energy strongly supports individual employee participation in the political process (as long as such activities are done using employees’ own time and resources) Duke Energy is looking far beyond the politics of these two political conventions. The company sees supporting these events as just good business.
As a result of these conventions, each of these two communities expects to see an influx of 50,000 to 100,000 visitors. During these times, Duke Energy is doing its part to support the festivities by, not only hosting several receptions and marketing events, but by highlighting several of its programs and initiatives. One such program playing a role in both Charlotte and Tampa is the company’s Plug-in Electric Vehicle Program.
On Tuesday, August 28th, during the RNC in Tampa, Duke Energy will be hosting a reception for the delegates from both Carolinas aboard the S.S. American Victory Ship (one of four fully operational WWII ships in the country). Prominently displayed at this reception will be several of Duke Energy’s electric fleet vehicles as well as Duke Energy staff who will educate delegates on the activities of Duke Energy’s Plug-in Electric Vehicle program.
During the DNC in Charlotte, Duke Energy will present a “streetscape” where (on September 3rd) the public and (on September 4th, 5th and 6th) delegates will have the opportunity to see and feel a display of electric vehicles and charging stations and learn more about Duke Energy’s plug-in electric vehicle initiatives.
While patrons of these two events may be sporting their reds and blues in support of their affiliated political parties, Duke Energy will be sporting its green – green, environmentally-friendly plug-ins – in support of the communities it serves.
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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.
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Duke Energy isn’t timid when it comes to innovation. So it’s no surprise that a handful of employees direct their trailblazing towards transportation.
Consider Debbie Homce, a Human Performance Manager at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, NC. Although Debbie doesn’t see herself as a techie, she does consider herself a crusader for clean energy and the environment. Her degree in Nuclear Engineering supports this claim.
To support clean transportation, Debbie bought an all-electric Nissan LEAF. Although she uses the LEAF as her primary vehicle for local commutes – work, church, shopping, etc – she hopes that charging infrastructure eventually will allow her to drive her LEAF to visit family in the Midwest or Texas.
In Cincinnati, OH sits Rebecca Hackett, a Real Estate Analyst. Rebecca – who does consider herself an early adopter – waited 14 months to get her LEAF. In fact, she was only the second retail customer in Cincinnati to receive one! She ultimately decided on the LEAF over a Chevy Volt to eliminate more car maintenance… no oil changes, transmission fluid to flush nor exhaust maintenance required.
Co-workers have asked Rebecca about features designed to protect pedestrians. (To warn pedestrians of a nearing LEAF, Nissan designed its EV to beep at low speeds.) Another co-worker questioned the impact on Rebecca’s power bill. “I have not noticed any change in my bill. I trickle charge with a normal outlet in my garage at home during the overnight hours which takes as much electricity as running a TV all night.” This works just fine for her 12-mile commute.
Then there’s Whit Gallman, also an employee of McGuire Nuclear Station, who placed his order for a Ford Focus Electric from a dealer in New York in February 2012 and waited months for the model’s official launch. Finally, in May 2012, after a drive to Long Island and dozens of emails to Ford’s marketing group, he was the third retail customer in the country to receive his shiny new Focus Electric.
So far, our employees have purchased LEAFS, Ford Focus Electrics, Chevy Volts and plug-in Priuses – 4 of the 6 retail models currently offered. I don’t know how those numbers fare against other utilities, however where ever we fall, our homegrown trailblazers here at Duke Energy make us proud.
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When I was asked to lead the Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) effort at Duke Energy, I was excited but also nervous. I knew very little about cars in general. As far as I was concerned, when it came to what I drove, the bigger the better and as long as my car could fit my two kids, two dogs, and an occasional extra kid, I never gave it a second thought.
However, that all changed last spring when I took a Chevy Volt home for the first time. I was excited to be driving it and plugging it into an outlet in my house. I was nervous realizing that I was one of the first people driving a PEV and I certainly did not want to be THE first person to wreck one! I was proud to be part of something that could reshape so many things associated with transportation in the United States.
I was awakened to see how PEVs could truly become a movement as more of us get tired of watching the fighting and unrest unfold over oil, watching the environmental impacts of car emissions, and the lack of control we feel as gas prices continue to rise while paychecks stay flat.
Through our pilots, Duke Energy is learning technical ins and outs of charging stations, as well as when, where and for how long drivers charge their cars. These projects help us get a grasp of the cost and effort involved in installing public charging stations. Through our collaborations with other utilities, charging station manufacturers and automakers, the early work that we are doing is shaping the industry.
As I look ahead at what’s coming, I am encouraged by all of the new players joining the industry; I am fascinated by the advancement in battery technology and charging station design; I am optimistic because of all of our customers’ interest in electric vehicles; and, most of all, I am grateful that Duke Energy is committing the resources to not only prepare us for what on the PEV horizon, but to keep us on the forefront of this game changing movement.
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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!
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As Community Outreach Lead for the Electric Vehicles Program, I am involved in education initiatives throughout North Carolina. One area I’m focused on is first responder training. You might be saying to yourself, “First responder training, why are they working on that?”
With almost 1,000 Plug- in Electric Vehicles (PEVs) owned by North Carolinians traveling on our roads today, first responders can face new challenges when dealing with emergencies involving these cars, especially in extrication situations where the removal of a car around a person who has been in an accident. They need to understand how to quickly disable the vehicle, and how fire control and extrication strategies can differ from vehicles with traditional combustion engines.
We’ve collaborated with Advanced Energy and representatives from the North Carolina Community College system to develop hands-on training that will prepare first responders to protect themselves and the public in the event of an emergency involving a PEV. The hands-on component of this course is unique: we supply a Chevy Volt for the training, enabling students to see first-hand what they are being taught in the classroom. The plan is to offer the course at local community colleges, at no charge to the first responders.
We delivered our first course on May 30th at Davidson Community College in Thomasville, and it was taught by Rich Cregar, the Department Head of Advanced Transportation Technologies, at Wilson Community College.
“This PEV First Responder training is a significant new training program that will be useful to all emergency responder agencies in North Carolina,” says Chris English, Research and Program Development Supervisor for the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal. “PEVs are growing in number and are here to stay. As first responders we have to be aware of how to handle this new technology.”
We’ll offer the same course this summer in the Triangle Region, at Durham Technical Community College, and in the greater Charlotte region, at Central Piedmont Community College. Once these three sessions are complete, we’ll continue to partner with the State Fire Marshall’s Office to develop long-term solutions so that all first responders have access to this important training in the future. We intend to share this information for other states in Duke Energy service territory to use as a model as in their community readiness efforts.
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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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Within the electric car industry, there is a little bit of a “chicken or the egg” philosophy. Which comes first, the vehicle or the charging infrastructure to support the vehicles? This is not an easy answer, but with projects like Indiana’s Project Plug-IN, Duke Energy is helping to understand which needs to come first, or even better, can they begin together?
This project is a big collaboration between different companies in Indiana to promote the advancement of electric vehicle technology and adoption of Plug-In Electric Vehicles:
- Energy Systems Network (a nonprofit organization)
- Indianapolis Power and Light (another utility in the area)
- MISO (a regional electricity transmission organization)
- Purdue (a university)
- and others
The project provides us the opportunity to install residential, work place and public charging station infrastructure. To date we have installed over 100 of them at homes, state parks, and even at a few Kohl’s locations!
I have been a part of several media events unveiling public charging stations. The atmosphere at these events is very “electric”. People are excited about the possibility of owning a plug-in electric vehicle and have the ability to charge while shopping or running errands around their city. This article in the Indiana Business journal describes the unveiling the City of Lafayette charging stations. The Indianapolis Star covered the unveiling of the Hamilton Town Center –Simon Property charging stations.
From what the team has heard to date, our residential PEV pilot participants love the experience of driving electric vehicles. Most are very passionate about the industry and provide us great feedback on the cars as well as the usability of the Level 2 charging station we provided them as part of the pilot. We also hear comments like, “I love driving right by the gas pumps; I don’t even keep track of the price of gas any longer.” We’re still looking for residential pilot participants in Indiana. If you’re interested, please visit our website for more information. If you aren’t in Indiana, we would still love to hear from you! Tell us what you would like to see more of in the comments section below.
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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!
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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.
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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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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?
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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!
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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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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.
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Now that the Charge|Carolinas pilot is underway and Duke Energy is beginning to understand the impact plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) have on our grid, we sat down with one of our first pilot participants. Ken Clifton not only teaches his students at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College about how to be more ‘green,’ but he also lives it. His first step to driving more ‘green’ started with the purchase of his Prius, but, with the launch of the Nissan Leaf, he decided it was time to go all-electric.
What made you decided to purchase an all-electric car?
There are many reasons why I decided to drive all-electric. One major motive was the poor air quality in my Rowan County, which tops at 10 on the worst in the nation. But it was also the added benefits of the smooth, quiet ride that my wife and I experienced when driving the Leaf at the Concord Mills’ Nissan Electric Drive tour, which confirmed we had both made the right decision to reserve a Nissan Leaf.
How did you hear about the Charge|Carolinas Pilot?
I learned about it through Duke Energy’s PEV e-newsletter. I was reading the July 2011 e-newsletter that featured Duke Energy’s Charge|Carolinas pilot and the beginning of enrollment. I had already reserved my Leaf, so I went online to www.duke-energy.com/plugin and signed up that day.
How was the process?
Very easy. After signing up, I received paperwork to fill out and began the charging station installation process.
How long did the installation take?
It took a few hours, but the electrician was very knowledgeable and quickly setup the charging station in my desired location.
So, what has it been like to drive an all-electric car every day?
Since bringing home my Nissan Leaf, I’ve not had to adjust my driving much due to my job being close. My wife, who also owns a Leaf, has had to make some adjustments and plan her commute because she drives further for work.
How much and how often do you charge up?
I usually only charge up to 80%, but my wife has to fill up to 100%. I have gotten into the habit of plugging in whenever I get home. The longest either of us has had to charge was four hours.
What is the furthest you’ve ever driven?
The most miles I have had to drive was 49, which is well within my vehicle’s driving range.
What would you recommend to others interested in purchasing a PEV?
I would recommend evaluating the distance they drive, to ensure the car meets their needs. Also, where you live can make a difference. Residents up north have colder winters and this can affect the range as well as use more energy to heat up the car. But, I definitely feel that everyone should look into buying one. Along with my electricity, I found out that my second charging station was made in Mebane, NC. It feels good to know I am buying American Made.
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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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No one, with perhaps the exception of skydivers, likes cords, do they? Phones – those pesky landlines, not the smart phone that accompanies us just about everywhere – stopped relying on cords long ago. Your computer mouse, printers, and networks are all going cordless. Even babies can’t wait to lose their umbilical cord – we’re ready to go wireless minutes after birth.
Electronic Vehicle drivers are ready to experience the same freedom, and technology is emerging that will help them free themselves of their vehicular tethers. This emerging technology has the potential to expedite the mainstream adoption of PEVs, with the expectation that PEVs with wireless charging systems could reach consumer markets within this decade.
Carolina-based Clemson and Duke Energy are both participants in the Apollo Program, an initiative of Evatran™, which has developed the Plugless Power™ wireless recharging technology. The system would offer greater convenience, allowing drivers to avoid the repetitive plug-in process. We’re testing an early version to help answer fundamental questions about use and performance. Will it charge an electric car (in this case, a Nissan Leaf) in the same time as a wired charging station? How does the installation compare when looking at wired versus wireless charging stations in terms of time and cost? How does going wireless affect the overall customer experience of owning a PEV? These answers will help Duke Energy better understand how this type of technology will impact our customers as more and more PEV’s become part of life at work and at home.
Does the promise of wireless charging stations increase your interest in owning an electric vehicle? Tell us why in the comment section below.
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Spring is here so I suppose it is that time again – time to get out there and get educated about sustainability and eco-friendly living by attending the Charlotte Clean and Green event. The Charlotte Clean and Green event is an annual… well, I guess I would call it a type of festival, with a focus on the environment. For the past several years, this free public event has been held during the spring in uptown Charlotte. Duke Energy, along with Wells Fargo, is a key sponsor of this community event. This year, Duke Energy is also one of nearly 30 exhibitors that plan to set up tents booths and tables to provide demonstrations, education and lots of freebees.
I attended this event last year, supporting the Duke Energy display where we provided our customers with free energy conserving compact fluorescent light bulbs and offered a little show-and-tell with our plug-in electric vehicles. Standing behind the table or running through the features of Duke Energy’s all-electric Tesla Roadster with interested passers-by, I saw scores of couples, families, children and individuals with gift bags, balloons, ice cream, information packs, painted faces and trees! (Yep, there were even small, ready-to-plant trees given away by our Carbon Offset program!)
This year, exhibitors will include
- Conservation agencies
- Eco-free/Cruelty-free boutiques
- Sustainable architectural firms
- Tree and plant specialists, green landscaping companies
- Organic cleaning companies, organic clothing companies, organic… well, anything companies
- Energy conservation companies, energy management companies, energy companies
- Heating and cooling vendors
Everyone I saw last year seemed to have a smile, a question or a painted face, but everyone looked to be having a good ol’ afternoon. If you haven’t had a chance to experience Charlotte Clean and Green, I would recommend that you at least come check it out. Oh, and bring a friend to buy you an eco-friendly ice cream cone to boot.
This year’s Charlotte Clean and Green event will be held on May 19th from 10am to 4pm in Uptown Charlotte’s Elizabeth Park. For more information, visit www.charlottecleanandgreen.com.
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Duke Energy is preparing for widespread Plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) adoption by collaborating with customers, car manufacturers, technology developers and others. Our goal is to keep energy prices affordable, and to ensure that the power grid remains safe and reliable, as more and more customers purchase electric cars. One thing we have done to help achieve these goals is the Charge|Carolinas pilot in North and South Carolina. Each of the 150 participants in the pilot received a 240-volt, Level 2 charging station and installation of that charging station up to $1,000. When the pilot ends, participants can keep the charging station for a small fee. Duke Energy will remotely access usage information from the charging stations to better understand collective charging habits and the impact on the power grid. This way we can better prepare for increased use in the future.
As Project Manager of the pilot I have had the pleasure of speaking with many of the participants. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the level of passion for these cars that some of our customers have shown. One customer, the first to join our Pilot, drove out of state to get his Volt just so that he could be a proud owner months before Volts were actually available in North or South Carolina. Another customer, who is clearly a technical genius and protector of the environment, has built a remarkable home energy management system complete with solar cells, to save power and manage his load.
For PEV owners who were unable to get into the pilot before we reached the 150 car quota, please stay tuned to find out more about Duke Energy’s electric vehicle program in the months to come.
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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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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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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!
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Chrysler has done it again! The American automaker is teaming up once more with Duke Energy to test a new line of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). You may remember last September when Chrysler and the Department of Energy collaborated with utilities across the nation, including Duke Energy, to test their PHEV Dodge Ram 1500s. This time, we’ve partnered up for another demonstration project that will test the Chrysler Town & Country plug-in hybrid minivans.
Duke Energy received eight minivans on April 18, 2012 to begin testing in real-world city and rural environments during the next two years. In addition to the gas engine, they’re powered by a liquid-cooled 12.1 kWh lithium-ion battery that provides a range of 700 miles. They’re expected to fully charge in less than three hours using a 220-volt, Level 2 charging station. As a result, the fuel economy is expected to land between 30 and 40 MPG. Not bad for a minivan!
By participating in the project, we help Chrysler test a technology that could help us fulfill our Clinton Global Initiative commitment to purchase a 100% Plug in Electric (PEV) fleet starting in 2020. We encourage the industry to keep developing clean transportation solutions not only for our customers, but also for our own vehicle fleet.
Look for the minivans out in the field, as some of our guys use them to travel from job site to job site!
For more on the project, check out this news release.
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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
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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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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.
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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.
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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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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.
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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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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?
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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.
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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!
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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 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.
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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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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!
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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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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.
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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!
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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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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!
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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.
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I love January 1st. I especially love the brand-new calendar, empty of dates and to-do’s but filled with promise, hope, and possibilities. A new year is like a clean slate, where anything is possible.
With this perspective, and perhaps a bit of a haze leftover from the holiday “cheer”, I think about my New Year’s resolutions. Like forty-something percent of my fellow Americans, I use this time of optimism to set goals for the year. At some point in my life, I have tackled most of the “top ten” of popular resolutions, focusing on money, health and quality time with loved ones. I have had varying levels of success, resulting in some of the resolutions being repeats on my list and some, much to my surprise, lasting beyond the end of January.
This year, my resolutions will once again focus on money, health and loved ones but with an energy efficiency slant.
Money. With the fairly gloomy economic outlook, “save more, spend less” is becoming a common mantra in American households. In our house, our version is going to be “save more energy, spend less money”. A lofty sounding goal but how do I accomplish it? Starting with the easy tips on this website, I’m going to make a list of 12 tips (one for each month) to do in 2012. By signing on to Duke Energy’s online services, I will be able to compare my savings from the prior year’s spending. Maybe not an exact science but I know if I overcomplicate this, my likelihood of sticking with it will be much less likely!
Health. I’ve mentioned in a prior blog that my slow cooker is one of my favorite appliances. I’m going to invest a bit of time looking for some healthier versions of my favorite recipes. I’m also going to seek out a few ways to use my microwave beyond popping popcorn and melting butter. When I do my meal-planning each month, I will incorporate one new healthier meal a week. 52 new recipes over the course of the year seem pretty doable.
Loved ones. Ah, yes… the family. Achieving MY resolutions requires getting the guys in my house onboard. This may require some stealth and mom-ingenuity. But I am determined to succeed in spending more quality time together AND have their help in “save more energy, spend less money”! My “how to” plan? First, our family nights are going to shift from sitting-in-front-of-the-TV-with-laptops to blowing-the-dust-off-the-board-games. Second, we are going to use the plethora of reusable water bottles we have for more than lacrosse games; I am going to recruit my son to keep the dozen or so bottles we have filled and in the fridge. Double win on this one: less plastic waste AND we fill up the extra space in the fridge to maximize the energy use. Lastly, I’ve signed the hubby up to run a 10K with me in the spring – we are going to get healthy and moving together. But let’s keep that between us until I figure out how to finesse that one.
Are you a resolution-maker? What are you going to do in 2012 to “save more energy, spend less money”? Please share your ideas with us – and check back with us for more tips to try.
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Wouldn’t it be great if your car could talk to the nearby gas stations and you could top off your tank using the lowest cost option? In concept, this is very similar to what Toyota wants its electric vehicle models to have the ability to do.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recently developed a communication protocol to enable electric vehicles and charging stations to communicate with utilities. Using these new communication standards, Toyota is developing a vehicle telematics system to enable its electric vehicles to send and receive communication signals to and from Duke Energy, via the internet or through smart meters. Through an Indiana-based pilot called Project Plug-IN, Duke Energy and Energy System Network (ESN) have established an ideal test bed in which Toyota can test its new telematics system that will be available in future releases of the Plug-in Prius.
The really novel part about this demonstration between Duke Energy, ESN and Toyota is that this will be the first real world test of the new protocol in the homes of Duke Energy customers. This type of utility -to- vehicle communication could allow Duke Energy to send pricing signals to vehicles, allowing the vehicle to use driver preferences and energy costs to determine the ideal time to charge.
This new method of communication will not only help utilities better understand how electric vehicle charging could affect the grid, but also provide key input into Duke Energy’s forecast of long-term infrastructure needs. The benefit to customers could potentially be even greater by introducing new ways for them to engage their utility for future time-based rates or demand response programs. This technology can also help automakers develop better vehicles to suit customers’ needs as well as give customers more control over their vehicles’ energy consumption.
Yet another benefit to all of this work is the economic impact. Toyota Motor Corporation’s large presence in the state of Indiana has been primarily limited to manufacturing. However, through collaboration with Duke Energy and Project Plug-IN, a pilot program under which Duke Energy has deployed more than 100 intelligent electric vehicle charging stations, the automaker is now beginning to take on R&D activities in the state.
The project was officially announced in August and is expected to run through 2013.
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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.
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Thanksgiving morning, I get up at o’dark thirty to get the turkey in the oven and the casseroles assembled. Before Macy’s even THINKS about starting the parade, most of our dinner is prepped and ready to pop in the oven. My reward? Black Friday ads.
Yes, I am “one of those.” While I’m tackling the bird, I make the hubby run out and get me the ginormous paper. Then, I sit down with coffee and the ads, creating a master plan for my Black Friday adventure. I love to find steals and deals, and, yes, believe it or not, the camaraderie of shopping with others who enjoy this foray into the holiday shopping frenzy. (Which lasts until about 10am, at which time I grab my latte and head home!)
The shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a plethora of discounts, freebies and sales. And, since several family members have agreed to a gift price limit and/or homemade gift exchange, I have a little bit of extra money to spend to support our efforts to keep our heating and electric bills down. So where will I focus my spending?
Heating the family. I have lowered the thermostat to 65 degrees during the day while we are gone and while we are in bed; 68 degrees is the day time setting for when we are home. So to help keep everyone warm and grumble-free, I will be looking for: flannel sheets and pajamas; slippers; extra throw blankets; and down comforters. And maybe some of those snuggle blanket things as gifts!
Fun without the cords. Like most families, we are typically plugged in; yes, the spouse and I have actually had a conversation via Facebook while in the same room. But I like for us to have family time together UNplugged as well. For indoor fun, this is a great time of year to find new board games, playing cards, books and crafts really cheap. And, for the 3 snow days Charlotte gets each winter, I will stock up on gloves, scarves and hats. I am also going to look for deals on telescopes and footballs to gift to unnamed family and friends!
Meal planning. No, I don’t mean surfing the web for 101 ways to use up leftover turkey. Small kitchen appliances are a huge loss leader for stores trying to get you in the doors. Slow cooker and toaster oven discounts abound! You can even find deals on microwave ovens. Rather than heating up the entire oven for a dinner for 3, I use my slow cooker a couple of times a week. To share this energy (and mom!) efficient cooking method, several folks on my shopping list might be getting slow cookers this year ~ with some of my favorite recipes to make it extra special!
A couple of additional shopping tips:
Look at the stars. Energy Star appliances, that is. Home appliance and other big box stores will discount dishwashers, dryers, and ovens this time of year. I’m really not in the market right now, as my darling hubby got me new Energy Star-rated appliances a couple of years ago. But if you are looking to update your avocado green for stainless, now might be a good time to check out the deals! (Click here for more info on Energy Star appliances.)
Decorating with less. Less electricity. If you are looking to add to your holiday decorations, you might find some deals on LED lights and solar powered holiday landscape lights. Keep in mind that these will probably not be deeply discounted until AFTER Christmas, but if you need to replace the frayed, tangled spider-web of lights, you should be able to find some sales to take advantage of.
By the way, I cheated. Many “Black Friday” sites already have deals for stores posted, and I found all the items mentioned above at one or more stores!
I’d love to hear what steals and deals YOU find during the holiday season to help reduce your energy consumption and save money.
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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!
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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!
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“The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.”
I think of those words often in my role as program manager for Duke Energy’s Fuel Funds (Heating Assistance Programs -Share the Warmth (Carolinas), Heatshare (OH), Wintercare (KY), and Helping Hand (IN)). How many of us are fortunate enough to serve in a role that allows you to live your passion? I’m lucky enough to do just that. On a daily basis, I talk to or meet someone who is struggling to make ends meet, maybe as a result of a job loss or illness or some other unforeseen circumstance.
I recently had the opportunity to spend the day with 4 people who were assisted though our Fuel Funds last winter. Just like you and me, they worked every day, took care of their kids or spouses and lived their lives. Then something happened. A car accident, an illness, or a combination of bad breaks. They found themselves falling behind on everything, including their utilities and were threatened with disconnection. Perhaps just like you or me, they didn’t know where to turn for help because they have never needed it before.
Thankfully, through the generosity of Duke Energy customers, employees and shareholders, through corporate contributions, donations and matching funds, over $3.2 million dollars in heating assistance was provided to customers across Duke Energy territories this past year. The face of poverty is growing and changing… and it looks a lot like all of us. By donating, even $1, we can make a real difference in the lives of our neighbors.
So please, take a moment to consider giving. Your donation of even $1, will make a real difference in the lives of our neighbors. Information on how to contribute can be found at:
“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”
– Winston Churchill
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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!
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I actually like cooking. Maybe because I like EATING and no one else in the house is volunteering! But with swim team and lacrosse practices 6 out of 7 nights a week, plus a full time job, plus running the house, plus…plus…plus…Well, you not only get the picture but I’m sure many of you relate!
With our crazy schedule even eating out takes too much time! So what’s a busy parent to do?
Two words: SLOW COOKER!
In recent weeks, there seems to be an uptick in slow cooker interest on Facebook and the web. But I have long been a fan of this nifty kitchen appliance! After that all-important first cup of coffee, I pull all the ingredients together, dump it all in the crock, push a couple of buttons — high/low, timer — and move on with the rest of the day.
And VOILA! I get to come home to the wonderful scents of a lovely meal! (If I’m home, I might even open the windows to share the tantalizing aromas with the neighbors!)
Slow cookers are amazing — easy, convenient, energy efficient!
- Have a hard time following recipes “to the letter?” No problem! Recipes are typically “recommendations.” Don’t have an ingredient? Simple substitutions. Measuring spoons? Nah, eyeball it! (FYI: I HATE baking — all that precise measuring, cakes that NEVER rise like they are supposed to, having to WATCH the cookies so they don’t burn. Way too much work!)
- Not ready to eat when you thought you would? No problem! Most, if not all, slow cookers move to a “warm” function when the set cooking time is done. Still get a hot meal but on YOUR schedule!
- Hate to heat up the kitchen to feed the family? No problem! Slow cookers use less energy AND don’t heat up the kitchen. (Bonus: your A/C doesn’t have to work harder to keep you from sweating, either!)
As a displaced Texan living in the home of Carolina barbecue, I thought I’d share a favorite recipe of mine to get you started: Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Brisket! Let me know how it turns out for you!
This is the first of a series on ways to save you time AND energy in the kitchen — maybe a few bucks too! So check back for more yummy recipes!
Got a favorite slow cooker recipe? Share it with us on our Facebook page.
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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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Sure, you know about how much to spend on lunch today. But how much will you spend on power for your home?
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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.
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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!
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“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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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When I started replacing old incandescent bulbs around my home with my free CFLs, I had mixed feelings. I knew the CFLs were more energy efficient, but their shape and wattage didn’t necessarily work with my lamps or my decor. I replaced 15 bulbs in my home with the free CFLs, but I wanted more options to suit my needs. Recently, I needed to buy a bulb for a specialty lamp, and I just knew a CFL was not an option. But I was wrong!
While looking over the bulbs selection at my local home improvement store, I was delighted to see that I had so many CFL options. I was very surprised to learn that:
- CFLs are now available in many different shapes, such as spirals, torpedoes, candles and globes.
- They’re designed for all types of fixtures and to suit most decorative needs.
- They’re available with three-way and dimmer switch options.
- CFLs offer bright daylight options, as well as yellow and pink bulbs to provide a softer lighting effect.
- There are more wattage and threading choices, as well as CFL bug lights for my patio.
I was so excited about all these options that I ended up replacing five more incandescent bulbs that day. Admittedly, if I had not received my free CFLs I may not have changed my bulbs – or attitude – as quickly. I like using about 75 percent less energy, saving on my energy costs, and knowing that my specialty bulbs will also last about 10 times longer. If you haven’t received your free CFLs, visit www.duke-energy.com/freecfls. If you have, then visit your local store and check out all the new CFL options.
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