Exotic vacations to Europe, trips to the beach, or camping in the mountains… Spring Break is the perfect time to get out of town and recharge your personal batteries. If you don’t already own one, it might be a good idea to invest in a few electric outlet timers. Not only do outlet timers help save you energy and money by managing your interior lighting for you, they can also provide an added security benefit when you travel, giving enterprising would-be burgalers the impression that someone is home.
If you’re dreading buying one, you should know that timers have evolved quite a bit from original designs that employ a number of circular dials and resemble the cryptex device from The Da Vinci Code. These simple devices are still around and very effective, but for greater piece of mind (and to avoid having the living room lamp shut off in the middle of Jeopardy! on a random Wednesday night) consider buying a programmable digital timer.
Dusk to dawn timers have an electric eye that activates the light when ambient light levels drop and shuts the device off again when the sun comes up – these types of timers are available for as little as $10 and you basically never need to touch them again after you’ve plugged them in. Some photo cell timers can also be activated by wireless remote as well. The conventional dial timers are usually available at home improvements stores for about $15, and digital programmable timers and power strips cost a little more than that, depending on their size and functionality.
The digital timers allow greater randomness in programming, allowing lights and radios to come on at different times on varying days, to cut down on the predictability that enterprising would-be thieves may pick up on.
And for an easy way to save even more energy and money while adding a little bit of extra security to your home? Sign up for free CFLs to put in all those light fixtures: www.duke-energy.com/freecfls
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It’s that time of year again!! Decorations, holiday cookies, eggnog, time with family (leading to more eggnog). And as much as I love the eggnog, I really love the decorations!
Walking my dog on a crisp winter evening (with a travel mug of eggnog) and looking at the lights in my neighborhood is one of my favorite holiday pastimes. And although I’m more of an understated candle lights in the window with a few more tastefully strung in trees/bushes kind of girl I sincerely appreciate people who go all “Clark Griswold” on their houses.
Of course more lights = more energy = higher bills! And who can afford that especially with all the pressure to find the perfect gift in an economy that continues to struggle?
The good news is that, on average, holiday lights cost just pennies a day. Especially if you are more of an “understated” kind of decorator like I am. But if you do fancy yourself the neighborhood Clark Griswold, you should read on!
On duke-energy.com I found an article that states elaborate displays using large incandescent bulbs can add as much as $80 to a monthly power bill. Yikes!! But luckily there are alternatives to incandescent bulbs. The same article goes on to state that the same style bulb that uses an LED in place of an incandescent would increase the electric bill by only $7. And using mini-lights will reduce it even further – about $1 a month. Duke even created a handy-dandy calculator to help you figure out how much your lights will add to your bill.
So unless you want to give up your Clark Griswold fantasies and instead become the neighborhood Scrooge (Bah! Humbug!), maybe it’s time to be smarter about the type of lights you use. Look into updating your tangled strings of incandescent bulbs for some new (and not yet tangled) LED bulbs. The money spent on new bulbs will quickly be recovered in energy savings. (Just plug the information into the calculator to make your case!) That is enough to make even Scrooge sing “Joy to the World!”
Do you or your neighbors go all out decorating for the holidays? If so, we’d LOVE to see the pictures! Please share them on our Facebook page.
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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