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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This year resolve to simplify your life by combining your Duke Energy billing and payment options. Combining payment options is the easiest way to pay! Paperless Billing, Equal Payment Plan/Budget Billing and Automatic Monthly Payment work great together to make paying your monthly bills as easy as possible. Combine all three and you’ll be surprised at how simple it can be. Each payment option offers its own unique convenience to save you time and effort.
- Paperless Billing lets you receive and, if you choose, pay your bill online. No paper. No check. No stamp. No fuss. Easy. Paperless Billing is a free service providing you the convenience to receive, view and pay your bill online.
- Equal Payment Plan/Budget Billing is a free service that makes managing your cash flow easier by providing predictable monthly payments. Add Equal Payment Plan/Budget Billing and know what to expect from your monthly bill. Then pay it in an instant with e-Bill.
- Automatic Monthly Payment will pay your bill automatically with bank draft. Combined with Paperless Billing and Equal Payment Plan/Budget Billing, it makes receiving and paying your bill nearly effortless. The Automatic Payment Plan is a free service that automatically pays your energy bill by drafting funds from your bank account on or after your payment date.
It’s so simple to simplify! Visit http://www.duke-energy.com/equal-payment-plan/ to enroll into one or a combination of payment options. Happy New Year!
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Still confused about how to make the transition to compact fluorescent light bulbs or CFLs? Well, thanks to new laws, all light bulb packaging now features a “Lighting Facts” label that includes information about brightness, energy cost, life expectancy, light appearance (warm or cool light), wattage and mercury content. The goal of these FTC-mandated labels is to standardize how the lighting industry markets light bulb features, while providing consumers with a simple and quick way to compare bulbs.
At the same time, the front of light bulb packaging has moved away from the long-trusted watt to classification by lumens. Lumens are an accurate measurement of brightness, whereas wattage (a measurement of energy used to light a bulb) doesn’t accurately convey the brightness of a light bulb.
For comparison, a traditional incandescent 100-watt bulb, a halogen incandescent 72-watt bulb and a compact fluorescent 23-watt bulb all deliver the same brightness – about 1,600 – 1,700 lumens. Just remember, the higher the lumen number, the brighter the bulb. The new world of light emitting diode (LED) bulbs falls into this regulation as well.
CFLs still cost more to purchase, but their energy efficiency and lifespan deliver a solid return on investment. Because a CFL uses an average of 75 percent less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and can last up to 10 times longer, you should easily save more than $40 over the lifetime of a CFL bulb. And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to sign up for Duke Energy’s free CFL offer. Click here to see if you qualify.
Now you can shop smart, save money and enjoy the ambiance created by any number of lighting styles. Share with us how you’ve transitioned your home to CFLs in the comment section below.
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If you’ve found this website, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re interested in learning more about how to save energy and money. So if you’re one of the many folks whose ready to get serious about saving, the first thing to do is know where you stand today—and that’s easy to do with a Personalized Energy Report!
Your Personalized Energy Report (which we call a PER [pronounced ‘purr’] around the office. Cute, huh?) is a free, easy and powerful tool. After completing a brief energy survey online, you’ll immediately get personalized recommendations tailored to your home and your life. With easy to understand explanations and helpful charts, you will see your home’s energy usage is broken down by heating, lighting, water and more.
After you learn more about the way you use energy today, your PER will pinpoint specific energy saving opportunities that you can do right away to start saving.
Here’s how it works:
- Log in to Duke Energy Online Services.
First time here? Then register for your free account.
- Click Personalized Report page on the right side of your Online Services home page.
- Complete the Home Energy Survey.
- You’ll immediately get personalized recommendations on ways you can conserve and save.
Have you gotten your PER yet? Where did it help you start saving energy? Share your experience in the comments!
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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It’s the middle of a cold, dark night. You wake up, thirsty, and decide to tip toe to the kitchen for a glass of water. As you walk past the den, you see them: sinister, glowing in the dark. A dozen tiny flashing lights. Each one is an energy vampire, slowly draining your wallet.
So maybe it’s not quite as creepy as a scene out of Paranormal Activity, but energy vampires are no laughing matter, either. Even when you turn off your television, computer or coffee maker, they’re still drawing current. The good news is that you can easily and affordably stop energy vampires cold by installing smart power strips in key areas of your home.
Smart power strips look a lot like the regular power strips we all know and love, but they boast some extra technology. On an average smart power strip, you’ll find a handful of different outlets. Some stay on all the time—perfect for a cordless telephone or a home security system. Other outlets are monitored, which means that your smart power strip can tell when a device goes into standby mode.
There are several styles of smart power strips available at local electronics and home improvement stores with unique features, and all aim to cut power to devices that aren’t in use, automatically preventing waste:
- One style groups appliances to a “master” device. These versions are great for home entertainment centers, where turning on the TV can trigger ancillary devices like game consoles, DVD players and home stereos.
- Another style of smart power strip features an infrared motion sensor that turns devices off once a room has been empty for whichever amount of time you determine. And when you come home from work, voila! Everything is ready to use.
- A third type of smart power strip comes with a remote control that uses radio frequencies to communicate through walls. No more running around, jamming your arm behind the sofa. Set your remote on your nightstand and power down your entire house from bed. (Now, if only it could bring you a glass of water in the middle of the night!)
Do you have a smart power strip in your home? Share what style and where in the comments.
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If you’ve ever bought a new car at a dealership, chances are you paid close attention to two different numbers: the purchase price and the miles per gallon (MPG) rating. Since the MPG rating is tied to how often you’ll be stopping at the pump to fill up the tank, it’s easy to see why this number plays an important role in a purchase decision.
Just like cars, home appliances come with two price tags. But because an appliance will sit plugged into the wall, the second price—the average annual energy cost—isn’t always so obvious.
If you’re heading to the store to invest in equipment that can last 10, 15 or even 20 years, it’s a good idea to bring a notepad. Thanks to large yellow tags featured prominently on the front of each appliance, it’s easy to calculate and compare the lifetime operational costs of the units you’re considering buying. When I started to calculate the lifetime operational cost of a new washer and dryer, I realized that I was looking at a significant amount of money. Depending on your unit styles and family habits, appliances can account for 10% – 18% of your household’s energy consumption.
Appliances make our lives easier, safer and more convenient, but they also use a significant amount of energy and stick around for a pretty long time. Refrigerators last an average of 14 years, clothes washers last about 11 years and dishwashers typically last about 10 years. So if you’re lured towards a certain model on the showroom floor because it is $200 cheaper, double check that yellow tag. You might break even or actually save money over the long term by choosing a more expensive but more efficient appliance.
Efficient appliance shopping tips:
- Look for appliances that offer specific energy efficient design features. New “double” ovens partition the same amount of space you would find in a regular, standard oven into two drawers. So on pizza night, you’ll only need to heat one rack instead of the entire oven.
- When you do shop for a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. ENERGY STAR products usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount.
- The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy provides information to consider when deciding on new appliances.
- Research your fuel choice. Some appliances come in gas, electric or combination versions. Certain fuel choices may be more or less efficient based on the type of appliance. (For example, electric ovens are more efficient than gas ovens, while gas cook tops are more efficient than electric cook tops. New hybrid ranges offer an electric oven/gas cook top combination for maximum efficiency!)
- Look for appliances with more sophisticated temperature settings and automatic shutoff features.
We want to hear from you: if you bought a new appliance lately, did the average annual energy cost factor in your decision?
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On a chilly, snowy or drizzly day in January, it can be tempting go into hibernation until April or move to a tropical island. Since most of us have appointments to keep, families to feed and jobs to do, cranking up the heat seems like the next best option. Except for this not-so-little detail: kicking your furnace into overdrive wastes tons of energy and money. In fact, heating and cooling your home can account for as much as 50 – 70% of your total annual energy bill! So before you send that monthly bill into the stratosphere, try taking advantage of these free or low cost tricks to stay warm and cozy this winter.
Join the Counter Culture
Warm air rises and unless you’re a superhero, you probably spend your time occupying the lower half of the room. Change your ceiling fan to rotate counter-clockwise, so you can enjoy the warm air you’ve already paid for.
During the winter season when the sun is lower in the sky, it’s super easy to let those gorgeous rays shine through your windows. Open blinds and shades fully and take advantage of the free heat!
One of the easiest and fastest ways to warm up is to layer up. Evaluate your wardrobe and invest in some cozy, comfortable items to warm yourself up before you warm the whole house up.
No matter what your diet or taste is, there’s a plethora of soup, stew and chili recipes that will keep your family feeling warm and satisfied. Skip the salad and warm yourself from the inside out.
A nice glass of red wine on a cold winter night? Enough said.
Let’s Get Physical
If you’re feeling energetic and need to banish the chill, pop in a favorite workout video or fire up the Xbox or Wii. You’ll be feeling warm in minutes and getting your daily dose of good old fashioned exercise.
Hug It Out
There’s no better way to warm up than to cuddle with a loved one or a pet. So grab a blanket, pop in a movie and snuggle up.
Have a favorite way to warm up during winter? Please share it in the comments!
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