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Energy saving tips for winter

Each winter, approximately 57 percent of American homes become their own power plants as they burn natural gas for space heating. By taking a few simple steps around your home, you can reduce your energy consumption, improve comfort, and protect the environment.

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Thermostats

The DOE estimates that homeowners can reduce energy usage by up to 9 percent through proper usage of a programmable thermostat. This requires setting back your thermostat 8 to 10 degrees when you are away from home. Unfortunately, only 30 percent of American homes actually have a programmable thermostat installed. Of those homes, a majority of the thermostats have not been installed or programmed properly. The Energy Alliance has a great article on thermostats and the role they play in energy efficiency.

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Air sealing

Reducing the amount of air that leaks into your home is a great way to cut heating costs. Most homes have gaps and penetrations to the outside that when taken together can be the same as leaving a window open all winter. The stack effect allows cold air to enter your home near the foundation and forces warm air out through your attic plane. While insulation can help, sealing these penetrations is the best way to prevent warm air from escaping your home. The DOE and ENERGY STAR both have helpful resources outlining do-it-yourself tips for air sealing.

Fireplaces

Each winter many people look forward to sitting around the fireplace with family and friends. However, when not used properly, fireplaces can contribute to significant heat loss. Lower the temperature on your thermostat when you have a fire to prevent warm air from being pulled out of your home. Make sure that the fireplace damper is closed and sealed tightly when the fireplace is not in use. If you do not use your fireplace, then it is a good idea to have the chimney plugged and sealed.

Lighting

Winter brings with it shorter days and more time spent inside. Installing energy efficient lighting is a great way to reduce electricity consumption. LED bulbs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs while providing the same amount of light. LED prices have dropped significantly over the past several years and there are now a variety of options from which to choose. ENERGY STAR has a great infographic that explains everything you need to know about light bulbs and can help you make smart decisions the next time you venture down the lighting aisle.

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Home Energy Assessment

The best way to determine how your home is using and losing energy is with a home energy assessment. It provides a comprehensive overview of your home and identifies opportunities to reduce energy consumption and improve comfort. The Energy Alliance offers basic and advanced home energy assessments for homeowners. In addition, many private companies are also beginning to offer energy assessments. Make sure whoever you select is certified by the Building Performance Institute or another certifying body to complete energy assessments. If you are feeling adventurous and want to conduct your own assessment, then the DOE has some great guidance on performing do-it-yourself energy assessments.

In addition to these tips, there are a number of other simple things you can do around your home that can help you save even more energy. By reducing the amount of energy you use, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money without sacrificing comfort this winter.

 

 

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Dishwashers vs. Sinks!

Can you wash 8 full place settings of dishes with only 2 minutes of running water?

We were recently inspired to reconsider our dishwashing practices by an article in The Washington Post entitled, “Why you shouldn’t wash your dishes by hand”. The article challenges a common perception that hand washing saves energy and water.

Here’s the big picture:

  • modern dishwashers are optimized for efficient water and energy use
  • are able to save 230 hrs (10 days) annually that would otherwise be spent hand washing
  • are very effective at cleaning
  • are able to sanitize dishes with 140 degree water

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“Scrape, Don’t Rinse”

According to the article, the most egregious water waste commonly occurs when dishes are pre-rinsed with continually running water before they go into a dishwasher. Modern dishwashers are more than capable of cleaning residue on eating-ware, so simply scraping dishes can adequately prepare them for washing.

If the article’s recommendations aren’t enough to convince you, it provides a number of other consumer and efficiency-minded organizations that have also weighed in on the scraping-versus-rinsing debate and the role of the modern efficient dishwasher:

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The Clear Loser: Old Dishwashers

The Post concedes that while the most frugal and strategic of hand washers might be able to compete with modern dishwashers, older models finish last place concerning energy and water efficiency. Combine an inefficient dishwashing machine with in-sink pre-rinsing, and the problem is compounded.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that a dishwasher from 1991 uses up to 3-5 times more water and 1-2 times more energy than modern efficient models. Paired with an estimated 20 gallons of water wasted annually from pre-rinsing, an appliance update starts looking worthwhile.

Update and Save Energy, Water, Effort, and Money

Even if you don’t agree that it’s better to use a modern dishwasher than to hand wash, the main takeaway should be that an old dishwasher is costly. Like most energy efficiency measures, an investment in an ENERGY STAR certified machine pays back through energy, water, and time savings.

ENERGY STAR has an array of resources on its website that provide a potential buyer with everything they need to make a wise purchase:

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us either online, or by phone (513-621-4232), and we will be happy to talk with you.

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4 Ways to Cool Days with Poolside Savings

It’s official. The dog days of summer are here.

Granted, the river (or sea) isn’t boiling as was predicted during the dog days of Ancient Roman times, but creatures are certainly turning languid in this heat. If you are one of the many lucky local residents who have access to a swimming pool, you are enjoying its refreshment as much as you can.

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Indoors, we know you are doing your best to stay cool. Hopefully last month’s 5 Ways to Beat the Heat helped you find ways to bring down the thermostat at home while also bringing down your energy bill.This month, as the dog days continue, we’re taking a look at 4 more ways to beat the heat at the pool while also cutting down your pool maintenance costs. You might be surprised to learn how much you can save.

1. Pump It Up

Variable Speed: Energy efficient pumps move water through your pool more effectively and more efficiently, which means the whole pool system benefits, and your operating budget will too. Energy efficient pumps come in two-speed, four-speed, and variable-speed models.

We recommend the variable speed because it gives you the greatest control over when and how your pump is running and how much you can save. Up to eight speeds handle all your pool’s needs with precision tuned pump speeds for everyday use, filtering, cleaning, etc.

Reduced Size: Because an energy efficient pump does its work more efficiently and effectively, a smaller pump can do the job and use less energy to do it.

Less Pump Time: A variable speed pump runs up to 60% less than a regular pump. The less your pump runs, the more you can save.

Peace and Quiet: Energy efficient pumps vibrate less, which makes them run more quietly and last longer.

You can achieve up to 75% pool related energy savings if you install a variable pool pump.

To learn more about energy efficient pool equipment, visit Pentair.com.

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2. Clean and Covered

Clean and Green: Covered pools stay cleaner! Less debris and less chemical evaporation means you and your pool equipment need to work less to keep the pool clean. Keeping intake grates free of debris makes life easier on your pump.

Reduce evaporation: Saving water means saving money. Keep your pool full by preventing surface evaporation with a solar pool cover. In cooler temperatures, a solar cover also helps keep your pool temperature comfortable and cuts down on heating needs; 95% of pool heat loss is through the surface.

Clean Practices: Circulate water through the filter once a day and backwash the filter only as much as necessary to conserve water. Keeping your filters clean is one of the keys to maintaining your pump’s efficiency and minimizing expenditures.

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3. Timing is Everything

Filtration: Run filtration systems during off-peak times to save energy expenses, typically between 8pm-10am.

Water Heater: If you need to use a water heater in addition to a solar cover, run the heater on an automatic timer to run several short cycles throughout the day. Be smart about heating: lower the temperature during the week by 8-10 degrees if you only use your pool on weekends. Turn the heater off when you are on vacation for more than a week.

Smart scheduling: Similar to the benefits of a home thermostat like the Nest, automated systems ensure energy is being wisely used to keep the pool comfortable when it is needed but not wasting energy when the pool is not in use.

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4. Around the Pool

Use plants wisely: Fencing, windbreaks, hedges, and landscaping that shelter your pool from wind prevent unnecessary heat loss.

Light it up! Replace pool and exterior light bulbs with LEDs to dramatically cut lighting expenses (while dramatically lighting your pool).

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Realize the Savings

You may be surprised to learn that by simply replacing a single-speed pump with a variable-speed model and covering a heated pool, a homeowner can generate annual savings that are comparable to the savings made by upgrading a 2,500-square-foot, single story home to ENERGY STAR® levels.

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5 Ways to Beat the Heat

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Summer is here and it’s shaping up to be hot. It’s tempting to crank up the AC, but getting a higher energy bill can be a real strain on the wallet.

Resist the urge to blast the cold air, and try some cost effective cool down tricks. You can easily cut your energy bills without taking a toll on your comfort level within your home.

Beat the heat by following these 5 energy efficiency guidelines:

1. Control Your Appliances

Unplug It: If you’re not using your electronic devices, or lights, be sure to turn them off and unplug them from the wall. Computers, chargers, TVs and other gadgets still suck up electricity – even when they’re not on!

Clean the Coils: Increase your refrigerator temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and clean the condenser coils behind the fridge to reduce some strain on your energy bill.

Switch Out Your Bulbs: By replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, you’re saving energy and cooling down your space. CFL bulbs don’t use as much energy and consequently don’t give off as much heat as traditional light bulbs. The heat from the incandescent is wasted energy, and the CFL bulbs focus all their energy on the light source

To learn more on lighting efficiency, check out Energy Tip: Lighting Matters.

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2. Take Care of Cold Air

Support Your AC: If you do use an air conditioner, give it some care to help it run better. Replace the air filter if it is dirty, and if it’s programmable, schedule the system to warm up a few degrees when no one is home.

For more tips on cold air care, check out some of our past energy tips on programmable thermostats and HVAC tune-ups.

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3. Pull The Shades

Window shades: Not only do curtains, blinds, drapes and shades add an aesthetic quality to your decor, they also help keep the heat out! If you draw the shades during the day, you help to reflect sunlight coming in to your space and heating things up. You can purchase specially insulated drapes just for this purpose (and they’ll help keep the heat in come wintertime!)

For more windows tips, check out Energy Tip: Windows Dressed for Success from our previous newsletter.

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4. Keep Your Cool Air FAN-tasitic

Use fans wisely! During cooler days, and always during summer evenings, open windows and use ceiling fans instead of operating the AC. If the heat is just too unbearable, turn the AC no lower than 75 degrees and run the fans to help circulate the cool air.

Even more tips on how to keep your fan use “balanced” in this months newsletter
Energy Tip: Balance Your Fan Use.

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5. Schedule a Home Energy Assessment

A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® whole home energy assessment informs you how to improve your home’s energy efficiency and comfort. Contact the Energy Alliance today to get started!

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Energy Tip: Windows Dressed for Success

You have probably already switched over your wardrobe to the lighter, sheerer threads of summer. It’s time to think about how to best dress your windows. When planning a summer wardrobe for your windows, sheers might look appealing, but they are not a practical choice.

It’s hard to generalize about the energy performance of draperies, but one thing is certain. Light and sheer window dressing is not the way to go during the full heat of summer. Studies have shown that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings (or other insulating backings) can reduce heat gains in the home by 33 percent. That’s a lot!

It is good to remember that no matter what kind of high efficiency windows you have, heat will still transfer through them in the summer, and if your home hasn’t been air sealed, hot air can still pass through the small cracks and openings around windows and doors.

 

Tips to Dress Your Windows:

  1. Close draperies on windows that receive direct sunlight.
  2. Fabric choice makes a difference. The pleats and folds of heavier, closed weave fabrics stop the heat, as do light to medium colors.
  3. Hang drapes as close to the window as possible and overlap them in the center. Stop the heat!
  4. Two draperies hung together will create a tighter space than just one.
  5. This may sound a little extreme, but for the best impact, install a cornice at the top of the drapery or run the drapes from the ceiling. On the other end, let the drapes fall to the windowsill or floor.  You can even seal your drapes at the sides with Velcro or magnetic tape to prevent hot air from entering your conditioned living space. Sealing off your windows with drapes can stop 25 percent of heat transfer.

If you think that your windows are the Achilles’ heel of your home, do consider implementing some or all of these window dressing best practices. They will greatly help to improve the comfort of your home this summer.

Tips adapted from Energy.gov.

 

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Energy Tip: Lighting Matters

The truth is, lighting matters. If you have not changed out your old incandescent light bulbs for efficient bulbs, today is the day.

By replacing 10 60-watt bulbs with 10 14-watt LED (light emitting diode) bulbs that burn 4 hours per day, you can save $88 a year. With bulbs that last over 30 years, that is a lifetime savings of $2,700. Compared to the $250 initial cost, this is a very good return on investment.

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“If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that’s earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.” – ENERGY STAR.gov

 Things to keep in mind:

  • Smaller wattage means less energy used. Lumens measure brightness while CCT (correlated color temperature) measures quality in terms of whiteness (or warmth). You want fewer watts, equal lumens, and the same quality of CCT.
  • It is possible to save money and maintain the quality of light you prefer in your home. Besides matching CCT, shape also matters when it comes to the effect of the light bulb. Make sure you choose a bulb shape that will distribute light appropriately from your fixture. Not all efficient bulbs are dimmable, but dimmable and three-way efficient bulbs are available.
  • For the best guarantee of savings and quality, purchase ENERGY STAR rated bulbs. If you want some technological advice in selecting and purchasing your new efficient light bulbs, check out the light bulb finder app by Eco Hatchery.

 

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Energy Tip: Turn off the Water

This month’s energy tip is brought to you by World Water Day:
Saving water also saves energy.

To start, using less hot water saves on the energy needed to heat your water. Saving water and saving energy becomes a case of the chicken and the egg.

As we reduce our energy consumption, less water is needed to produce electricity from fossil fuels and nuclear sources.

Almost 39% of all freshwater withdrawals in the nation are for electricity production.

Discover 100 ways to save water.

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