Tips on how to be more efficient with your energy usage.

Tips to save money and energy

When it comes to reducing your energy consumption, you do not always have to spend a lot of money to save a lot of money. Follow these simple energy saving steps from the Department of Energy and you will be on your way to saving energy and putting some money back in your pocket.

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For more information, visit the Department of Energy’s original blog post for this infographic.

 

 

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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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Avoid Thermostat Battles!

Avoid Thermostat Battles! Set It and Forget It

Thermostats: One of the keys to a happy home

We recently came across an entertaining commercial that our friends at Michigan Saves put together that focuses on the idea of fighting for control of your thermostat.

The commercial, along with an article in the Washington Post (check out the article’s great video), got us thinking about the significant role that thermostats play in energy efficiency.

Half of Us Don’t Use our Thermostats Properly

According to the Department of Energy, home heating is the largest source of energy usage in the home while home cooling comes in third. That means taking control of those systems can lead to big savings on our energy bills. In fact, the DOE estimates that homeowners can reduce their energy usage by up to 9 percent through proper usage of programmable thermostats.

Unfortunately, only 30% of homes actually have programmable thermostats installed. Of those, a majority have not been programmed properly. You don’t have to be a mathematician to understand that such a low percentage translate into a lot of wasted energy.

Why Thermostats Aren’t Being Programmed

If programmable thermostats are so good, why aren’t more people using them? The Washington Post outlines three reasons why the vast majority of Americans have not embraced programmable or smart thermostat technology:

  1. Many older style programmable thermostats are too difficult to use so homeowners keep them in manual mode. In fact, research shows that less than half the people that own a programmable thermostat actually use it correctly.
  2. We often inherit thermostats when we move into a house, condo, or apartment. We didn’t choose the thermostat and we have no idea how to use it.
  3. A large portion of the general public has bought into the myth that setting back your thermostat at night or when they are gone requires more energy when it is time to heat or cool their home again. The DOE has conducted extensive research debunking this myth.

The Solution: Knowledge is Power. And Savings.

If you already own a programmable thermostat but aren’t sure how to use it, ENERGY STAR has some great resources:

A programmable thermostat isn’t always the right choice, especially if your system uses a heat pump, so make sure you know what technology is compatible with what you already have.

The Alternative Solution: Upgrade by Getting Smart

There are plenty of options out there for individuals who want to upgrade their existing thermostats to the latest technology. The next generation of smart thermostats like Nest, ecobee, and Lyric have easy to use interfaces and can be controlled remotely through an app on your smart phone. Smart thermostats offer a range of benefits from ensuring that your heating or cooling system ramps up in an efficient manner to knowing when you are within a certain distance of your home so it can bring it to your desired temperature. Before purchasing a smart thermostat, do your research and make sure that the one you select is compatible with your heating or cooling system.

The Result: Comfort, Savings, and Cool Heads

Whether you have an old programmable thermostat or a new smart thermostat, remember that taking the time to learn how to use it effectively can result in significant energy savings, and keep your household from thermostat battles.

 

 

 

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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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Landscaping for Energy Savings

Tips to help you save energy and improve comfort

Guest writer Michelle Andersen is the Design Director for Flourish Landscape and Interior Design.

Properly insulating and air sealing your home will improve your overall comfort and reduce your energy usage. However, even after these improvements, your home likely remains exposed to the impacts of the sun and wind. A well planned landscape design can enhance the curb appeal of your home and provide energy saving benefits.

Here are some of my top landscaping tips that can help you improve the savings and comfort of your home year-round.

  1. Screen areas that have high wind exposure with evergreen trees to protect your home from heat loss. For smaller urban yards a columnar arborvitae or juniper screen in a zigzag line works well. I place them in a zigzag for a more natural look. If you have more space, try Spruce or Spring Grove Arborvitae.
  2. Plant a deciduous tree to shade parts of your home that get hot from sun exposure. While the leaves on the trees will block the summer sun, the winter sun will be allowed to warm the home after the leaves drop. Choose a tree that has a full canopy such as a Maple and find out how tall it will grow – there are Maple cultivars that will stay as small as 25’ tall that work well for small yards. Be sure to place the tree at least that far from the foundation of your home. For narrow spaces try the Franz Fontaine Hornbeam in a row of 3 or 5.
  3. Tree lined streets create a microclimate that cools neighborhoods and can lower your cooling needs by as much as 20%. Check with your municipality to see what street tree programs they have. The City of Cincinnati’s Releaf program provides a free tree for homeowners in the fall that they can plant in their front yard. Sometimes you can request a tree or pay to have one planted in your tree lawn, the strip between the sidewalk and the road. For those without a tree lawn, consider planting trees on your own and encourage the neighbors to do the same for and added bonus of increased property value.
  4. Lawns are a beautiful and conventional way to keep a low maintenance landscape, but they don’t have many environmentally friendly qualities. Transform portions of your lawn into landscape beds that contain a small native tree such as a Serviceberry, Dogwood, or Redbud to create a cooling effect in the summer as well as reduce the mowing needed.
  5. Hardscaping can attract and hold heat from the sun. Patios, driveways, and any other hard surface made of concrete, stone, asphalt, or pavers can improve your property value, but they also attract and hold heat from the sun. Shade hardscape surfaces with trees or a roof structure or choose a light color surface. This will also make these spaces more enjoyable and usable during our hottest days.

Properly designing your landscape can greatly enhance the way you function in your outdoor space and provide energy saving benefits. Try implementing some of these tips on your own or consult with a landscaper or designer for a more professional approach.

For information on consultations and design plans contact Michelle at michelle@flourishcincinnati.com or 859-815-0068.

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What is your heating footprint?

In the winter when we are all trying to stay warm, the last thing on most people’s mind is the impact that their heating choices can have on the environment. ENERGY STAR developed this great infographic to show the impact that one household can have when they switch to ENERGY STAR heating equipment.

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For more information, visit ENERGY STAR’s original post for this infographic.

 

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Lighting made easy

With all the changes to lighting that have occurred over the past few years, it can be difficult to know where to begin when you need a new light bulb. This infographic from ENERGY STAR explains everything you need to know about how bulbs are rated and can help you make smart decisions the next time you venture down the lighting aisle.

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For more information, visit ENERGY STAR’s original post of this infographic.

 

 

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Energy Saver 101: Home Heating

Heating is the largest consumer of energy in your home so learning about how your home’s heating system works can be a great first step towards reducing your energy bills. The Department of Energy developed this infographic to help homeowner’s learn everything they need to know about heating their home.

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For more information, visit the Department of Energy’s original blog post for this infographic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Energy Saver 101: Water Heaters

Water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home and typically accounts for around 18% of your utility bill. This infographic from the Department of Energy tells you everything you need to know about water heaters including simple steps that you can take to reduce your water heating bills..

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For more information, visit the Department of Energy’s blog post that accompanied this infographic.

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