Switching to clean energy is one of the world’s biggest challenges right now, as the impact of fossil fuels on our economy and our well-being becomes increasingly pronounced. But this kind of massive shift cannot occur overnight, and requires the participation of everyday consumers as well as large-scale enterprises and government-backed entities in order to succeed. Read more
Tips on how to be more efficient with your energy usage.
Solar energy has been a huge buzzword across the US for the past 10 years, and it all can seem a bit overwhelming. With all of the advances in technology, it has been hard to keep up with the world of solar energy. We at the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance have been working hard to make solar energy easily accessible for everyone in the Ohio/Kentucky tristate area. One of the best programs we have started to make solar energy easy to understand is our monthly Solarize Workshops. Read more
Remodeling your home can be a daunting task in and of itself, but doing it an eco-friendly manner comes with its own set of unique considerations. Below are four tips to help you go green with your remodeling project. Read more
The spring season is upon us, and for most households, that means carving out chunks of time to do some much-needed spring cleaning. Along with taking care of all the fun stuff like cleaning out closets and organizing the garage, it’s also a good time to take stock of how energy efficient your home is – or possibly isn’t. Below are some tried-and-true tips to help you ensure that your home is utilizing energy as efficiently as possible. Read more
To say that we’ve had some pretty cold weather in recent months would be a colossal understatement. From polar vortexes to bomb cyclones, many parts of the U.S. have been absolutely hammered with massive winter storms and bone-chilling temperatures that in many cases have broken long-standing records. Not only do these frigid weather conditions make you want to bundle up and “hibernate” in your home, but they also offer a salient reminder of how important it is to make your home as energy efficient as possible. This especially rings true once you’ve experienced the “sticker shock” of receiving a sky-high energy bill after a major cold spell. If you’re tired of being unpleasantly surprised by your home energy costs, maybe it’s time to consider taking the free online Home Energy Assessment offered by the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance. Read more
Energy efficiency has become an increasingly important topic in recent years, and for good reason: not only does it affect the future of the environment, but it can have a direct impact on our wallets as well. As we kick off the New Year, why not make a resolution to keep more money in your pocket by improving the energy efficiency of your household? To help get the ball rolling, here are six tried-and-true ways to lower your energy bills in 2018.
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.
For more information, visit the Department of Energy’s original blog post for this infographic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- an interactive online thermostat to teach you how to use a programmable thermostat
- guidelines for setpoint times and temperatures that can help you program it properly
- thermostat buying guidance
- installation tips
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.
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
“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:
- Consumer Reports
- ENERGY STAR
- American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Smarterhouse.org
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:
- Benefits, Specifications, and Best Practices of ENERGY STAR dishwashers
- Comparisons of ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers
- Finding the nearest store
- Similar information about other ENERGY STAR appliances, building products, electronics, heating and cooling equipment, lighting and fans, office equipment, pool pumps, and water heaters
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.