Posts Tagged ‘Energy Star’

Home Energy Saving Tips

October 9, 2014

shutterstock_143542750

This month, with the focus on energy, we want to encourage every homeowner to take action no matter how big or how small to conserve energy.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Cooking is like a puzzle. Match your pot to the size of your stovetop burner.  Using smaller pots waste heat when used on large burners.
  2. Don’t soak. Take short showers instead of baths.  If you want to save even more energy, use a low-flow showerhead.
  3. Power off, completely. If you aren’t in the room, turn off lights, TVs, computers, etc.
  4. Unplug battery chargers when not in use. Many chargers continue to burn energy even when the device isn’t plugged into the charger.
  5. Slow down. Drive safe and slow down.  Not only is speeding dangerous, it wastes fuel too.
  6. Upgrade your thermostat. Using a programmable thermostat may save you an estimated $180 a year.  It saves energy, too.
  7. Use cold water. Washing clothes with cold water can save you 40 cents per load.
  8. Forget the dryer. Dry your clothes on a clothesline or drying rack and save an estimated $252 a year.
  9. Ditch the incandescents. CFLs and LEDs are more energy-efficient and give off the same amount of light.  More information can be found on our fact sheet.
  10. Get an energy audit. Find out where your home is using and losing energy.  More than likely that lost energy is also costing you money.  Learn more in this video.

Sources:  Duke Energy, ENERGY STAR, Energy Information Administration, Choice Home Warranty

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Are you ready for some football?

September 11, 2014

Football fans chearing on their team

It is official, we have begun another season of football.  Last Thursday, the 4th was the official kick off to the NFL season between the Seahawks and the Packers.  26.9 million people tuned into to watch these two teams battle for victory.  As the season progresses we can only expect those numbers to climb.  As those in your home tune into football, make sure you aren’t wasting money at the hands of your TV.  Our friends at ENERGY STAR have developed a list of the most energy efficient televisions in 2014 in three different categories:  Televisions under 35 inches, Televisions from 35 inches to 50 inches and Televisions over 50 inches.  Go ahead and check them out.  Whether your team wins or loses, at least you are saving money through it all.

While your TV can provide some relief on your utility bills, try other energy saving techniques like changing out your incandescent light bulbs or getting a home energy audit.

And, best of luck to your team this season.

Thanks for stopping by!

-April

Set Phasors on Stun! Scottie, Warp Power Up to Full Capacity!

September 20, 2013

phasor

It was reported recently  that some bright folks have figured out that if you watch the current of the power grid with phasor measurement units (picture colorful layers of EKG displays),it will reveal potential disruptions in the power supply nationwide and help us catch a problem before it gets too big, like it did in the summer of 2003 when 50 million people lost power.

Knowing when trouble is coming is great but if we tax the grid with cooling and lighting, watching re runs of Star Trek, and running blenders for margaritas’ in the summer, what do we do about it?

Either generate more power (Que Scottish accent shouting “I dannae is she can’t take any more captain!”) or we change our behavior (put the blender away)  We may have escaped this summer unscathed, but reducing our electircal load year round is a great idea.

Here’s one more option:  Energy efficient appliances, lighting and homes!  When you replace appliances or lighting, make sure it EnergyStar rated or is a LED or CFL for lighting.  As for our homes, increasing your comfort can mean reducing your bills as well and using less from the grid at the same time.  Air sealing and insulation makes a big difference on the cooling bill.  Consider a home performance assessment, that way your shields will be up and ready for anything.

Thanks,

Jason

Wave that Geek Flag! It’s not Flowers, Peace and Love Anymore

May 2, 2012

Many Americans love their TVs, and it must be “love” otherwise why would we spend so much on something that takes up so much real estate on the living room wall!   Until recently they used a lot of energy too.

According to a recent posting from the NYT, “Incorporating LED and laser technology has helped slash the energy consumption of new TV models by nearly 50 percent within the last three years.”   But really it’s not efficiency claims selling these sets in some parts of the country, its “technology” or “better picture quality”.

What sets these TVs apart is the Energy Forward label which identifies a small group of the most efficient Energy Star appliances.  The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, a utility supported non-profit organization based in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, is behind the label and they have taken an interesting approach.  Since TV watchers are prone to “geek out” by wanting the best set, it seems leveraging this “weakness” and making the best sets energy efficient is a win-win situation.

Collectively, small savings add up when everyone tunes in to the evening news on a high efficiency TV.  The important shift recognized here is that comfort and efficiency don’t have to conflict.  We fix homes to make them more comfortable.  It just so happens that is a wonderful side effect of reducing energy usage as well!

Peace,

Jason

New Year Resolutions in New York

December 27, 2011

We have a number of GreenHomes America locations in New York State.  Recently NYSERDA suggested some New Year resolutions for this coming year. You can read all of the resolutions here, but here are some highlights I like, and surprise, surprise;  they can work in other states too!

Watch out for build up: One of the easiest things to do is remove build-up in your clothes dryer’s lint trap before every load. Removing built up lint not only reduces the risk of fire but also will increase drying efficiency and could save you up to $34 per year.

Keep your bills out of hot water: Identify-and fix-any water leaks in your home. Leaky faucets and showerheads, for example, can be a big source of waste. Repairing these fixtures can save you up to $100 per year. And, don’t forget to inspect your hot water heater for leakage. At a rate of one drip per second, your home can waste gallons of water in a short time, costing you money.

Seal the gaps: Air leaks can occur in some unusual and out-of-the-way places-crawl spaces, attics, overhangs, garages, porches and other architectural features, to name a few. Be sure to have a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® contractor investigate these problem areas and make recommendations on how to make your home’s openings air-tight. By sealing and insulating your home, you could increase your home’s energy efficiency by up to 20 percent.

Turn it off: Make a conscious effort to turn off electronics or appliances when they are not in use. If no one is watching TV—turn it off. Try using a power strip as a central “turn off” point for easy access in powering down multiple pieces of equipment—such as a DVD player, a Blu-RayTM player and a television—all at once. Once you develop this simple habit, you’ll achieve savings the rest of the year.

Look for the star: If you are thinking about replacing electronics or appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR label. These units have advanced features that improve energy efficiency. For more information on ENERGY STAR appliances, visit http://www.energystar.gov 

Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®: For more ways to save energy, ask an accredited Home Performance contractor to conduct a comprehensive home energy assessment, which is free for most New York homeowners. The contractor will discuss the energy improvements you can do in 2012 to save more on your utility bills, along with the incentives and financing available to make these improvements more affordable.

An energy assesment from GreenHomes America can help you sort out some New Year’s resolutions of your own and help you stick to them! And, un-like the going to the gym for some parts of January, it won’t hurt I promise.

Thanks and Happy New Year,

Jason

New York State Hurricane Relief Appliance Rebate Program

September 24, 2011

New York residents eligible for cash rebates to replace essential appliances damaged by Hurricanes Irene or Lee –

Parts of upstate New York were devasted by Hurricanes Irene and Lee which significant damage to many residents’ homes and properties – including their necessary appliances and equipment. Effective this week (Monday, September 19, 2011), Governor Andrew Cuomo launched an $8 million appliance rebate program to help those who sustained damages to their appliances and household equipment. This program is one of the many in place to help those affected by the storms recover as quickly as possible.

“Thanks to this program, homeowners in NY can make some good of a bad situation,” said Anthony Johnson, owner of A. Johnson Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, a Saratoga Springs-based company and GreenHomes America partner specializing in home energy assessments and upgrades. “These generous rebates not only save you money now, but with more energy-efficient appliances you’ll continue to save for the life of the appliance.”

New York Hurricane Appliance Rebate - Furnace, Boiler, Water Heater, RefrigeratorCandidates qualify by being a New York state resident and purchasing eligible ENERGY STAR® or high efficiency appliances to replace those damaged by the natural disasters.  Eligible products include refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers, dehumidifiers, furnaces, broilers and some water heaters. Rebates are substantial and range from $100 for a dehumidifier to $2,500 for a boiler. Purchases must be made on or after August 29, 2011 for those impacted by Irene and September 9, 2011 for those impacted by Lee. The U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program (SEP) provided the funds to be used for the program and rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until they are exhausted.

“Many new appliances, like those with an ENERGY STAR® rating, are around 30 percent more efficient than older models,” adds Johnson. “If you replace three or four appliances with these more efficient models, that’s like eliminating an entire appliance from your energy bill.”

Those who wish to apply for the rebate can do so in one of two ways, either by filling out an application form on the rebate program website or calling the program hotline to fill out necessary information over the phone. One rebate per appliance is allowed and purchases must be made before applying.

For more information on this rebate program, please visit http://www.nysappliancerebates.com/ or call the program hotline at 1-877-NY-SMART.  Contact us in Central New York or the Saratoga-Capital District area to see how this might be leveraged as part of a broader home improvement to increase comfort and save energy.  (Doubly important for those who has with oil as oil prices remain very high.)

ENERGY STAR “Most Efficient” Recognition

August 14, 2011

ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2011 LogoLast month, the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE announced an extension of the ENERGY STAR program which will recognize the most energy-efficiency products.  The ENERGY STAR “Most Efficient” pilot will ID those models that are in the top 5% for efficiency in their categories.

Now, it’s even easier to find the most energy-efficient refrigerators, clothes washers, televisions, etc.!  This makes it even harder to justify buying a hog.  And wehn comparing apples to apples, “Most Efficient” will pay long term dividends.   Simple, smart, easy.  Gotta like it.

Staying Cool…How to Save Energy in the Kitchen this Summer

May 31, 2011

We had seven visitors this Memorial Day weekend for what’s become an annual rite—my wife’s family runs in the Burlington Marathon.  With the extra people, and the need to keep them fed, including with the pre-race, pasta-fueled, carbo-loading, I found myself thinking how to stay cool in the kitchen.  And how to save energy.  [If I can brag a bit on my daughter, this is also now an issue since she has embraced baking and is doing amazing things.  Her baking is also impacting my waist size!]

Even in the heat of the summer, you can cook, stay cool, and minimize the fighting the air-conditioner has to do.  There are a few simple strategies.  Reduce the heat you produce.  Remove the heat you do produce.  And chip away at the other energy-savings via efficient lights, appliances, and behaviors as you would elsewhere in the home.

Don’t generate as much heat in the first place.

If you don’t heat up the kitchen, you don’t have to cool it down.  Here are some things you can do, none of them hard, all of them useful.

  • Grill outside.  People love this!  And if keeps you from heating the stove, oven, and room!
  • Try to limit pre-heating the oven.  You can’t do this which some baked goods where rising might be impacted.  However, you make find that getting the oven up to temperate doesn’t take as long as the recipes might suggest.  And if you’re cooking that baked macaroni and cheese, you don’t really need to wait for the oven to heat all the way up—although you may have to leave it in a couple minutes longer.
  • Don’t “peek” if you don’t need to.  Opening the oven door dumps heat into the room, drops the oven temperature, and increases cooking time.
  • Shut the oven off a few minutes early.  An oven will retain the heat for a while after you shut it off, and the food will continue to cook.
  • Check the oven door seal, and clean it with a bit of degreaser if needed.  A good seal keeps the heat where it should be.
  • Boiling water for that pre-race pasta?  Keep the cover on!  And as tempting as it is, the don’t peek rule applies here.  The water will boil faster AND you’ll reduce the amount of steam and hot water vapor you dump into your house.  Speaking of pasta, you may be able to get good results reducing the amount of water you use, as suggested in the NY Times article.  Some folks even suggest turning the heat off after adding the pasta and returning it to a boil.  I’ve done this with rice with good success.
  • On the stove top, match the pan to the element.  Don’t use a small pan on a large element because much of the heat just goes into the room.  (Induction stove users—you’ve got an advantage here!)
  • Sometimes a small toaster oven will do as well as a large oven—and require less energy and dump less heat in the process.

Evacuate any extra heat if you can.

  • Here’s where an exhaust fan with a good range hood comes in handy.  If it is vented to the outside—as it absolutely should be if you have a gas stove or oven—you can remove the heat and cooking-related moisture from the house.  Remember, as you suck air out of the house, you’re bringing in air elsewhere, and you don’t want to do that if the air is hotter and more humid that you like.  In this case, though, it’s well worth the trade.  [BTW, this same principle applies in the shower—get the steam out rather than using your A/C to cool in and remove the humidity.]
  • Safety first.  Any time we’re talking about exhaust fans, I like to remind people that they be vented outside and NOT into the attic.  And you should make sure you test your combustion equipment (including water heater and furnace) to make sure the exhaust fan doesn’t impact proper venting.

Other smart things–they add up.

  • Kitchens often have a lot of lighting, including recessed lights and track lighting.  Incandescent, including halogen lighting, actually use most of their energy creating heat, not light.  A kitchen full of mini-space heaters disguised as lights will be harder to keep cool.   Switching this to CFL or LED lighting (see previous posts on the CREE CR6, for example!) can move a huge difference.
  • Run your dishwasher only when it’s full, and don’t use the “Rinse/Hold” feature for just a few dirty.  It uses several gallons of hot water each time you use it.
  • Do the dollar bill test—the seal on your refrigerator door should snug hold a dollar bill in place when closed.  If not, the seal may need to be replaced.
  • Mom was right.  Don’t stand with the refrigerator door open FOREVER.  Minimize the time with the door open and the number of times you open it.  This saves energy in its own right.  And remember, refrigerators don’t magically create “cool”.  They remove heat from inside the compartment, and dump it—and waste heat—outside, which just happens to in your kitchen.
  • You probably don’t have a lot of flexibility with your current appliance locations, be it generally makes sense to keep the refrigerator out of bright sunlight and away from the stove—remember, you’re trying to keep it cool.   Keep it in mind if you’re remodeling, though.
  • And at new appliance time, think Energy Star!

You can also explore more general cooling tips for not just the kitchen, but your whole house.

And to really find the trouble spots in your home — and to be sure they’re addressed with the right solutions, we recommend that you get a comprehensive home energy audit.

Time to dust off the air-conditioner, hold on a minute…that’s a lot of dust!

May 11, 2011

Weathered AC unitI just noticed that parts of the country are hitting 90 or even 100 degrees.  That seems a bit much for spring, but that’s the way with weather isn’t it. It does raise the question:

How do you know when it’s time to replace your air-conditioner?

As you might guess the age of the system and how often you have had to get it fixed are sure signs that it might be time.

12 year old units are a candidate for replacement simply for efficiency sake.  There have been significant improvements. According to ENERGY STAR, replacing a central air unit with an ENERGY STAR certified one could reduce your cooling costs by 30%.

Many problems occur that make your cooling equipment less efficient, some can be repaired, but keep in mind that at some point, replacement may be more cost effective.  And if you’re thinking about a new system, it’s the perfect time to address other issues that help make your more comfortable, can reduce the cost of your AC system and save you even more money by lowering your utility bills.  Many problems that appear to be with your heating and cooling equipment are actually caused by poor insulation, air leaks, windows, or other issues.  

Here are some things to look for:

  • Some rooms in your home are too hot or too cold.  Improper equipment operation, duct problems or inadequate insulation could be the cause.
  • High Utility bills: Each cooling season can be a little different, but if you are noticing your bills going up each year it may be time for a fix. keep in mind that the cost of a new unit may be paid down by the savings in short orde
  • Humidity problems:  Poor equipment operation, inadequate or oversized equipment, and leaky ductwork can cause the air to be too dry in the winter or too humid in the summer
  • Excess noise: You could have an undersized duct system or a problem with the indoor coil of your cooling equipment.  

If any of these apply to you should have your system evaluated.  Make sure though, that you get a comprehensive energy audit of your home first.   Unfortunately, these problems can be found even in brand new homes, and so regardless of when it was built your home should get a thorough evaluation.

Short of replacement now see our cooling tips for stop-gap measures to immediate savings.

An if replacement is in the cards, there are several options to consider—including heat pumps and mini splits—that we’ll talk about those in future posts.

Thanks,
Jason.

Looking for the best in a new home

March 8, 2011

We all want our investment in a new home to include beautiful finished surfaces, maybe a nice view (let’s put the wall of windows there to see the view of the snowy mountains to the north!), maybe just more space.   And as readers here know is possible, we want a comfortable, durable home that is safe and doesn’t waste a lot of energy.    

And in a high-performing home, you’ll have unmatched comfort and quiet, not to mention, reduced operating costs.   Following a mortgage, energy bills are often the next biggest expense in a home. Reconsider what the “building blocks” of a good home are.   Starting new with the key elements we use retrofitting older homes, health and safety, efficiency, durability make sense.  A rock solid “foundation” is one that everything else is built upon.  That means you are building a home for the future.  And with concerns about the price of gas or oil in 10 years, in 30 years, a well-performing home is something you can bank on.

Even for those in the know, workhorses of the home, insulation and air sealing, windows and efficient mechanical systems remain unseen and too often these important features are shortchanged, they quickly play second fiddle to flashier items, even some touted as “green” which unfortunately is often at best putting the cart before the horse.

What to do?  Certainly there are building codes and new energy codes as well as ventilation standards in place that will make new homes better for us and for the environment.  Keep in mind though that building codes are what a builder has to do.  If I made it through school doing just what I had to, I wouldn’t have failed. That’s it.  A home that just meets the code gets a D-, just one step above failing.

When building or looking for a new home, consider at a minimum one that is or could ENERGY STAR qualified. This is one that will have an efficient home envelope with effective levels of properly installed insulation, a proper air barrier, and high-performance windows.  There will also be efficient equipment for heating, cooling, and water heating as well as efficient Lighting and appliances that meet the ENERGY STAR guidelines. 

How can you do better?  Look for a home energy rating.  A rating from a certified Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) rater can tell you how your home scores.     The Index they use is a scoring system in which the Reference Home scores a 100, while a net zero home scores a 0. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient.  If it is above 100 it would not meet the energy code.    (You can get a rating for your older home, too, but a rating doesn’t tell you what to fix.  Before you spend money on a rating, read Mike’s post on the subject or visit the GreenHomes America website to learn about what to expect from a home assessment.

There is also LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  But it has been a system that has encountered criticism over the years.  Buildings can earn silver, gold, or platinum designation depending on how many of the possible credits they collect.   Some argue it is a point system that can be gamed making a building look good on paper but perform miserably, especially from an energy perspective.  And a cornucopia of other labels makes it even more confusing.  We expect this to improve over time, but labeling a home “green” doesn’t always mean it’s a top performer.  

The Department of Energy has good climate-specific recommendations and case studies.   It’s worth reviewing these before you buy or build to get an idea of the possibilities.

It always makes a lot more sense to do it right the first time.  Insist on that if you’re buying a new home—or insist on the concessions needed to make it right.  Have the home verified with a rating.  Set ENERGY STAR as the minimum target.

And if you want your current home to perform better, don’t think that you’re stuck with an energy hog.  We can help on that front.


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