Posts Tagged ‘energy use’

Fixes for Hidden Costs Reveal Hidden Benefits!

April 12, 2012

The offender in many folks’ minds when it comes to pollution is the automobile, not our homes.  It seems to be ingrained in our heads that automobiles are the worst offenders; I won’t discourage alternatives.   But, in fact, we generate twice as much carbon dioxide emissions as we consume coal, oil, and natural gas—directly or indirectly—in our homes.

Hidden CostImagine what happens if we cut the energy use in our homes by half?  The scale might balance out for sure, but there are definitely more benefits, saving money for one.  We do this on a daily basis.  Improving their home’s insulation and air tightness, heating and cooling systems, and more, will typically save our customers at least 25%, but often much more.

It all starts with a comprehensive home assessment which helps drive pollution and energy cost reduction in the home.  But the biggest impact we hear about from our customers is how comfortable that drive can be!  The end result we sometimes forget about is the level of comfort revealed after the job is done.



Image from the DOE’s home energy saver website

Set-top boxes are the new hog

June 26, 2011

Once upon a time, outside of heating, cooling, and water heating, the refrigerator was the biggest energy consumer in the home.  That’s changing.  In part, this is because ratcheting standards and programs like ENERGY STAR have led to more and more efficient appliances.  However, it’s changing in part because we’re introducing more and more electrical loads into the home.

An article in today’s NY Times points out:

One high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year, about 10 percent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator, a recent study found.

These set-top boxes run full-tilt, 24/7, even when they’re not needed, or it you turn them “off”.  (Is “off” really “off” if it still draws about the same power?)

If doesn’t have to been that way.  At little or NO cost, we could have much more efficient boxes, reducing power consumption of these and other phantom loads by 50% easily, or much more.  But we don’t ask, the cable companies assume (rightly?) that we don’t care.  We should.  Not only does this mean, depending on electric rates, we could be paying $50 or even $100 per year to keep these running, but collectively we raise the generation demands and stress out our overtaxed electric grid.  Guess who’s rates will go up as we have to add on new, more expensive power plants?  Yep, ours.  Guess who pays for the upgrades we’ll need to improve the grid?  Yep, we will, in the form of still higher rates.

I’m not suggesting we blow up our TV’s (although I do like that John Prine song, Spanish Pipedream).  But unless we all expect to win the lottery—rather unlikely, don’t you think?—we need to get much more serious about energy-efficiency, including in our homes.  Not just set-top boxes, but insulation, air-sealing, heating, cooling, other phantom loads, the works.  Reduce your energy use, save money even if rates go up, help keep rates down, and save even more.  It’s an economic no-brainer. 



Xbox 360 vs. swimming pool

August 16, 2010

Got teenagers? Chances are you notice changes around your house during summer vacation, and one very nasty change can be a mysterious increase in the electricity bill. This came to my attention recently when my friend Sarah was regaling me with her latest headache regarding her sons.

Sarah is blessed with three teenage sons, ages 14, 17 and 19 years, who are all home for summer vacation.

“Every summer it gets worse,” she tells me. “My electricity bill is out of control. I swear it must be all of that Xbox they’re playing. I tell them to spend more time outside, but it’s like banging my head against a brick wall.”

Intrigued, I trawled the web for the figures on how much electricity an Xbox 360 uses in game mode, and ran the numbers. Sarah thinks her boys collectively spend about four hours a day on the Xbox. If this is true, I calculate they’re using about 40 kw-h of electricity a month, which, in our area, equates to about $6/month.

So what gives? The extra Xbox usage doesn’t help the electricity bill, but it also isn’t the cause of Sarah’s woes.

“Surely those kids must be blasting the AC all day?” I ask.

“No. I don’t have an air conditioner,” she replies.

I am stumped so I ask myself over ‘for coffee’ (read: to investigate). When I get there I am confused. Sarah only has 3 sons, but there must be 8 or 9 teenagers bomb diving her pool. It turns out they’re her kids’ school friends. It turns out she provides them with towels so long as they wash and dry them themselves, and… it turns out she has an ancient energy-hog washer and dryer.

Sarah thought she was doing a good thing by encouraging her kids to play outside and to be responsible for their own laundry, but she didn’t realize that she was also encouraging them to use gobs of energy unnecessarily.

Now Sarah is shopping for a more energy efficient washer and dryer and the boys are hanging their towels to dry (it is still summer after all), but she has another question:

“I’m not here all the time. How can I make sure they’re not being irresponsible with their energy use when I’m not around?”

That’s a great question, stay posted for the answer!

Do you need help upgrading your ancient, energy hungry appliances? Find out how GreenHomes America take the guess work out of these important purchases here…

Earth Hour 2010

March 26, 2010

In roughly 24 hours, Earth Hour 2010 will begin, and people across the globe will shut off their lights for one hour in order to make a statement.  However you feel about global warming, everyone can agree that conserving resources, and turning off lights when we don’t need them, is good for our society and our world.
Tomorrow night, the centers and capitals of over 4,000 towns and cities will go dark in order to remind us of the importance of conservation in our daily lives. From Lima to Las Vegas, from the Empire State Building to the Eiffel Tower, cities large and small across the globe will be declaring their dedication to protecting the environment we inhabit.  
I support Earth Hour 2010 because reducing energy waste is a great idea—and Earth Hour helps call attention to it. It’s easy in the modern world to forget about where energy comes from when you can illuminate your house with the flick of a finger, but each minute that a light bulb is burning unnecessarily is a minute that fuel is being wasted.  And in the U.S. more than 50% of our electricity comes from dirty coal.  By cutting down on our energy waste, we will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, improve our air quality, and decrease the load that energy companies are facing on a daily basis, all while helping homeowners save money on their energy bills. Who isn’t in favor of that?
Last year over 1 billion people participated in Earth Hour 2009, check out this video to see some of the cities that joined in:

If you want to join us in supporting Earth Hour 2010, turn off your lights today, Saturday, March 27th, at 8:30 PM EDT.  Remember, though, the value here is educational and inspiration.  To really get lasting energy savings, and have a long-term impact, you need to make bigger changes with bigger impacts in your home, the type of energy-efficiency improvements we discuss here at the time.

Keeping up with the Joneses—How does your energy use compare?

January 31, 2009

There is an interesting article in today’s NY times Utilities Turn Their Customers Green, With Envy  about comparing energy use between neighboring homes.  This might be a way to motivate people, especially now that having the biggest SUV on the block may not have the appeal that it once did. 


Our customers are definitely interested to know how their utility bills and some of our diagnostic tests compare to similar homes in the neighborhood.  We never disclose what an individual home’s usage or results are without the owner’s permission!  But we can talk in generalities about what we see in the area.  We’ve hosted on our website EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick a simple tool that can give you a rough idea of how your home measures up.  Check it out and see how your home stacks up.  And contact us if you’d like a more comprehensive assessment and a prescription tailored to you and your home.



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