Posts Tagged ‘home economics’

Better late than later! It’s time again to think about a furnace tune-up!

October 22, 2013

You should get your furnace (or boiler) checked at least once a year (more if you burn oil) to make sure that it is operating safely and efficiently.

snowflakes

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say.  Preventive maintenance can help ensure that your furnace runs when it needs to.  You would be surprised how many service calls we get in the northeast on the first cold days of the year.  There is a spike in calls when we experience a deep cold snap too. This of course is not the time you want your furnace to go down!

By the end of September in the northern US, many contractors start getting backed up with service calls as you may have discovered if you tried to schedule one in the last few months.  As you head south, that shifts from October to even December (OK, Palm Springs doesn’t get backed up in heating season, which is why I for one, hope to visit!).

Get that furnace tuned-up BEFORE heating season kicks in and if it has in your neck of the woods, before it really gets cold!

Thanks,

Jason

 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASnowflakesWilsonBentley.jpg
Advertisements

Nuclear Power and Energy Efficiency

July 22, 2011

Ever since I got the ping from Aaron Goldfelder that this article was up, I’ve been meaning to share the link and add a few thoughts.  I think the folks at EnergySavvy, in their piece on nuclear power and energy efficiency, have done an excellent job laying out some of the advantages of putting energy-efficiency at the core of a sound energy policy.  The applies not just as the national and regional level, but all the way down to our individual homes, where part of the GreenHomes mantra is “reduce before you produce”.

For half the cost of replacing one nuclear power plant, we can retrofit 1,600,000 homes for energy efficiency and create 220,000 new jobs–that’s more than 90 times more jobs than you’d get from a power plant replacement.  –EnergySavvy.com

The following graphic that the Savvy folks put together illustrates a couple of great points.  For an equivalent base load impact, energy-efficiency is cheaper AND it has a bigger economic impact in the form of job creation–jobs that mean more more dollars for families to spend on pizza, college, or a day at the lake, or generally just more money flowing around our communities.

This mirrors the findings of the much-heralded McKinsey report which pointed out that, go figure, reducing energy use actually saves money!  It saves money in the aggregate–and it saves money in your home.

My point is not an anti-nuclear one.  We do, though, need to look at energy policy overall.  Unless we descend into silliness, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  Left and right can agree because energy-efficiency–along with the benefits of greater energy independence, national security, and economic security–makes sense.  And thus efficiency should be the cornerstone of any good energy policy.

Cheers,
Mike

Oil prices fall back below $100

May 8, 2011

With oil prices falling back below $100/barrel, I guess we don’t have to worry about energy prices any more!  [Yes, that was sarcasm.]

Home values increase with energy-efficiency and renewables

May 2, 2011

A NY Times article this week pointed to some less than good news for those with equity in their homes:  Home prices fall again.   

But there are ways to increase the value of your home.  Laura Stukel touched on this in her post a couple of weeks ago.  And a study released by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) this week points to solar—in addition to energy efficiency—as boosting home value. 

This is good news, and it reflects the obvious-sounding anecdotes we’ve been hearing for a long time from our customers.

With the benefits aligning (and energy prices rising), the question has increasingly become how can you afford not to make your home more energy-efficient?

Cheers,
Mike

Holy smokes, has anyone seen energy prices lately?

April 8, 2011

With the DC posturing over the budget and an Iowa man on the 31st day of his beer-only fast dominating the news, I wonder how may people has noticed what’s going on with energy prices.  Oil nosed up to $112/barrel.  And I paid $3.90 a gallon for regular yesterday.  And all this before the summer season when gas prices usually go up.  People are starting to get nervous–and rightly so–about heating their homes next winter.   I wonder if as consumers we’ll plan ahead and take action now to make the home economics work, or if we’ll put things off like Congress.

Cheers,
Mike

Home Retrofit is a Great Way to Add Value to Your Home

October 4, 2010

As a green real estate agent with my EcoBroker Certification, I hear a lot of buzz about green homes. But if you are like most Americans, buying a new home, let alone a green-built new home is not in the cards for you.  That’s why I think a home retrofit – an energy efficiency makeover – is such an important real estate tool.

A retrofit is important today, at tax time and in the future when you go to sell your home

Today a retrofit is important because it will cure what ails you.  Whether you have hit GreenHome’s website because you want to save money on your energy bills, stop that annoying little draft in the baby’s room or help the planet, a home retrofit can help.  Best is the saving money part. Other home remodeling projects like an updated kitchen won’t love you back with money-savings every month the way a home retrofit will!

If you act by December 31st, your retrofit will pay off at tax time too.  You may be able to claim a 30% credit for many of the materials you have installed as part of your retrofit.  It’s a great opportunity to see a payback even sooner on your improvements! 

Studies are starting to emerge that show the value of energy-savings in a home at resaleOne early study shows that home buyers are willing to pay up to $5000 more for a home with good energy efficiency improvements.  Buyers know they will save while they live in a home like that and are willing pay a bit more for that benefit upfront.  Be sure to share before and after utility bills with your real estate agents so you can showcase your home’s utility savings when it is time for you to move.

When you look at all the figures, the numbers add up nicely!  Today, the typical retrofit saves an American family between 10-30% on their energy bills.  At tax time, the tax credit could help you with a $1,500 maximum discount on improvements completed in 2010.  That means a $5,000 project would cost you only $3,500.  In the future, trends are saying a buyer might be willing to spend up to $5,000 more for an efficient home like yours.  When is the last time you came out $1,500 ahead for something that saves you money and makes you cozier every day?

Laura Reedy Stukel is an EcoBroker Certified real estate agent and nationally recognized consultant, writer and speaker on home energy efficiency.  She is a market transformation expert, focused at accelerating home retrofits at key real estate leverage points.  Her work is unique, focused on energy efficiency projects fueled by the power of consumer choiceSM.

Be your own energy police

August 18, 2010

The energy police are here. That’s me, for precisely three days a month… the three days immediately following the receipt of my gas and electricity bill. I play the role of water police on a different three days of the month.

I think it is great to monitor and control your energy use, I just wish I was better at it. My problem is that I’m forgetful. Not forgetful in the sense that I leave the oven on and the dinner catches fire (although I wouldn’t put that past me either), but forgetful in the sense that an item of relatively low priority simply won’t get done if I’m not reminded of it frequently.

Don’t get me wrong, conserving energy should not be a low priority item, it’s just that my internal dialogue is so preoccupied with moment-to-moment problems that I forget about being good. Instead of thinking, “I should unplug the TV when I’m not using it,” I’m thinking, “Why aren’t my jogging shoes in the hallway closet? Who ate the last of the cereal and put the empty bag back in the box? Is there gas in the car? I’m probably going to be late for work again.”

Except for those three days after I get the bill, then a snapshot of my brain reveals a much more motivated consumer. Then I’m thinking, “I need to use the oven to roast a chicken for dinner, I should multi-task and make the brownies for my in-law’s potluck at the same time. Would that make the brownies taste like chicken? Who cares, I’m saving energy!”

Recently, my ‘27 days of forgetfulness followed by 3 days of frenzied energy saving’ model of living got a kick in the butt. PG&E, our energy company, installed SmartMeters on our gas and electric lines.

This is perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to my energy consumption habits. I found out that PG&E has an online tracking tool – a program that allows me to see our energy consumption by the hour with just a 24 hour lag time. I set the energy tracker log-on page as my homepage and now every time I launch my browser I check-up on how we’re doing and am reminded to be energy conscious, but more than that, for the first time I actually feel like I’m in control of my household energy use.

The number on my energy bill is no longer a mystery.

Of course, just looking at your SmartMeter won’t save you money any more than thumbing through Gourmet magazine will result in a delicious meal.  You need to take action with the simple tips I’ll discuss on this blog, and deeper recommendations you can review at GreenHomes America.

Now I keep a log of energy use and changes we make around the house, and correlate it to the changes I see on my SmartMeter energy tracker page. In the next few weeks I’ll be letting you in on the changes we’ve made both in our energy use habits and our energy-using hardware, and how they’ve affected our energy bill.

I’m hoping for great things. I’m hoping being more energy efficient will become a habit rather than something I have to think about. I’m hoping I’ll no longer freak out for 3 days a month and go into damage control mode, and thus,  to no longer have to sneak out of the room when I hear the words, “Who made these brownies? They taste kind of strange…”

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… http://bit.ly/9LODbj

Keeping Cool this Summer

May 25, 2010

More on keeping cool since full on summer is hitting a bit early in the Northeast.  Hot and humid.  It’s a good time to revisit the cooling tips (hint:  do NOT buy a Cool Surge air warmer…er, “cooler”, unless you harvested ice out of the pond over the winter and you’re storing it in an ice shed).

Spaghetti anyone? Caveat emptor!

December 23, 2009

This post isn’t about energy-efficiency so much as quality workmanship.  Over the last week, I’ve shown examples of dangerous spray foam application and dangerous water heater venting that we’ve uncovered.  And here’s a couple more recent examples from the field where the installers just didn’t care about a quality installation.  [Thanks to John Scipione and Patrick Herbert, of our Syracuse office, who stumble into “interesting” situations on an almost daily basis.]  The wiring in these looks like some sort of abstract art.  But it doesn’t look like the electrical work of someone paying attention to detail.  If your improving the energy-efficiency of your home look for quality.  At a minimum, follow these guidelines for choosing a contractor and look for certification and accreditation by the Building Performance Institute (BPI)

Low-voltage spaghetti (with a bit of line voltage)

Line voltage spaghetti (with a side serving of droopy ducts)

Thanks,
Mike


%d bloggers like this: