Give Thanks, While Keeping Your Electric Bill Low

By Mary Ripley on  November 3, 2017

It’s that time of year again! Everyone’s favorite day of feasting and giving thanks is right around the corner. We all can’t wait to sit down and carve that tasty turkey with our loved ones. But before we do, there are some useful tips to keep in mind to ensure energy efficiency in the kitchen.

According to Energy.Gov, as much as 15 percent of annual energy usage in U.S. homes comes from Thanksgiving preparation.  We’ve put together some guidelines to help prevent your electric bill from going sky high this holiday season.

No peeking! Rather than open the oven to check on the turkey, use the oven window. The temperature is reduced by as much as 25 degrees each time the oven door is opened. This forces your oven to work even harder and, as a result, it requires greater electricity to get back to the desired cooking temperature.

Turn down the heat. I’m a huge advocate for staying warm and toasty during the holidays, but even I have found this tip to be helpful during Thanksgiving.  When spending the day in your kitchen preparing the big meal, the stove has the ability to keep your home warmer than usual. To save money and prevent your furnace from working as hard, turn your heat down and let the kitchen keep you comfortable.

Fill it up. It is far more energy efficient to keep your refrigerator and freezer full around the holidays. The large amount of cold items contained inside will help the temperature to recover each time the door is opened. Be careful not to cram them too full in order to allow air to properly circulate around the food. 

Keep it a clean machine. Be sure to clean your burners and reflectors before you begin the big day of cooking. This provides better heating, and it ultimately saves energy. Should you need new reflectors, purchase quality ones. The best on the market can save as much as one-third of the energy used when cooking with a stove.

On behalf of all of us at NOPEC, we wish you a happy, energy-efficient Thanksgiving!

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Our Favorite Energy Monitoring Device

By Mary Ripley on  November 3, 2017

This week we posted reviews about two energy monitors, the Kill-A-Watt EZ and the TP-Link Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring.  Today we are sharing the results of the third device we tested... And it's our favorite! The WeMo Insight Smart Plug is smartphone and tablet compatible, petite in size, and affordable at a price point of around $40. This device is quick and easy to set up. It took us only 2 minutes to connect after the app downloaded! Some of the features of the WeMo Insight are similar to the TP-Link (see review here). They both have “away” modes which turn your connected lights on and off at random times to create the appearance that someone is home. Additionally, both devices can be controlled through voice commands with Amazon's Alexa and Google Voice. Features specific to the WeMo Insight include the ability to connect to Nest Thermostat and Apple HomeKit, as well as a built-in micro USB on the top of the plug.  Unlike the TP-Link, the WeMo Insight doesn't require a sign-in to remotely control appliances, which makes the set-up more user-friendly.

WeMo App!

(WeMo app)

The WeMo has the ability to measure daily, weekly, and monthly energy consumption, but it also includes a feature that allows you to see how long the appliance has been on  "standby" mode, or not consuming as much energy as planned. The WeMo Insight also lets you set up energy saving rules, such as if this happens, then that.

The home screen on the WeMo is not as easy to read as the TP-Link, but the small size and ability to set-up rules won our love for this device. Now you can get your own Energy-Monitoring Smart Plug!  Sign in to myNOPEC and use your rewards points to order a smart plug today!  Don't have a myNOPEC account?  Sign up for a myNOPEC account today to get energy-saving tips, track your energy usage and learn new ways to save!  Plus, you can earn rewards points to use on energy-saving devices in the myNOPEC rewards store.

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Energy Monitor Test #2

By Mary Ripley on  November 1, 2017

We are on the hunt for the best and easiest energy monitoring devices! Monday, we told you about the Kill-A-Watt EZ, and today we are discussing the TP-Link Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring.

This energy monitoring device is priced around $35, and it is a great option to easily track your energy consumption by using your smartphone or tablet. The first step to tracking your energy is by downloading the Kasa app, that comes with the device. This sounds simple, however we had a tough time connecting the device to our Wi-Fi. It took us about ten minutes to figure out how to properly connect. After the device was connected, it operated well, and the Kasa app was clean and easy to use. Energy monitoring, such as appliance run-time and energy consumption numbers are listed right on the home screen. Similar to other devices, you must add your cost of electricity found on your utility bill in order to get totals for the amount of energy consumption for the day, week, and month. One downside about this specific device is not calculating yearly consumption. 

Here is an example of the Kasa app!             

Out of all three devices we tested, the TP-Link Smart Plug definitely has the best app design and is the easiest to read. Although, when we checked the values after the 48 hour measuring period, we found the device had only recorded 35 hours, leaving 13 hours to our imagination. We are not sure if the cause of this is because the freezer was on standby mode, the Wi-Fi went out, or the device simply stopped working, however we were disappointed to discover only 35 hours of energy consumption was tracked.

Overall, the TP-Link Smart Plug is a solid choice for efficient energy tracking on a smart phone or tablet. Even though the set-up was difficult, the actual use of the app is easy, and the device itself is simple to read. Before we are ready to fully recommend this this device, more investigation is necessary. 

Stay tuned for Friday to hear the results of which device is our favorite, and have a chance to win your own energy saving device!

For energy-saving tips and new ways to save, sign up for myNOPEC.  Plus, you can earn rewards points to use use on energy-saving devices in the myNOPEC rewards store.

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Which Energy Monitoring Device is Right For You?

By Mary Ripley on  October 30, 2017

Utility bills can often be the unpredictable wild card that prevents you from staying on budget or saving money. But with today's technology, monitoring your energy consumption is much easier. Using an energy monitoring device, you can easily measure how much electricity an appliance is actually drawing.

There's no more guessing: a) what appliances are using the most energy b) the cost of electricity per monitored appliance  With many options of devices to chose from, it can be challenging to find which one best fits your needs. That's why we did the work for you! We tested 3 popular and affordable energy use monitors, and weighed the pros and cons of each device. Costing no more than $40.00, the price points are an attractive feature. Additionally, two of the three devices we tested have smart plug capabilities. This allows you to control the device, as well as the appliance it is plugged into, through a smartphone/tablet app. The third device doesn't require Wi-Fi capabilities, being perfect for individuals who are uncomfortable with smart technology.  We put these energy monitors to the test by individually plugging the devices into a compact, upright freezer, over a 48 hour time period. The results showed similar ranges of energy consumption from each device. However, we discovered these energy monitors drastically differ in their capabilities. 

Energy Monitor Test #1:  

The Kill-A-Watt EZ  is quick and easy to use, as well as cost effective! Just $26.00 and doesn't require Wi-Fi capabilities, this simple device has the capacity to track your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly energy consumption. The controls are easy to use, the instructions are digestible, and the set-up is straightforward. This is also the only device that comes in with a built-in backup battery, and has accuracy within .2% of actual consumption costs.  This device requires you know the cost of kilowatt per hour (kWh), which can be found on your current energy bill statement. Simply plug in the cost of kWh, then plug in your desired appliance, and the Kill-A-Watt EZ does the rest!

               

Results: 

An asset we loved about the Kill-A-Watt EZ is that it is the only device we tested that allows you to view yearly total energy consumption! This device holds true to it's specs, and measures energy consumption in a hassle-free way. As stated above, the Kill-A-Watt EZ doesn't rely on Wi-Fi technology, thus you must rely on the display to read the information. This was the biggest problem with the device. There is no back-light in the display, so the numbers can be difficult to read. We discovered this challenge because most outlets are located in poorly lit spaces and low to the ground. Using a flashlight can resolve this issue, helping you to see the screen. However, without extra light sources, the Kill-A-Watt EZ can be difficult to read. Another down-side is the large size of this device, which eliminates any possibility of being able to use the other socket in an outlet. However, if you're looking for a simple way to log energy consumption, and you don't want to mess with downloading an app, the Kill-A-Watt EZ is the best option for you! 

Stay tuned this week to hear the results of the other two devices, and have a chance to win your own energy monitor!  For energy-saving tips and new ways to save, sign up for myNOPEC.  Plus, you can earn rewards points to use use on energy-saving devices in the myNOPEC rewards store.

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Find out How NOPEC helps you save

By Mary Ripley on  October 27, 2017

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Tips for an Eco-friendly Halloween

By Mary Ripley on  October 20, 2017

Holidays are so much fun. And no holiday is more fun than Halloween. We decorate our homes with spooky things and dress up in our most frightening outfits to show the spirit of the season. But when Halloween’s over, the decorations get thrown out just as the costumes that kids outgrow from year to year. In an effort to be just a little bit kinder and gentler to our world, it’s time to start thinking consciously about all of the waste generated by our love of Halloween. Here are some handy tips for having a great Halloween that’s also a better for our environment.

UPCYCLED HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS
Close-up view of pumpkin isolated on white

It’s not necessary to spend a ton of money each year on Halloween decorations, only to throw them out at the end of the season. There are great decorations you can make for little to no money, and the best part is…you can use stuff you already have. There’s always the tried and true pumpkin that is the staple of all things Halloween. But don’t just throw out those pumpkins when you’re done with them! Roast the seeds for a healthy and delicious snack. And don’t forget to save a few seeds to plant next spring, so you can grow your very own Halloween pumpkin!

For some DIY fun, make Rustic Pumpkins using some old pallets. Or take old wine bottles and paint them white with frightening faces for a spooky ghost display. There are tons of ideas for cheap DIY Halloween home decorations that you can upcycle from things you’d probably just throw away. Check out some of these awesome ideas on Pinterest.

DON’T BUY A COSTUME 
Happy children on Halloween party

Halloween is a multi-billion dollar industry and most of that money is generated from costume sales. The majority of Halloween costumes are sold in pop-up Halloween stores that sell cheap costumes that barely qualify as clothing because of the poor quality materials used. On top of that, the average costume runs about $30. And because of the quality and materials used to make these costumes, many of them don’t last more than one Halloween season.

Break the cycle of disposable Halloween costume consumerism. Use what you already have in your closet to play dress-up for Halloween. Be creative. Throw on a black dress and be Holly Go Lightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Take the sheets off the bed and sash it with a rope for an instant toga. Or find a big box, cut out holes for your arms and legs and wrap it to be a present. There are many things you can find lying around your house that can be used for Halloween costumes. The only limit is your imagination!

But say you absolutely do not have anything in your closet or in your home that would work for a Halloween costume. Go thrifting! Before you go, do some research as to what you’d like to dress up as for Halloween. Have at least two ideas, so if you can’t find anything to fit that first choice, you have a fallback idea. At a thrift store, you’ll pay a fraction for a Halloween costume than what you would at a costume store for a less well-made costume that is basically disposable.

Halloween is a fun, spooky time of year that everyone loves to enjoy. If we enjoy it responsibly and cut down on our waste during the holiday, our world will be a much healthier place for it.

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How to choose the right light bulb...

By Mary Ripley on  October 20, 2017

Ever wonder which light bulb you should be using?  Watch this Light Bulb Buying Guide to find out.

LED light bulbs are now available in the myNOPEC Rewards Store -  Order yours today!

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NOPEC PACE Financing to Save Mantaline Corporation $19,000 Per Year in Energy and Maintenance Costs

By Mary Ripley on  October 19, 2017

Mantaline Corporation is the first entity in Portage County to take advantage of NOPEC’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) energy efficiency financing.  The company secured financing of $119,000 at a 3% fixed interest rate for 10 years. Mantaline, which designs, develops, and produces precision molded and extruded components for a variety of industrial markets, is using the funds to upgrade the lighting in their newest facility, The Plastics Innovation Center in Hiram, Ohio. The company is replacing the existing fluorescent fixtures with LEDs, most of which will also be equipped with occupancy sensors to enhance the energy efficiency.  The combined energy savings and reduced maintenance costs will save the company approximately $19,000 annually, equating to about a six-year payback on the investment. Mantaline, which has three other locations including a molding facility in Monterrey Mexico, and extrusion facilities in San Antonio, Texas and Mantua, Ohio, serves a global customer base throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia.  Current customers include BMW, VW, Ford, GM and Honda. “At Mantaline we are devoted to developing, inspiring and engaging our entire community of stakeholders in a healthy, vigorous and sustainable way.  This project will create a positive impact through investing our resources in the sustainability of our business.  Over the life of the fixtures we will help save over 4,000,000 pounds of carbon from entering the environment,” said David Little, Mantaline’s Head of Global Purchasing and Sustainability. Mantaline financed this project using NOPEC’s PACE financing program and will repay it through an assessment placed on the improved property.  The assessment is paid twice a year over a 10-year term. NOPEC launched its PACE program in May 2016.  The program provides financing of $100,000-$500,000 for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. “This program gives our members another community and economic development tool, and our customers a way to finance smaller energy projects. The end result is savings. Mantaline’s project clearly demonstrates that,” said Portage County Engineer and NOPEC Board Member Mickey Marozzi. NOPEC offers this energy efficiency financing program to all member communities.  Public and private sector commercial properties, enrolled in NOPEC’s electric and gas aggregation programs, are eligible for this unique financing tool. Information on the program is available at www.nopecinfo.org/commercial.

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How Do I Know if My Community is a NOPEC Member?

By Mary Ripley on  October 13, 2017

NOPEC has an Interactive Map to help you to find your community.

Follow these three simple steps to find out if your community is a NOPEC member!

STEP 1: Visit our website.

STEP 2: Locate the tab at the top of the screen that reads "Communities" and click on the "Community Map" option.

sshot-11

STEP 3: Use the "Find Your Community" drop-down list. Communities are organized alphabetically.

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October Energy Tips

By Mary Ripley on  October 2, 2017

Energy Saving Tips for October

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