My Energy Journey – Week 9

By Mary Ripley on  September 7, 2017

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A couple weeks ago, we talked about how to save money using a programmable thermostat because it’s easily the best investment with the quickest payback. We just skimmed over the bare basics of a programmable thermostat, so let’s talk a little more about the best ways to use this product so it works for you and won’t interrupt your comfort.

Programmable Thermostat

Let’s start with some cooling tips:

It’s best to first determine the times of day that you are home the most and then decide the temperature points that make you feel comfortable. Most programmable thermostats can store multiple daily settings, so you can turn cooling up at night while you’re sleeping and turn the ceiling fan on to supplement your comfort. Before you wake up, program the thermostat to bring the temperature back up to your liking. Then, when you know you are living for work or going out, bring the system temperature down. Then, reverse it in the afternoon to be at comfortable temperature by the time you get home. Once you get the correct temperatures, you’ll be thanking me!

Quick tips:

  • If you have central air, set the fan to shut off at the same time as the compressor by setting the ‘auto’ mode on the fan setting.  You should not use the central fan for room circulation; use your ceiling fans!
  • In addition to air-conditioning, consider an attic fan to help cool down your house.
  • Set your thermostat to as high a temperature as you feel comfortable and ensure humidity control.
  • Setting your thermostat at a colder setting than normal DOES NOT cool your house any faster. It just costs you money!
  • Consider replacing your old air conditioner for an ENERGY STAR energy efficient model.

             PROGRAMABLEThermostat Tip

Okay, how about some heating tips (the nice weather is soon going to be gone!):

  • Clean or replace filters on furnaces and air conditioners once a month, or as recommended.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators. Make sure they aren’t blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes!
  • Turn off the exhaust fans and consider installing high-efficiency low-noise models.
  • Keep drapes and shades facing south open in the winter and closed in the summer.
  • Consider replacing old furnaces with an ENERGY STAR energy-efficient model.
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My Energy Journey – Week 8

By Mary Ripley on  August 31, 2017

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You probably already know why you should be using energy-efficient light bulbs. According to Energy Star, if every American home replaced one light bulb with an energy-efficient bulb, it would save enough energy to light three million homes!

But before you unscrew all of your light bulbs and head to the hardware store, make sure you know what you need. First, stop thinking in ‘watts’ and start thinking in ‘lumens’.

Wattage refers to the amount of energy a bulb uses. Brightness is measured in lumens. So with energy-saving Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs, you’ll want to look at the number of lumens to know how much light it will actually produce. If you wanted to replace a standard 60 watt incandescent bulb, for example, you would purchase a CFL bulb that produces 800 lumens. That’s the same amount of light, but uses less than 15 watts of energy.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to remember all of this. Bulb packaging is labeled with all of the important facts you need to make an informed purchase, including details like lumens and kelvins. Kelvins measure temperature and indicate the color of light emitted. (The lower the Kelvin number, the more “warm” or yellow the light. Bulbs with the highest Kelvin temperatures appear “cooler” and more like natural light.) The package label also will include information on the annual cost of the bulb’s energy use and its expected life span.

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Now that you know how to select a bulb for its color and brightness, you can start thinking about what style you need. If the spiral-shaped bulb doesn’t appeal to you, you might prefer the ‘Covered A-Shaped’ bulb, which feels and looks more like a traditional incandescent. For ceiling pendants and bathroom vanity bars where the bulb is exposed, a ‘Globe’ bulb (a spiral bulb with a decorative cover) may be the solution.

Here is a list of other common types of household lighting and the CFL bulbs recommended to suit them:

  • Table and floor lamps: Spiral, Covered A-shape or Tube bulbs
  • Pendant fixtures: Covered A-Shape or Globe bulbs.
  • Ceiling fixtures: Spiral or Tube bulbs.
  • Ceiling fans: Spiral, Covered A-Shape, Indoor Reflector or Candle bulbs.
  • Wall sconces: spiral, Tube or Candle bulbs
  • Recessed Cans: Indoor Reflector bulbs.
  • Track Lighting: Indoor Reflector bulbs.
  • Outdoor covered light: Spiral, Covered A-Shape, Tube or Candle bulbs.
  • Outdoor floodlight: Outdoor Reflector bulbs.

Photocells, lighting on a motion sensor or lights on a timer may not be compatible with energy efficient lighting, so be sure to check the manufacturer guidelines before purchasing.

To get the most out of your CFL, be sure to use only dimmable bulbs in dimmer switches and three-way bulbs in three-way sockets. Keep in mind that CFL bulbs can take 30 seconds to 3 minutes to reach full illumination. It can be even longer with globes or other decorative covers. Also, if energy-efficient bulbs are turned on and off frequently, they tend to have shorter life spans and are less efficient. So use them in places where they will be left on for at least 15 minutes at a time.

Once they reach their full potential, they outshine incandescent in just about every way!

Source: energystar.gov, lumennow.org

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My Energy Journey – Week 7

By Mary Ripley on  August 24, 2017

Home Energy Myths DEBUNKED

There’s no shortage of advice for saving energy. Unfortunately, not all of the advice you come across is worth following. As technology improves and information becomes outdated, some long-held energy ideas have morphed into myths. Other myths have no basis in fact and never have. We’ll try clear up the confusion!

  • Myth #1: Turning down your hot water heater is a mistake because it takes more energy to heat the water back up after it has cooled.

Fact: Your water heater is an energy-gulping monster. It takes a lot of power to keep 50 or more gallons of water constantly hot enough for a comfortable shower. If you can avoid running it at full heat-producing capacity for 36 hours or more, you will save money. While it does take energy to heat the water tank up to temperature, it is more than offset by the savings of not operating it at all, even for a short period.

  • Myth #2: Turning off appliances saves energy. It isn’t necessary to unplug them.

Fact: Appliances, especially those with digital displays and remote controls, are constantly drawing energy if they are plugged in to the outlet. Chargers for devices like cell phones, cameras and even your rechargeable batteries are known as “energy vampires” for a reason. When they are not attached to their devices, they continue to suck the power from the outlet. So, pull the plug or flip the switch on your power strip.

  • Myth # 3: Closing off the vents in rooms you aren’t using improves your HVAC system’s efficiency.

Fact: Your HVAC system is sized for your entire house, or a zone within your house, not just a certain room. If you close off the vents to part of the house, you can harm the system’s efficiency. Also, with a forced-air system, there is a danger of causing a buildup of pressure in the ducts, which could lead to increased leakage of air through gaps in those ducts.

  •  Myth #4: Setting the thermostat higher warms up a home faster in the winter. Likewise, setting it lower cools faster in the summer.

Fact: Heating and cooling systems are designed to operate at maximum power when they are first turned on, which means they can’t give any more no matter what the thermostat says. It is likely, however, that the systems will run longer to reach the unnecessarily extreme temperature you’ve set in order to achieve energy savings you won’t be getting.

  • Myth #5: It takes more energy to switch lights off and on again than it does to keep them running. Plus, turning lights on and off frequently shortens their life span.

Fact: Not true on either point. The savings associated with shutting down power – even for a few moments – makes it worth the effort to flip the switch when you leave a room. And with improvements in technology, lights are much less temperamental about such things as switching frequency. So flip away.

(Source: Energystar.com, howstuffworks.com, forbes.com)

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Ask Mr. NOPEC: What is the Do Not Knock Registry?

By Mary Ripley on  August 21, 2017

The Do Not Knock Program, currently available in Warren, Tiffin, and Roaming Shores, helps prevent unwanted door-to-door salesmen.

How does it work? When solicitors request a permit from the community to be able to sell door-to-door, the community will provide them with the Do Not Knock Registry listing the addresses they are not allowed to go to. Residents on the registry will also receive a window cling to place near their front door to further notify solicitors that they are on the registry.

Why is this offered? We've noticed an increase of confusing energy offers from unwanted door-to-door solicitors affecting our member communities' residents. To help provide a solution, NOPEC is working with communities to implement a Do Not Knock registry for their residents.

What if a for-profit solicitor knocks anyway? If a for-profit solicitor still knocks on the door, ask what organization they are with and request identification. If you feel they are in violation of the Do Not Knock Registry, contact your local government or city hall to report them. And remember, never give anyone salesmen a copy of your energy bills.

Does the registry prevent all solicitors? No. While adding your name to the registry will keep most for-profit solicitors away, non-profit organizations are still allowed to knock on the door.

How long does it take after signing up until my name is on the registry? Your name will appear on your community's Do Not Knock Registry within 30 days of signing up. We provide an updated list of participants to your community each month.

What communities is the Do Not Knock Registry available in? The Do Not Knock Registry is currently available in Warren, Tiffin, and Roaming Shores.

How do I sign up? To sign up for the Do Not Knock Registry or for more information, visit  BlockTheKnock.com

What if it's not offered in my community? Contact your local community leaders and let them know you want to join NOPEC's Do Not Knock Registry.      

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My Energy Journey – Week 5

By Mary Ripley on  August 17, 2017

Summer is the perfect time to patch up all the air leaks and insulate your home; the weather is comfortable and it’s easier to get to all those hard-to-reach places that might be covered in the winter.

This week, I took a field trip to the hardware store to purchase a thermal leak detector. I found out very quickly that, besides the weather strip on the bottom of the front door, I didn’t have a clue about how to get started. So I decided to do a little bit of online research, which led me to a couple important tips related to air leaks and insulation. So here we go:

Tip #1 – Seal air leaks before you insulate. Insulation itself will not block leaks; they need to be sealed using caulk, foam sealer or weather stripping.  (Yes, the same stuff I need to replace on the bottom of my door!)

Tip #2 – Take a look around the outside of your house. Find all of these:

  • Faucets
  • Air vents
  • Dryer vents

Now look around the inside of your house:

  • Gaps around windows and baseboards
  • Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and gas-fired water heater vents
  • Check and seal around where plumbing, ducting or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I am checking them all out. I sure don’t want pay to heat the outdoors in the winter or pay to let out the nice, cool air conditioning in the summer! How many times have you heard your mother tell you to shut that door?

How about an insulation quiz/tip?

Where are the top five places to add insulation?

Answer:

  1. Attic
  2. Walls
  3. Floors
  4. Basement
  5. Crawlspace

Next week, it’s time for a little vacation. But don’t worry, we’ll still have some great energy-saving advice if you’re taking a trip!

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My Energy Journey – Week 6

By Mary Ripley on  August 17, 2017

It’s time for a vacation!

TO UNPLUG OR NOT: WHAT TO DO AROUND THE HOUSE BEFORE A SUMMER VACATION 

If you’re going on vacation, why not give your home energy consumption a holiday too? Include de-energizing your home as part of your packing process, and your end-of-vacation blues won’t have to include an unnecessarily large energy bill.

Let things heat up at home. Your furniture doesn’t mind if your home gets a little stuffy – or even stifling. If you have central air conditioning, raise your thermostat higher than usual before you leave. If your thermostat is programmable, be sure to set it to remain steady at that higher temperature for the duration of your trip.

Give your water heater a time out. Your home’s water heater constantly consumes power to keep 50 or more gallons of water at hot-shower temperature at all times. This makes it a huge energy draw (between 15 and 25 percent of your bill). There is no reason to keep it going while you are away.

If you have a gas water heater, switch it to “pilot” setting. Turn electric water heaters off at the breaker switch. The savings will be significant! If you don’t want to cut the heater’s power completely, turn it down to the lowest temperature setting. Turn it back on (or the temperature up) about 45 minutes before you will need hot water.

Don’t buy into the myth that it takes too much energy to heat the water back up after it has cooled down. The savings that comes from not keeping a tank full of water hot for 48 hours or longer is more than enough to offset the energy consumed by bringing it back up to temperature.

Shut off the electricity spigot. Unplug all appliances and electronics when you are away. Some energy drains are obvious: lamps, toasters, coffee pots and hair dryers. But don’t forget the stove, washing machine and clothes dryer. Computers, televisions, entertainment centers and other electronics with remote controls, digital displays or instant “on” features draw power even when they are switched “off.”

You might want to put a few overhead lights on timers or motion sensors and have them turn on few hours every day you are away. No one needs to know you aren’t home.

Snuff the source flame. If you have a gas stove or fireplace, kill the pilot lights while you are away (be sure you know how to reignite them when you get home). They can cost as much as $2 a month to keep burning.

Put your refrigerator on furlough. Refrigerator and freezers are some of the greediest energy consumers in your home. Take this opportunity to put them on an electricity diet. If you are going to be away a week or longer, clean out your fridge, and turn the temperature down to its lowest setting (or the highest temperature) before you leave.

If you really want to see a difference in your energy bill, empty the refrigerator and freezer entirely, clean and dry them out, prop the doors open to keep out mildew and put an open box of baking soda in each section. Unplug them and wait for the savings to roll in!

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Source: Bounceenergy.com, EPUT.org, greenyour.com
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My Energy Journey – Week 4

By Mary Ripley on  August 10, 2017

A home energy audit, sometimes also called a home energy assessment, allows you to measure and review your home’s energy usage. You can do your own mini assessment or you can have an HVAC contractor perform the audit, which is normally done for a fee. The U.S. Department of Energy gives a great explanation of what occurs during the audit:

“Before the energy auditor visits your house, make a list of any existing problems such as condensation and uncomfortable or drafty rooms. Have copies or a summary of the home’s yearly energy bills. (Your utility can get these for you.) Auditors use this information to establish what to look for during the audit. The auditor first examines the outside of the home to determine the size of the house and its features (i.e., wall area, number and size of windows). The auditor then will analyze the residents’ behavior:

    • – Is anyone home during working hours?
    • – What is the average thermostat setting for summer and winter?
    • – How many people live here?
    • – Is every room in use?” (http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/professional-home-energy-audits)

Next, let’s look at the US Energy Information Administration, AEO2014 Early Release Overview:

Energy Usage

How We Use Energy in Our Homes. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, AEO2014 Early Release Overview.

Yikes! Replacing our light bulbs was just a little piece of that pie, but it was a good way to start our energy journey. From the chart, we can see that almost 50% of energy use is just for heating (42%) and cooling (6%), so it’s time to shift our focus to finding a solution that’ll help us save more energy AND money!

The smartest investment and the best payback is to purchase (and install!) a programmable thermostat. Buying a programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature when you are away and program it to be at a comfortable temperature when you get home. These thermostats are available at all retail stores, but shop at the NOPEC store and get 20% off on your purchase!

Doing a home energy audit is honestly one of the best ways to discover new methods and products that’ll help you save money, which everyone loves to do.

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My Energy Journey – Week 3

By Mary Ripley on  August 3, 2017

Last week, we talked about the different kinds of light bulbs and how each one affects our home’s energy bills. I know, it’s confusing and it can be expensive, which is why I focused “Week 2” on only the lights we use the most and/or the ones my family never turns off! The biggest complaint about the new, fancy light bulbs (direct from my decorator’s mouth): “Ugh you have the new age bulbs that make the colors on your wall a different color!” You will just have to adjust to the differences and decide if you want to save money and adapt or not. I always seem to just adapt so I can pay for the decorator and probably different paint…

So where is the energy journey taking me this week? Well, it’s time to get an idea of how much energy we use compared to our neighbors. This is a quick process, I promise. First, I need to go to www.nopecinfo.org and log in to my myNOPEC account. Next, on the sidebar, click on ‘My Energy Usage’ and choose ‘Analyze Past Usage’, since I’ve already linked my natural gas and electric accounts. Next, I decide to pick the whole year as my data range. Then, I have to choose what I want to compare my data to, so I pick the average on my street.

Week 3

I get the results and WHAT?! During 7 out of 12 months, my home’s energy use is lower than the average energy use on my street. But in June, December and May, my home energy use is way higher than the average. Next, let’s see how my home does as on average compared to my entire town. Uh oh, it’s even worse when compared to the rest of my zip code. My home, on average, uses more energy than the rest of my town during 10 months of the year!

Now you see why I really needed to replace all those light bulbs? Next month, we will check back and see if I have had any savings.

In the meantime, want to see if you can “Beat Your Street”? Go to myNOPEC and view your usage today. Not a registered myNOPEC user yet? Sign up today, link your energy accounts and start watching your energy savings pile up!

Don’t forget to check back next week for information about tackling home energy audits!

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My Energy Journey – Week 2

By Mary Ripley on  July 27, 2017

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This week, I really made an effort to pay attention to my energy usage. To start out easy, I used the “Light Bulb Checklist” below to keep a record of the lights we have in our master bedroom and master bathroom. I also made sure to record the wattage, how many bulbs there were and how often they were used.

Master bedroom Old kWh How many Type of use Replacement
Table lamps 60 watt 4 Daily ?
Overhead fan 60 watt 4 Daily ?
Master bathroom        
Lights 60 watt 7 Daily (numerous) ?
Closet 60 watt 4 Daily (numerous) ?
Hall light 60 watt 2 Daily ?

After I made the list, it was much easier to determine which bulbs I should change. We used the lights in the master bathroom and the closet more than anywhere else, so we knew those needed replaced first.

Next, I needed to determine what type of new bulbs I wanted to use. I decided to go the least expensive route by replacing the old incandescent bulbs with the equivalent CFL (compact florescent light) bulbs. Just in case you didn’t know, 13 watt CFL bulbs are equivalent to 60 watt incandescent bulbs. I also decided to increase the bathroom lights to a higher equivalent, a 20 watt bulb, so the bathroom would be brighter.

Master bedroom Old kWh How many Type of use Replacement
Table lamps 60 watt 4 Daily 13 watt CFL
Overhead fan 60 watt 4 Daily 13 watt CFL
Master bathroom        
Lights 60 watt 7 Daily (numerous) 20 watt CFL
Closet 60 watt 4 Daily (numerous) 13 watt CFL
Hall light 60 watt 2 Daily 13 watt CFL

The cost for a 13 watt CFL bulb can be as low as $1.10. If you shop at the local big box stores, you will find walls of light bulbs to buy in bulk at a lower price! Make sure you do your homework before you go so you know what type of bulbs you want to buy. If not, you might get overwhelmed or have light bulb envy!

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If you made the decision to replace your lights with LED (light-emitting diodes) bulbs, you’re making a little bit more of an investment. The price of LEDs start around $10.00 and can last an upwards of 20 years. It’s important to spend some time doing research on the type of light bulb you need and if you are looking for a more short term or long term light bulb. Check out this article for more information about LED lights.

 

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My Energy Journey – Week 1

By Mary Ripley on  July 20, 2017

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I never realized and, quite honestly, never paid any attention to my growing energy bills. I’m guilty of just watching the cell phone bill, the cable bill and the water bill over everything else. My neighbors and I actually compare our water bills – mostly because we want to see who got hit the hardest using their automatic sprinklers during the summer months. But then there’s electric and natural gas, the bills no one ever wants to talk about. In my opinion, it’s because those types of utilities are a necessity, so it is what it is: Big, small, usage and all.

I decided it was time to go on an energy journey, which taught me ways to reduce energy usage in my own home so that I could better educate myself, my neighbors and other non-energy watchers.

The first step involved taking an inventory of our own home to see what “stuff” uses electricity and natural gas, which helped identify any easy changes we could make right away.

From here, we decided that it was time to finally change out the old-fashioned light bulbs with CFL or maybe even LED. If you didn’t understand a word I said, stay tuned! Next week, I’m going to explain the difference and even give you a free tip video explaining each light bulb and how they can help you save!

 

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