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Fireplaces look great and can make a room seem cozy and inviting. Unfortunately, most fireplaces are so poorly designed that they end up wasting energy rather than providing heat. Any time you waste energy, you waste money, too. You can improve fireplace efficiency and save money in the process by following the tips below.

How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Fireplace {The Dirt on Green}

Install an insert – An insert is essentially a metal box that fits tightly inside the fireplace space to reduce drafts and radiate heat. Some models feature variable speed blowers that send heated air back into the room. Glass doors on the insert let the fire shine through and emit additional heat as well. Inserts may burn wood, but they may also burn gas or pellets. Pellets, made from recycled wood waste, dried corn, sunflower seeds, or other bio fuel, are fed through a hopper to maintain a steady flow of fuel. Some inserts resemble a wood-burning stove, and feature a shelf that gets hot enough to boil a kettle full of water. NOTE: When choosing an insert, select a model approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not only will it be highly energy efficient, but an EPA-certified insert will reduce the air pollution associated with conventional wood-burning stoves or fireplaces. Inserts are best installed by a professional.

Add doors – If it’s not possible to install an insert, add doors to the fireplace to help seal off drafts when the fireplace isn’t being used and to add a measure of safety when the fire is burning. Doors made from ceramic glass will radiate heat back into the room but still let the fire inside shine through.

Replace the grate that the wood sits on – Often, the wood in a fireplace sits on a metal grate that just props the wood up. Grates with blowers on the bottom send heated air back into the room; those made of C-shaped metal tubes draw in cool air, heat it, and circulate it back out.

How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Fireplace {The Dirt on Green}

Add a Fireback – Put a metal plate at the back of the fireplace to protect the masonry and radiate heat back into the room when the fire dies down.

Close the damper – The damper is a metal plate inside the chimney that can be adjusted to let air into the fireplace and smoke out. Whenever the fireplace is not being used, close the damper to prevent hot air in the room from getting sucked up the chimney.

Better yet, seal up the damper – Because dampers warp over time, even when they’re closed, the fireplace may still be drafty. The Fireplace Draftstopper is an inflatable, tight-sealing chimney damper made from a rectangle of polyurethane that fits in the fireplace just below the damper level (not up inside the chimney). It can be easily removed before a fire is lit, then re-installed after the fireplace has cooled. It has been extensively tested for safety; in case you accidentally start a fire without first removing the Draftstopper, the product will melt, then drop down and smother the fire.

How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Fireplace {The Dirt on Green}

Similarly, the Chimney Balloon, also known as a Chimney Pillow, is an inflatable tight-sealing chimney damper made of 3-ply poly plastic that stops uncontrolled air leaks. Install the inflatable chimney plug by holding it in place in the chimney while you inflate it with air. Before you start your next fire, open the tap on the handle to deflate it within seconds for easy removal. The inflation valve has a bright red card at its end that will hang down into the opening of the fireplace to help you remember that the Chimney Balloon is in place.

How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Fireplace {The Dirt on Green}

Use dry wood – Dry wood burns much hotter than wood that is moist or wet. Plus, dry wood creates far less smoke than wood that contains a lot of moisture. If you’re buying wood, make sure it is seasoned rather than “green” and keep it covered to protect it from rain and snow. If you cut your own wood, give it enough time to dry out before you use it.

Burn hardwood – Hardwoods burn longer and hotter than soft woods. Ironwood, rock elm, hickory, oak, sugar maple, beech, yellow birch and ash are some hardwoods to consider. Softer, less desirable firewood includes balsam, spruce, basswood, pine, poplar, hemlock, red alder, white birch and Douglas fir.

How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Fireplace {The Dirt on Green}

Remember that, whether you’re using a fireplace or a wood burning stove, it’s important to put safety first. Never leave a fire unattended, especially if curious children are about. Close the doors to the fireplace to reduce the likelihood that fiery logs will fall off the grate and into the room. Burning wood leaves a residue on the inside of the chimney that can build up and catch fire. As a general safety precaution, whether you have a fireplace or a wood burning stove, be sure to get a professional chimney sweep to clean out the creosote at least once a year.

About the Author:

Diane MacEachern

Diane MacEachern is a best-selling author, award-winning eco entrepreneur and the founder of Big Green Purse, where she writes the popular Big Green Purse blog. Diane also stays busy as a keynote speaker and her columns and articles have been published in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Baltimore Sun and other notable publications and websites. Follow Diane on Twitter at @DianeMacEachern and on Facebook dianemaceachern1.

 

 

 

 

© 2014 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of EnergyEarth. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. 

Low flow shower heads are one of the easiest ways to save money in your home.  Water saving shower heads not only reduce water consumption, they can save you over $100 each year in related energy costs.

Showering is one of the main uses of water inside your home, comprising approximately 17% of annual residential indoor water use in the United States. That’s more than 1.2 trillion gallons of water consumed each year! The WaterSense program released its final specification for shower heads in 2010 to improve the nation’s water and energy efficiency by raising consumer awareness and promoting more efficient shower heads. The intent of this specification is to help Americans find products that have met EPA’s criteria for superior water efficiency and performance.

How Do Low Flow Shower Heads Use Less Water and Maintain Pressure? {The Dirt on Green}

Water Pik EcoFlow EcoRain Shower Head

But How Does a Low Flow Shower Feel? Is There Less Pressure?

The pressure is actually the same (typically 80 psi), so it will feel just as good as a high flow shower head!

How Do Low Flow Shower Heads Use Less Water and Maintain Pressure? {The Dirt on Green}

Niagara Chrome Earth Shower Head

How Does a Low Flow Shower Head Maintain Pressure and Use Less Water?

There are two types of low flow shower heads:

  • Aerating shower heads force air into the water stream, maintaining an even and steady flow.  The extra air may reduce the temperature slightly.
  • Smaller spray nozzle shower heads do not mix the water flow with air. As a result, the water pressure may feel like it is pulsing, creating a massaging effect. They also keep water hotter than aerating shower heads because the water stream is not cooled by aeration.
How Do Low Flow Shower Heads Use Less Water and Maintain Pressure? {The Dirt on Green}

Evolve ShowerStart Roadrunner Shower Head

It’s an Easy Switch That Will Immediately Save You Money!

Switching your showerhead is easy, just unscrew the old one and replace it with your new, low flow shower head, Simple as that.

How Do Low Flow Shower Heads Use Less Water and Maintain Pressure? {The Dirt on Green}

Just look at how much water you could save in a twelve minute shower!

You could save 2,900 gallons per year by installing WaterSense labeled showerheads. Since these water savings will reduce demands on water heaters, they will also save energy. In fact, the average family could save more than 370 kilowatt hours of electricity annually – that’s enough to power a house for 13 days!

If every home in the United States installed WaterSense labeled shower heads, we could save more than $2.2 billion in water utility bills and more than 260 billion gallons of water annually! On top of that, we could avoid about $2.6 billion in energy costs for heating water. Switch today – it just makes sense.
—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2014 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/docs/showerheads_finalsuppstat508.pdf

http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/products/showerheads.html

We love energy saving gadgets! Check out these 6 products that will save you big bucks that you might not have known about.

1.       Black and Decker Thermal Leak Detector

6 Energy Saving Products You Didn't Know About {The Dirt on Green}

Black & Decker’s Thermal Leak Detector is an easy tool to use and can help save a lot of money by reducing future utility bills. Discover where the energy leaks are in your home with ease: simply point the detector’s infrared light at a wall to establish the base temperature, and then move it along various surfaces to find hot and cold spots. When the measured surface temperature differs the light will change to red or blue to indicate a hot or cold area. You can set it for 1°, 5° or a 10° change to trigger a color change. This handy tool is extremely accurate as to where the spot is projected and the temperatures taken.

2.       Showertime Shower Timer

 

6 Energy Saving Products You Didn't Know About {The Dirt on Green}This simple shower timer device is great for kids and adults alike – the race against the clock is fun and keeps the focus on getting clean and getting out, instead of dawdling in the shower and wasting water.  The Showertime will gently remind you when it’s time to turn the shower off. To install, simply use either the suction cup or adhesive backing to attach it to the shower wall. When you get in the shower, press the Showertime and a blue LED turns on for 4½ minutes, followed by a red LED that will flash for 30 seconds as a convenient reminder of the amount of time that has elapsed. Saving water has never been easier!

3.       BITS Wireless Smart Strip Power Strip

6 Energy Saving Products You Didn't Know About {The Dirt on Green}

Control all your electronics with the press of a button with this all-in-one smart power strip. What truly sets this power strip apart from other smart strips is the fact that there is no control outlet. Instead, use either the included remote control or connect it to a USB port on your computer, television, or other master electronic and when you shut down, the power strip will automatically turn off all your other connected electronics for you. Connect up to four devices to be automatically controlled, while two always-on outlets stay on for devices that need continuous power. Keep track of the remote with the central dock, allowing you to place it on your desk or shelf, or mount it on the wall.

4.       Belkin Conserve Socket

6 Energy Saving Products You Didn't Know About {The Dirt on Green}

The Belkin Conserve Socket is perfect for keeping a lamp on while the kids go to sleep, charging gadgets and more. This handy little device eliminates wasted energy by shutting off power to all kinds of electronics or appliances, including rechargeable devices such as cell phones, cordless drills, as well as blow dryers, curling irons, fans, space heaters and many other items when you don’t need them. To turn the connected device on, simply press the button on the top of the Conserve Socket. The power timer will then automatically shut off power after a designated period of time, saving you energy and money. Set the timer easily to thirty minutes, three or six hours with the side toggle switch. Stopping vampire power has never been easier!

5.       Belkin Conserve Valet Charging Station

6 Energy Saving Products You Didn't Know About {The Dirt on Green}

Did you know that most chargers continue to use power as long as they’re plugged into the wall, even after you unplug your devices? This not only wastes energy, it’s bad for your device batteries. If you have priced replacement batteries for your devices you know they are very expensive, some even have to be sent in to change out the batteries, and that can cost $50 or more! The Belkin Conserve Valet Smart USB Charging Station charges all of your mobile devices in one convenient place, then automatically shuts off after everything is fully charged, saving your batteries and easily paying for itself in no time. It senses when new devices are added, so all your electronics will always get a full charge, even if they were plugged in at different times. The innovative design keeps cords neat and concealed, leaving you with a clear surface to charge up to 4 devices with USB cables at once.

6.       P3 Kill A Watt Edge

6 Energy Saving Products You Didn't Know About {The Dirt on Green}

The Kill A Watt Edge makes it easier than ever to pinpoint your energy consumption with its easy-to-use features. With all the measuring capabilities of its predecessors, plus a CO2 function so you can calculate your carbon footprint, this model is truly the best yet. Comparing consumption statistics is easy with the twin data display. The programmable motion sensor turns off connected devices when not in use, helping you save. After time, the Edge will learn your behaviors and tell you how much you have saved when your devices are really off. The convenient tether lets you easily view data without having to bend over or unplug the device.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2014 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

One of the Most Important Things We Don’t Understand

Long ago, the energy we used to do things like heat and cook came from locally sourced firewood. It was easy to gauge how much we needed and how much we had left. It was hard work to chop and haul that energy source, so folks probably didn’t keep putting wood on the fire when they didn’t need the heat. Now that obtaining energy in the form of electricity is as easy as flipping a switch, we don’t have much reason to think about where it comes from and how it’s made.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

According to the World Bank, all but about 1 billion of us have access to electricity. This doesn’t mean there are a billion people without a source of energy – it’s just not in the form of electricity. Those without access, and some with limited access, still rely solely on solid fuels like coal and wood for heating and cooking.

That leaves about 6 billion people, most of whom probably rely on electricity virtually every minute of every day. I recently asked a random assortment of ten people to explain how electricity is generated. The result? All but two of them hadn’t the faintest idea how burning coal, nuclear reactions or spinning wind turbines leads to the electricity that powers our lives. One of the reasons that electricity remains such a mystery is that we don’t need to think about it.

How Much Do We Use?

Six billion people use a lot of electricity. Together, we required the production of over 22,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2011. Tera-what? The metric prefix ‘tera’ indicates a trillion of something. For perspective, it would take just 1 TWh of electricity to light 10 billion 100W light bulbs for an hour.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

With a population of a bit over 300 million, Americans comprise 4.45% of the world’s population (US Census Bureau data), yet we consumed 21.5% of the electricity generated worldwide. In 2011, more than half of our electricity came from coal (42%) and natural gas (25%) combustion combined. Especially in the US, the contribution of natural gas is on the rise, bucking the predicted price increase and remaining competitive with coal.

Compared to the world breakdown of fuels, we’re not that far off, except that hydropower comprises a greater proportion of global electricity production (15.8%) than it does in the US (just a few percent).

I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout

More than 80% of the world’s electricity is generated through thermal generating systems. Fuels like coal, natural gas, oil and even biomass (like wood and animal waste) are burned in large furnaces. The resulting heat is used to boil water.

The steam travels through boiler pipes where the pressure and speed turns the blades of a turbine. That mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy inside the generator because of the relative rotation between magnets and an electrical conductor.  The resultant electricity is run through transformers before beginning its journey along the electrical grid.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

Nuclear power is a mystery to many people, but in simplest terms, nuclear electricity generation is just another way to boil water. When radioactive materials like

Uranium-235 are bombarded with neutrons they split apart in a process called fission. This process releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of heat. After that, it is the same as burning fossil fuels: the heat boils water, the water turns to steam and steam turns a turbine which is attached to a generator. Voila, electricity! Interestingly, December 10th marked the end of a 20 year program called “Megatons to Megawatts” whereby the United States purchased the uranium from 20,000 retired Russian warheads and processed it for use in power plants. Since 1993, 10% of our electricity supply has come from this material. That’s more than all alternative energy sources combined. Even though we’ve received our last shipment, the uranium from those warheads will be providing Americans with electricity even after 2020.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

It is worth noting that a technology called solar thermal electric generation has begun to have an impact on US markets in the past few years. Clustered in the US Southwest, these facilities use various methods to focus the sun’s energy to boil water which generates electricity as described above. Though this technology still occupies a very small share of the market, a recent report by the US Energy Information Administration reports that several new large installations are about to double the electricity generating capacity of this method.

Mother Nature Turns the Turbine

Humans have been using the sun, water and wind as energy sources since the beginning of time, yet they comprise what we call alternative energy. To generate electricity, wind and water turn the turbine directly, skipping the energy-losing step of boiling water, and the rest of the process is the same.

The immense natural power of water can be used to turn a turbine through a variety of methods including channeling through dams, submerging the turbine in an area with predictable tides, using the pressure created by ocean waves, and even small turbines submerged in minimally disturbed rivers and waterfalls. Hydropower is not without problems but continues to comprise a large portion of the renewable energy sector.

Wind power continues to be a rapidly growing source of renewable energy throughout the world. Detailed wind maps are constructed to find locations with adequate non turbulent wind without too many powerful bursts. Installations can be found on mountain ridges, plains, coastlines, and in coastal ocean waters. Wind power is not without controversy. Just last month amidst great controversy, the Federal Register published a decision designed to promote the development of wind power but may lead to an increase in the deaths of golden and bald eagles.

How is Electricity Generated? {The Dirt on Green}

Geothermal electricity generation is another example of using nature to turn that turbine. The United States led the world in geothermal electricity generation last year, providing us with four times as much electricity as solar based methods. These plants use the steam that is produced from heat that occurs naturally a few miles beneath the Earth’s surface in some places.

Photovoltaic cells, what most of us think of as solar power, are unique in that there is no steam or turbine. The special materials used in photovoltaic cells are called semiconductors. When sunlight strikes certain semiconductor materials (e.g., silicon) photons are absorbed and electrons are released. We can then channel these electrons into an electrical current. Materials that do not exhibit this photovoltaic effect just absorb the photons and heat up when struck by sunlight. Technological advancements in semiconductor materials that can be applied in thin layers and still efficiently turn photons into electricity are progressing so rapidly that the IEA predicts photovoltaics will grow more than 11.5% a year through 2040.

The Most Efficient Solution

The energy mix that powers your home with electricity depends on where you live and your utility company. For instance, power companies serving California, Oregon and Washington generate more of their electricity using hydropower than any other single source. In contrast, the primary source for the south atlantic states is coal. As consumers we don’t have much control over our electricity sources, but Amory Lovins, physicist and energy expert, called energy efficiency the world’s biggest untapped energy resource. By using less energy to perform the same task, we are not sacrificing comfort or convenience, simply using less electricity. The justification begins with the money you can save and has far reaching implications. Switching to energy efficient products is easy and EnergyEarth is here to help.

Dawn Richards of EnergyEarth

© 2014 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved

Sources:

http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2013.pdf

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=13791

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/business/international/last-shipment-of-nuclear-fuel-from-russian-bombs-heads-to-us.html?_r=0

http://phys.org/news/2013-12-solar-power-sector-small.html#jCp

http://energycommerce.house.gov/press-release/subcommittee-examines-role-diverse-electricity-generation-portfolio

http://keshefoundation.org/image/keshe_generator/Electricity_Production_400.jpg

Savings calculations are easily found on the packages of many items, including light bulbs, appliances and many others. For example, this FEIT bulbadvertises a savings value, but how accurate are these calculations? Manufacturers make assumptions about how much your electricity costs and how many hours a day you use your light fixture. They often use national averages, but often there’s no way to tell where they are getting their numbers.

All About Our Custom Savings Calculations! {The Dirt on Green}

At EnergyEarth, we also provide you with savings calculations, but we give you the option to fully customize your savings to ensure you know exactly how much you’ll save. We want to enable you to purchase the products that are exactly right for you, not just approximately.  Even if you don’t want to plug in your own numbers, you can rest assured that our numbers are based on reliable sources with the most current data available.

So what goes into our custom calculations? Some of the simplest calculations are for lighting. Let’s look again at the FEIT Dimmable LED bulb. From the product page, if you click on Custom Savings / Learn More you will see just how easy it is to input your own numbers.  Include as much or as little detail as you’d like, just keep in mind that the more information you put into the calculations, the more accurate your results will be.

All About Our Custom Savings Calculations! {The Dirt on Green}

For lighting, just adjust the number of hours that you expect to use the light and how much your electricity costs – simple as that.

All About Our Custom Savings Calculations! {The Dirt on Green}

At the bottom of the page you can check out the math that happens behind the scenes to arrive at the savings figures. There is no other tool on the internet that allows you to personalize your savings to this extent!

Some products require much more complex calculations; for example, these simple AM foam outlet gaskets that cost just ten cents each. These calculations must consider everything from the region where you live, to the size of your house and the number of outlets on exterior walls. We have included conservative estimates for all of the variables and with just a few clicks you can customize any or all of them.

All About Our Custom Savings Calculations! {The Dirt on Green}

Adjust the custom savings on a showerhead like the Bronze 3 Function Showerhead and you can see that if you shower for 10 minutes a day, you’ll save $368 over the life of the product! Check out the custom savings calculations to see how much you can save in your home today.

At EnergyEarth, we do our best to empower you to make the best decisions about how to invest your energy savings dollars on every product you purchase from us.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Does Green Need to Cost More?

December 3rd, 2013 | Posted by EnergyEarth in Green Tips - (0 Comments)

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

No, It Doesn’t.

Too often going green is thought of as a choice made by only hippies or the wealthy. The good news is that going green doesn’t mean you have to drive a hybrid car or shop at a fancy health food store in your organic cotton, fair trade Recycle or Bust! t-shirt.

Think for a moment about the original green advocates: your grandparents or great grandparents. Living in the shadow of the Great Depression, they were incredibly frugal – which coincided perfectly with green.  So many of the things they did to save water, electricity and money make great lessons for us today.

Change a Few Habits and Think Long Term

The key is to recycle, reuse, upcycle and reduce waste in every area of your life – not just your plastic bottles and junk mail. There are plenty of free and inexpensive ways to go green all around you.

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

Save: Water

The least expensive way to reduce water consumption is through better habits!

–          Don’t let it run!

–          Stop leaks

–          Don’t over water gardens and lawns

–          Use less hot water

–          Find out where your water comes from

A small investment in a few simple devices will save you in the long term.

–          Faucet aerators

–          Low flow shower heads

–          Rain barrels (see our previous article about how much they can save you!)

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

Save: Electricity

The best way to use less electricity is by changing your habits!

–          Turn off your lights when they’re not in use

–          Turn off devices when not in use

–          Adjust your thermostat

Plus, get a few helpful devices. A small investment upfront will save you in the long term.

–          Motion control light switches

–          Energy efficient lighting

–          Smart power switches

–          Improve insulation

–          Programmable thermostats

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

Save: Upcycling

–          Reuse old clothes

–          Find new purposes for forgotten items

–          Donate unwanted items to a local charity

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

Save: Real Estate

Green building doesn’t need to cost more.

–          Going green actually increases real estate value

–          ENERGY STAR® certification can increase your home’s market value

Does Green Need to Cost More? {The Dirt on Green}

More Ways to Save

–          Grow some of your own food

–          Hang dry your clothes

–          Make your own green cleaning products

–          Drink your tap water instead of buying bottles

–          Increase your fuel efficiency

What’s your favorite way to save? Tell us in the comments!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Why Energy Efficiency is Important

The average household spends more than $2,200 each year on energy bills – that’s a big portion of each paycheck. We rely on electricity to power lights, appliances and other electronics every day. As we use more electricity, naturally, our electric bills rise. In turn, fossil-fueled power plants not only generate more electricity, but also create more pollution. The continued reliance on and depletion of fossil-fuel resources threatens the earth’s sustainability, not to mention our wallets’ in these tough economic times. Products such as green lighting, energy saving power strips, energy monitoring devices and programmable thermostats (just to name a few) protect the Earth’s precious resources while saving you money.

Legislation in the US

Legislation that leads to energy efficiency is tricky business. It needs to save energy and preserve or create jobs, all while making economic sense. Since some of these things can often be mutually exclusive, it’s no surprise that the most recent legislation (2009) is the first to hit the Senate in over sixteen years.

How Legislation Affects Energy Efficiency: Rebates and Tax Incentives {The Dirt on Green}

History

  • The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 established programs to promote energy conservation in federal buildings and major U.S. industries.
  • The Energy Conservation and Production Act of 1976 went one step further by including incentives for conservation and renewable energy, providing loan guarantees for energy conservation in public and commercial buildings and authorizing a weatherization program for low-income housing.
  • The Warner Amendment of 1983 allocated oil overcharge funds (also known as Petroleum Violation Escrow or PVE funds) to state energy programs, becoming quite substantial  in 1986 when Exxon and Stripper Well settlements added more than $4 billion.
  • The State Energy Efficiency Programs Improvement Act of 1990 encouraged states to undertake activities designed to improve efficiency and stimulate investment in and use of alternative energy technologies.
  • The Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992 allowed Department of Energy funding to be used to finance revolving funds for energy efficiency improvements in state and local government buildings because of the crucial role they play in regulating energy industries and promoting new energy technologies. The EPAct also expanded the policy development and technology deployment role for the states.
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $3.1 billion for State Energy Program formula grants with no matching fund requirements.

How Legislation Affects Energy Efficiency: Rebates and Tax Incentives {The Dirt on Green}

Current

Electric utility energy efficiency programs have grown continuously and rapidly, totaling $4.6 billion in 2010.

Coming Soon

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act is meant to spur the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors by bringing together many energy efficiency measures, like improving building codes, efficient products incentives and research and development funding for energy efficient technologies.

How Legislation Affects Energy Efficiency: Rebates and Tax Incentives {The Dirt on Green}

Where Do I Find Information About Tax Incentives and Rebates?

Here are a few of our favorite databases for finding tax rebates and incentives:

Or, look for rebates and incentives by state (we’re still compiling this list, so if you don’t see your state or power provider, check the above links):

Arizona

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Washington

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Do you know of any we missed? Include a link in the comments and we’ll add it to the list!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wip/sep_history.html

http://www.meede.org/wp-content/uploads/01.2013_The-History-of-Energy-Efficiency.pdf

http://www.nga.org/files/live/sites/NGA/files/pdf/2013/1309_An_Energy_Efficiency_Primer_For_Governors_Paper.pdf

http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/downloads/2012_ENERGY_STAR_Summary_of_Lighting_Programs.pdf

Yes It Does!

Commercial real estate has long benefitted from sustainable features, and now residential real estate is catching up! Here’s the short list of the benefits before we go into more detail:

–          Corporate: Investment decisions, energy use disclosures, sustainability indices, tenant demands, carbon disclosures, tax credits and incentives are all among the green trends driving commercial real estate!

–          Residential: The Appraisal Institute released an enhanced form in this past March to help real estate appraisers analyze green features in residential homes!

Does Going Green Increase Real Estate Value? {The Dirt on Green}

What Makes a Home Green?

–          Energy efficient windows

–          Good insulation

–          Water saving features

–          Safe and non-toxic materials

–          An energy efficient HVAC

–          Energy star appliances

–          Green landscaping

–          And more!

Recent Trends in Green Homes

Incorporating energy efficient designs and construction techniques have the potential to offer immediate benefits on monthly and yearly bills. Buyers should be willing to pay more for homes with lower utility bills in anticipation of savings on future costs of operation, and sellers should attempt to charge more for homes with energy efficient features.

Simply put, studies have found that homeowners are willing to pay for greater energy efficiency!

Does Going Green Increase Real Estate Value? {The Dirt on Green}

Intersection of Green and Healthy Homes

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation, indoor air is up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air, largely due to the presence of mold and toxic chemicals in carpeting, paints and other synthetic materials. In fact, the EPA ranks indoor air as one of the top 5 human health risks. Green or sustainable designs limit indoor exposure to carcinogens such in manufactured wood products and to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in finishes by requiring nontoxic materials.

What Can You Do to Increase the Value of Your Home?

Current assessment tools for the residential market include:

–          The EPA’s ENERGY STAR qualification

–          The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Certification for Homes

–          The National Association of Home Builders’ National Green Building Standard

Each of these assessment tools sets forth various criteria to ensure that the homes certified met a minimum level of increased energy efficiency compared with more common building designs and construction practices.

Does Going Green Increase Real Estate Value? {The Dirt on Green}

Looking to buy or sell?

Here are a few tips to help you maximize your home with green initiatives:

–          Search for a National Association of Realtors Green Designee who has been trained to recognize and understand green features in residential construction

–          Check into energy efficient and energy improvement mortgages

–          Look for a real estate broker who has been trained in green building

–          Consider purchasing a foreclosed property and spend your extra cash making it greener

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Electricity is needlessly trickling from dozens of devices in each of our homes, costing Americans $3 billion in energy costs each year.1  Vampire power, also called phantom power, ghost load or idle current, is a slow but constant flow of electricity that occurs even when devices appear to be off.  Although vampire power is sneaky and probably lurking in your home at this very moment, a little knowledge and a few great products will turn you into a vampire slayer – no garlic required.

I Vant to Suck Your Energy: The Truth About Vampire Power

Let’s face it, we all use electricity and we don’t like feeling guilty about it.  In response to the 1973 oil crisis, President Nixon asked Americans to “accept some sacrifices in comfort and convenience so that no American would have to suffer real hardship.”2 Today, if we eliminate just the electricity we waste in standby mode, we would meet 10% of Nixon’s reduction goals with absolutely no sacrifice in comfort or convenience. In fact, you won’t even notice until you get a lower electricity bill.

Many of our previous blogs have highlighted easy ways to save a lot of money by using electricity more efficiently (with CFLs, LEDs and other ENERGY STAR qualified products, just to name a few), but stopping vampire power is about conservation.  So what’s the difference?  Energy efficiency depends on technology to get the most out of each kilowatt of energy you buy. Conservation, on the other hand, is just plain using less electricity, regardless of the method. Eliminating vampire power is conservation without the sacrifice.

Vampire Hunting: How do you identify the extent of vampire power that is drawn in your home? Basically every device that rests in standby mode or has an indicator light is drawing power – and we have a lot of these. I found out how much electricity I was wasting a while ago when I stumbled to the kitchen in the middle of the night for a glass of water.  I was shuffling my feet across the floor, sure that my dog was laying in my path, when I realized that I could actually see. My fire alarm indicator, VCR (yeah, I have one of those), DVD player, TV, speaker, laptop charger and microwave clock provided just enough light for me to see the heap of fur in the hallway and the water glass in the kitchen. Groggy, I returned to bed thinking about those twinkling eyes staring at me in the darkness.  These were the eyes of vampires that were sucking my electricity – and money!

How to Identify Vampire Power:

Look for:

        • External power supplies
        • Large plugs (some cell phones)
        • Chargers with brick batteries (laptops)
        • Indicator lights and continuous display (clocks)
        • Devices with remote controls

Listen for a hum indicating an active drive or a fan

Feel for warmth indicating the flow of electricity

Measure the draw of electricity using a monitoring device

Sometimes that small draw of electricity is necessary. Devices with internal clocks, cable modems or routers, and appliances with temperature monitoring functions (such as refrigerators and HVACs) actually need to be on all the time. For most people, the biggest unnecessary drain of electricity comes from AV and office equipment with lots of peripherals, or accessory electronics. For instance, in my home office I have a desktop computer, laptop, printer, scanner, internet router and computer speakers. Even when I did remember to turn all of these devices off at night, they were still drawing electricity in standby mode.  I will admit that I never – and I mean never – bothered to unplug them all.  The same goes for my TV and its peripherals. There is no way I would tackle that mess of wires just to prevent what seemed like a mere few watts of electricity sacrificed to the vampires. When I learned from energystar.gov that an average US household wastes over to $100 annually on standby power, I realized it was worth taking action.

The Worst Offenders*

  • Desktop computer: $7/month
  • Game consoles: $6/month
  • Plasma or LCD TV: $5/month
  • Cable box with HD DVR: $3/month
  • Laptop with screensaver images: $1.50/month
  • DVD player: $1/month

*Data from: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Weapons for Slaying Vampire Power: Of course, the quickest fix is to unplug all of the devices that you are not using. This may be reasonable for the television in the guest bedroom, but are we really going to unplug all of these things every night and each time we leave the house for work or vacation? Probably not. Even if you’ve purchased ENERGY STAR qualified devices with the lowest power consumption in standby mode, you can take it one step further.

I Vant to Suck Your Energy: The Truth About Vampire Power

Smart power strips are the most powerful tool in your vampire slaying arsenal. I bought this BITS Smart Strip Power Strip and now I need to turn the lights on when I get up during the night! I plugged my television into the blue Control outlet, my cable modem and phone into the red Always On outlets, and the peripherals like my DVD player in the green Energy Saving outlets. It’s pretty remarkable how my peripherals power up automatically when I turn on my TV. Once the TV is switched off, the power strip stops the flow of electricity to all outlets except those designated to stay on all the time. It just doesn’t get any easier than that.

I Vant to Suck Your Energy: The Truth About Vampire Power

A host of other devices will accomplish the same result. The Save A Watt TV Standby Killer ensures your TV is actually off, not just in standby.  Chargers like the Belkin Conserve Valet draw no current once your phone is fully charged. Better yet, if you want to make an informed decision about where to start conserving, you can always use an energy monitor like the Kill A Watt to measure the amount of electricity used and cost of operating your devices even when they appear to be off.

How to Slay Vampire Power:

  • Unplug devices that aren’t in use
  • Use smart power strips
  • Switch to ENERGY STAR qualified devices with low standby power use
  • Use chargers that power down once  the device is fully charged

Forewarned is Forearmed:  Now that you know how much you stand to save and how easy it is, get out there and do something about it! Without sacrificing your way of living, you’ll begin to notice your electricity bill creep downward. Once you’ve been bitten by the energy savings bug, you’ll thirst for more. Check back often for more energy saving tips and product information.

— Dawn Richards of EnergyEarth

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

  1. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=about.vampires

  2. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=4208#ixzz2hERYMG93

  3. http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/aer.pdf

  4. http://standby.lbl.gov/faq.html

vampire power infographic: http://www.radiant.co.za/blog/index.php/about-standby-vampire-power/

vampire tools image: http://www.savvyhousekeeping.com/antique-vampire-killing-kits/

 

So you’ve decided to make the switch to energy efficient lighting? Don’t stress – the EnergyEarth Bulb Selector is here to help.

There are several things to consider once you’ve decided to switch to more energy efficient light bulbs. The EnergyEarth Bulb Selector is a great way to learn about lighting and decide which bulb is right for you.

Bulb Type

The first question many people ask is “Which type of bulb should I buy?” The good news is that if you’re switching from incandescent bulbs, you’ll notice significant savings by switching to either CFLs or LEDs.

While LEDs are the best long term investment, you may decide to take the intermediate step to a CFL. There are CFL and LED bulbs for every light fixture and preference, but if your budget allows, LEDs will save you the most money over the life of the bulb. This is in part because they will last so much longer than CFLs and incandescent bulbs. You don’t need to worry about trusting the manufacturer’s claims since at EnergyEarth you’ll get our 4everLED Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Brightness

CFLs convert energy to light about 75% more efficiently than incandescents – that’s why they don’t get scorching hot like the old type of light bulb. LEDs are even more efficient and stay cool during operation. That’s why it’s important to start thinking about the brightness of your light in terms of lumens, not watts. Since a 60 watt incandescent produces about 800 lumens of light, you want to replace it with a CFL or LED that produces 800 lumens. They only use 14 watts and 12 watts of electricity respectively!

Which Light Bulb is the Right One for Me? - The EnergyEarth Bulb Selector

Color

Once you decide the type of bulb and the brightness (lumens) you want, you’ll need to figure out which bulb will best mimic the light from your incandescent.

Incandescent bulbs emit a yellowish or warm light.  This description refers to the color of the light.  Unfortunately, the convention for measuring the color can be unfamiliar to many of us.  The good news is that even if you don’t want to bother understanding this part, you can go to the Bulb Selector straight away and we’ll help you narrow down your choices.  Here are the basics:

  • Light color is measured using a unit called Kelvin (K) and is also called “color temperature”.
  • Lower Kelvin numbers mean the light will be more yellow; as the Kelvin numbers get higher, the light will appear whiter, then indicating a blue appearance.
  • The color temperature of incandescent bulbs is within 2700-3000 Kelvin
  • The color temperature of daylight is near the highest end of the scale (6500K)

Which Light Bulb is the Right One for Me? - The EnergyEarth Bulb Selector

What about my fixtures?

Do you have a decorative fixture, recessed can, ceiling fan or something else? It doesn’t get easier than the Bulb Selector.  You can browse through the fixture type and see the color temperatures available for each type of light fixture at a glance. Once you narrow your search by fixture type and color, you can easily find an efficient bulb with the equivalent brightness.

Which Light Bulb is the Right One for Me? - The EnergyEarth Bulb Selector

Making the switch shouldn’t be hard. We’re here to help you save money and energy every step of the way.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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