Energy saving products & green living
Header

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. 

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

Deciding on resolutions can be hard, but sticking to them can be even harder. Make resolutions that you can actually keep this year by pledging to go green with these 5 easy ideas to help you save all year long!

1. Switch Your Light Bulb

5 Easy Energy Saving New Year’s Resolutions

Replacing your light bulbs with energy efficient LEDs and CFLs is an easy change. Despite all the jokes, it takes only one person to change a light bulb — and since LEDs and CFLs last significantly longer (up to 50 times longer!) than traditional bulbs, you’ll be saving time for years down the road while drastically cutting your energy use. Order your bulbs from us and we’ll deliver them straight to your front door.

2. Eliminate Vampire Power

5 Easy Energy Saving New Year’s Resolutions

Use energy saving power strips to turn off all your electronics at once! Put your entire entertainment system or home office on a smart power strip and they’ll automatically shut off when not in use with just one click. You could cut your energy bill by around 10% — without lifting a finger!1.       Reduce Water Usage

3.       Reduce Water Usage

5 Easy Energy Saving New Year’s Resolutions

Using a water efficient shower head can save you money in more ways than one. They’re inexpensive, easy to install, and can save you up to 750 gallons a month. On top of that, they’ll save you around $120 each year in related energy costs! Smart, easy and it only takes about 5 minutes: just unscrew the old one and replace it with your new, money saving model.

4.       Weatherize Your Home

5 Easy Energy Saving New Year’s Resolutions

Keeping an airtight house is important to saving money throughout the year. Maximize your heating and cooling system by sealing cracks with caulk and foam sealant and weather stripping to stop air leaks, eliminate energy loss and prevent damage from water leaks and pest infiltration. Plus, you’ll reduce outside noise inside your home just by sealing those pesky cracks and gaps that let that noise inside.

5.       Go Eco Outside

5 Easy Energy Saving New Year’s Resolutions

There are a lot of benefits to owning a rain barrel. For one, rainwater is a relatively clean and absolutely free source of water! Why not put it to good use? Rainwater is better for lawns, gives you greater control over your water supply, can reduce area erosion and provides an excellent backup source of water in case of an emergency, just to name a few.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2014 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Upcycling furniture is green and a great way to save money! On top of that, you’ll get to decorate your house in a completely unique way. Remember before you pay full price at a mass retailer to take a closer look at what you have around the house or what’s at your local estate sale or thrift store for some great finds – we think you’ll be happy you did.

6 Ways to Upcycle Your Furniture {The Dirt on Green}

Folding Chair Do-Over – Design for Mankind

Don’t throw out the rusty or scratched folding chairs hiding in embarrassment in your garage – remake them! A simple coat of paint and little bit of scrap fabric will make those sad seats festive again and save you big bucks over buying all new ones.

6 Ways to Upcycle Your Furniture {The Dirt on Green}

Sewing Table into Cooler and Drink Table – Sweet C’s Designs

Turn a forgotten, old sewing table (or other random table you have shoved in the back of your storage unit) into a super functional serving table! The best part of this creative upcycle? The storage space turned into an ultra-chic drink cooler.

6 Ways to Upcycle Your Furniture {The Dirt on Green}

Upcycled Spice Rack – The Speckled Dog

Your old spice rack can be used for countless repurposes! Something as simple as a coat of paint can turn this once-useless item into a great piece to organize anything from nail polish to books in any room of your home.

6 Ways to Upcycle Your Furniture {The Dirt on Green}

Stockade Fence into Plant Shelf – My {Re}purposed Life

Found wood and old fencing can be turned into a seriously shabby-chic plant stand for your backyard for almost nothing. Embrace the rustic and leave it all-natural or give it a fresh coat of paint for a more updated look.

6 Ways to Upcycle Your Furniture {The Dirt on Green}

Beautiful, Colorful Chandeliers – Addicted 2 Decorating

Breathe life into old chandelier fixtures with a couple of coats of paint in a fun color! This simple upcycle can be done in a free afternoon and refresh your whole room quickly and easily. And don’t forget to make that newly painted lighting fixture energy efficient with money saving light bulbs!

6 Ways to Upcycle Your Furniture {The Dirt on Green}

Coffee Table into Diamond Tufted Bench – Home Coming

Refresh that unused coffee table in the attic and give yourself some extra seating with this beautiful bench upcycle! And who doesn’t need more seating? Put it away when you don’t need it and pull it out when you do, this simple project is a great addition for any home.

—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.

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.

We live on the Blue Planet, yet less than 1% of Earth’s water is available for human use. Still, an average American household uses 400 gallons a day, costing well over $300 a year1. The American Waterworks Association blames persistent droughts and infrastructure upgrades for the forecast that our water bills are going to double or triple in the next 25 years.

So where does our water come from? According to the US EPA2, about 90% of Americans use municipal water, with 34% being supplied with treated groundwater and 66% supplied with surface water3. The remaining 10% of Americans get their water from domestic wells.

Ground water is considered by some to be the Nation’s most important natural resource due to our heavy reliance on it for agriculture and municipal water supplies.  Municipally treated groundwater and domestic wells typically use water that is stored in porous geologic formations called aquifers.  When it rains on land, the water that doesn’t stay on the surface soaks into the ground and may be trapped in aquifers.  While some of this important resource (30% of the world’s fresh water!) consists of that recent rainwater, much of it is called ‘fossil water’ and has taken millions of years to accumulate.  Don’t think about aquifers as flowing underground rivers though, since most of them are more like saturated sponges.

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

Surface Water: Even more of our household water comes from rivers, lakes and reservoirs that hold rainwater and surface runoff until we are ready to use it. The land over which this water drains is called a watershed. These areas of land can encompass many states for large river systems. For instance, the Mississippi River watershed includes parts of 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces. The largest US reservoir, Lake Mead, gathers snow melt from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah and supplies millions of people with water in the southwestern United States.

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

Water wars rage on! Since miners and settlers rushed to the dry, dry west, water diversion has been a problem. With the continual decline in Colorado River reservoirs and growing populations, it’s not getting any easier. Even in the southeast where rainwater is plentiful, Georgia and Tennessee have been arguing over their border for 200 years. A tiny one-mile strip of land could swing an estimated 1.6 billion gallons of Georgia runoff away from Tennessee and toward thirsty Atlanta4.

Where does my water come from and how do I know if it’s safe? The best way to learn about your drinking water is to contact your local utility. They can tell you about the source of the water and how they treat it.

Unless you are supplied with water by your own well, you should be supplied with a short report (consumer confidence report or drinking water quality report) from your water supplier by July 1st each year. These reports are easy to read, clearly define what they measure, and have a clear “Violation” or “Compliance” column that indicates if your water meets government standards.  Mine looks like this:

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

Another option is to use this interactive map from the EPA . In all cases, once your supplier draws water from a river, reservoir or groundwater, the water is treated to meet federal and state standards established by the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Should I drink bottled water instead? About half of all bottled water may just come from someone else’s tap! There is no guarantee that it’s cleaner than tap water, and it probably doesn’t taste any different. You’re just paying for the convenience of having it packaged in that tiny bottle. Americans buy billions of gallons of bottled water each year, and according to the American Water Works Association, we are paying about $7.50 per gallon for single servings of bottled water – that’s about 2000 times the cost of tap water and twice that of gasoline!

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

Do I really need to turn off the water while I brush my teeth? For those of us who live in rainy parts of the country it’s hard to imagine ever running out of water. The US Drought Monitor has an interesting tool where you can see weekly and seasonal drought predictions. I’ll admit I was shocked to see how much of our country is experiencing severe and extreme drought! Many of the states in the colored regions are implementing drought management strategies for agriculture, industry and municipal water systems.

How can I use less water and save money? You may not be surprised that the top three uses of household water in the US are toilets, washing clothes and taking showers – in that order. But did you know that the biggest savings comes from using less hot water?

Where Household Water Comes From {The Dirt on Green}

So what can you do? Americans use more household water flushing toilets than anything else. Newer toilets with a dual flush mode, like those described at EPA Watersense, do the job while allowing you to be a bit more discerning about the size of the flush. Where a new toilet isn’t feasible, you can install a simple and inexpensive toilet tank bag to reduce the size of your flush without sacrificing power.

The second highest water use is for washing clothes. Other than being more selective about what you put in the laundry basket, the best thing to do is to upgrade to an ENERGYSTAR qualified washing machine when it’s time for a new one.

If you really want to see a major savings in your water bill and your electric bill, make the switch to awater saving shower head. Since water heating can comprise more than 15% of your electric bill5, and showering is the third highest water use, you’ll see immediate results!

If you’re really serious about saving money on water and electricity, check out products like faucet aerators, outdoor water saving devices, rain barrels, water heater accessories and much more at www.energyearth.com.

— Dawn Richards of EnergyEarth

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 Sources:

1. http://www.awwa.org/

2. http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/drinkingwater/pws/index.cfm

3. http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1344/pdf/c1344.pdf

4. http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/2013/04/18/georgia-tennessee-water-dispute/

5. www.eia.gov

Why is Recycling CFLs Important?

Recycling compact fluorescent light bulbs prevents the release of mercury into the environment. CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs can break when thrown into a dumpster, garbage can or landfill.

On top of that, almost all of the materials in CFLs can be reused, including the glass, metals and other materials that make up fluorescent lights.

How Do I Recycle My Old CFL Bulbs? {The Dirt on Green}

Recycling CFLs is not only better for the environment, some state and local jurisdictions require it. Simply contact your local waste collection agency to find out if you live in a city, county or state that requires you to recycle fluorescent bulbs. While we don’t have an exhaustive list, we do know that the following states prohibit mercury-containing light bulbs from being thrown in the trash:

Where and How Can I Recycle CFLs?

How Do I Recycle My Old CFL Bulbs? {The Dirt on Green}

Make an Informed Decision.

Mail-back services are the easiest choice to make when recycling CFLs. Prepaid boxes from Veolia work all of the time, every time and can be mailed back any time, whenever you’re ready.

Visit Earth911 to find collection schedules or drop-off locations in your area. When making your decision about what choice is best for you, note that waste collection agencies:

  • Are usually free, while some charge a fee to handle hazardous materials
  • Sometimes collect household hazardous materials only once or twice a year
  • May also collect paints, pesticides, cleaning supplies or batteries
  • Usually accept waste from residents only – not small businesses

Many hardware supply stores and other retailers offer in-store recycling. Make sure you check directly with the store before you go; not all stores in regional or nationwide chains may be equipped to recycle.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

http://www2.epa.gov/cfl/recycling-and-disposal-after-cfl-burns-out#important

http://www2.epa.gov/cfl/recycling-and-disposal-after-cfl-burns-out#whererecycle

AWSOM Powered