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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.

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

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/

 

It’s fall and cooler temperatures are just around the corner, if they haven’t already settled in your area.  So what can you do to prepare for the winter so the cold temperatures don’t take a bite out of your budget?

10 Fall Weatherization Tips to Keep the Cold Out {The Dirt on Green}

Keep the Cold Out

Did your energy audit reveal that you need better insulation? If so, prepare early so you aren’t caught off guard by the cool weather.

1. Sealing and insulating the exterior of your home — its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors and floors — is one of the most cost effective way to improve your home’s energy efficiency and comfort. ENERGY STAR estimates that you can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% of your energy bill) just by sealing and insulating. Here are a few easy ways you can save:

  • Caulking drafty windows and door frames is a great way to eliminate the energy lost through these spaces. For hints on using rope caulk, check out our post all about what it does and how to use it. Keep in mind that rope caulk is most easily applied before it gets too cold, so you’ll want to do this right away!
  • Check under your sinks, in your bathrooms, in basements and other areas for places where pipes and vents go through the floor, wall or ceiling. If you need additional help, consider purchasing a handheld leak detector. You may have gaps that could be letting cold air in and your warm air out that you don’t even know about! These gaps are easily sealed with rope or traditional caulk.
  • Easy-to-apply weather stripping can keep drafts from coming through door jambs and window sashes.
  • Foam switch and outlet gaskets are easy to install (requiring just a screw driver!) and can eliminate leaky outlets and switches, especially on exterior walls.

10 Fall Weatherization Tips to Keep the Cold Out {The Dirt on Green}

2. Seal ducts. Sealing air ducts can dramatically improve the efficiency of a heating and cooling system. Unsealed ducts typically leak about 10-15% of the conditioned air flowing through the ducts while pulling unwanted air into the conditioned parts of your house. This creates pressure differentials, exacerbating air leak problems.

    • Adhesive sealant: Mastic fibrous sealant is used for coating thermal insulation on pipes and ducts and sealing uninsulated ducts.
    • Aluminum tape: Aluminum tape is a much more effective and long-lasting way to seal sheet metal heating ducts than duct tape. And, if you forget to seal drafts until it gets cold, aluminum tape can be applied in cold temperatures and is very tolerant of temperature extremes.
    • Duct shields: Central air conditioner draft shields and covers are an effective means of keep cold air from entering your home through air conditioning ducts during the winter than covering them with tape, blankets or cardboard or closing the louvers.

3. Prevent chimney drafts. Chimney balloons are inflatable, tight-sealing chimney dampers made of 3-ply poly plastic that stops uncontrolled air leaks.

4. Make the switch to a programmable thermostat. Never forget to adjust the thermostat while you’re away and save around the clock with these a few simple setting. For more information, check out our previous post on how to set your programmable thermostat to save the most money while staying comfortable.

5. If you need to heat a single room, consider using a space heater. A portable space heater can comfortably heat a single room quickly and without using energy to heat your entire home.

6. Clean your filters. Dirty air filters force your heating system to work harder than necessary, wasting electricity and taking longer to reach a comfortable temperature.   This is because the airflow is restricted by dust and debris caught by the filter. Can’t remember to change your filters? Install an air filter whistle to remind you that the filter is dirty and needs to be changed.

If you’re in the market for a new heating system, be sure to consider an energy efficient furnace that is ENERGY STAR qualified. Be sure to check out information on rebates available in your area, too!

10 Fall Weatherization Tips to Keep the Cold Out {The Dirt on Green}

Change Your Habits

7. Wear a sweater. For every degree you turn down your thermostat, you can save 3-5% on heating costs.

8. Turn down the thermostat when you are away. The best approach is to use a programmable thermostat.  You’ll never forget!

9. Let the sun heat your home during the day.  Open your blinds and curtains during the day and close them at sundown for insulation.

10. Is your desk or couch next to a drafty window?  First try sealing your window (see above).  If you’re still not warm enough, rearrange the room so you’re not sitting in a drafty area.

So there you have it. Weatherize your home before the cold weather moves in and save all year round!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

CFLs: Savings in a Twist!

October 1st, 2013 | Posted by EnergyEarth in Ask the Expert - (1 Comments)

Compact fluorescent light bulbs – to switch or not to switch?

You’ve heard that CFL bulbs can save you money, provide the same light as incandescent bulbs and need to be disposed of properly. But do you know how? Let’s find out!

CFLs: Savings in a Twist! {The Dirt on Green}

How do they work?

CFLs use a completely different technology than traditional incandescent bulbs. Instead of an electric current running through a metal wire, an electric current is transmitted through an internal ballast and into a tube containing argon and trace amounts of mercury vapor. These elements then emit UV rays, which energize the fluorescent (phosphor) coating on the inside of the tube, releasing visible light. The initial illumination uses slightly more energy than an incandescent bulb so a slight flicker can sometimes be seen as the bulb warms up (this typically takes 30 seconds to 3 minutes to complete, depending on the bulb); however, the energy needed for continued operation is significantly lower.

CFLs with decorative covers like globe or reflector shapes have a unique design challenge and often have a slightly slower warm up time, meaning that they take longer than bare spirals to reach full brightness.

Older CFLs used large and heavy magnetic ballasts that caused a buzzing noise in some bulbs. Most CFLs today — and all ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs — use electronic ballasts, which do not buzz or hum.

How do they save me money and how much?

Since CFLs use about 75% less energy to produce the same amount of light as the equivalent incandescent, your savings on just one light fixture can amount to as much as $58 or more over the life of the bulb.

Furthermore, since CFL bulbs last about 10,000 hours, 10 times as long as an incandescent bulb, you won’t need to replace it as often – saving you money and the hassle of replacing light bulbs frequently.

Do they really provide the same amount of light?

Yes, if you choose the right bulb. The old way of buying bulbs – watts – simply lets you know how much electricity a bulb uses. Instead, shop for the amount of light output, also known as lumens.  A quick look at our Bulb Selector will provide you with all the information you need!

CFLs: Savings in a Twist! {The Dirt on Green}

Have incandescent bulbs really been banned?

No, but new standards are phasing out inefficient light bulbs over an eight year period ending in 2020.

How do I dispose of CFL bulbs?

Safe disposal of CFLs is actually quite easy. CFLs do contain trace amounts of mercury (about 4 milligrams, or less than 100th of the amount in a mercury thermometer), so they should not be thrown in the trash where they can be broken. Instead, many areas provide curbside collection of CFLs or central recycling locations. If this is not available in your area, we offer several mail-back CFL recycling boxes.

To put this in perspective, check out these other products you probably have around your home that also contain mercury:

 – Watch battery – up to 25 milligrams

 – Thermometer – up to 2 grams

 – Tilt thermostat – up to 3 grams

If a CFL is accidentally broken in your home, you should immediately pick up every visible piece of glass, carefully wrap it in paper and stow it in an airtight plastic bag or sealed glass jar until you can take it to a suitable drop off location (as listed above). Additionally, you should vacuum area carpeting or rugs to pick up glass pieces too small to see and discard the vacuum’s bag. To really play it safe, ventilate the room so that any residual gas from missed shards of glass won’t accumulate in the room.

A little wary of CFLs? Want to save more?

LED lights are the next step in savings. LEDs are even more efficient at converting electricity to light than CFLs and they don’t contain any mercury or need special disposal. On top of that, LEDs have gotten significantly cheaper in recent years – some as low as $10! For more information on LED lighting, check out our previous blog posts on LED bulbs.

—The EnergyEarth Team

©2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

Yadong Li and Li Jin. Environmental Engineering Science. October 2011, 28(10): 687-691. doi:10.1089/ees.2011.0027.

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls_about#how_work

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/cfl-mercury2.htm

If you’ve been watching the weather reports – or even looking outside your window – you know that rainfall has been very unusual this year. According to the NCDC, “the nationally averaged precipitation total for July was 3.47 inches—0.71 inch above the 20th century average—making it the fifth wettest July on record for the United States. July brought both wet and dry precipitation extremes to the nation. The Northwest and Upper Mississippi River Valley were drier than average, while most other locations had above-average precipitation.”

Depending on where you live, you’ve probably had either too much rain this summer or too little – or a combination of both at different times. If your area has been too wet, you may have experienced flooding in your yard or washout from your gutters. If it’s been too dry, you’ve probably used a lot of water on your yard and garden. Conversely, if you’ve had a lot of rain, you might have flooding and washout. Rainfall patterns can change in just a few days – save that precious water, reduce your utility bills and be prepared all weather conditions by collecting rainfall for future use with a rain barrel.

Free Water: Everyday Benefits of Owning a Rain Barrel {The Dirt on Green}

What is a rain barrel?

Rain barrels are large receptacles placed under gutter downspouts next to a house to collect rain water from the roof and typically hold about 40-90 gallons.

What can I use the water for?

The collected water can be used to water gardens and yards, as well as for other non-potable (non-drinkable) uses such as flushing toilets or watering indoor plants. Harvesting rain water has many benefits including reducing utility water use, saving money on your utility bills, preventing basement flooding and keeping your lawn and garden greener. By collecting rain water, you are also helping to reduce flooding and pollution in local waterways.

How much can I collect?

 Some areas of the US have restrictions on how much water you can collect, so be sure and check with your city or county and state governments for the legislations in your area.

Free Water: Everyday Benefits of Owning a Rain Barrel {The Dirt on Green}

An estimated 9 billion gallons of water are used to water lawns and gardens each day in the US with most it coming from potable sources. Rainwater harvesting is a great way to conserve water, protect the environment, prevent flooding and have a consistent supply of water for outdoor and some indoor use.

Rain barrels are a great way to save money and help the environment – some areas even offer a rebate to reward you for your efforts! Check out our wide selection of rain water storage systems and start saving today!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

http://water.rutgers.edu/Stormwater_Management/rainbarrels.html

http://earth911.com/news/2009/07/03/colorado-bill-legalizes-rainwater-harvesting/

http://science.opposingviews.com/budget-rain-barrel-23684.html

 

How do solar lights work? They convert sunlight to energy, store it in a battery and release it at night.

More specifically, outdoor solar lights use standard solar cells in a very straightforward application: solar cell produces varying voltage and current depending on the size of the cell and the amount of light striking the surface. The solar cells are wired directly to the battery through a diode (which prevents the battery’s current from flowing back through the solar cell at night). During the day, the battery charges, reaching maximum charge except on heavily overcast or shorter winter days, and at night the solar cells stop producing power and the photo resistor turns on the LED. Simple as that!

Take Advantage of Free Power with Solar Devices! {The Dirt on Green}

Gama Sonic Solar Spot Light

Why go solar? It’s free light when and where you need it!

Power outages: Storms like Hurricane Sandy can unexpectedly leave you without power. One great way to shed some light is to bring your outdoor lights inside when the power is out!

Security lights may be even more critical during extended periods of power failure. Even if you have evacuated because your power is out, your solar security lights will still illuminate your home and help to keep it safe.

Hands-off: Long lasting solar lights use LED bulbs that last up to 50,000 hours or longer, meaning you won’t need to worry about replacing the bulb. Since it’s not using electricity that you’re paying for, you don’t need to worry about turning off the lights either.

No wires: More options for placement and much easier to install.

Take Advantage of Free Power with Solar Devices! {The Dirt on Green}

Heath/Zenith Solar Security Light

What type is best for you?

–          Ambient — Solar powered lights placed around gardens provide the type of illumination that tastefully emphasizes the presence of flowerbeds and garden paths.

–          Spotlighting —Solar spotlights directs the eye’s attention to a highlight in the garden or the front door. Numerous focal points can create a well-lit and attractive backdrop for parties and entertaining.

–          Functional lighting — Steps, walkways and driveways need to be illuminated for safety after dark. Choose light fixtures that cast their glow downward so that the majority of the light falls on the walkway.

Can these lights last all night?

Yes! The solar lights we offer can illuminate your yard from sunset to sunrise, if needed. Lights have continuous illumination power 2-10 hours and have varying on/off switching methods. Choose lighting with photo sensors or motion sensors for highest level of efficiency!

Take Advantage of Free Power with Solar Devices! {The Dirt on Green}

Brinkmann Sierra Solar Light

5 Tips for Smart and Easy Installation

  1. Decide on the area of your home or yard that receives plenty of sunlight.
  2. Decide on the style of fixture you want to use.
  3. If you need solar lights for a shaded or indoor area, some lights operate on a small system allowing you to install a solar panel on your roof or other sunny area.
  4. For ground lighting, position lights in a line or circle by placing them closer together instead of further apart to create a more effective lighting system.
  5. All of the solar lighting options we offer are easy to install. Simply push them into the ground or attach them to your patio or wall and you’re done!

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sources:

http://home.howstuffworks.com/solar-light.htm

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/yago141.html

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/summer-loving-energy-efficient-outdoor-lighting

http://voices.yahoo.com/basic-solar-landscape-lightingsecrets-professionals-11979997.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Landscape-With-Solar-Lighting  

What is Rope Caulk?

September 3rd, 2013 | Posted by EnergyEarth in Ask the Expert | Green Tips - (0 Comments)

Rope caulk is a putty-like substance that is used primarily for sealing drafts in windows or around door frames. The caulk is sold in long rope-like rolls which can be cut or torn off to the desired length. The caulk is pressed into a gap in the window pane or frame and seals the void, preventing air from passing through and increasing efficiency. Rope caulk is often easier to use than a conventional caulking gun and tube of caulk due to its ability to be pressed into tight spaces where it may be difficult to operate a caulking gun.

What is Rope Caulk? {The Dirt on Green}

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Liz West.

When applying rope caulk to a window or door, clean the surfaces of the window first where the caulking will be applied. A dirty surface can create a poor seal between the caulk and the window pane. Dirt and debris hinder the rope caulking from adhering, and the material may peel off after a short time, meaning the caulking will need to be re-applied to the window. After cleaning the surfaces, allow them to thoroughly dry before the caulk is applied.

What is Rope Caulk? {The Dirt on Green}

An installation trick is to dip the rope caulk into a container of lukewarm water for a few seconds prior to pressing it into place. This creates a more pliable caulk, which is easier to press into small gaps. The caulk should not be left in the water for any prolonged period of time as the water will soon dissolve the caulk and render it useless. When using the water-dip application method, a pair of disposable rubber gloves will keep the sticky caulk from attaching itself to any exposed skin.

What is Rope Caulk? {The Dirt on Green}

Temperature is the key to a successful rope caulk installation. The window should be no colder on its exterior surface than it is on its interior. Applying rope caulk to a window that is cold outside and warm inside will usually result in a failed adhesion of the caulk and an air draft. Rope caulk should be applied in the early fall months in most areas. This will allow the seal to set prior to cold weather setting in.

What is Rope Caulk? {The Dirt on Green}

Available in either grey or brown, rope caulk looks great, is easy to apply and cleans up well with water. The caulking compound creates a durable seal against most types of weather when installed correctly, and will reduce wasted energy from drafty windows and door frames. Before applying, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions when applying this product and store or dispose of any unused materials according to the package and local specifications.

—The EnergyEarth Team

© 2013 Energy Earth LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Via WiseGEEK (edited).

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