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3 Simple Ways To Save Energy And Money

Solar EnergyWhen it comes to energy conservation, you can now save the planet and your hard-earned money. If you’re ready to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle, the following practices will help you feel better about your carbon footprint and let you watch the savings pour in.

Take Shorter Showers

To take short showers, here’s a tip: Listen to music while you shower and never stay under running water for longer than two songs — and, ideally, one. The more time you spend getting doused by hot water, the more energy is being used to heat the flow and the more money is running down the drain.

Another counter-intuitive way to reduce water use is to take more showers. If you shower once per day and find yourself routinely taking more than five minutes to get clean, take two quicker showers instead. This method keeps you fresher all day and means you don’t have to stay in the bathroom so long. It’s the perfect blend of time management, water management and budget management.

Invest in Solar Panels

By this point, you should know that low-flow shower heads, energy-efficient lightbulbs and double-paned windows better maintain your indoor temperature. In addition to these simple solutions, consider buying energy-efficient refrigerators and stoves.

The best move you can make, however, is installing solar panels. The only problem is the initial investment; it may take a few years to save enough on electricity to pay for the panels, depending on how cheap your fossil fuel-powered electricity is and how much sunlight your house gets. Google recently came up with a solution for knowing how much solar energy can help your home. Its Project Sunroof estimates the exact amount of sunlight that hits any roof and enables you to measure how long it would take to reap savings off of an initial investment. Unfortunately, it is only available in parts of California and Boston so far, but it will soon be expanding its scope so that everyone can make the most-informed decision.

Take Charge of Your Mobile Device

How many times per day do you charge your devices? Between a laptop, tablet, mobile phone, e-reader and every other gadget in your arsenal, you are likely plugged into the electric grid more often than you would like to admit.

To lessen your impact, maximize each charge. Use your device’s power-saving mode or switch over to airplane mode when you don’t need to be connected. Better still, purchase a phone that has an Ultra Power Saving Mode, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, that helps your phone last longer and waste less energy.

These moves alone won’t solve global warming, but they help foster a mental shift. The more you look to make the small, no-brainer moves, the more you will find your whole way of thinking change about conservation. And as the baby steps increasingly lead to larger changes, you really will be making a difference and Mother Nature will thank you.

Seal Your Home To Save Money On Your Energy Bill

home energy billsCold winter weather and hot summer sunshine mean high heating and cooling bills. New homeowners may be especially surprised at the utility bills as they experience the seasons for the first time in their new home. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to conserve and manage your home energy costs.

Is There Enough Insulation?

Proper insulation is crucial. If you didn’t join the home inspector in the attic before you bought your house, put it at the top of your list and get up there. Inspect the insulation, noting bare spots and any uneven levels of insulation materials. If you can, identify what type of insulation it is, then use the U.S. Department of Energy insulation checker to determine if it’s adequate for the area you live in. ENERGY STAR offers a free guide to sealing and insulating to help homeowners understand insulation R-values (thermal resistance ratings) and how to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing insulation. Generally, the higher the R-value, the better the insulating effects. If you find your insulation isn’t adequate, add more to prevent heat loss during the winter and to keep cooled air in during the summer.

Check for Leaks and Air Seal Your Home

Gaps and cracks in windows, doors, roofs and vents cost you money. ENERGY STAR recommends weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows when you have drafts, uneven temperatures between rooms or cold floors in the basement in winter. Check for leaks and seal around windows and door frames and trim, as well as ductwork, electrical outlets, fireplaces, crawlspaces, basements, and vents in the clothes dryers, bathroom and oven hood. If you want to take it a step further, a blower door test will pinpoint all the leaks in your home. You can rent blower door equipment to do the testing yourself or hire a professional home energy auditor.

Other leaks to check for to save money on energy costs are appliances like refrigerators, freezers and dishwashers. Older appliances with loose doors and worn gaskets work harder and leak conditioned air, costing more money to run. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recommends checking door seals by putting a dollar bill in the door as you close it to see if it stays in place, or placing a lighted flashlight inside a fridge pointed at the door seal in a darkened room; if you can see light shining through, you’ve got a worn gasket. Replace worn gaskets with custom-made silicone housing seals to extend the useful life of older appliances while reducing energy costs.

Use the Vents in Your House

If you’ve weather proofed and air sealed your home and checked that the insulation is adequate, you can use the vents in your house to control your energy use even more. Close the vents in unused or little-used rooms and close the room up. You won’t be sending heat or cooled air to that space or paying to do so. Family Handyman cautions homeowners to consult an HVAC professional before closing off vents this way, especially if they have a high-efficiency system, because if the return air duct isn’t also properly sealed, it can cause problems like an overworked furnace or forced air through leaks into wasted areas like crawlspaces and basements.

4 Ways To Reduce Your Home Energy Use & Save Money This Summer

Keeping your home cool and your energy consumption low during the torrid months of summer is a challenge. The average household electricity bill for the June-through-August time period last year was a staggering $395, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The temps are climbing, and if you’re looking for ways to reduce your home energy use and save money, we’ve got some eco-friendly changes and upgrades you can make.

Seal and Insulate

If you have cracks and gaps in your foundation, windows or walls, you are letting cool, air-conditioned air escape and hot summer air in. Subsequently, your HVAC system is working harder to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. Protect your home and wallet by ensuring these areas are properly sealed and your home is adequately insulated. Caulking around windows usually suffices, but if you have very old, rickety windows or window frames, replace them with energy-efficient ones. It’s one of the best things you can do to save energy.

Photo by Nieuw via Wikimedia Commons

Rethink Your Roofing

You won’t reduce your energy consumption by much if you don’t have a well-maintained, efficient roof. Depending on the climate, certain styles of roofing do better than others. In extremely hot climates, light-colored roofs help reflect the sun’s rays and keep your home cooler. Proper attic ventilation is a must—it removes warm air and moisture that cause your air conditioner to work harder and mold to grow.

Photo by Liadmaster via Wikimedia Commons

Upgrade Your HVAC System

Maintaining and regulating your home’s temperature accounts for more than half of your annual energy consumption costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If you’re willing to replace your current heating and cooling system, these green HVAC technologies will significantly reduce your monthly costs.

Request your unit be placed in a sheltered, shaded area of your home to promote longevity and efficiency. If a replacement unit isn’t within your planned budget, you can still make the most of your current system by scheduling regular maintenance appointments and replacing your filters each month.

Employ the help of ceiling or freestanding fans during the summer months. Keep all doors and windows shut. When it starts cooling off outside, open those windows back up to allow for a nice cross-breeze—it’ll help keep your home at a comfortable level.

Photo by Achim Hering via Wikimedia Commons

Turn It off and Unplug

One of the easiest ways to reduce your home energy consumption: Always shut off and unplug your chargers, electronics and small appliances while you’re out during the day. There is no reason to keep everything plugged in, especially in light of the fact that these items continue to consume energy just by being plugged in. Make a habit of putting things away or storing items that are not receiving regular daily use.

Photo by Rennett Stowe via Wikimedia Commons

Texas Ratepayers Could Get Electricity Bill Refunds

If you are a Texas electricity consumer living in a deregulated area of the state, you may be getting a check in the mail at some point. 

The Texas Senate passed a measure by a vote of 21-10 that would cut one time $120 checks to eligible ratepayers in the state.  The money would come from the state’s System Benefit Fund. 

The fund is intended as a way to build a pool of money to be used to assist low income people who need help paying their electricity bills.

Since it’s creation in 1999 ratepayers have paid a surcharge of up to 65 cents per kilowatt hour on their electric bills that goes towards the fund.  Over the years the program has paid out far less money than it has taken in resulting in a surplus of about $850 million. 

In 2012, the Lite-Up program, which assists low income households with their electric bills, paid out around $60 million.  The System Benefit Fund collected more than twice that amount in surcharges.  The extra money has been treated like general funds in the state’s coffers and used to balance the state’s budget.

As lawmakers look for ways to reduce taxes in the state, many see returning the surplus from the System Benefit Fund as an easy way to return money to the citizenry.  But, the move is not without controversy.  Some people see the move as taking away money from lower income people.  For the most part, the debate is split along part lines with Republicans backing the plan.

The State Senate’s action alone would not be enough to pass the measure into law.  Before checks can be cut, a 2/3 majority vote would be required in both the house and senate to send the proposal to voters.  Voters would then have to approve it as an amendment to the state’s constitution. 

Only residential and commercial electricity clients in the so called “Power to Choose” or deregulated parts of the state would be eligible for the rebate.  This includes the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas.

See Also: Group Claims Oncor Unnecessarily Charged Fees to Texas Electricity Consumers
See Also: A New Fee On The Electric Bill of Dallas / Fort Worth Customers