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Project Assistance Opportunity: Metro CERT Clean Energy Accelerator

29 October 2014

Metro CERT Clean Energy Accelerator

Does your organization or group have a community-based clean energy project idea, but don’t know where to start? Metro Clean Energy Resource Teams are offering an awesome project assistance opportunity to help clean-energy projects get off the ground called Clean Energy Accelerator.

What’s involved?

A Metro CERTS staff member will provide you with either Rapids Assistance or Deep Assistance depending on what your project needs. Programming surrounds consistent meetings for between 1 – 10 months, depending on assistance type. Meets may include outside experts and assignments to help projects moving forward

What is required?

You do need to apply to this program and your project needs to be in  Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Washington, or Wright Counties. Applications for Rapid Assistance are reviewed on a rolling basis and may be submitted any time until May 31st, 2015. Applications for Deep Assistance are due on November 17th, 2014, selected participants will be announced in early December, and projects will begin work in January 2015.

Read more about this unique and valuable program.

Get Rid of Those Pesky Energy Vampires: Advanced Power Strip Edition

27 October 2014

My favorite part of Halloween is that I can befittingly write a blog about vampire energy! Vampire energy, also known as phantom load, is a growing energy waste in many homes. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, vampire energy can cost an average household around $200 a year in wasted energy use. The easiest way to cut down on vampire energy is to plug electronics into a power strip and turn the strip off when not in use. However, the trickiest part is often remembering to turn it off!

Does your family have trouble remembering to turn off the power strips? Are you are nervous about unplugging the wrong electronic? If yes, then advanced power strips are for you.

Features such as motion sensors, remotes, and timers make advanced power strips most useful in office and home entertainment areas. Take a look at the graphic below to find the right fit for your home.

smart strip blog

View the full graphic here.

Prepare to be Comfortable this Winter

23 October 2014

With a few simple actions you can be a bit more comfortable this winter and lower your utility bills- solving two problems at once!

Program that thermostat: Set back your thermostat by 8° for 8 hours while no one is home during the day and/or while you’re12A sleeping to keep your family comfortable without over-spending.
Keep the Heat: Add a blanket to your water heater tank and insulate your pipes to keep your hot water, well, hot!
Put a Damper on it: Air lost through the fireplace can account for 19% of your heating bill, so remember to close the damper to prevent this costly energy waste.

Want to go beyond these actions? Insulate your attic and walls for a super cozy home!

2014 Updated Energy Saver Guide

12 September 2014

This summer the Energy Department updated their Energy Saver Guide. This guide gives tips and suggestions on how to reduce energy use throughout a home. It’s like the Minnesota Energy Challenge in a book! It is a great, easy to read guide that covers everything from smart power strips to transportation.  I highlight 5 energy saving actions from the guide to give you a sense of what is covered!

  1. Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
  2. Caulk and weather-strip air leaks. Common air leaks happen around windows and doors and around any plumbing, orwindow electrical come into your home.
  3. During winter, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
  4. Strategically planted trees and shrubs on the south and west side of your home will let light in the winter and shade in the summer.
  5. Make sure to your water heater to 120 degrees to reduce the risk of scalding and save on water heating costs. More on how to do this on the Energy Challenge.

For more tips check out the updated Energy Savers guide.

Reduce your Methane Footprint by Reducing Food Waste

13 August 2014

Szczel-creative commonsIn 2011 Americans produced 36 million tons of food waste, of which 96% of ended up in landfills. In a landfill food decomposes anaerobically which means it produces methane, the second most common green house gas (GHG). What’s so bad about this?  Methane is much better at trapping radiation which makes it 20 times worse than CO2 in contributing to climate change.

How can you help?

First, try to reduce your food waste by planning out meals, freezing veggies before they go bad and eating leftovers. Reducing the amount of food you throw is the first line of defense! More on reducing food waste.

Secondly, compost the food waste you do have. Composting food causes it to broken down through aerobic decomposition. This means that the food is decomposed into CO2 instead of methane. Though CO2 is still a GHG- it is less potent than methane. As an added bonus compost turns into nutrient rich soil that is re-used and often lowers the need for fertilizer (source).

Learn how to compost in your back yard or find out if your city has compost drop-off locations. Both Ramsey County and Hennepin County have free drop-off locations.


Should You Replace Those Windows?

1 August 2014

window Amanda AzziI live in Minneapolis where many people have a love-hate relationship with their old, original windows. While people love and want to keep the character and look of the original wood, they are often frustrated by the leakiness of the windows. Cost is also a factor as full replacement wood windows are priced extremely high. What to do?? I recently came across an article from Green Building Advisor that helps to address this conundrum.

First off, it is important to understand that the financial payback from replacing or even fixing windows is very long. At about 1% to 4% of your heating bill, the savings from full window replacements is much less than many window contractors advertise and can lead to payback periods of 100 to 300 years. That’s a lot longer than the life of the window! However, this doesn’t mean your windows aren’t worth fixing or replacing – you have to keep in mind that comfort and functionality are important too! It might make sense for you to replace or refurbish your windows if any of them:

  • don’t work properly
  •  are rotten
  • don’t have proper weather stripping
  • don’t have proper storm windows

If you are considering taking action with your old windows, I would suggest refurbishing if possible. It usually costs significantly less than a full replacement and still provides almost the same level of efficiency as completely new windows. This amazing graph from Preservation Green Lab shows the energy benefits of various window repairs and considering the high cost difference between these upgrades, it is pretty clear that in most cases your best bet is to refurbish.

I hope this information will help you make the best decision for the comfort of your family and the preservation of your home. Take a look at the original article for more tips about dealing with old windows.

Think Before you Toss!

17 July 2014

Most people don’t think too much about the trash they toss into the garbage. Yet, as these crazy cool and informative pictures to show, the amount of trash a typical family produces in one week can add up quickly! The simple summary of the information I found while researching for this blog is that Americans produce a LOT of trash and the amount of trash we produce significantly affects the amount of carbon and pollutants emitted. According to the EPA a typical American produces 4.38 pounds of waste a day and recycles or composts about 1.51 pounds of it. But we can do better! Cutting down on our trash by recycling and composting  more can make a BIG difference and are two of the best ways to help reduce our carbon footprints. Check out the recycling and composting actions on the Energy Challenge for great resources and see how big of a difference you can make. Link  to full info-graphic


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