A recent New York Times article, How to Prevent Summer Blackouts, highlighted the importance for utility A/C load control programs. Summer blackouts often happen when everyone needs a ton of electricity to cool our homes at the same time. No one is a fan of blackouts- so a way to help reduce the possibility for summer blackouts is to sign up for your utility’s A/C load control program. These programs are easy, save you money and are helpful to utilities during excessively hot days!
Signing up for your utility’s load control program will involve someone coming out to install a switch outside near your central A/C. This will allow your utlity to cycle your cooling element (not fan) on and off. Since the fan always stays on most customers don’t even realize a difference! The best part is when you enroll in the program most utilities will automatically take 10% to 15% off your electric bill for the summer months- how cool!!
Find out more about A/C load control on the Minnesota Energy Challenge site.
Electronics account for 10% to 15% of an average home’s electricity use. Energy consumption of two popular electronics, set top cable boxes and video game consoles, are making quite a buzz in the energy world.
Set top cable boxes have become a leading residential electricity hog. Why? Cable boxes use almost as much electricity when they are off as they do when they are on. In fact, two-thirds of the energy they use is consumed when they are off, due to program updates, software updates and spinning hard drives. In addition, consumers do not choose what cable box they receive from their provider and are given no information on the energy consumption of their box. This leads to a market failure and means that there is no incentive for companies to create more efficient devices.
What can you do? The best thing to do it to ditch your cable box for a streaming device such as apple tv or Roku. These devices use significantly less electricity, 2 watts instead of 32 to 50 watts!(source)
Video Game Consoles
Altogether, U.S. residents spend nearly 1 billion dollars a year paying for electricity consumed by video game consoles and this number is increasing. New research from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on video game consoles found that Play Station 4 and Xbox One use two to three times more energy than their previous models. In addition to the large electricity consumption when in use, 30% to 45% of the energy consumption of game consoles happens when the device is off and connected (standby power).
What can you do? Connect the console to a power strip that you turn off when not in use. This will cut all power to the system. You can also avoid any kind of “instant on” feature, all of which are very inefficient.
Read the complete articles:
We are now in prime summer vacation season! Before you joyously leave your home-life for vacation-life make sure to do these actions to ensure your home isn’t throwing away energy while you are gone.
- Up Your Temperature: Set your thermostat to higher temperature while you are away. Your furniture feels great at any temperature!
- Stop Phantom loads: Make sure any appliance with a remote or light is unplugged or the power strip turned off.
- Use an Energy Saving Light: If you would like a light to be on for safety, use a CFL or LED and put it on a timer so it isn’t on 24/7.
- Close the blinds: This will help to avoid unnecessary solar gain.
- Have a great, worry free vacation!
Up until recently clothes dryers have not been on the list of appliances that can be ENERGY STAR certified. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) clothes dryers account for about 4% of the total residential energy use in the US. These inefficient dryers cost the country about 4 million dollars a year in wasted energy use (total we pay about 9 billion a year to run clothes dryers). Thankfully with new energy saving technology dryers can now be ENERGY STAR certified! The earliest ENERGY STAR certified dryers will be available in the United States by mid-summer.
Not looking to invest in a new dryer? There are a few easy ways to conserve energy using your current dryer:
- Make sure to always clean out the lint trap
- Don’t over dry your clothes
- In the summer use a clothes line and avoid using your dryer all together!
When I ask people if they are open to having an energy assessment (also known as an audit) performed on their home I often get the response, “I already know my home would perform horribly!” Don’t let your home intimidate you. Get a home energy assessment to start controlling your homes energy use, instead of the other way around!
There are many factors that contribute to how your home uses, and wastes energy that can often only be explained and tested by professionals. A home energy assessment is the best way to understand these factors and to figure out your homes baseline energy use. An assessment will also help you understand where to focus your efforts toward energy efficiency in your home. Contact your local utility for home assessment options.
Nervous about getting a home energy assessment? This great infographic from Energy.gov will explain common steps taken when auditors come into your home.
In a typical Minnesota home about 30% of its energy use goes towards running electronics and appliances. When your appliances are needing costly repairs or just stop working, make sure to replace them with ENERGY STAR rated appliances to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
What is ENERGY STAR?
ENERGY STAR is a program through the Environmental Protection Agency that labels and promotes energy efficient products to help consumers save green house gas emissions. Products earn the ENERGY STAR label if they meet previously set efficiency standards. All products are third party tested to ensure correct labeling and savings! In summary: ENERGY STAR is a great way to know that your appliance will save you energy and money compared to your previous appliance!
When should I replace?
It varies depending on the appliance. In general, if repairs are costing you 100+ dollars and your appliance is 10+ years old, consider replacing it. For example, a new ENERGY STAR fridge can reduce your energy costs $50 to $100 a year, depending on your previous fridge model. Those yearly savings will lead to a fairly quick pay back period.
I played around with this ENERGY STAR appliance calculator (Excel) to give you a few concrete examples of how a new appliance can work for you.
New dishwasher in a Minnesota home:
- Additional purchase price of $10 dollars to get an ENERGY STAR rated certified washer
- Net lifetime cost savings of $55 over the 10 year life of the washer
- Annual CO2 savings of 57 lbs!
New washing machine in a Minnesota home:
- Additional purchase price of $50
- Annual water savings of 2,257 gallons
- Annual CO2 savings of 117 lbs
- Net lifetime cost savings of $187
Minnesota Department of Commerce Division of Energy Resources- Energy saving guide to appliances, electronics and lighting
Next week is Bike and Walk week in the Twin Cities! What better way to celebrate the first week of May than to ditch the car and bike to work!? There are many great events happening the entire week- take a look at the list here.
On Tuesday, May 6th it is Brake for Breakfast! Bike to work (or just for fun) and get FREE coffee and buy good eats from food trucks at the Greenway Building from 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. CEE will have a resource table as well, so stop by and say Hello!