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How Does Your Home Measure Up?

27 May 2014

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.

audit

Make your new appliance work for you!

19 May 2014

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.

Product LabelsWhat 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:Washing Machine

  • 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

Great resources!

Minnesota Department of Commerce Division of Energy Resources- Energy saving guide to appliances, electronics and lighting

ENERGY STAR rated products

Minnesota Energy Challenge major appliance action guide

Brake for Breakfast!

2 May 2014

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!

Breakforbreakfast

Conserving electricity means protecting our water!

29 April 2014

How Electricity Use Affects Water

The way we currently generate and use electricity negatively affects our earth in many ways, one of which has to do with water. I recently came across two important news stories on water issues and was inspired to write a blog on the effects electricity consumption has on water. The news stories, EPA delays rule on power plant cooling water and Finding water for fracking becomes’ critical issue’ in Ohio, highlight two of the issues associated with using water for electricity generation – the sheer amount of water drawn from sources and the effect on fish populations. I will summarize what I have learned about these issues and provide some ideas for things you can all do to improve the problem. (Hint: it has to do with energy conservation!)

Thermoelectric!

Most electricity generated in the US is generated from thermoelectric plants, which use a heat source (coal, natural gas or nuclear fission) to heat water to make steam to turn turbines. These plants then use water to cool the steam back into water, returning it to the source (most often a nearby river). Through this process the cooling water returns to the source at a higher temperature and containing pollutants that can cause fish kills and algea blooms.

“Nationwide, electricity from hydro-power plants consumes about 9 gallons of water per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced.” (GreenBuildingAdvisor)

 

Water Consumption and Withdrawals in the United States by Use

“Electricity production by coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants is the fastest-growing use of freshwater in the U.S., accounting for more than about ½ of all fresh, surface water withdrawals from rivers and lakes.” (River Network) 

Fracking!

Drilling a natural gas well takes about 4 to 5 million gallons of water, of which only 6-20% is recaptured to be reused.  Up to 80% of this water is taken from local rivers and lakes. Taking this much water from local water sources can cause a lot of stress on the system depending on the amount of rainfall.  For more details on the varying impacts and complexities on water use and fracking take a look at this article from the Energy Collective.

Source

What can you do?

“Using less electricity is the place to start if the goal is to conserve water resources.” (GreenBuildingAdvisor).

Just as conserving your electricity use directly results in lower carbon emissions, it also has a direct impact on our water consumption. Need more ideas in how you can do this in your own life? Start by picking a couple more Energy Challenge actions to do and stick to them.  Conserving electricity is the easiest and most direct way to help conserve and protect our water.

 

 

TOLBY at Kids’ Environmental Fair!

10 April 2014

This Saturday April 12th, TOLBY will be at the Kids’ Environmental Fair during the Plymouth Yard and Garden Expo. TOLBY will make a couple celebrity appearances and TOLBY’s table will feature activities such as an energy word find, and fun coloring pages! Kids will also be able to color their own light switch decals! Come visit us and get to know TOLBY!

Kids’ Environmental Fair- Free Event!

Saturday April 12th 9 AM-1 PM

Plymouth Creek Center, 14800 34th Ave N

Image

Mankato Sustainability Fair- This Saturday, April 5th!

2 April 2014

Hey Southern Minnesota, Emma Shriver, Energy Challenge Coordinator will be coming your way this Saturday April 5th to present and exhibit at the Mankato Sustainability Expo! Emma is giving a presentation on actions and investments you can do in your home to make it more efficient, and ways CEE can help you achieve them. Come stop by, say hello and sign up for the Challenge!

 

Mankato Sustainability Expo

Minnesota State University, Mankato- Centennial Student Union Ballroom

10 am – 4 pm

FREE!

 44a

Back to the Basics: How Electricity is Delivered

31 March 2014

Folks, I want to get back to the basics. To fully understand the impact of energy conservation it’s important to know about the journey electricity takes to get to our homes.

 

A flow diagram of power generation, transmission, and distribution from the power plant to residential houses.

Fun Facts About Electricity’s Journey Home

  1. Where your electricity is sourced varies. Your specific utility’s electricity may come from all its own power plants, or it may purchase a certain amount from other utilities, or independent power producers. Most likely your electricity is a mix of renewable and non renewable energy. Your utility decides what source of electricity to use based on the time of day, location, cost, and environmental regulation (source).
  2. Providing electricity in the right amount is a tricky task since electricity must be produced at the same time it is being used due to the difficulties surrounding electricity storage (Source).
  3. A major part of electricity’s journey is going through transformers to step down the electricity voltage to be used in your home. High voltage transmission lines are used when possible because they waste less energy than lower voltage lines. About 10 % of the electricity that leaves the power plant is lost in the transmission process (Source).
  4. Overall 66% of the energy used for electricity is lost in production (source). The Electricity flow and the substantial loss of energy in this process are shown in the figure below.

Next time you turn on the light or hear your fridge click on, try and remember the journey electricity takes to get to your home and the energy it takes to produce it. I hope this can inspire some energy saving action!

For a more in depth view of the basics take a look at the Innovation Exchange’s Power and Energy Primer blog series.

 

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