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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

Reduce Summer Blackouts – Sign up for A/C Load Control

11 July 2014

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, 2asave 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.



Cable and Video Games are Taking Over Your Electric Bill

26 June 2014

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.

Cable Boxes

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.

DSte top box

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).

Video games

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:

The Latest-Generation Video Game Consoles: How Much Energy Do They Waste When You’re Not Playing?– NRDC

Cable TV boxes become 2nd biggest energy users in many homes– LA Times

Summer Vacation Checklist!

19 June 2014

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.

5a24aflip the switch

  • 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!