Last year we mentioned how much more efficient LED Christmas lights are. Let’s look at a few more ways to save energy this holiday season.
Yard Displays – Make sure you look for yard displays that are energy efficient. Many displays use LED’s so they are very efficient. Items with motors or standard light bulbs can consume a significant amount of energy.
Cooking – Use the smallest appliance, pan and burner while cooking to save energy. Microwave ovens require less than half the energy of a conventional oven. Slow cookers are a very efficient way to cook for a family.
Baking – Improve oven efficiency by keeping the oven doors closed as much as possible and baking several dishes at the same time and temperature.
Keeping Food Cool – Newer refrigerators are more energy-efficient than older ones. Refrigerators and freezers operate more efficiently when the doors are kept closed as much as possible. However, leaving the doors open for a longer period of time is more efficient than opening and closing them several times.
Storing the Feast – Keep extra beverages and holiday leftovers cold by storing them in a garage or on a porch, if temperatures permit.
Washing the Dishes – Dishwashers use less water than running the water while hand-washing dishes. However, if washing by hand is the only option, using a wash and rinse basin saves water and money compared with letting the water run.
Turn Off the Lights – Limit the time that holiday lights are on. Wait until dark to turn them on and turn them off before you go to bed. Or, put them on a timer.
Here are a few apps that you can download to help you become more energy efficient.
Ecobee Smart Thermostat
The Ecobee app acts as a smart thermostat wherever you are. The app helps you understand the energy demands of heating, cooling, and ventilation. The app can help you create temperature schedules and save at home, if you have its companion, Ecobee Smart Thermostat.
Nest Mobile allows you to change the temperature of your house from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, remotely. With your iRemote, set the temperature higher on your way home or lower the temperature if you decide to stay out longer than planned. The app works with the Nest Learning Thermostat.
Green Outlet allows you to figure out what appliances in your house use the most energy. After entering some personal data, the app will calculate your average monthly cost.
Using your energy consumption data, the smartphone app Kill-Ur-Watts will keep track of your energy use over time and develop strategies for energy reduction. Created for the Department of Energy’s “Apps for Energy” Challenge in 2012, it provides customizable graphs and lets you view your carbon footprint.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy heating your house accounts for 29% of all energy used in an American home. So, it makes sense to make sure you have the most energy efficient heating system in your home.
Before choosing a heating system, it is important that you make your home as energy efficient as possible. This means tighten up all air leaks, insulate your home to the max and have energy efficient windows. Most of these things you can fix in an existing house, but if you’re building a new home make sure these things are done properly. If you have your house energy efficient then your heating system can be downsized thus saving money on the heating equipment. Make sure you use a qualified heating contractor to size your equipment correctly.
Another way to lower your heating costs is to design your home so that you gain solar energy through your windows by facing your home towards the sun. This is what’s called passive solar heating. There are articles about passive solar heating on our website.
According to Home Power magazine (www.homepower.com), there are 6 types of heating systems. They are: ductless minisplit, modulating gas furnace, high-efficiency boilers, ground-source heat pump, pellet and electric thermal storage. To get details on these systems see the October/November 2013 issue of Home Power Magazine.
Last month we talked about tax credits that are available through the state and federal government. Most of the time articles like this emphasize the big tax credits like for solar panels or wind generators. Keep in mind that there are a lot of smaller tax credits available for smaller projects. Many of these tax credits only apply to an existing home and not for new construction.
There are 6 categories that qualify for tax credits only in existing homes. The tax credits vary from 10% of cost up to $500 or a specific amount from $50–$300.
The 6 categories are: biomass stoves, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), insulation, roofs that reflect a certain amount of solar radiation, water heaters, and windows and doors that are energy efficient.
You must make sure that you meet all the requirements in order to qualify for the tax credits.
Note that most of these credits expire at the end of 2013 and it’s unknown whether Congress will extend them. So, you should get moving on these.
For more detailed information on these tax credits go to the Energy Star website at http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index
As we have said before, we are not tax advisors so it is important that you consult with your tax professional in order to be sure these tax credits apply to you.
A couple of months ago we had an article on whether it was time to install solar panels. Well, if you decided to do that then this month’s article will help you save a bunch of tax dollars. There are many tax incentives for installing not only solar panels, but also wind generators, geothermal and many other energy efficiency practices.
These tax incentives change frequently so it’s a good idea to stay in touch with what your state is offering. There is a website called Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (http://www.dsireusa.org/) that keeps track of all the incentives offered by each state.
So, if you are thinking of taking on some energy savings tasks or if you have already done some, take a close look at what your state is offering for tax incentives. Some states offer very lucrative incentives.
Not only do states offer tax incentives but also the federal government probably offers the best tax incentives of any taxing entity. You can see what these incentives are on the same website. Down a little from the top of the website to the right of center is a link (View Federal Incentives) to the federal tax incentives. These are definitely worth checking out. You can get as much as a 30% tax credit on your federal income taxes. That means that those solar panels you installed actually cost you 30% less than the installer quoted you because you get a direct tax credit on your income taxes. Note that it is not a deduction, but a tax credit. This tax credit is scheduled to end on 12/31/2013 so you should get moving on this.
Now we are are not tax advisors so please carefully check out whether the tax incentives apply to you by consulting with your tax specialist.
Your clothes dryer can be a fire hazard!
According to the April eMonitor Tip from Power Dynamics, “it is estimated that poorly maintained or clogged dryer vents are the leading cause of appliance fires and cause nearly 17,000 dryer fires every year and over $194 million in property damage”.
It’s important that you clean your clothes dryer vents regularly. Here are some simple steps to take to clean those vents.
1. Unplug your dryer. If it is a gas dryer also turn off the gas line.
2. Move your dryer a couple of feet away from the wall. Be careful not to stretch any gas lines too far. Also, don’t stretch the vent too far.
3. Remove the vent from the back of your dryer.
4. Clean any lint you find in the vent line and the back of your dryer where the vent was connected. It may help to use a straightened hanger or other wire to clean out any lint you can’t reach with your hand or vacuum.
5. Once it is clean, reconnect the vent to the back of the dryer.
6. Go outside and find where the dryer vents to the outside.
7. Remove the cover to the vent.
8. Clean all lint you can find. Again you may want to use a straightened hanger or wire.
9. Once it is clean, replace the cover.
10. If you have a gas dryer, reconnect the gas line to the dryer.
11. Plug in the dryer.
12. Run your dryer for a few minutes to make sure everything is back in operating condition.
You should repeat this process at least twice a year and more often if you find a lot of lint build up.
Most dryers also have a lint screen that is easily accessed and cleaned. Make sure you clean that, too. In fact, you should clean the lint screen every time you use your dryer.
Remember cleaning your dryer vents will not only save you money because your dryer runs more efficiently, but more importantly it can help prevent a fire.
Now that summer is here in the Northern Hemisphere it’s time to make sure your air conditioner is in top shape to run as efficiently as possible. Below are some tips to make that happen.
1. Change or clean your air filter. This should be checked monthly for optimal performance. A dirty air filter makes your air conditioner work harder and thus consume more power, so keep it clean.
2. Clean your air ducts. This will let air move more freely throughout your home thus allowing you to keep your thermostat set at a higher setting. Also, dirty air ducts makes the air conditioner work harder just like a dirty filter does.
3. Check for leaks in your air ducts. If you find a leak, seal it with duct tape. Leaky ducts keep the cool air from reaching the living space making the air conditioner work harder and consume more energy.
4. Have your air conditioner checked by a professional HVAC mechanic to be sure your unit is running as efficiently as possible. This should be done every year.
5. Replace your air conditioner with a newer more energy efficient unit. You may be able to save as much as 30% of your energy use with an Energy Star rated unit.
6. It also helps to keep shades closed during the hot part of the day and to open windows and let in cool air in the evening.
1. Brake Less – This is my favorite. It means anticipate the traffic ahead and take your foot off of the gas pedal (saving fuel) and braking less, which also saves on replacing your brakes as often.
2. Don’t Drive as Fast – Driving at 62 MPH vs. 75 MPH saves 15% on your fuel bill.
3. Use Cruise Control – Driving at a steady speed improves your gas mileage.
4. Don’t Idle Your Car for Long Periods – If you’re going to sit any longer than a minute, shut your car off.
5. Service Your Car Regularly – Make sure you keep your air filters clean, use the proper oil, and change your oil regularly.
6. Clean Out Your Trunk – If your trunk or backseat is full of junk you just haven’t had time to clean out, then be aware you’re paying to haul it.
7. Keep Those Tires Pumped – Inflating your tires to the proper pressure (which can usually be found on a sticker, inside the driver’s door) can save you 3.3% on your fuel costs.
8. Combine Your Trips – This is one of the easiest ways to get dramatically more miles out of every gallon. Combine your trips! You’ll save big just by making three stops, rather than making 3 separate trips.
9. Use Your AC Sparingly - The colder you keep the inside of your car, the more fuel you consume.
10. Close Your Windows - Open windows create drag and reduce your fuel economy.
In case you haven’t noticed, the price of solar panels has decreased significantly in the last couple of years. I’m talking about photovoltaic panels that you put on your roof to generate electricity. They have gone down to the point that if you have been thinking about installing them, you might want to contact a local installer and see what he can do for you.
The most cost effective approach is to hook up your panels to an inverter to generate power for your home (inverters convert the DC power that panels generate and convert it to AC power that your appliances use) and then sell any excess back to your utility company. That way it’s like having your electric meter run backwards thus reducing your electric bill.
The idea is that when the sun is shining you run your electric appliances off of the sun so there is no consumption of utility electricity. Then, if the power you are producing is more than you need you actually get your electric company to buy power from you. Pretty nice, huh? So, check out solar panel pricing and see if it makes sense for you. Make sure you get pricing from more than one source and check out the installer’s references.
Here are a few ideas to save on your energy usage which also saves you money.
When buying new appliances be sure to look for Energy Star labeled models. They definitely save you money. For example, a refrigerator that is 10 or more years old uses twice as much energy as a new Energy Star model.
Install energy saver shower heads. Some people don’t like them because they usually have a lower flow of water, but if you buy a good unit the water pressure will be as good as a high flow shower head. Do a little research and you will be pleased with the water flow.
Set the thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer. Every degree you lower the thermostat in the winter or raise it in the winter will save 3 to 5% on your heating and cooling bill.
Set your water heater at 120 degrees if you don’t have a dishwasher. If you have a dishwasher check your user’s manual for the best setting. You normally would set the thermostat at 140 degrees but some dishwashers allow a lower setting.
Defrost your freezer before the buildup reaches ¼”.
I hope these tips help you save some energy and save you some money too.