Posts Tagged ‘utility bills’

Energy Efficient Candles?

December 23, 2013

In the rapid fire rush of holidays this time of year, we often forget to pay attention to some of the smaller details.  Like how dark it’s getting!  When the days are shorter we tend to turn on the lights sooner.  It’s no wonder a number of holidays this time of year are focused on lights!

candle

Since I’ve recently weathered an ice storm and power outages here in the Northeast, this thought is fresh in my mind:  one candle may produce tens or a maybe hundreds of Btu’s of energy depending on its size and wax make up.  But what does this little light and the few Btu’s produced mean?

An average household in the U.S. uses 90 million Btu’s for lighting, heating and cooling.  During this time of year a lot of this is lighting!  Think of all those tens or hundreds of Btu’s you use in your home no matter what the “candle” really is!

While I’m not sure there is a more energy efficient candle, (makes me think of a more efficient Flintstone’s car), we can change light bulbs and strings of lights that offer safety and savings all in one.  This is a festive time of year, turn on the lights, keep yourself warm and give yourself the gift of energy efficient “candles” whatever they may really be.

Happy Holidays from all of us at GreenHomes America!

Jason

Image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Einzelne_Kerze.JPG

Home Energy Audits: Worth the cost?

May 21, 2012

Recently Fox News had an interesting piece on energy audits.  It asks an excellent question; are they worth the cost?  As homeowners we can identify some issues in our homes, but it often takes and expert to pull it all together, and catch some of the bigger issues affecting our utility bills.

The article points out that not all auditors are created equal.  It mentions that blower door tests, Infrared imaging, as well as duct testing, are important for and auditor to perform.  And we agree.  In fact, we spend numerous hours training individuals to use the equipment, as well as getting them certified with the Building Performance Institute (BPI).  BPI’s focus is not on just energy efficiency, but also health and safety, and that in my mind is more important that just saving money.

It is important that our advisors have ongoing training and support, because homes—and the building science behind them—are complicated.   If I relate this to the medical profession, would you want an intern performing surgery while figuring it out on their own? Or, would you rather have an experienced doctor teaching the intern?

One thing not pointed out in the article is that saving energy is only part of it.  Don’t forget comfort, the reason we heat and cool our homes in the first place.  Acting on the recommendations in an energy audit can make our homes a more comfortable place.

Is it worth the cost?  If you take action, absolutely!  An audit isn’t worth anything if you don’t fix the problems, which is why it is so important to identify them—and provide cost-conscious improvements—making your home more energy efficient, healthy and comfortable.  You can learn more in our learning center.

Thanks,

Jason

What’s all the hubbub about the “green button”?

January 20, 2012

White House PGE announce the Green ButtonThe White House announced that PG&E, and San Diego Gas & Electric have launched the “green button”, an online tool that allows customers to download their own energy data.

[Watch California utilities PG&E, and San Diego Gas & Electric in the video of the Green Button launch.]

That is certainly good news.  We’ve long used a good look an utility bill history and energy usage to help figure out what going on in a home.  Something that makes it easier for a homeowner to track down that history is a good thing.  And we look forward to a host of third-party aps that can help consumers save energy and money.

But from the hoopla, you’d think our energy woes are over.

Not so fast.  Access to household energy use data is really important.  And Facebook aps might be fun.  But when it’s 105 degrees out and you have a poorly insulated house, with south- and west-facing glass, and an old air-conditioner, are you going to be able to stay comfortable without paying a lot of money to the utilities?  No.  Good information helps, but it doesn’t change physics.  To make your home more comfortable and not break the bank with utility bills, you’ve got to make actual improvements!

And the fundamentals still apply.  You need good insulation and air-sealing, tight duct work, efficient heating and cooling equipment, efficient lighting.  And you also need to know if your water heater, furnace, or any other combustion appliance in your home is operating safely and efficiently.  The green button won’t don’t that for you.

Energy Upgrade CaliforniaFortunately, for California residents, the statewide Energy Upgrade California (EUC) program can provide up to $4,000 in rebates to help make smart improvements (some cities and counties are offering even more in matching rebates).  And certified contractors can give you access to these incentives. GreenHomes America partners have BPI-certified staff, and can provide access to the EUC incentives.

The best way to find out what you might qualify for is to have a real home energy audit conducted by a participating contractor—and then get the rebate by having the contractor make the improvements.  You can contact participating experts in the following areas to learn more:

So bring the green button on.  Check it out.  Easier access to utility information is great (after all, we’re paying the bills, aren’t we—shouldn’t we be able to get the information?)  Kudos to PG&E and SDGE for stepping up to lead the nation with this.  The rest of the country?  Well, a handful of additional uttilies have said they’re interested, so stay tuned.  And if GreenHomes has a location near you, we’ll help you find applicable rebates, incentives, and loans.

But if you want a more comfortable, healthier, and more energy-efficiency home, data alone won’t do it.  A good home assessment followed by the right, professionally installed, measures, will.

Cheers,
Mike

Don’t wait for Congress. Start SAVE-ing now.

November 8, 2011

Earlier this year, we featured a post from Laura Stukel on the total cost of home ownership.  Historically in the mortgage industry, this has included—or I should say been limited to—“PITI”, Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance.  Laura wisely argues that misses several costs, including the non-trivial cost of utilities.  While the average homeowner may pay $2,000 in utility costs, some people pay 2-3 times that amount, and those electric, gas, or oil bills can take a huge chunk out of the family budget.

As Consumer Reports highlighted yesterday, a new bill introduced in the Senate would change the underwriting and appraisal guidelines used by the mortgage industry to add to PITI the cost of heating and cooling a home.  (Maybe we’ll call it PITIU?).  This would help prospective buyers avoid budget-busting homes where they’ve get into trouble and have to choose between mortgage, utilities, or food on the table.  It would also reward more efficient homes.

Of course, readers here know that you don’t have to wait for an act of Congress to more your home more comfortable and energy efficient.  You can start today with a good energy audit, make the improvements that make sense for you, and start SAVE-ing right now.  Go figure!

Cheers,
Mike

Set-top boxes are the new hog

June 26, 2011

Once upon a time, outside of heating, cooling, and water heating, the refrigerator was the biggest energy consumer in the home.  That’s changing.  In part, this is because ratcheting standards and programs like ENERGY STAR have led to more and more efficient appliances.  However, it’s changing in part because we’re introducing more and more electrical loads into the home.

An article in today’s NY Times points out:

One high-definition DVR and one high-definition cable box use an average of 446 kilowatt hours a year, about 10 percent more than a 21-cubic-foot energy-efficient refrigerator, a recent study found.

These set-top boxes run full-tilt, 24/7, even when they’re not needed, or it you turn them “off”.  (Is “off” really “off” if it still draws about the same power?)

If doesn’t have to been that way.  At little or NO cost, we could have much more efficient boxes, reducing power consumption of these and other phantom loads by 50% easily, or much more.  But we don’t ask, the cable companies assume (rightly?) that we don’t care.  We should.  Not only does this mean, depending on electric rates, we could be paying $50 or even $100 per year to keep these running, but collectively we raise the generation demands and stress out our overtaxed electric grid.  Guess who’s rates will go up as we have to add on new, more expensive power plants?  Yep, ours.  Guess who pays for the upgrades we’ll need to improve the grid?  Yep, we will, in the form of still higher rates.

I’m not suggesting we blow up our TV’s (although I do like that John Prine song, Spanish Pipedream).  But unless we all expect to win the lottery—rather unlikely, don’t you think?—we need to get much more serious about energy-efficiency, including in our homes.  Not just set-top boxes, but insulation, air-sealing, heating, cooling, other phantom loads, the works.  Reduce your energy use, save money even if rates go up, help keep rates down, and save even more.  It’s an economic no-brainer. 

Cheers,
Mike 

 

Ice Dams, Ice Dams, Ice Dams

February 10, 2011

Have I mentioned ice dams at all this year?  They’ve certainly been a huge problem throughout the Midwest and Northeast this year. Well, let’s hit it again. But rather than repeat myself, I’ll point to you some resources.

First, do check out the fact sheet and an FAQ on the causes of and solutions for icicles and ice dam problems on the GreenHomes America website. A lot of great information, there.

Of course, you can also search this blog for a lot of previous posts and pictures describing the problems of icicles and ice damming.

wendy bounds ice dam good morning americaLast week I mentioned a WSJ article on this by Wendy Bounds.  Well, she took that story to the airwaves in both radio appearances and on Good Morning America earlier this week.  I think there is too much emphasis on the temporary quick fix, but kudos to Ms. Bounds for pointing out that insulation and air-sealing are “the best cure”.  And how!   An ounce of prevention–and you save money and make your home more comfortable at the same time!

Thanks,
Mike

Thanks,
Mike

New homes “can” be energy efficient–but you don’t have to buy a new home to lower your bills!

October 26, 2010

According to a NY Times article, home builders can build more efficient homes than they used to.  Go figure! 

“Rapid advances in building technologies and appliances have made it easier to build more energy-efficient homes, but builders are only just beginning to promote the savings for consumers, said Liz Verna, the president-elect of the Home Builders Association of Connecticut, and developer of the Willows, a 65-house development in Wallingford.”

Of course, they could have been building more efficient homes for decades.  Now builders and developers would like you to buy a new home to replace your less efficient home.  Sure, you can do that if you’d like to.  However, “new” doesn’t automatically mean “energy-efficient”.  We fix a lot of newer homes.  And a good assessment of your current home, combined with quality energy and money savings improvements, can make your home perform as well as most newly built homes.  This is the “home performance” approach being touted by EPA, DOE, and many state and local programs.  And the approach that’s transformed so many of our customers homes.

You don’t have to build a new home to save money!

Thanks,
Mike


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