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Goodbye incandescent light bulbs!

With the new year comes some changes in energy legislation. First, some great news: 2012 starts the official phase-out of incandescent lightbulbs. The Energy Independence Act of 2007 created various efficiency standards, including the declaration for lightbulbs to be at least 25% more efficient in 5 years or they couldn’t be manufactured in the United States. Specifically, starting Jan. 1, 2012, traditional 100-watt incandescents would have to be more efficient or stop being manufactured. The same is stated for 75-watt bulbs by Jan. 1, 2013, and 60 and 40-watt bulbs by 2014. Manufacturers have since invested millions of dollars in more efficient lighting, including halogen, compact flourescent and light-emitting diodes (or LEDs), and will no longer produce traditional incandescent bulbs (Read our blog comparing CFLs and LEDs). You can still purchase incandescents though, and unfortunately reports say consumers will probably do so until they are forced to switch. However, it looks like we are on our way to being a more energy-efficient country!
There is some bad energy legislation news though: the federal tax credit for builders to build energy efficient homes and for homeowners to install energy efficient products expired on December 31, 2011. The energy industry is urging Congress to extend these residential tax credits, and you can help by speaking to your local representative! Extending these credits could give you money back on energy efficient upgrades like windows or Energy Star appliances for your home! You can CLICK HERE to see RESNET’s efforts to reinstate the credit, exactly what’s involved, and their guidance on how you can help.

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Changing Habits vs. Changing Homes

Residential buildings are responsible for using roughly 20 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This presents a huge opportunity for home energy savings, and figuring out the best way to get homeowners to save energy is an important area of research.

A UK organization called BioRegional is looking at opportunities for home energy savings by monitoring the energy use in three homes. One home will be revamped with everything from insulation to solar panels to cut its energy use by 80 percent, another home will be upgraded with standard cost-effective retrofits, such as adding insulation and a boiler replacement, and the final home will not be changed. Meanwhile, the homeowners in all three homes will be coached on how to change their day-to-day behaviors to save energy.

Changing Habits vs. Changing Homes

While the results won’t be final until 2013, my money is on the second house. Both changing habits and changing homes play an important role in energy savings, and both have their limits, realistically and financially. Here are some ways that habitual changes can be paired with energy efficiency retrofits:

Lighting and Electronics

Installing energy efficient lighting and electronic power strips in your home is a great low-cost way to cut back your energy use, but to achieve the full savings potential of these appliances, it’s very import to change your habits as well. For example, if you plug all of your appliances into a power strip but then forget to switch the strip off when you’re not using your appliances, it’s not being used effectively. And of course, turning off a light when you’re not in the room may seem obvious, but some people still forget to flip the switch.

ENERGY STAR Appliances

Replacing outdated refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, etc. with ENERGY STAR models can significantly lower your utility bills, but there are also tricks to maximizing your energy savings. For example, keeping your refrigerator and freezer well stocked, waiting to run the dishwasher until it’s full and washing your clothes with cold water are all ways to use your appliances more efficiently. You should also consider what time you’re operating these appliances because you will pay more to use them when power is at peak demand. (See Federal and State rebates for energy efficiency upgrades)

Heating and Cooling

There are a lot of energy efficiency upgrades that target heating and cooling costs, from adding insulation to repairing and air sealing ductwork, and there are behavioral changes that can be made in combination with these energy efficiency retrofits. While you should be comfortable in your home without wearing a snowsuit, it makes sense to dress for the season you’re in. Also, you can turn down the heat when your family is out of the house. One technological change that can assist with this behavioral change is a programmable thermostat. This allows you to pre-program a comfortable heating and cooling schedule, and you can set your home to heat back up just before you get home from work.

Your home and habits

A great way to figure out which energy efficiency upgrades and behavioral changes would make sense in your home is to start with an energy audit (ProEnergyConsultants.com).  The consultant will test your home and give you a prioritized list of recommendations on how you can make your home more efficient, and the consultant will also tell you which upgrades will be most cost effective.  Don’t rely on a contracting company, such as an insulation or window company for your energy audit.  They are NOT impartial auditors and don’t have your best interests in mind.  They’re there to sell you their product.  Make sure it’s an unbiased, independent 3rd party auditing company like Pro Energy Consultants (888-811-7773).

Save Energy.  Save Money.  Save the Environment.

Dubious ‘energy audit’ phone solicitations anger local residents offering “free” energy audits…

The calls are not from electric companies, even though that’s what solicitors say If you use electricity in your home — and who doesn’t? — there’s a telephone solicitor who has your number.

Where did they get it? Who knows? But the fact of the matter is, they are NOT calls from your local utility company and they are NOT whom they claim to be.

Who gives away a free energy audit unsolicited? Only contractors who have your pocketbook in mind. Did you know there are contractors who will sell what they CALL energy audits for as little as $99? Some will even do them for free. Just about everyone offering LOW COST energy audits does it as a loss leader or a lead source generator because they’re looking to sell you THEIR specific solution (i.e. insulation, windows, A/C equipment, etc…).

It’s like a free exam at a chiropractor. They give something away to get the opportunity to sell their core product. Pro Energy Consultants believes it is extremely important to be completely objective and extremely thorough. People spend more money upfront so they can have the peace of mind that they aren’t being sold some kind of repair. We actually have had many homeowners who have had a “free” audit and then ended up calling us.

The bottom line is, you get what you pay for. Even if it’s free…

100,000 miles: No longer a death sentence for your car!

It was once a huge red flag: When a car’s odometer would hit 100,000 miles, “it was almost a magic threshold that meant the car was probably worn out,” says Kay Wynter, who runs an auto service center in Fort Myers, Fla., with her husband, Terry.

But thanks to improvements in car design and maintenance, the milestone of 100,000 miles now means something very different.

Although some cars are ready for trade-in at that threshold, many others can travel twice as far without major repairs.

What allows one car to pass the 100,000-mile barrier with few repair bills, while another is ready for the junkyard? It’s all about preventive medicine.

“It’s just like when you get to be 70 and everyone tells you the same thing: Exercise, eat right, take care of yourself,” says Lauren Fix, author of “Lauren Fix’s Guide to Loving Your Car” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008).

Feeding your car the right things and taking it for regular checkups will make all the difference.

Open the Book

The key to keeping your car running smoothly is probably tucked at the bottom of your glove compartment, under the spare napkins and ketchup packets. It’s the owner’s manual, which most people ignore at their peril.

“There is a schedule in the manual that runs well over 100,000 miles,” says Fix, and it lists when to replace parts likely to be wearing out. The list will vary for different cars, so check yours and follow it.

Newer cars may have the maintenance schedule built into an internal computer. A blinking light or a beep will announce that it’s time to replace certain parts, says autoeducation.com founder Kevin Schappell.

“Things like the water pump and timing belt should be changed before you notice a problem,” Schappell says. Replacing them won’t be hugely expensive, but “if that belt breaks, it can cause internal damage to the engine, or if the water pump fails, you can overheat the engine and warp the cylinder head.”

That’s when things get expensive.

“Typically, around 100,000 or 120,000 miles there are some major preventative maintenance things that need to be done,” Schappell says, so it’s a great time to catch up if you’ve been lax until now.

Get Fluent about Fluids

The liquids that go into your car (gas, oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, etc.) are crucial to its survival. To extend the life of your car beyond 100,000 miles, these experts suggest frequent oil changes and fluid checks done at dealerships or full-service auto centers.

The staff at a quick-change lube shop, Fix says, isn’t likely to have extensive training. Often, “they don’t have experience,” she says, “so they’ll top off long-life fluid with non-long-life or they’ll put power-steering fluid where the brake fluid ought to be.”

These mistakes cause damage, but the car owner doesn’t realize it until well after the discount oil-change was done.

In choosing oil, Fix advises buying full synthetics. They “actually will lube the engine better. It’s designed for longer life. There are less emissions, so it’s greener. There’s slightly better fuel economy and better performance,” she says. “There are no negatives except it costs a little more.”

Whichever oil you choose, Schappell says, be consistent over time. That way you won’t mix synthetics and blends, which can cause problems.

Gas also matters: Different cars benefit from different types, so check your manual. “For a Honda which runs really hot because of the compression, if it says run premium, then run premium,” Fix says. “But if it says there’s no benefit from premium gas,” you don’t need it.

Find the Right Shop

“Do your research,” says Terry Wynter, and choose the best people to extend the life of your car. Ask friends and neighbors, and search online for reviews of repair shops.

Once you’ve chosen one, get to know the staff and ask questions. “Consumers are smarter now than ever before” about their cars, Wynter says, but many still are uncomfortable asking for details about work that needs to be done.

Sticking with your car’s dealer can be a safe choice, because the staff will be trained to work on your car. But over the life of a high-mileage car, regular maintenance at a dealership can get pricey.

“Rates at an independent shop may be about $40 to $50 an hour,” Schappell says, “but you’re paying probably $60 to $90 an hour at a dealer.”

The cost of repairs can vary widely depending on the brand of car. Parts for some vehicles, including exotic cars and some German models, can be hard to get, driving up their cost. That can be a reason to trade in a car just before the 100,000-mile threshold.

At 100,000 miles, Fix says, “it is out of warranty and you’ve got to consider that.”

When you do replace parts, there are ways to save money: “A quick oil-change place will charge you $50 for an $18 air filter,” she says, because you’re mainly paying for labor.

But an auto-parts store will charge you only the $18 price tag, she says, and “you can buy it and say, I don’t know how to put this on. They’ll do it as a courtesy.”

The Type of Miles Matter

It may seem surprising, but highway driving puts less stress on a car that tooling around locally. It requires less quick braking and acceleration, and moisture under the hood has a chance to evaporate.

“Cars that do a lot of short trips will require exhaust work a lot sooner than car that travels on the highway a lot,” Schappell says.

Fix agrees: With local driving, “if you sit in rush hour traffic, tow a trailer, idle outside a school, drive on dusty roads, that’s considered severe duty.”

Local driving in colder climates can also cause buildup of ice and snow under the car, which may contain corrosive chemicals. Fix suggests hosing it off on slightly warmer days. She also suggests waxing your car regularly.

Sound like a lot of work to keep a car zooming along past 100,000 miles?

“It’s your second most expensive investment. You want to take care of it,” says Fix.

“With your home, something needs fixing and you get on it,” she says. “With your car, especially one with a lot of miles you have to get on it right away too.”

These small investments will add years to the life of your car.

Efficiency Advisor for 2010!

Heating Your Home Efficiently

Regardless of what the weather brings this winter, heating your home efficiently is probably something on your mind. Keeping your home a comfortable temperature when the weather turns bad doesn’t have to be a financial drain. Here are some places to start:

Stopping Air Leaks

The first step to making your home more heat efficient is to identify air leaks. Common air leak sources such as recessed lights, attic entrances, doorframes, window frames, ducts (which we’ll cover next) and electrical outlets can be a big drain of heat and money. You can check for air leaks yourself by walking through your home with a lit incense stick (horizontal smoke indicates a leak), or you can hire a technician for a more thorough inspection. Simple fixes like sealing around outlets and switches, caulking gaps in the framing, and plugging gaps surrounding pipes will typically result in noticeable savings.

Duct Problems

One of the most important systems in your home may be quietly wasting your energy dollars. Often overlooked, typical duct systems lose 25-40% of the heating or cooling energy put out by the central furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner. Common duct system problems include:

  • Leaky joints or visible holes in the duct surface
  • Disconnected ducts that have fallen away from each other
  • Inadequate or poorly finished duct work
  • Un-insulated or poorly insulated ducts in attics and crawlspaces

Most duct repairs should be made by or with the help of a trained professional, especially those that will take place in unconditioned spaces. A qualified pro can also help you more accurately assess the duct problems that you have. If you decide to make minor duct repairs on your own, keep in mind that duct tape is usually only intended as a temporary fix. Silicone caulking or cement with mastic are better sealing options. Improving your duct system efficiency can cut your annual utility bills by as much as $300, and will improve the overall air quality in your home.

Keep your Home Insulated

Properly insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut down on your energy loss. Improving the insulation in your home can cut your heating and cooling costs by as much as 30%, and will create a more uniform, comfortable temperature in your home. Better insulation will also help decrease outdoor noise. Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if they meet recommended standards for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values: the higher the R-value, the less transfer of heat through the material. Typically the easiest and most cost-effective way to improve your home’s insulation is to add insulation to your attic.

Fireplace Issues

Despite their undeniable aesthetic appeal, fireplaces are not desirable in terms of energy efficiency. Only about ten percent of the wood’s energy is transferred to the room as heat, the rest escapes up the chimney. When in use, the fireplace also pulls cold air into your home through cracks and leaks, and when not in use the brick and stone mass of most fireplaces readily conducts heat from your home to the outside. To minimize energy waste from the fireplace in your home, make sure the damper or flue is shut tightly when the fireplace is not in use. Consider the benefits of things like tempered glass doors, fireplace inserts that seal dormant openings, and heat exchangers that recover some of the energy that would otherwise be lost.

Thermostat Solutions

That little box on the wall can be a tool for big energy savings. You can save up to 3 percent for every one degree that you lower the temperature in your home over a 24-hour period in winter. You can also save up to 10% annually in your heating and cooling bills by adjusting your thermostat down 10% to 15% for an 8-hour period each day. Turning the heat down while you sleep or while you’re away at work is a simple and logical energy efficiency solution. If the prospect of waking up to a chilly house doesn’t excite you, buy a programmable thermostat. They are inexpensive and adjust the temperature in your home based on the schedules you determine.

Ceiling Fans

While most people think if ceiling fans as a cooling solution, they can also help maintain a warm temperature in your home during winter. Running a ceiling fan in reverse circulates rising warm air back down to living areas. Consider ceiling fans for your home, particularly if you have rooms with high ceilings that seem to stay colder. Ceiling fans vary in price depending on things like material and size, but many are inexpensive and easy to operate.

Call Go Green Home Efficiency TODAY to schedule your energy audit and see where you can start saving in your home!!!  877-372-1199 or http://www.atticefficiency.com

Another satisfied and educated customer…

This is what I love to hear!

So we just did a lot of stuff on our house with regards to energy savings.  I told the folks we used that I would pass their names on as they did an excellent job for a fair price (and we shopped).  We had 3 energy audits done so I was pretty sure about what was needed at the end of all of the interviews, ladder climbing, etc.

We chose Go Green (www.atticefficiency.com).  A guy named Timm came out and we went through each area, the problem ones we knew about and the suspected problem ones.  We ended up changing all of our lights (canned housing) and light bulbs, weatherizing inside, installing heatblock spray radiant barrier plus insulation on all vertical/internal attic walls, and R49 blown in insulation for the rest of the attic, increased attic soffett sizes, weather stripped all external doors and light switches/wall outlets leading to the outside, put in attic tents, sealed vents, sealed leaky ducts (most was done by our A/C contractor but there are always some spots you can’t see or get to without doing further testing).

Our attic fans were ok so we left those alone.  They verified everything with a blower door test before, during and after to insure the fixes were ample.  The house is much more comfortable now and our changes apply for both Federal and City of Denton DME rebate/tax credit programs.  Now we just have to renegotiate our KWH rate with our current energy provider to max out our savings.  Our initial blower door tests showed we lost enough air to leave 2 or 3 windows open ½ way all summer (something to that effect anyway!)

Anyway, I said I would share the name of the company and so here you go!  We would definitely recommend them.  They were very thorough (I was too, it helped to be an educated consumer).  They had a pre-established price sheet so nothing was hidden or rolled into a fee like the other guys.  And since they don’t sell A/C systems, they didn’t try to gear us toward A/C work (we had that covered) like some of the other auditors did.

Tell them you want to talk to Timm if you can.  1-877-372-1199.   We are hoping that it will be a nice payoff the rest of the summer and through the winter.   They cover pretty much all things energy (except windows I think).  Their website is very informative.

So there you have it!  if you are interested in adding efficiency stuff, please tell them we sent you as we promised.  Our house is definitely more comfortable.  We just got our KWH rate lowered as well so we will have to figure out our overall savings but we feel it was much needed.

We also have a really great A/C company we have worked with for several years.  They just installed a 14 SEER unit with variable speed furnace.  We call them for everything.  (Air Force Heating and Air. (www.airforcem.com) The owner is Ron Strelke and we have put a lot of trust in him and his team).   We have recommended Ron’s team to friends over the years.  He works all over town.  A really great bunch of guys (and gals).

Thanks for listening!

Jim and Dorothy Meyer
Denton, Tx

Home Energy Audits – Why you need one…

Home Energy Audits

The United States is currently the largest single consumer of energy. That’s Right! The result is that the average homeowner now spends about $1,900 per year on energy. Continuous heating and air conditioning consumption account for half of home energy costs. With this consumption comes a tremendous amount of wasted energy. Our wasteful use of energy contributes to air pollution problems such as low-level ozone, smog, and global warming. The average family’s carbon footprint is over 11,200 pounds of pollutants, which go directly into the atmosphere each year.

The most direct and inexpensive route for home owners to reduce wasted energy in their homes is to have an Energy Audit. The primary purpose of a home energy audit is to evaluate the homes energy consumption and make recommendations to eliminate wasted energy and lower monthly energy costs. The following diagram show areas in the home that an energy audit evaluates:

Increasingly in the last year, energy audits have exploded as the demand to lower increasingly expensive energy costs and move towards a sustainable future have made energy audits greatly important. In addition, there is now a very large number of tax credits from cities and the federal government which are enabling homeowners to affordably update their homes and reduce their monthly energy costs.

In an effort to help home owners reduce areas in their homes that are wasting energy, Go Green Home Efficiency created a “General Home Energy Audit” which focuses on lighting changes, thermostat modification, and water usage as these are the easiest areas for homeowners to upgrade and provide the fastest return on their energy efficiency spending. GGHE’s Home Energy audits include a written report that estimates energy savings the homeowner may realize when simple changes to electricity, water, and natural gas are completed. The accuracy of the energy estimates are greatly improved when the homeowner’s billing history is available showing the quantities of energy resources used each month.

Home Owners Need Help To Reduce Wasted Energy

The majority of people are interested in increasing their home, condo, townhouse, or apartment’s energy efficiency, but lack understanding of how energy works and aren’t entirely clear on which home improvement projects yield the largest energy-saving benefits. Here is some of the critical energy efficiency information you will be able to help them discover:

The average home owner’s energy usage is from attempting to heat leaking homes. Their combined unused electronics left plugged in account for $4 Billion a year in wasted energy. Here is a closer look at where the average residence is using energy every month

What Energy Audits Help Homeowners Do To Reduce Wasted Energy

When a home owner gets an energy audit in their residence, they are immediately aware of areas in their home that are wasting energy. They are also educated on how to reduce, modify, or replace trouble areas. Here is a short list of how an energy audit helps homeowners.

» How To Read Energy Bills – You can finally show home owners how to understand what they are being charged for and educate them on how to see their cost savings in action every month as they start living more energy efficiently.

» Indoor & Outdoor Lighting – They understand bulb wattage and finally understand the costs and benefits associated with changing out their old light bulbs for the new “curly” CFL light bulbs.

» Vampire Power – They learn how their home electronics & major appliances are robbing them of energy and how it adds up on their bill every month.

» Water Conservation – They understand the benefits of “Low Flow” shower heads, reducing their water heater temperature and lots more.

» Heating & Cooling System Savings – They understand what changes can easily be made and how to calculate payback to determine when a major upgrade will start saving them money.

So call Go Green Home Efficiency TODAY to schedule a home energy audit and start saving money and saving the planet at the same time!  1-877-372-1199