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…

Schedule your home energy audit NOW. Avoid the CRUNCH…

At the risk of raining on anyone’s parade, it’s the cold hard truth of the world that, #1 – the Dallas Cowboys are at home, WATCHING the NFL postseason, and #2 – despite the Canadian-like winter we’ve been experiencing in North Texas, summer heat is right around the corner.

The time is fast approaching when the kids will be out of school, the leaves will be turning green, and the summer heat will once again begin to permeate our homes’ imperfect thermal boundaries. With that in mind, we thought it would be an appropriate time to remind our loyal readers that a home energy audit by Pro Energy Consultants of Texas can pinpoint the deficiencies in your home, so you can start working toward more perfect thermal barriers and air barriers with low-cost, high-impact upgrades like air sealing and improved insulation. Last year Energy Circle’s CTO, Tom Harrison, saved $1,000 on his home’s heating bills by making these simple upgrades, starting with a home energy audit to pinpoint what needed work, and costing, in total, a meager $1,175. Repeat: he invested $1,175 once, saved $1,000 in the first year alone, and will continue to save $1,000 each year (barring a hiccup in energy prices, in which case he’ll save more), forever. (We don’t promise this for everyone, but Tom’s home run isn’t that anomalous.) Now, it might still seem early to start thinking about ways to reduce your cooling costs, and that’s fine, but we’d recommend, if you think you might be interested in an energy audit later this year, at least contacting us for a free phone consult, and maybe setting aside a date some time in the near future for us to come in and assess the performance of your home.

A few reasons why:

1) You might be able to score a deal by scheduling your audit ahead of time.
2) April marks the start of the peak season for energy auditors and contractors. We know some whose dance cards are full already.
3) Getting your audit done sooner rather than later will allow you plenty of time to make the upgrades necessary to reduce your cooling costs this summer and heating costs next winter.
4) You know you’re gonna be busy this fall. Admit it. If you’re unsure where to start, take a look at our website: www.proenergyconsultants.com

On a final note, I do apologize for the home assessment talk during the NFL postseason. Blame it on the Dallas Cowboys.

Categories: Uncategorized

How much do you know about alternative fuels?

Straight talk on hybrids, electric cars, biodiesel, hydrogen and beyond.

tesla roadster

The Tesla Roadster can travel more than 200 miles on a charge.

The Firesign Theatre once said that “everything you know is wrong,” which is a bit of an exaggeration, but there are a lot of things that get us confused, and alternative fuels are one of them. A new survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Mercedes-Benz USA finds that “Americans don’t have the basic knowledge to make informed decisions about alternative fuel options and as such, many are holding off on purchasing an alternative fuel vehicle.”

We’re confused, and that makes us afraid to act. The survey said that almost one in two (48%) of adults is interested in buying a green car, but doesn’t know which type to get. (The survey lists the choices as hybrid, pure electric, hydrogen electric and diesel/biodiesel, but take the hydrogen choice off there, because those cars won’t be available until 2015.) Only one in three (35%) said they had any idea which of these choices is best suited for city, suburban or highway driving.

Everybody has an opinion about the Tea Party, the difference between good and bad cholesterol and who’s responsible for the Gulf oil spill, but the alternative fuel fleet is a mystery to 71% of us. Only one in four says they have much knowledge about these cars and trucks. And it’s not surprising that men (41%) are more likely to claim deep insight into the subject than women (18%). But men just think they know more.

Since only three percent of the people polled actually own an alternative-fuel vehicle, it really does seem like a little education will go a long way. Hence, this Q&A:

Can any diesel car run on salad oil?

Any diesel car can run biodiesel, which is a blend with standard diesel. But to run pure “grease,” diesel cars need to be modified with a kit that includes a heater to warm the oil, which turns the consistency of mayonnaise when it gets cold. Conversions are also done by companies like Greasecar.

Do fuel cells run on hydrogen gas or liquid hydrogen?

They run on hydrogen gas, but they can also carry tanks of liquid hydrogen (which must be kept cryogenically cold at -400 degrees Fahrenheit) which converts to a gas before it enters the fuel cell.

How do plug-in hybrids work?

Standard hybrids like the Toyota Prius can run for only a short distance, a mile at most, on their batteries. But plug-in hybrids, some of which are due to be produced soon, add a larger battery pack and the ability to recharge that pack from the wall. That gives them an all-electric range of 20 to 50 miles, and very high “mpge,” which is miles per gallon equivalent. The Fisker Karma, due at the end of the year, is a plug-in hybrid, and Ford, General Motors and Toyota are also working on them.

What is likely to be my range in a battery car? Should I worry about this, a condition known as “range anxiety”?

Battery EVs generally have a range of 100 miles, though there are exceptions: The Tesla Roadster can travel more than 200 miles between charges, and its forthcoming Model S will include a 300-mile option. EV enthusiasts will tell you most people’s commutes are 40 miles or less round trip, so they shouldn’t worry about running out of charge. But what about that trip to grandma’s house in the next state? That’s why, for many, battery EVs will be a second car. And most of the regions targeted for early EV sales are also getting public chargers that will be there in an emergency.

Will battery EVs (and hydrogen cars, for that matter) be expensive?

In a word, yes, but the pain will be eased somewhat with federal, state and local subsidies. Buyers of battery EVs will be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and a second one of up to $2,000 to install a home 220-volt charger. States are also offering rebates: $5,000 in California, for instance, and $2,500 in Tennessee. Other states with subsidies are Georgia, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Maryland and South Carolina. Expect battery cars to cost $30,000 (the Nissan Leaf is $32,780, and the Coda sedan $44,900). The main reason they’re expensive is the battery packs, which run from $10,000 to $30,000, depending on size. Going forward, we may find we opt for a smaller battery pack and shorter range in exchange for a cheaper car.

How much did you know? Stay tuned for a Part II down the alt-fuel road…

Categories: Automotive Efficiency

5 things to know about energy rebates…

1. Federal appliance rebates are going fast …

The government’s Cash for Appliances program, which lets you score rebates for about $50 to $500 swapping energy guzzling appliances for more efficient models, has gotten lots of attention.//

But don’t count your greenbacks just yet. The incentives, which are administered through the states, are typically doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, and in many locales the money is already gone. Florida’s program, for example, closed just 36 hours after it opened. But some states, such as Michigan, still had plenty of cash in their coffers at the end of May, and other initiatives didn’t launch until June. To check the status of the program in your state, go to energysavers.gov/financial.

2. … But most states offer their own programs too

Even if you can no longer qualify for a Cash for Appliances rebate, you may still be able to get cash back from the more than 600 programs run by utilities and over 100 state programs that offer incentives for boosting your home’s energy efficiency, says Justin Barnes, policy analyst with the North Carolina Solar Center. In Oregon, for example, you can get a $75 rebate on an Energy Star washer, and $30 for recycling an old fridge. See dsireusa.org for info on your area.

3. And you may have two more chances to get federal funds

Through the end of 2010, you can claim a $1,500 federal tax credit for up to 30% of the cost of many energy-related improvements.

There’s also the so-called Cash for Caulkers bill, which was passed by the House in May and could soon become law. It would give homeowners hefty rebates on a variety of energy saving projects.

Even if you take the tax credit this year, you may still qualify for a Cash for Caulkers rebate, says Ronnie Kweller, a spokesperson for the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit group.

4. Before you grab a rebate, do the math

Getting cash back might help you justify the purchase of, say, that snazzy new stainless-steel fridge you’ve been eyeing. But other projects may give you greater savings. “If your home has bad insulation, a super efficient heating system won’t do much,” says Timothy Hamm , partner with Go Green Home Efficiency, a home efficiency consulting firm.

//

Not sure where your money is best spent? A comprehensive home energy audit, which will pinpoint your leaks, runs about $400. But some states or utilities conduct basic audits for free or will reimburse some of that cost, although utility company audits are NOT as comprehensive as a 3rd party energy auditing company.

5. Don’t forget that small projects can still pay big

There are plenty of ways to save energy without spending a lot. Every degree you go up or down on your thermostat will knock 2% off your annual heating and cooling costs; replacing your five most frequently used bulbs with compact fluorescents can lop $70 a year off your energy bill, says Elizabeth Hernandez, a senior project manager with Denton Municipal Utilities.

Finally, ditching that old fridge you’ve relegated to the garage for storing extra drinks will save about $200 or more a year. You may find you can justify an appliance upgrade after all — rebate or not.

Reprinted with permission from the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Home Energy Audit: Who Needs One?

Almost all homes could be more energy efficient and, as a general rule, the older the home, the less efficient it is. So, who will benefit the most from a residential energy audit?

  • Homeowners with homes 10 years old or older.
  • Homeowners who have higher utility bills than their neighbors.
  • Homeowners who experience uneven heating and cooling (temperatures from room to room vary noticeably)
  • Homeowners who know their homes are losing air (and energy) but can’t definitively identify where or how.

Homeowners aren’t the only ones who will benefit from a residential energy audit. Homebuyers can find energy audits highly valuable for a number of reasons.

  • Traditional home inspections do not include inspections of how efficiently the home uses energy.
  • Because of seasonal variances, home buyers who request recent utility bills often don’t see the total picture.
  • Energy Audit reports can be used in negotiations.
  • Some mortgage lenders reward homes that have had energy audits.

Ultimately, any homeowner who is feeling the sting of rising utility bills should consider an energy audit.

Call Go Green today or log on at http://www.TheAtticDoctors.com

877-372-1199

Categories: Uncategorized

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.

What Should I Look for in a Window Cleaning Service? (via Fish Window Cleaning Denton)

Since many of our solar screen customers regret NOT having their windows cleaned BEFORE we install our screens, I thought I’d reblog this post from our friends at Fish Window Cleaning in Denton. They offer discounts for customers of Go Green who purchase solar screens, and we even coordinate your cleaning with them so your windows sparkle like never before just before our install. If you live in the Denton, Tx area, give Eric and the guys a call.

What Should I Look for in a Window Cleaning Service? If you are attempting to find a window cleaning service there are several things you should look for: 1. Does the company appear professional? If the company or representative appears to be less than professional more than likely this is an accurate reflection on the company and the way they do business. Do they have a professional web site? Professional business cards? A brochure? A professional-looking estimate? We have been around for over 30 … Read More

via Fish Window Cleaning Denton

Categories: Uncategorized