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Warning: Be Weary of the Energy Star Ratings You See

What kind of feeling do you get when you see the Energy Star label on the appliance you’re about to purchase?

Maybe you don’t feel anything at all. Or, maybe you do. Maybe you get warmer, a little more comfortable that the appliance you’re about to buy will be light on energy costs. Plus, you know you’re doing the right thing in getting an energy-efficient appliance too.

However, many TV manufacturers may have found a method for duping the Energy Star system. We won’t name specific names in this post. But, we will show you what they do to get that label on there, even if their TVs don’t meet Energy Star standards.

The good news is that it’s not the DOE’s Energy Star that’s involved in the cheating.

What TV Manufacturers Did

The standard test for a TV’s energy efficiency involves a 10-minute video loop that replicates the way the average American watches TV. The DOE’s report on TV manufacturers does mention that the 10-minute video loop test includes a number of short scenes that doesn’t represent how TV viewing typically works.

That seems to incriminate the DOE and Energy Star to a certain extent. At the same time, the report also claims some TV manufacturers made software to thwart the test and give false positive results. Certain manufacturers’ TVs unexplainably dropped in their energy use during the test.

Ecos Research, a consulting agency for the National Resources Defense Council, created its own test loop that more accurately reflects how TV gets used by consumers. With the DOE’s test loop, energy use dropped by 58%. But, it dropped just 13% with the newly created one.

Though Well-Intended, Energy Star Has Its Flaws

Most Energy Star products deliver you the energy savings you believe you should get. The historical problem has been that many manufacturers certify their own numbers for Energy Star. Then Energy Star simply okays those numbers without actually checking their accuracy.

In the majority of cases, companies are 100% honest.

To test Energy Star, the Government Accountability office submitted 20 completely fake products for certification. 15 were approved. And one of the approvals was for a gasoline-powered alarm clock! Today, Energy Star now requires third-party certification by an EPA-recognized entity.

But now, as you’ve heard about on the news headlines in the case of TVs, the tests don’t necessarily replicate how consumers will use the products once they buy them. And manufacturers may be designing their products to thwart the tests, instead of for American consumers.

Should you trust Energy Star? For now, yes. But, you still need to keep a level of healthy skepticism.

How Much Should You Pay For LED Light Bulbs?

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Right now, LED light bulbs are at a price where it makes sense to buy them in some cases, but not in others. For example, if they don’t start saving you money for another 16 years, what sense does it really make to buy them?

After all, your kids could easily break them one or more times during that many years, and that puts an end to any savings you could have got.

So, let’s do some math together and see when it might make sense to buy LED light bulbs for all areas of your home, shall we?

  1. First, Prioritize

First, consider where the lights get turned on most in your home. Probably your living room, dining room, or kitchen. Maybe a bedroom or office. It really depends on your living arrangement.

Make a list of all the rooms in your home. You probably know which ones your family spends the most time in.

  1. LEDs May Need Different Dimmer Switches

How much of your current lighting uses dimming switches? While inexpensive ($20 each), the costs add up if you need to replace those for your LED light bulbs. Keep that in mind to add to your budget.

  1. Use These Numbers to Do Your Calculations

For your electricity cost, get the kWh from your electric bill. In this case, we’ll use 13.5¢. Now, make these assumptions:

Incandescent light bulbs cost 50 cents each and last 800 hours, using about 60 watts of power

CFLs cost $2 a piece and last 4,000 hours, but only use 15 watts to generate the same brightness

LEDs cost $20 each and last 25,000 hours, and use between 7-12 watts.

And here’s the total cost you’d get for 25,000 hours of on-time, according to Simple Family Finance:

  • Incandescent: $218.50 (32 bulbs at 50¢ each costs $16.00. 60 watts at 25,000 hours costs $202.50)
  • CFL: $64.63 (7 bulbs at $2.00 each equals $14. 15W for 25,000 hours equals $50.63)
  • LED: $53.75 This assumes a 10W LED, which equals a 60W incandescent. (1 bulb costs $20.00. 10W for 25,000 hours equals $33.75).

Some LEDs come with a 50,000-hour lifespan, which would cut their electric cost in half to about $16.75. That would make their total life cost $36.75.

Is it worth it? After all, the light could burn out. Your kids could break it. You might move. And you must have your bulbs on enough during your day to actually see the savings!

It looks like CFLs give you the best value. LEDs give you a little more, but you’ll have to decide if the risk of them breaking or failing is worth it.

How to Save Energy with the Right Roofing Material

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Do you need to replace your roof? If so, you might consider what’s called “cool metal roofing.” It can save you up to 40% on your annual energy costs, depending on your geography. And since we live in warm, sunny, and hot Texas, you have a good chance of saving just that much.

How Do Cool Metal Roofs Work?

Metal roofs actually reflect heat instead of trapping it. Most likely, your home has asphalt shingles, which absorb and trap heat. And of course, some of the heat warms up your home.

It’s good during a warm day in the winter. But since we don’t get intensely long and cold winters like they do up north, asphalt shingles make little sense down here. Cool metal roofs do absorb some heat, but then they re-emitt most of it back into the air so the heat doesn’t affect your home.

Cool Metal Roofs Have Many Benefits

In addition to saving 40% on your energy bills, cool metal roofs can reduce urban air temperatures by an additional 12 degrees. That saves you a lot of money over the course of our hot Texas summer.

You also get some indirect environmental benefits too. That’s because cool metal roofs are made of completely recycled materials, while asphalt shingles are not. And, they can be installed right on top of your asphalt shingles. So, you save space in landfills because nothing needs to be disposed.

Finally, cool metal roofs don’t require any maintenance. And, they look good once they’re installed too.

So, you get the best of everything you could possibly want:

  • A new roof that looks good
  • It recoups its costs fast
  • You start saving right away
  • No maintenance

When it comes to your roof, you simply can’t beat that. And, you can get cool metal roofs for commercial, residential, and industrial applications.

If you’re a business, you could save quite a significant amount of money that could be diverted towards higher priority business processes. Finally, whether you’re a homeowner or business owner, you’ll simply feel good because you’re doing the right thing.

Don’t feel any pressure though. We understand if the cost of a new roof doesn’t fit in your budget. But, if you’re going to install a new roof anyway, you might as well make it an energy-efficient one.

Does Your Utility Have an Energy Savings Program or Credits Available?

Compact Flourescent Light Bulb

Have you ever called your utility company to ask them about any savings programs or credits they have for you?

Many do.

But why? Why would they want to save you money? Don’t they need to make more money to stay in business and beat their competition?

And, isn’t this even more urgent here in Texas where you have lots of companies fighting for your business?

Yes, they do.

Why Utility Companies Encourage You To Reduce Your Electricity Usage

Now, they don’t help you do this for selfless reasons. It’s not because reducing your energy usage helps the environment.

The thinking is that you have 3 ways to make more money as an electric company:

  1. Raise your prices, which would only cause customers to leave or consider other electric companies, and often is legally not possible
  2. Improve the efficiency of the grid, which is extremely costly and sometimes politically contentious
  3. Hit energy reduction targets set by regulators so you can boost rates

Legally, electric companies have regulation governing them that forces them to promote ways to save energy to you. When they do this successfully and meet a certain goal, they can raise their rates.

So, it’s not necessarily a wonderful, selfless act that they offer you savings. However, it does help you. And when they do encourage you to save money, regardless of the method or actions they promote, they are offering a legitimate opportunity to save money and energy. It’s not a scam.

Examples of what some electric companies have done include sending a consultant out to your home, giving you points you can exchange for prizes for reducing your energy use, and offering a cash prize for bringing your electric use down a certain percentage.

What If Your Electric Company Doesn’t Have any Such Programs?

You can always encourage your electric company to create these programs, reminding them that it will help them make more money. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they will act.

But if you ask about it enough, and get other friends and family you know to do the same, you just might convince your electric company to take action. And if you do, it’s a big win-win situation for you and your electric company.

5 “Smart” Ways To Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Close up of woman's hand adjusting the thermostat

Smart devices are growing rapidly in popularity. In fact, all kinds of experts predict the “internet of things,” the fact that basically everything’s going to be connected to the web, to explode in popularity over the next 5-7 years.

How can you use “smart” devices in an affordable way to experience energy savings in your home? Check out the latest ideas below:

  1. Smart Learning Thermostats

Nest, ecobee, Allure, and Lockstate all make thermostats that learn your temperature settings and adjust them for you automatically. Since your heating and cooling makes up the biggest chunk of your energy bill, it makes sense to invest in one of these thermostats.

At a cost of $200 – $300, they’re an affordable investment that starts paying off fast.

  1. Home Energy Monitoring Systems

The Ted Pro Home is one of many systems that monitors your home’s energy usage in real-time. You simply hook it up to the main conductors inside your circuit breaker. The device then measures the electricity used over the power lines running to your home.

No need for wiring. No need to have sharp electricity skills.

In Ted Pro’s case, it has software that can store up to 10 years of data. You can also get custom email or text alerts regarding your electricity usage.

  1. Smart Irrigation System

Your smart home doesn’t just get managed inside. It gets managed outside too. A smart irrigation system like the GreenIQ Smart Hub can control your watering schedule, sprinklers, and outdoor lighting. You can even program it to monitor the nearest weather station so it responds to changing weather conditions on-the-fly.

If you love to water your yard, you can save up to 50% on your water bills with a smart irrigation system.

  1. Control Your Lighting with Insteon Hub

At minimum, you should have CFLs in your home. Ideally, you’ll have LEDs. In either case, if you add a dimmer switch and combine it with Insteon for automatic dimming, you’ll shave even more off your lighting costs. Lighting makes up one of the biggest costs of your home’s energy use, so it’s something to strongly consider addressing.

  1. Washer & Dryer

The next washer or dryer you get, consider making sure they’re “smart.” This isn’t necessarily standard issue for appliances yet, but it is available.

Finally, enjoy the savings you get from all your “smart” devices. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on them all right away. But, do consider the ones that can give you big savings, and gradually adding others as you can afford them.
It’s just another way smart consumers like you can save money and energy!

4 Benefits of Saving Energy (And Money) At Your Work

Modern office corridor

For this post, assume you’re an employee who works on-site. If you work from home, you simply need to follow the home-based energy savings tips you see so often on this blog.

You may think at first,”Why should I care about saving energy at work? What’s that going to do for me?”

That’s a great question to ask. And we’ve got some even better answers for you:

  1. You’ll Feel Good about Yourself

Whether you believe in global warming and potentially catastrophic climate change doesn’t matter. Opinions on the truth of that vary widely.

However, you can probably agree saving energy does reduce harm to the planet. So, put simply, it’s the right thing to do. When you use energy in the most efficient way possible at your work, and encourage others to do the same, you’ll feel good about yourself.

That’s something money can’t buy.

  1. Improve Workplace Morale

Most people can agree saving energy is a good thing. So, not only will you feel good about what you’re doing, but your whole workplace will too.

When everyone feels good about being at work, they do better quality work and have higher productivity levels. And, your workplace becomes more attractive to higher-quality candidates.

Any business appreciates benefits like those.

  1. Save Your Company Money

Your company will appreciate the extra money you save too. It may be much more than you realize because you’re used to dealing with your personal finances.

That money can then be used to grow your business in other ways. That’s something your senior management will like.

  1. Get an Advertising Chip for Your Prospects

For most companies, the fact that they’re “green” isn’t a primary concern in the prospect’s decision to buy. At the end of the day, the company needs to make money or save money.

At the same time, seeing that you’re environmentally friendly is a nice bonus. And, all other factors being equal, it could in some cases be the determining factor in whether your company gets chosen or not.

Saving Energy At Your Work? That’s a No-Brainer!

When it comes to saving energy at your workplace, it’s really an easy decision. There’s really no downside to it. And you start experiencing the benefits almost right away.

So, observe your workplace. Consider ways you could save energy. And get them in front of your boss.

Are You Saving Money Using This Little-Known Method?

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On this blog, it seems like we’ve covered every last way you can save energy and money. But no matter how thorough we are, you can always find more little ways to make both happen.

And here’s another one: an energy-efficient TV set-top box.

Last year alone, consumers saved $646 million and prevented the release of 3.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. And it all came from using energy-efficient TV set-top boxes.

Over the last 3 years, consumers have saved a total of $1.2 billion and avoided 6.5 million tons of carbon dioxide. The average TV set-top box reduced its energy 15.94%, while also increasing its functionality over the same time. Today’s DVR uses 36% less energy than the average one in 2012.

American innovation at its finest!

Do You Have a Modern TV Set-Top Box?

It’s so easy to ignore all the little things. But as you can see, once viewed at scale, the littlest of changes makes a huge impact. You could even further enhance your own energy savings by not having a TV set-top box or DVR altogether. You could simply rely on streaming services.

However, if you don’t have a new DVR, and you simply must have cable or satellite TV, make sure you have the most recent unit available. As you can see, technology changes fast, and cable and satellite companies are working together to improve the energy savings while also increasing functionality.

What Other Small Energy Savings Changes Do You Ignore?

Of course, energy savings don’t end with what kind of set-top box or DVR you have. There’s all sorts of small ways to save energy. Turning off the lights you don’t need. Installing LEDs for your exterior lights. Taking shorter showers.

You hear these tips all the time from different sources. Consider the overall impact you could make if a concerted effort was made by millions of Americans to do the same. You can’t control what others do. But, you can control what actions you take.

Give yourself a “mini-audit,” and see what you can start doing better today.

Top 5 Benefits of Energy Savings

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Have you ever thought about why you choose to save energy? Well, there’s the obvious benefits, like saving money and reducing the harm you do to the environment. Those are definitely good things.

However, when you choose to save energy, you actually experience many other benefits. And those can include:

  1. Feeling Good Because You’re Doing the Right Thing

Life is short, isn’t it? The good times come and go. So while you’re here, you might as well enjoy your time. When you do the right thing, you feel better about yourself and life in general. And saving energy certainly leads to those good feelings.

  1. You’re Giving the Economy a Huge Boost

Believe it or not, saving energy helps our economy a ton. According to data quoted by ACEEE, 830,000 American jobs depend on energy efficiency. In addition, they point out that consumers will use the money saved to spend somewhere else in our economy, which also leads to further job creation.

Who knows the true economic impact of that? No one to our knowledge. But you can bet it is significant.

  1. We Improve Our National Security

Consider the foreign countries where much of our oil comes from. Some of those countries have strong negative attitudes towards us, and others have terrorist groups who can’t wait to see the demise of our country.

Depending less on foreign oil means those countries have fewer financial resources to fund anti-American actions.

  1. Cities Improve their Accessibility

Think about cities, like Seattle and Chicago, with smartly integrated transportation. Bike paths, busses, trains, and subways make these cities easy for pedestrians to get around in without using their vehicles.

That’s a lot of energy they’re able to save as a result too.

  1. Businesses Can Gain Access to More Capital to Create Jobs

If you think about “economies of scale,” the larger the company’s building, the more opportunity they have to save energy and money. That saved money can then be diverted towards the benefit of the employees, or towards hiring additional workers to grow the company’s profits even further.

The number of benefits you, and everyone else, get from energy efficiency are too many to count. Keep them in mind so you stay motivated to use energy in the most efficient way possible.

57% of Your Energy Savings Depend on You

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Procedia Engineering published a Michigan State study which shows that technological advances in buildings and equipment account for 43% of energy savings. However, the other 57% depends on you.

In other words, your behavior determines most of your energy savings. Even if you have the most advanced and efficient appliances and home available, you can still throw much of it away.

What behaviors lead affect your energy efficiency?

Here are some:

  1. Setting Your AC to the Non-Ideal Temperature

Your air conditioning achieves peak efficiency at a certain temperature. Set it below that temperature, and you start to wipe out some of your energy savings.

This happens throughout the day and week dozens of times in small ways. Smart thermostats nearly eliminate all these errors so you stay highly efficient. They achieve a level of efficiency most people can’t.

Of course, you might care more about your comfort than efficiency and be willing to make a little bit of a sacrifice. That part of the decision’s up to you.

  1. Taking Too Long of Showers

Your water heater is the second biggest consumer of energy in your home besides your HVAC system. And that especially applies if you have one that uses electricity. So, any activity that involves using hot water is generally inefficient behavior. Today, you can get solar-powered water heaters and even ones that use heat from the air to heat your water. They’re far more efficient than the standard electric or gas water heater.

On your own, you can simply monitor how you use hot water and use less of it.

  1. Electronics That Consume Energy When Off

Many electronic devices and appliances simply reduce their power usage when “off.” They’re not actually completely turned off to the point where they don’t use any energy at all.

You can’t put too much of this on yourself. But you do have power to do something about it. And no, you don’t have to monitor the devices to make sure they’re really off. Instead, just get a smart power strip that detects when the devices should be off and cuts off all power to them.

What Else Can You Control?

Those are just some of the behaviors which you have power to change so you get the energy savings you should. Consider all the different ways you use electricity and how you can change your behavior to experience max energy savings.

6 Reasons You’ll Just Love a Smart Thermostat

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Isn’t everything “smart” now? Technology certainly is leading to some pretty cool innovations.

What about smart thermostats? You know they save you energy because they’re smarter in how they help you manage your home’s temperature.

But why exactly might you like to have one, if you don’t already?

Consider these reasons:

  1. You Don’t Have to Waste Your Time Constantly Monitoring Your Thermostat

Try doing what a smart thermostat does yourself. Walk back-and-forth a dozen times a day. Program your thermostat for when you leave. And then, wake up a couple times at night too.

That’s more work than it takes to raise your children! Okay – not really. But, you get the point.

  1. Never Make Mistakes

What if you leave your home unexpectedly for a day? What if you forget to set your thermostat to the energy-efficient temperature it should be at for that time? Just like that, during the course of your daily life, you wipe out a bunch of your energy savings.

You’ll never have that problem with a smart thermostat.

  1. Easy Programming

Okay, so the last generation of thermostats weren’t super-difficult to program. But, they weren’t the easiest either. Mistakes were possible. With the new generation of smart thermostats, programming is simple. And since they learn and adjust to your behavior over time, you don’t have to worry about the programming again.

  1. Analyze How You Use Energy

Now here’s where the “smart” part really comes in. You can actually get a monthly report of how you use energy with Nest and Ecobee smart thermostats.

So, you can push your energy savings even further by understanding how you use heating and cooling and adjusting your own behavior.

  1. Get E-mailed Alerts

What if something goes wrong in your home? You leave a window or two open…or your children do. With your old thermostat, you’d have to learn the hard way and find out you have high energy bills for the month. With smart thermostats, you can set acceptable temperature ranges and then get automated e-mail reminders if your home ever falls outside of those. You can catch small problems before they become big ones.

  1. Control Your Smart Thermostat from Anywhere with Your Smartphone

Are you coming home unexpectedly early and you realize you want your home to be a little cooler? No sweat (figuratively and literally). Just whip out your smartphone, go to your smart thermostat’s app, and set your desired temperature.

Pretty cool and handy, aren’t they? Consider installing a smart thermostat today if you haven’t already.

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