Everything you need to know to save energy, in one spot

OK, so that might be a liiiiiiiitle bit of an exaggeration. Like when my 4-year-old insists that she will “actually starve in real life” if she doesn’t have cheese immediately ...

Tagged: energy resources, cheese

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Everything you need to know to save energy, in one spot

Sign on cork board that says,

[T]his chart from the Department of Energy can point you in the right direction to answer most of your energy-savings questions.

Key Points

  • This chart has links to answer most of your energy-savings questions.
  • The links are Department of Energy-approved, so you know they’re legit.
  • Indeed, they’re too legit to quit.

OK, so that might be a liiiiiiiitle bit of an exaggeration. Like when my 4-year-old insists that she will “actually starve in real life” if she doesn’t have cheese immediately (in her defense, cheese is possibly the world’s tastiest food).

But this chart from the Department of Energy can point you in the right direction to answer most of your energy-savings questions.

For instance, ever wondered what appliances are worth investing in new energy-efficient versions? Or have you tried to figure out what tax incentives or rebates you qualify for?

Look no further and check out the links below.

QUESTION

TOOL OR CALCULATOR

INFORMATION

What appliances or electronics are using the most energy in my house?

Energy Saver's Home Appliance and Electronic Device Energy Use Calculator

Estimate your annual energy use and cost to operate more than 50 common household products

How does my energy usage compare to others across the country?

Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick

This home assessment tool uses your past 12 months of utility bills to score your household efficiency on a scale of 1 to 10 in comparison to similar homes.

What energy-saving upgrades make the most sense based on my local climate and energy prices?

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Home Energy Saver

Enter information about your house to get a customized list of energy-savings recommendations.

How much can I expect to save by upgrading to energy efficient products?

Energy Department's Energy- and Cost-Savings Calculators

Understand payback periods for various products based on capacity, energy costs, hours of use and efficiency levels.

What tax credits, rebates, and savings are available for any upgrades I make?

Energy Department's Database of Incentives

Search for federal, state and local incentives to offset the cost of energy-efficient improvements and renewable energy technologies in your home.

Which car should I take?

FuelEconomy.gov’s Trip Calculator

Drivers with more than one vehicle in their garage can determine which will be the best for their trip.

Is there a more cost-effective and energy efficient vehicle that would be right for me?

Energy Department's Vehicle Cost Calculator

Compare emissions and lifetime operating costs of specific vehicle models, including conventional cars and trucks, as well as vehicles running on alternative fuels, such as electricity, ethanol, natural gas, or biodiesel.

Where can I get fuel for my non-gasoline-powered car?

Energy Department's Alternative Fueling Station Locator

Find more than 16,000 public alternative fuel and charging stations nationwide.

 

See? Almost everything you need to know.

Now treat yourself to some delicious cheese.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Kids home playing video games this summer? Check out these game console savings tips

It’s been summer for a few weeks now. The initial excitement of pools and playgrounds may be dwindling and the reality of filling long summer days is setting in.

If you ...

Tagged: gaming, saving energy, summer

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Kids home playing video games this summer? Check out these game console savings tips

Young girl and her dad play video games

If you have kids, chances are they might be filling some of those out-of-school hours with video games. If that’s the case, then make sure your game consoles aren’t sucking more energy than they should.

Key Points

  • Game consoles use a lot of energy, even when you’re not using them.
  • Most systems have energy-saving modes.
  • Avoid using your game console to stream your favorite shows. Blu-ray players or smart TVs are much more efficient. 

It’s been summer for a few weeks now. The initial excitement of pools and playgrounds may be dwindling and the reality of filling long summer days is setting in.

If you have kids, chances are they might be filling some of those out-of-school hours with video games. If that’s the case, then make sure your game consoles aren’t sucking more energy than they should.

According to Energy Star, today’s game consoles can consume as much energy as all the homes in the city of Houston — the equivalent of the electricity delivered by four power plants.

Holy Super Mario Brothers, that’s a lot of energy.

Thankfully, Energy Star also offers these tips to reduce your game console’s energy use and save some money.

  • Activate power-saving settings: Xbox One comes set up to listen for the “Xbox On” command to turn on and allow other devices to access it through the network. By configuring the “Energy-saving” Power Mode, you can disable such features and drop the Xbox One’s standby power use by 98 percent! The Play Station 4, with software updates, enters a low power “Rest” mode after one hour of inactivity — which can be reduced to save even more. Users can also enable time limits for USB power charging when the PS4 is in “Rest” mode. The Wii U’s power consumption is already optimized in all non-gaming modes, consuming less than half a watt when your console is standing by. 
  • Turn off the controllers: The PS4 includes a useful feature that allows the controllers to turn themselves off when not in use. You can choose to turn off your controllers automatically after 10, 30, or 60 minutes, depending on your gameplay habits. 
  • Dis-Kinect When You Aren’t Using It: Xbox’s Kinect accessory can instantly recognize your body movements. This feature can use up to 14 watts when the game console is in use. So if you don’t use Kinect often, consider disconnecting it. 
  • Keep up on your updates: For example, with Sony’s System Software version 2.0 update, the PS4 now powers down automatically, and the USB ports enter a much lower power state after connected controllers are fully charged, dropping the power consumption by more than 65 percent. 
  • Don’t let your game console come between you and your cable: For the best efficiency choice, plug your set-top box cable directly into the first HDMI port on your TV, and connect the Xbox to a secondary HDMI port on your TV. Plugging your set-top box into your Xbox requires the Xbox to consume power even when you are not gaming — almost as much power as your TV. 
  • Stream content smartly: Streaming through a game console uses up to 10 times more energy than streaming on a laptop or tablet. Consider using another kind of device to stream — like a Blu-ray player, set-top box, or smart TV that has earned the EPA’s Energy Star.

Check out this article for step-by-step instructions — including screen shots — to configure your console.

And then turn the system off for a while and make the kids go outside.

Only 10 weeks until school is back in session.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Win-win windows: Treatments that look great and help you save energy

We recently decided to get new window treatments in our living room. I was excited to update the space, but was quickly overwhelmed by all the options. I wanted something that would ...

Tagged: window treatments, Joanna Gains, save energy, blinds, drapes, shades

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Win-win windows: Treatments that look great and help you save energy

Hand drawn curtains and window

No matter what treatment you choose, make sure to first check your windows for faults. No window treatment can make up for a really leaky window.

Key Points

  • Window treatments can look great and help save energy.
  • With so many options, it can be difficult to determine what type of window cover is the best fit for your home.
  • Consider the energy savings potential along with your style preference before making a decision. 

We recently decided to get new window treatments in our living room. I was excited to update the space, but was quickly overwhelmed by all the options. I wanted something that would look great, but through the process learned that different options could offer benefits beyond aesthetics.

Here’s a quick guide to help you narrow down all the options:

Blinds

Pros: Blinds come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. They even make wide, white ones that resemble indoor shutters (a win for Fixer-Upper fans everywhere). The adjustable slats help control light and ventilation. They can also help keep your home cool in summer, reducing heat gain by up to 45 percent.

Cons: Blinds don’t offer much energy savings in the winter. Those same slats that can let in a light breeze during the summer don’t do much to control heat loss in the winter.

Tip: On hot days, adjust the slats to reflect direct sunlight onto a light-colored celling to diffuse heat and glare.

Draperies

Pros: Options with draperies are almost limitless. Different fabric types, colors and patterns offer a wide variety of style options for your home. Depending on what type of fabric you choose, drapes can help keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

Cons: Due to the wide variety of options available, it’s difficult to put a number on a drapery’s energy performance.

Tip: To optimize your draperies’ energy savings, hang them close to the wall and let them fall all the way to the floor. Seal them to the wall on both sides of the window and let them overlap in the middle. Choose a heavier fabric to help block more air that might sneak in through leaky windows.

Shades

Pros: Shades are a simple, effective solution. When properly installed, they are an energy-savings winner year-round.

Cons: None of the options at our local stores fit the style of our living room. I might consider these more for a basement room.

Tips: Mount your shades as close to the glass as possible to maximize energy savings potential.

The final word

No matter what treatment you choose, make sure to first check your windows for air leakage and caulk or weatherstrip where needed. No window treatment can make up for a really leaky window.

For details about even more window treatment options, check out this article from the Department of Energy.

Happy shopping! And if you’re curious, I went with the wide white blinds. As a wise person once said, “Always be yourself, unless you can be Joanna Gaines. Then be her.”

And that’s all we really need to know.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy savings have never been tastier

Everything tastes better grilled.

One time, my husband even ate some vegetables when they were cooked on the grill.

True, I think he meant to get a bite of ribeye ...

Tagged: natural gas grilling, grilling, Saving Money

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Energy savings have never been tastier

Grilled cheeseburger with pineapple on top

Besides being a delicious way to cook, grilling is also a great way to save some money.

Key Points

  • Grill season is finally here.
  • Cooking outside keeps the heat out of your kitchen and gives your A/C a break.
  • Grilling with natural gas is cheaper than using charcoal or propane.

Everything tastes better grilled.

One time, my husband even ate some vegetables when they were cooked on the grill.

True, I think he meant to get a bite of ribeye and accidentally got some mushroom on his fork, but still, I’m counting that as a grill success.

Besides being a delicious way to cook, grilling is also a great way to save some money. In the summer, your air conditioner works overtime to keep the house cool, especially if you have a hot oven warming the kitchen. Ovens can raise the temperature in your kitchen by 5-10 degrees.

Keep in mind that not all grill fuels are created equal.

The three general sources of heat for a grill are charcoal, propane or natural gas.

  • Charcoal is the most expensive and time-consuming option.
  • Propane is the mid-cost option, but you run the risk of your tank running empty mid-cookout.
  • Natural gas is the lowest-cost option. A grill fueled by natural gas is generally about one-sixth the cost to run than charcoal. Plus, since the gas line runs directly to your grill, you don’t have to worry about having to leave raw burger behind to go fill an empty tank.

If you decide to run a natural gas line to your grill, make sure to check in with your local utility for assistance. Some utilities offer a service to hook it up for you, and others have lists of qualified contractors who can help you out.

So long, oven. I won’t be needing you until fall. (Who am I kidding? I’ll see you next week for cookies, but otherwise, really, you’re on vacation.) 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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4 tips to save money at home while you’re on vacation

Getting ready for vacation is exciting and, well, exhausting. Packing everyone’s clothes, not to mention diapers, snacks and toys is a lot of work. And don’t even think about ...

Tagged: save energy, save money, vacation

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4 tips to save money at home while you’re on vacation

Young girl in sunglasses tips her face toward the sun while holding a suitcase in her lap

To make getting out the door a little easier, here’s a check list of quick things you can do to make sure your home doesn’t waste energy while you’re out exploring the world.

Key Points

  • Save money at home while you’re on vacation.
  • Turn off the A/C and water heater, and unplug your electronics.
  • Fill your fridge with pitchers of water to help it run more efficiently. 

Getting ready for vacation is exciting and, well, exhausting. Packing everyone’s clothes, not to mention diapers, snacks and toys is a lot of work. And don’t even think about trying to leave behind any one of the five plush toys that your 2-year-old needs to sleep. “They need me!” she says. Yes, Annie, Lambie would be very sad without you.

To make getting out the door a little easier, here’s a check list of quick things you can do to make sure your home doesn’t waste energy while you’re out exploring the world:

  1. Turn off the A/C — There’s no reason to cool an empty house this summer. Instead, you can set the thermostat to 90 or just turn it off completely. You can save 2-3 percent on your electric bill for every degree you raise your thermostat while you’re gone. That could result in some pretty substantial savings, especially for longer vacations. But if you have a pet, don’t do that. Leave the house at a temperature that will keep Whiskers happy. If you have a programmable thermostat, make sure to set it to the “vacation” mode before you leave.
  2. Pull the plug — Your electronics use energy even when not in use. So, unplug your TV, lamps, coffee maker, digital clocks, cell phone chargers, computers and game systems, to name a few.
  3. Give your water heater a break — Shut off the circuit breaker to the water heater. This will save lots of energy by not heating water you won’t be using while you’re away. If you have a gas heater, turn the gas valve off to be safe. (This tip is for summer vacations only. During a winter getaway, set your water heater to its lowest possible setting to keep the water from freezing in the lines.)
  4. Prep the fridge — You likely tried to eat all the groceries before leaving home, but a full fridge actually takes less energy to run. If your trip will take fewer than four weeks, consider filling the fridge with things like bottles of water. If you’ll be away for more than four weeks, it might be worth cleaning out the whole fridge and unplugging it until you get back.

Now back to packing. Wish me luck fitting Lambie in the suitcase. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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