How much can replacing your old fridge save you on energy costs?

I was at my friend’s house for her three-year-old’s birthday party the other day.

Theme: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Snacks: Pizza (of course)

Drinks: ...

Tagged: energy star, fridge, refrigerator, rebates, energy efficient, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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How much can replacing your old fridge save you on energy costs?

Replacing your old fridge can save you money

If your fridge is more than 10 years old, you could save more than $200 over the next five years by replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR approved one.

Key Points

  • Replacing an old fridge can save you money on your utilities.
  • If your fridge is more than 10 years old, it could save you $270 over the next five years on energy costs.
  • Many utilities also offer rebates for recycling your old model. 

I was at my friend’s house for her three-year-old’s birthday party the other day.

Theme: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Snacks: Pizza (of course)

Drinks: Sewer slime (don’t ask)

Activities: Getting all the bad guys

Discussion: Refrigerators

As the parents gathered in the kitchen to escape the mayhem, my friends started talking about how they want to replace their old fridge with a new one, and that hopefully the energy savings would pay off.

So, in the spirit of the Turtles, here’s an Energy Ninja analysis:

  • According to the Department of Energy, if your fridge is more than 10 years old, you could save $270 over the next five years by replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR approved one.
  • To make the deal even sweeter, many utilities offer rebates for recycling your old one. Make sure to talk with your utility about local offers. Or, as the Splinter would say “never pay full price for a pizza, or leave rebate money on the table.”
  • Some new features aren’t the most efficient. The good-ol’ freezer on top, fridge on the bottom models generally use less energy than the side-by-side or freezer on the bottom ones. Features like ice makers and water dispensers add to the energy load too.
  • Don’t buy more fridge than you need. Unless you really do have four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the house, you could benefit from a smaller – and more efficient – model.

And now the next time you find yourself hiding from a band of toddler ninja turtles, you’ll know exactly what to talk about in your kitchen hideout. Cowabunga dudes.


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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True or false: Hand washing dishes saves water.

Answer: False.

Hand washing dishes might be a great opportunity to talk with your daughter about her day while she does the rinsing.

But it’s not efficient ...

Tagged: dishwasher, saving water, energy star

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True or false: Hand washing dishes saves water.

Toddler hand washes dishes.

Hand washing dishes might be a great opportunity to talk with your daughter about her day while she does the rinsing. But it’s not efficient in terms of work or water use.

Key Points

  • Hand washing dishes generally uses more water and energy than running your dishwasher.
  • Energy Star-approved dishwashers use no more than five gallons per batch.
  • A new countertop dishwasher expected to be on the market this year will use only a half gallon. 

Answer: False.

Hand washing dishes might be a great opportunity to talk with your daughter about her day while she does the rinsing.

But it’s not efficient in terms of work or water use.

When you wash dishes by hand, you probably fill one sink with soapy water for the washing and keep the faucet running in the other to rinse off the suds (or in my case, let your 5-year-old essentially rewash the dishes to be a good helper).

That wastes a lot of water and also makes your water heater work overtime to keep up.

To start saving, make sure your dishwasher has the Energy Star seal of approval. Energy Star-approved full-size dishwashers use only five gallons of water per batch, and compact ones use no more than 3.5 gallons.

If you want to go all in, there’s a new dishwasher that uses even less water.  

The new Tetra Countertop Dishwasher uses only a half-gallon of water per load. Granted, it’s much smaller than traditional models, but that can help double down on your efficiency efforts by forcing you to only run full loads.

It doesn’t require a water hook up. Instead, you pour water into a reservoir for each use. The creators hope that even this visual cue will remind people of how much water they use each time they run a load.

In my house, an appliance has to earn its way to take up precious counter space. But this device might be worth it. It can also sanitize bottles, wash your baseball cap and cook fish. Just not all at the same time (I’m assuming).

The dishwasher will be available to buy in about a year and will likely be used mostly in small apartments without space for a traditional dishwasher.

But even if you aren’t in the market for a tiny fish-cooking countertop dishwasher, you can follow these tips to make sure you’re using your current model efficiently:

  • Always run a full load.
  • Don’t pre -rinse. Your dishwasher can get off more gunk than you think.
  • Let your dishes air dry instead of using the heat cycle.

Now, who wants to break the news to my daughter that she’s been demoted from her esteemed position as chief dish washer helper? Anyone? 


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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Procrastinator’s guide to saving energy this winter

Does your annual holiday card say Happy Valentine’s Day?

Does your accountant see you every April 14?

Did you go to Target on Dec. 24?

Then it might ...

Tagged: procrastination, energy saving tips, cold weather

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Procrastinator’s guide to saving energy this winter

Comic that reads

It’s not too late to save energy this winter. And since you’ve already endured some cold weather, you’ll really appreciate the savings on your energy bill and the comfort in your home.

Key Points

  • If you’ve procrastinated on your energy-efficiency projects, it’s not too late.
  • We still have cold months ahead, so you can still enjoy the energy savings.
  • A few simple projects will make a big difference for your energy costs and comfort of your home.

Does your annual holiday card say Happy Valentine’s Day?

Does your accountant see you every April 14?

Did you go to Target on Dec. 24?

Then it might be safe to say you tend to procrastinate.

No judgement here.

Instead of feeling bad about that procrastination, here’s a guide to use it to your advantage.

It’s not too late to save energy this winter. And since you’ve already endured some cold weather, you’ll really appreciate the savings on your energy bill and the comfort in your home.

Here are a few things even a procrastinator can achieve:

Let the sunshine in — Open your curtains during the day to let the sun naturally add some heat to your home, and then close them at night to help with any cold drafts.

Seal your windows Consider weatherizing your windows with plastic film. Just doing this on a few select windows can make a big difference on your utility costs. Here’s a quick tutorial. The guy in this video is so excited about weatherizing windows, it will inspire even the biggest procrastinators to get the job done.

Stop the leaksFind out where your house might be letting valuable warm are out and cold air in, and caulk it up. Common culprits are around your door, chimney, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and cabinets. There are several different types of caulk (yeah, who knew?), but thankfully energy.gov offers a nice chart to help you decide which one to buy. Don’t procrastinate on this step; it’s best to caulk before the cold comes (above 45 degrees is best) so the caulk will set and adhere to the surfaces.

Pamper your heater — Replace your filter so it doesn’t have to work so hard to circulate all that hot air.


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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A new whey to make energy?

Greek yogurt is almost magical.

It’s delicious.

It’s healthy.

My kids will even eat it.

And now, some of its byproduct can be used to ...

Tagged: biofuel, greek yogurt, alternative energy

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A new whey to make energy?

A bowl of creamy Greek yogurt and a wooden spoon full of the stuff

Although the discovery is a winner, it’s not automatically a slam dunk for business; to replace affordable petroleum or natural gas, the new bio-fuel needs to be cost competitive.

Key Points

  • Greek yogurt could help make energy.
  • A byproduct in the production process can be converted into biofuel.
  • Researchers are now determining if it’s commercially viable. 

Greek yogurt is almost magical.

It’s delicious.

It’s healthy.

My kids will even eat it.

And now, some of its byproduct can be used to make biofuel.

The Greek variety of yogurt is so creamy because much of the liquid is strained out of the milk protein. This leftover yogurt whey was once considered garbage.

But a team of researchers from Cornell University and the University of Tübingen in Germany figured out a way to turn the discarded byproduct into a biofuel.

Turns out, the lactic acid in the unwanted whey leftovers can be converted into bio-oil.

The researchers are exploring if this process makes commercial sense. If so, they hope to have it in use by 2020 in vehicles and even planes.

Although the discovery is a winner, it’s not automatically a slam dunk for business; to replace affordable petroleum or natural gas, the new bio-fuel needs to be cost competitive.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, there is a significant supply of yogurt whey available to convert. For every cup of Greek yogurt in your fridge, there were two to three times that amount of whey leftovers created to get it there.

America produces more than 770,000 metric tons of yogurt a year. Multiply that by two or three, and you have some waste to work with.

Even so, it’s not easy to establish a new fuel. In the wake of corn ethanol’s challenges like displacing crops, the race is on to find another biofuel source. Here’s a summary from Smithsonian of some of the other research in the works:

“Researchers have been turning to other potential biofuel sources. Some are looking at plants such as hemp and switchgrass that are less resource-intensive than corn or soybeans. Sugar beets, termed ‘energy beets,’ by their supporters, is another crop with fuel potential and has the added benefit of remediating phosphorous in the soil, helping to keep nearby watersheds healthy. This past summer, ExxonMobil announced the creation of a strain of genetically modified algae they say produces twice as much oil as regular algae. One company is beginning to process household garbage like eggshells and coffee grounds into jet fuel. In late 2016, Alaska Airlines powered a cross-country flight with a new biofuel produced by wood scraps. Like the yogurt whey, the wood has the benefit of being a waste product that would otherwise present a disposal challenge; many of the most promising potential biofuel materials are waste products or ‘co-products’ of other processes.” 

Whether you’re betting on beets, algae or whey, we’ll all win with new, affordable and reliable resource options.


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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All aboard the Solar Express!

The Polar Express is great and all, with its magical trip to the North Pole, hot chocolate and enchanting nudge to believe in the season.

But it could use an upgrade.

The ...

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All aboard the Solar Express!

Stamp that read

Far from the North Pole, the world’s first fully solar train recently hit the tracks in Australia.

Key Points

  • The world’s first fully solar train hit the tracks this year.
  • Maybe by next year, the Polar Express could run on solar too.
  • Hopefully, 2018 will bring advancements in energy storage to make it happen. 

The Polar Express is great and all, with its magical trip to the North Pole, hot chocolate and enchanting nudge to believe in the season.

But it could use an upgrade.

The original coal-powered train could maybe one day run on solar power.

Far from the North Pole, the world’s first fully solar train recently hit the tracks in Australia. The train in Byron Bay has curved solar panels on its roof. It also generates electricity when it brakes and can plug in at the train station to get energy from the station’s solar panels. And if no solar power is available, it can pull power from the grid.

The project was completed without government support or funding. A nonprofit group spearheaded the solar train project using volunteers to restore a vintage train. Tickets to ride are an affordable $3 a trip.

The solar train works well for the sunny beach town’s 2-mile route where the sun almost always shines, the tracks are flat and the train cars are made of lightweight aluminum.

The Polar Express — with its heavy loads of Christmas toys, treacherous mountain passes, and dusk-to-dawn schedule — will certainly need to innovate to make solar power work for it.

But with advancements in energy-storage solutions, maybe the Polar Express will be able to have a little fun in the sun.


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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But wait! There’s more! EVs might make your electricity cheaper

Who doesn’t love a good infomercial?

You mean I just slap that thing and all my veggies are chopped? Free shipping too?!

Just when I thought it couldn’t get ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, evs, Grid

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But wait! There’s more! EVs might make your electricity cheaper

TV pitchman grins while presenting product

Electric vehicles hook up to the grid when there’s lots of energy but not much demand for it. That energy is stored in the vehicle and then put back on the grid when energy demand is high.

Key Points

  • Electric vehicles could save us money by storing energy for the grid.
  • When supply is high, energy would be stored in your car battery.
  • That energy could then be returned to the grid when it’s needed. 

Who doesn’t love a good infomercial?

You mean I just slap that thing and all my veggies are chopped? Free shipping too?!

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, my expectations are totally exceeded.

I had similar emotions when I read an article in Forbes about electric vehicles recently. Like any good infomercial, first, I was reminded that electric vehicles can improve air quality, are getting more affordable and are evolving to have a longer range.

But wait! There’s more!

Electric vehicles could make everyone’s electricity cheaper and more reliable.

See? Even better than free shipping!

Pacific Gas & Electric and BMW recently completed a pilot program that used electric vehicles as flexible grid storage. Electric vehicles hook up to the grid when there’s lots of energy but not much demand for it. That energy is stored in the vehicle and then put back on the grid when energy demand is high.

This kind of energy storage would be great for renewables — like wind or solar — that might be generating power when no one needs it and idling when folks need energy.

It could also save money.

Investments to keep the grid balanced are really expensive. The need for the grid would remain. But if your energy company could avoid making investments on equipment like transformers and re-conductoring distribution lines to keep the grid balanced, our bills might reflect it.

There’s more work that needs to be done before this can become a widespread reality.

We still need more vehicle-to-grid technology that would help energy flow between the power lines and your car.

But, it could be a real solution to save money and make the grid more reliable someday.

I hear it also slices and dices.


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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