Seal up some savings this Presidents Day

Happy Presidents Day! I hope you’re having a wonderful day celebrating our U.S. presidents. If you have a chance between telling your favorite President Washington stories, you ...

Tagged: diy project, caulking, saving energy

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Seal up some savings this Presidents Day

Man caulks window

It’s the perfect shoulder-season project because it can help you save energy by keeping warm air in when it’s cold outside or keeping the cool air in when summer comes.

Key Points

  • Happy Presidents Day!
  • Use the holiday to tackle a DIY project.
  • Sealing your air leaks with caulk can save energy and money. 

Happy Presidents Day! I hope you’re having a wonderful day celebrating our U.S. presidents. If you have a chance between telling your favorite President Washington stories, you might use your three-day weekend to tackle a home project.

Here’s one that should only take a couple hours, cost $3-30 in materials and give you 20 percent energy savings: sealing your air leaks with caulk.

It’s the perfect shoulder-season project because it can help you save energy by keeping warm air in when it’s cold outside or keeping the cool air in when summer comes. (Soon, I hope!)

Here is your step-by-step guide courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. I’m sure George Washington would be very impressed.

1. For good adhesion, clean all areas to be caulked.

Remove any old caulk and paint using a putty knife or a large screwdriver. Make sure the area is dry so you won't seal in moisture.

2. Prep the caulking gun (if you're using one).

Cut the tip of the cartridge of caulk at a 45-degree angle and insert the tube in the gun. If you’ve never used a caulking gun, take this time to do a “test caulking” on a newspaper or paper towel so you have a good sense of what to expect before taking your project to a more conspicuous door or window.

3. Hold the caulking gun at a 45-degree angle to the now-dried, clean edge that’s to be filled.

Using a “pulling” motion, hold the gun at a consistent angle and slide the tube nozzle along the joint while pulling the trigger of the caulk gun to apply the material. You know you've got the right angle when the caulk is immediately forced into the crack as it comes out of the tube. Try to avoid stops and starts by caulking in one straight continuous stream.

4. “Tool” the caulk by pushing it into the crack.

After you’ve covered 2-3 feet of the surface with a bead of caulk, dampen your finger (or spoon, piece of wood or foam paintbrush if you don’t want the material to touch your hand) and glide over the bead, pushing the caulk into the crack and force the caulk deeper into the crack you’re filling.

5. Clean up any mistakes or excess caulk with a damp cloth.

Make sure to take care of any problem areas right away, since dried caulk is much harder to clean up later.

6. Allow the caulk to dry according to the directions on the package.

It usually takes about 24 hours for the caulk to fully cure, but it can depend on air temperature and humidity.


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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Commercial buildings getting better at using natural gas

A new report by the American Gas Association has some good news for energy-efficiency enthusiasts: Commercial buildings are getting more energy efficient and using less natural gas ...

Tagged: commercial buildings, Natural Gas, Energy Efficiency

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Commercial buildings getting better at using natural gas

Commercial buildings in a metropolitan area

By avoiding steep peaks in demand from new commercial buildings, utilities can plan for growth within existing infrastructure instead of making investments to get the parts in place to deliver more gas.

Key Points

  • New commercial buildings are getting more energy efficient, including how much natural gas they use.
  • They were built with energy efficiency in mind and use more efficient appliances. 
  • This can help keep energy affordable by delaying the need to build new natural gas infrastructure to meet demand. 

A new report by the American Gas Association has some good news for energy-efficiency enthusiasts: Commercial buildings are getting more energy efficient and using less natural gas per square foot.

In the report, the Energy Information Administration predicts that commercial floor space will increase through 2040, but the floor space will be less energy intense.

The Alliance to Save Energy credits these energy savings to three things: integrating energy efficiency into the design during construction, using more efficient appliances and equipment in the buildings, and partnering with local utilities to find energy-efficiency solutions.

This can actually help utilities manage energy costs. By avoiding steep peaks in demand from new commercial buildings, utilities can plan for growth within existing infrastructure instead of making investments to get the parts in place to deliver more gas.

Getting gas from the source to homes and business requires a vast network that we take for granted. But here’s an infographic from the American Gas Association that reminds of us how much work goes into keeping the natural gas flowing.

Thanks commercial buildings. Keep up the good work. 


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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Ultra-fast tubular travel could change your commute’s energy needs

You could soon travel 700 miles in one hour.

In a tube.

Seems far-fetched, but teams of researchers across the globe are working to make it happen. 

It ...

Tagged: hyperloop, Elon Musk, tubular travel

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Ultra-fast tubular travel could change your commute’s energy needs

Commuters sit on a super-fast futuristic train

It started with a double-dog dare from Elon Musk. Story has it, the rock-star entrepreneur was frustrated with gridlock traffic one day and thought up the idea of ultra-fast tubular travel.

Key Points

  • Elon Musk dared researchers to engineer ultrafast tubular travel.
  • A group of students from The Netherlands won the challenge.
  • The goal is to go more than 700 miles per hour in an elevated tube with a pod.

You could soon travel 700 miles in one hour.

In a tube.

Seems far-fetched, but teams of researchers across the globe are working to make it happen. 

It started with a double-dog dare from Elon Musk. Story has it, the rock-star entrepreneur was frustrated with gridlock traffic one day and thought up the idea of ultrafast tubular travel.

It’s been described as a pie-in-the-sky idea, but it shouldn’t be a surprise coming from the same guy who wants to populate Mars.

Musk calls it the “fifth mode of transportation.” The system would include some sort of elevated tube that could be built alongside the interstate highway system with pods propelled by renewable energy at speeds around 700 miles per hour.

Musk issued the SpaceX Challenge a couple years ago to challenge some of the best and brightest to make the impossible possible. The worldwide competition attracted more than 120 teams from 20 countries. A team from MIT won the first phase of the competition with a design that uses the power of magnets to propel its pod forward on an aluminum track.

Last week, a group of students from Delft University in The Netherlands took home the trophy for the second phase that included test runs of actual prototypes.

Check out their pods in action.

The next phase is set for this summer and will focus on increasing the speed of the pods.

All of the research done for the competition is open-sourced, with the goal of propelling the idea even further. Two companies are already looking to create their own versions of the tube for potential commercial use.

There are lots of hurdles to overcome before this idea becomes a complete reality, but big ideas like this could change how we travel. And with a system that uses only renewable energy, it could change how we use energy in our day-to-day lives. 


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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New ideas might make energy storage more affordable

Energy storage is a major challenge for the energy industry. If we could figure out an affordable, reliable way to store energy, then doors would open to more widespread use of all ...

Tagged: energy storage, batteries, pumped hydro

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New ideas might make energy storage more affordable

Illustration of a battery storing wind and solar power

If we could figure out an affordable, reliable way to store energy, then doors would open to more widespread use of all sorts of energy sources.

Key Points

  • Some new ideas might bring affordable energy storage options to more areas.
  • One of them is an energy island, and it’s as cool as it sounds.
  • If we can figure out a good way to store energy, then we can use more energy sources. 

Energy storage is a major challenge for the energy industry. If we could figure out an affordable, reliable way to store energy, then doors would open to more widespread use of all sorts of energy sources.

Huge batteries are one option, but they require a significant investment.

One of the more affordable options is pumped hydro, where energy is used to pump water above a dam, and then the water is released and turns a turbine to create electricity when it’s needed. Unfortunately, this affordable energy storage option is only viable in certain geographic areas.

These four options might someday make energy storage affordable, and available, to more customers. Here they are, as told by the smart engineers at IEEE. 

  1. Stensea — or Stored Energy in the Sea
  2. Compressed-air bags
  3. Energy island
  4. Wind turbines with water storage

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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Now you can store summer and warm hugs (OK, not really)

Our favorite Disney snowman (Olaf from “Frozen,” in case you don’t keep up with all things Disney animation, which you should) is going to love some new technology that lets ...

Tagged: storing energy, snowman, alternative energy

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Now you can store summer and warm hugs (OK, not really)

Summer snowman made of sand

So far, the technology only exists in a lab, but the researchers hope to commercialize it soon. That will make one happy snowman — and possibly some cheaper energy bills.

Key Points

  • Some Swiss researchers figured out a way to store summer’s heat for winter.
  • It includes a simple process that uses lye and water to release heat.
  • The new technology makes the process safe, more efficient and ready for use in heating systems. 

Our favorite Disney snowman (Olaf from “Frozen,” in case you don’t keep up with all things Disney animation, which you should) is going to love some new technology that lets you store summer.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research figured out a way to store summer’s heat to warm your home during the cold winter months.

According to Popular Mechanics, the technology is pretty simple.

You start with sodium hydroxide, which is more commonly known as lye. When exposed to water, lye releases a lot of heat. If it’s then exposed to sunlight, the water is evaporated and the whole process is reset.

Figuring out how to use this heat source in a safe and effective way has proven to be a little more complicated, but the Swiss believe they’ve figured it out.

They developed new technology to minimize the heat lost through process and make it safe to contain the chemicals in your home for long periods of time. They also figured out a way to make the heat work in traditional heating systems. 

So far, the technology only exists in a lab, but the researchers hope to commercialize it soon. That will make one happy snowman — and possibly some cheaper energy bills.

Now if they can just figure out a way to store warm hugs, we can all be as happy as Olaf.


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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Forget having to shop for light bulbs yourself; there’s a personal shopper for that

Online personal shoppers are gaining popularity.

Most of my friends have tried at least one Stitch Fix delivery, where you tell a website details about your life, style ...

Tagged: light bulbs, energy star, personal shopper

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Forget having to shop for light bulbs yourself; there’s a personal shopper for that

Personal shopper buying bulbs

Energy Star has a personal shopper questionnaire that will help you determine the perfect bulb for your room. It lays out options for shape, color and brightness and gives you everything you need to get the perfect bulb for the job.

Key Points

  • Energy Star’s Choose a Light guide is a personal shopper for your lighting needs.
  • It will help you figure out the perfect bulb for your room.
  • The guide walks you through options for shape, color and brightness. 

Online personal shoppers are gaining popularity.

Most of my friends have tried at least one Stitch Fix delivery, where you tell a website details about your life, style and budget and a designer sends you a box of clothes. You get to avoid hauling kids around the store and being “that lady” in the dressing room answering her 4-year-old’s questions about the color of her undergarments.

It also introduced me to the concept of yoga dress pants. Because apparently when you answer “yes” to “are you a mom?” on a fashion questionnaire, they assume that anything with a zipper is not going to work for you.

The personal shopper trend can now also help you save energy on your lighting.

Energy Star has a personal shopper questionnaire that will help you determine the perfect bulb for your room. It lays out options for shape, color and brightness and gives you everything you need to get the perfect bulb for the job.

Start your own journal to personal light-bulb shopping here.

Still not convinced that you need a personal light shopper?

Consider that Energy Star bulbs can offer the same brightness while using 90 percent less energy and lasting 15 times longer.

So treat yourself to some energy savings and personal shopping.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, yoga dress pants will change your life. 


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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