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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Banish the dust bunnies and save on your energy bill

Every spring, I get the bug to clean out the whole house.

But then I get half through my daughter’s pajama drawer, tear up at the thought that she’s outgrown all her ...

Tagged: spring cleaning, dust bunnies, saving energy

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Banish the dust bunnies and save on your energy bill

Bunny chills out in the dust.

Maybe this year I’ll be more successful with my spring cleaning if I keep in mind that some projects can also help us save money on our energy bill.

Key Points

  • Spring cleaning projects can help save energy.
  • Dirty fridge coils make the motor work harder.
  • Air leaks in your sliding doors, basement or crawl space make your house less energy efficient. 

Every spring, I get the bug to clean out the whole house.

But then I get half through my daughter’s pajama drawer, tear up at the thought that she’s outgrown all her baby things, and decide that all these items must be kept as precious mementos of her childhood.

That pair of pink footsie pajamas with the strawberry stains is an artifact and must be treasured, right?

Maybe this year I’ll be more successful with my spring cleaning if I keep in mind that some projects can also help us save money on our energy bill. 

Here’s how:

  • Clean the fridge — Refrigerators can use up to 14 percent of a household’s energy. But that fridge can run much more efficiently if it’s clean. Take a deep breath, roll the fridge away from the wall, and brace yourself for what’s hiding behind it (so that’s where the bouncy balls we cried for an hour about losing went!). Vacuum the coils. When things like dust, pet hair, and, say, organic cheddar bunny cracker crumbs, for instance, build up on the coils, the motor has to work harder and uses more electricity.While you’re at it, clean out the inside too. That expired bottle of ketchup and mystery jar of leftovers from Christmas might be blocking the airflow.
  • Check your sliding doors It’s an easy thing to overlook, but make sure to clean out the track of your sliding doors. If it’s dirty, it can ruin the door’s seal. Those gaps in the seal can let in hot air during the summer.
  • Hunt for spider webs — If you have spider webs in your basement or crawlspace, you probably have a draft nearby. If you find webs, hunt down the leak and seal them to help keep your home well insulated.
  • Dust your ceiling fans — While you’re up there, check to make sure your fan is set to go counterclockwise for the summer. In the winter, you want it to go clockwise to help push warm air down. In the summer, you need to change them back to have the opposite effect.

Good luck with the spring cleaning. I’m pretty sure I can get through this list without crying. Just don’t make me sort through June’s and Annie’s sock drawers. Tiny baby socks get me every time.


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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Save energy while you conquer your spring to-do list

Your spring to-do list is long. Between signing the kids up for swim lessons, buying new soccer cleats and dusting off the lawn mower, find the time to make sure your air conditioner ...

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Save energy while you conquer your spring to-do list

Replacing an air filter

The one thing you absolutely must do: Replace or clean your air filter. This one task can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.

Key Points

  • It’s spring! Time to make sure your A/C is tuned up and ready for the heat.
  • Make sure to replace or clean your air filter.
  • It would also be a good idea to clean your A/C’s evaporator coil and condenser coil. 

Your spring to-do list is long. Between signing the kids up for swim lessons, buying new soccer cleats and dusting off the lawn mower, find the time to make sure your air conditioner ready for the coming summer heat.

Here’s a quick guide to help.

The one thing you absolutely must do: Replace or clean your air filter. This one task can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent. Can’t find the filter? If you have central air, it’s usually somewhere along the return duct’s length in a wall, ceiling, furnace or in the air conditioner itself. If you have a room air conditioner, the filter is usually mounted in the grill that faces into the room.

The other thing that you should probably do: Clean your A/C’s evaporator coil and condenser coil. The coils collect dirt. That dirt reduces airflow and the coil’s ability to absorb heat.

If you want to really pat yourself on the back, you should: Check your unit’s drain channels. Clogged drains can prevent it from reducing humidity, and the extra moisture could discolor your walls or carpet. You can prevent clogs by occasionally passing a stiff wire through the unit’s drain channels.

If you’re an overachiever and want to make the rest of us feel bad, you should: Have a professional give your A/C a seasonal checkup. If you do this, here’s a checklist of things to make sure they do:

  • Check for the correct amount of refrigerant.
  • Test for refrigerant leaks using a leak detector.
  • Capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system.
  • Check for and seals duct leakage in central systems.
  • Measure airflows through the evaporator coil.
  • Verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure that the heating system and cooling system cannot operate simultaneously.
  • Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections, and apply a non-conductive coating if necessary.
  • Oil motors and checks belts for tightness and wear.
  • Check the accuracy of the thermostat.

Find more tips to improve the efficiency of your air conditioner from the Department of Energy. And then add eat more ice cream to your to-do list. You deserve it.


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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Daylighting: It’s not a second job, but it can save you money

No, daylighting won’t get you in trouble with your boss. Unlike moonlighting, it’s not a second job or an “invite-all-your-friends-to-this-party-and-make-money-while-you-socialize” ...

Tagged: saving energy, windows, daylighting

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Daylighting: It’s not a second job, but it can save you money

Flat-faced cat looking longingly out the window

Using windows and skylights to let in natural light, especially now as we look forward to long summer evenings, is a smart way to save money without having to make drastic lifestyle changes.

Key Points

  • Strategically placed windows and skylights can help you save money and energy.
  • Maximizing the natural daylight can cut back on how often you need to turn on the lights.
  • South-facing windows are the best because they let in the most sunlight. 

No, daylighting won’t get you in trouble with your boss. Unlike moonlighting, it’s not a second job or an “invite-all-your-friends-to-this-party-and-make-money-while-you-socialize” pyramid kind of thing. It’s being smart about your home’s design to help save you money and energy.

Using windows and skylights to let in natural light, especially now as we look forward to long summer evenings, is a smart way to save money without having to make drastic lifestyle changes.

Here are some tips from the Department of Energy to help make your windows work for you:

  • The best choice: south-facing windows — Windows facing south allow most winter sunlight into the home but little direct sun during the summer, especially when properly shaded.
  • An OK choice: north-facing windows — Windows facing the north admit relatively even, natural light, producing little glare and almost no unwanted summer heat gain.
  • Last choice: east- and west-facing windows — Windows facing these directions provide good daylight penetration in the morning and evening, respectively, but may cause glare, admit a lot of heat during the summer when it is usually not wanted, and contribute little to solar heating during the winter.

The only drawback, according highly esteemed energy experts, to having lots of natural light in your home is that it might make it harder to put your kids to bed at 7:30 p.m. while it’s still light outside, cutting back on your “Homeland” binge time.


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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Paint so cool it could save you 50% on your energy bill

What if saving energy was as easy as applying a coat of paint?

A new invention on display at the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy conference in Washington, ...

Tagged: paint, saving energy, energy technology

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Paint so cool it could save you 50% on your energy bill

Man applying paint to roof

Xerox PARC created a magical paint that can self-cool whatever it’s painted on.

Key Points

  • A new paint can self-cool whatever it’s painted on.
  • During tests, it was able to keep building interiors nearly 54 degrees cooler than buildings without the paint.
  • This cool paint should be on the market soon. 

What if saving energy was as easy as applying a coat of paint?

A new invention on display at the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy conference in Washington, D.C., is hoping to do just that.

Xerox PARC created a magical paint that can self-cool whatever it’s painted on. Here’s how IEEE explains the magic:

“The paint is brimming with two different kids of metaparticles. One type of metaparticle reflects broadband sunlight, helping the paint to keep heat away from anything underneath it. The other type emits infrared radiation at between 8 and 13 nanometers, a wavelength that allows heat to pass straight through Earth’s atmosphere and into space, dropping the paint’s temperature below ambient temperature.”

When tested on commercial rooftops, the paint was able to keep building interiors nearly 54 degrees cooler compared to buildings with roofs painted with regular white paint.

What might be one of the most exciting parts of the technology is how affordable and easy to use it is.

The magic paint costs the same as a regular can of paint and can be brushed or sprayed onto most surfaces.

PARC predicts that just applying the paint could save the average home in California 50 percent of its energy costs for climate control.

The paint is only available as a prototype right now, but PARC hopes to have it on the market soon.


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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Darrell Schwalbach
If this works it will be the greatest invention since Nitro Methane. I'm a racer!
5 days 16 hours ago