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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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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Ice dams and dust might be a sign you need to climb this DIY project

Does your house have drafty rooms, ice dams, dry indoor air or dust?

Then you might need to consider attic air sealing.

It sounds a bit intimidating, but thanks ...

Tagged: diy project, save energy, attic insulation

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Ice dams and dust might be a sign you need to climb this DIY project

The attic can be your home’s biggest source of heat loss, so sealing up the leaks and getting it properly insulated could save a lot of money on your energy bill.

Key Points

  • Attics can be your home’s biggest source of heat loss.
  • A DIY attic air sealing project should take about one to three days.
  • In some cases, it’s best to call in a professional. 

Does your house have drafty rooms, ice dams, dry indoor air or dust?

Then you might need to consider attic air sealing.

It sounds a bit intimidating, but thanks to these step-by-step guides from Energy Star, it’s definitely doable.

The benefits can be big. The attic can be your home’s biggest source of heat loss, so sealing up the leaks and getting it properly insulated could save a lot of money on your energy bill.

Energy Star estimates that the project should take about one to three days. But sometimes, you need to call in the professionals.

If you have any of these issues, put down your dust mask and get out your cell phone:

  • Difficult attic access and limited space to work
  • Wet or damp insulation, indicating a leaky roof
  • Moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists, indicating moisture problems
  • Kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer vents that exhaust moist air directly into the attic space instead of outdoors
  • Little or no attic ventilation
  • Knob and tube wiring (pre-1930), which can be a fire hazard when in contact with insulation

Before you start, check with your local utility to see if they offer any rebates for home energy assessments or insulation projects. Here’s a link for state incentives nationwide.  


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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Gobble up some energy savings

My daughter is still trying wrap her mind around Thanksgiving. Yes, June, we get together with people we love and think about everything we’re thankful for. And then Daddy watches ...

Tagged: Thanksgiving, save energy

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Gobble up some energy savings

Turkey ready for football

Before you start counting your blessings, here are a few tips to save some energy while you prepare your holiday feast.

Key Points

  • Save energy while you prepare your holiday feast.
  • Using the right cookware can save energy.
  • Get in a good cooking rhythm to avoid wasting energy. 

My daughter is still trying wrap her mind around Thanksgiving. Yes, June, we get together with people we love and think about everything we’re thankful for. And then Daddy watches football, and we eat until we get sick. It’s what Thanksgiving is all about, June Adele.

Before you start counting your blessings, here are a few tips to save some energy while you prepare your holiday feast.

  • Get the good cookware out — In addition to looking nice for your guests, cookware with a flat bottom is much more energy efficient. Pots with warped bottoms wobble on your stovetop, leaving a lot of space open above your heating element. According to the Department of Energy, a warped-bottom pot could take 50 percent more energy to boil water than a flat-bottomed one.
  • If buying new, consider copper or ceramic — Copper-bottomed pans heat up faster than regular pans. For oven cooking, ceramic and glass are more efficient than metal pans. In fact, you can turn your oven down 25 degrees if you’re not using a metal pan. Who knew?
  • Clean up — And not just because your mother-in-law will be in your kitchen. Clean burner pans on your stove help reflect heat up to your cookware. It doesn’t work as well if it’s blackened or dirty, making it less efficient.
  • Turn on the Chainsmokers — Belting out “We ain’t ever getting older” can help you get in a good cooking rhythm. And that can translate into energy savings. Do all your chopping before you turn on your appliances. Do prep work while your oven preheats to avoid having a hot oven run with nothing in it.
  • Bonus tip Spatulas make great microphones. This doesn’t save energy, but hey, it’s the holidays. Live a little.

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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Rake in the savings with Energy Action Month

You survived back to school. You owned that Labor Day picnic. And now you get to sit back and relax until the hectic holidays begin, right?

Wrong.

Now is the ...

Tagged: save energy, Energy Action Month

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Rake in the savings with Energy Action Month

leaf raking with sassy red boots

The chart breaks down your to-do list with average annual savings to help you decide what’s worth the effort. It’s all part of Energy Action Month.

Key Points

  • October is Energy Action Month
  • Prioritize your energy actions with this chart that shows how much money different projects can save.
  • Then take a nap. 

You survived back to school. You owned that Labor Day picnic. And now you get to sit back and relax until the hectic holidays begin, right?

Wrong.

Now is the time to get your home ready for energy savings before the cold winter sets in.

But before you feel overwhelmed, check out this great chart and these tips from the Department of Energy. The chart breaks down your to-do list with average annual savings to help you decide what’s worth the effort. It’s all part of Energy Action Month.

Now get to work. If you’re fast, you might have time for a nap before Black Friday.

Recommended action

Potential savings (as a percentage of utility bills)

Average annual savings in $
(based on
EIA average
end-use expenditures
*)

Install exterior low-e storm windows

12%-33% annually on heating
and cooling bills

$100-$274

Seal uncontrolled air leaks

10%-20% on annual heating
and cooling bills

$83-$166

Plant shade trees

15%-50% of annual
air conditioning costs

$35-$119

Use a power strip for electronic
equipmentand turn it off
when not in use

Up to 12% of electric
bill per year

$100 

Replace an older toilet that uses
6 gallons per flush with
a WaterSense model

 

$100 

Turn back your thermostat
7-10 degrees
for 8 hours a day 

Up to 10% annually on
heating and cooling bills

$83

Weatherstrip double-hung windows

5%-10% annually on
heating and cooling bills

$42-$83 

Replace your home's five most
frequently used 
light fixtures or bulbs with
models that have earned the Energy Star

9% on electricity bill annually

$75

Lower water heating temperature

Save 4%-22% annually
on your water heating bill 

$12-$60

Insulate water heater tank

Save 7%-16% annually
on water heating bill

$20-$45 

Fix leaky faucets; one drip per
second wastes 1,661 gallons of water

 

$35

Use sleep mode and power-management features on your computer

Up to 4% of annual
electric bill

$30

Insulate hot water pipes

Save 3%-4% annually
on water heating bill

$8-$12

 

 

 

Total potential savings**

 

$723-$1,182

*Average annual energy expenditures per household in the U.S. are as follows: space heating: $593; water heating: $280; air conditioning: $237; refrigerators: $153; other (lighting and electricity): $827
**All actual savings will vary depending on home, climate, products, and use.
The above list is just a sampling of the potential savings you could see by making smart energy choices in your home. Not all of these improvements will be possible for everyone, and savings will vary.

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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Make your homecoming even happier with this one trick

My parents were great at finding ways to save money when I was a kid. We learned to always switch off the lights when we left a room, take short showers and turn the thermostat down ...

Tagged: programmable thermostat, save energy, Home Heating

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Make your homecoming even happier with this one trick

cute westie sleeping

According to the Department of Energy, a programmable thermostat can help you save as much as 10 percent on heating and cooling costs. And the best part? It will heat up the house before you get home.

Key Points

  • Turn the heat down while you’re out of the house this winter to save money.
  • A programmable thermostat can help you save up to 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs.
  • Plus, it makes your house much more comfortable to come home to. 

My parents were great at finding ways to save money when I was a kid. We learned to always switch off the lights when we left a room, take short showers and turn the thermostat down when we left for the day.

Unfortunately, this meant that if you happened to be the first person home that evening, you had to enter a cold house and wait what seemed like eternity to turn the frozen tundra into a habitable environment that wouldn’t immediately make your toes fall off from severe frost bite (yes, it really was that dramatic, but give me a break; I was a teenager).

If only they had purchased a programmable thermostat, we all could have suffered a little less. According to the Department of Energy, a programmable thermostat can help you save as much as 10 percent on heating and cooling costs. And the best part? It will heat up the house before you get home.

You might be thinking, won’t it cost more to heat a cold house up instead of just keeping it at a consistent temp all day? Surely my furnace will have to work so hard to warm up the cold space, I won’t even save anything. Well, you’re not the only one to wonder that, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not the case. Here’s how the DOE explains it:

“A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer — a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning.”

The only reason you might not want to immediately run out and buy a programmable thermostat is if you have a heat pump. But otherwise, make your kids (and toes) happy, and consider installing one before winter sets in. 


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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Proof that procrastinating on that laundry is a good thing

Laundry. No matter how much I try to stay on top of it, there’s always a mountain of dirty clothes awaiting my attention. But why should I want to do loads of laundry when I could ...

Tagged: Xcel, save energy, demand

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Proof that procrastinating on that laundry is a good thing

Clothes washer

Delaying energy-sucking tasks until later in the day could help save you money.

Key Points

  • Energy can be more expensive when demand is high.
  • Xcel Energy is testing a program that charges customers extra for electricity used during certain parts of the day.
  • Programs like this might help keep energy affordable. 

Laundry. No matter how much I try to stay on top of it, there’s always a mountain of dirty clothes awaiting my attention. But why should I want to do loads of laundry when I could be at the pool, park, or having a “Let It Go” dance-off with my daughters?

Thankfully, Xcel Energy is giving its customers in Colorado a great new reason to procrastinate on doing chores like laundry until the end of the day. It’s their new time-of-use pilot program.

Here’s how the “Denver Post” breaks it down:

The time-of-use pilot has two seasons — summer and winter — and three rate periods during each day: peak, shoulder and off-peak. Residential rates during the peak period, which runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, would reach as high as 13.8 cents per kilowatt hour in the summer months and 8.9 cents per kWh in winter.

Electric use during the shoulder periods, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., would run 8.4 cents per kWh in summer and 5.4 cents per kWh in winter. During the off-shoulder period during winter and summer, from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., they would run 4.4 cents per kWh.

The concept isn’t new. Several utilities have programs to incent customers to delay energy-sucking tasks until later in the day. This helps reduce peak power demands. As a product of basic supply and demand, when everyone is using energy during middle of the day to run air conditioners, power office computers and lights, and cook meals, demand is high – and so is the price.

By spreading some of the demand out to times when energy use is lower, time-of-use programs can help customers save money. If extremely successful, lowering peak demand could help utilities delay having to invest in new power plants, keeping energy more affordable all the time.

Would you use a program like this? Or, have you used a time-based rate program? Please share your thoughts. 

And now, I’m off to play. The laundry can wait.  


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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Teaching your kids these tips could save your school district some serious dough

If you’ve noticed lots of pictures of small children wearing very large backpacks in your Facebook feed, you probably already figured out that school is starting.

But ...

Tagged: save energy, Alliance to Save Energy, school, back to school

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Teaching your kids these tips could save your school district some serious dough

Schoolboy standing in front of chalkboard

School buildings spend more on energy than they spend on computers and textbooks combined.

Key Points

  • School is starting soon.
  • K-12 schools spend $8 billion on energy.
  • Teaching our kids to save energy at school could help lower that

If you’ve noticed lots of pictures of small children wearing very large backpacks in your Facebook feed, you probably already figured out that school is starting.

But here’s something that probably didn’t appear in your “trending news section”: school buildings are the third-largest energy user of all commercial building types. According to the Alliance to Save Energy , K-12 schools spend $8 billion and universities spend $6 billion on energy – more than they spend on computers and textbooks combined.

Groups like the Alliance to Save Energy have programs to help students lead the charge to save energy and lower their school’s energy costs. One way to do that is by helping peers and teachers change some everyday behaviors.

Here are some tips from California’s Consumer Energy Center:

Turn Out the Lights

Lighting is one of the largest consumers of energy in the classroom. By turning out the lights when a classroom is unoccupied, the school can save money. The school also may want to consider "occupancy sensors" that detect whether there are people in the room. If no one is there, the switch turns off the light.

Stop the Drips

Hot water is another commodity that uses a great amount of energy. By fixing dripping hot water faucets, you can save water and save energy. If it's cold water, you should still fix the drip, because sanitizing and delivering water spends energy, too.

Close the Doors

Leaving doors wide open to a room or building may make it more inviting, but it wastes energy. Don't prop doors open – allow them to close after people walk through the doorway.

Change the Settings

If there are no health issues, change the thermostat settings to 78 degrees during warmer months and 68 during cooler months. Doing so will lower the heating and air conditioning use.

Reuse and Recycle

If the school doesn’t have a recycling effort, do it now. Reusing or recycling paper saves money and energy. And don’t forget to recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles.

None of these ideas are new, but encouraging our kids to take the energy lessons they learn at home to the classroom could make a big impact on their school’s expenses.


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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10 electricity-free ways to have family fun

It’s August, which means school is right around the corner. Soak up the last of the long days and freedom from the classroom with some electricity-free ways to have family fun.

Here’s ...

Tagged: family, Project Envolve, unplug, save energy

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10 electricity-free ways to have family fun

Family playing cards

Unplug and have some fun with your family before summer slips away.

Key Points

  • It’s easy to get in an electronic rut.
  • Unplug and have some electricity-free fun.
  • It’s fun and affordable. 

It’s August, which means school is right around the corner. Soak up the last of the long days and freedom from the classroom with some electricity-free ways to have family fun.

Here’s a list from mommy-blogger, seemomclick.com. She writes for Project Envolve, a how-to hub for living an energy-efficient lifestyle.

  • Family game night (Chinese checkers is the current favorite!)
  • Crafts
  • Hide-and-Go Seek
  • Color
  • LEGOs or other building toys
  • Puzzles
  • Charades
  • Read a book
  • Make a no-bake recipe (these Peanut Butter Balls are our favorite – a mixer is required but no oven!)
  • Set up a scavenger hunt (these are REALLY fun!)

I like her list, but would have to add a few summer favorites like hanging out at the park, going for a bike ride or hike and playing with sidewalk chalk and bubbles. What are some of your tips for unplugging and having fun with your family? 


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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Your next house could be made of old toilets

One way to save energy is to reuse materials instead of creating new ones. So when Tom van Soest saw how many toilets, glass and insulation are thrown away when a building is demolished, ...

Tagged: toilet, StoneCycling, manufacture, brick, save energy

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Your next house could be made of old toilets

Toilet

The energy it takes to manufacture new products is a hidden part of our consumer experience.

Key Points

  • It generally takes less energy to recycle a material than make something new.
  • A company in the Netherlands is reusing industrial waste as bricks.
  • These bricks take 25 percent less energy to make than traditional ones. 

One way to save energy is to reuse materials instead of creating new ones. So when Tom van Soest saw how many toilets, glass and insulation are thrown away when a building is demolished, he decided to figure out a way to use them.

The first step was making a giant blender to mix up a concoction of garbage. Then he made bricks out of them. And here’s the thing. They’re really pretty bricks. And useful. And use 25 percent less energy to produce that their traditional counterparts.

 Tom and his long-time friend Ward Massa took these bricks of industrial waste and made a company, StoneCycling.

The company currently uses waste from the ceramic, glass and insulation industries but is exploring using other waste, like ground ash from power plants, if government regulations eventually allow it.

They’re also working with builders to do a better job of documenting what materials go into a new structure so it will be easier for companies like StoneCycling to purchase them back for a new use when the building is eventually demolished.

The energy it takes to manufacture new products is a hidden part of our consumer experience. It’s nice to see a company that is doing something to save energy.

Learn more about StoneCycling at Smithsonian Magazine.  


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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The Girl Scouts made me do it

Girl Scouts can be very convincing, as evidenced by the stock pile of Samoas and Thin Mints in my freezer.

So it’s no surprise that researchers discovered that a group ...

Tagged: Girl Scouts, save energy, Energy Efficiency, children

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The Girl Scouts made me do it

Adult girl scouts

I’d do pretty much anything — including switching out my lightbulbs — for a Thin Mint.

Key Points

  • Changing habits can be hard.
  • A new study found that children might be good at teaching their parents new tricks.
  • The study had 30 Girl Scout troops teach their families about energy efficiency.

Girl Scouts can be very convincing, as evidenced by the stock pile of Samoas and Thin Mints in my freezer.

So it’s no surprise that researchers discovered that a group of scouts convinced their parents to make significant changes in how they use energy.

A group of scientists from the University of Oregon worked with 30 Girl Scouts troops in California. The 9- and 10-year-olds were taught how to save energy in their homes. They did activities in their troops to encourage one another to be more energy efficient, adding to the social element of making a change to their daily routines.

Surveys of the girls’ and parents’ behaviors showed that this approach worked. Not only did the girls start saving energy, but they influenced their parents to make changes as well. The researchers calculated that the changes the families made would reduce each household’s energy consumption by 5 percent — a change that could really add up if multiplied in households nationwide.

The researchers are optimistic that educating children might be an effective way to change how households use energy. However, more research needs to be done to see if it’s as effective with other kids of different ages in other areas of the country.

Maybe the scouts should just start a cookie rewards program. I’d do pretty much anything — including switching out my lightbulbs — for a Thin Mint. 


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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Save energy with this improvement to your garage

Sure, your garage is a great space to store extra toys, bikes, strollers and wagons. You might even be able to fit a car in there. But it could be costing you. That deceiving space ...

Tagged: insulation, save energy, garage, Department of Energy

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Save energy with this improvement to your garage

Residential garage door

Save energy costs and keep you and your family safe by insulating the space between your garage and house.

Key Points

  • Many garages aren’t insulated from the living spaces above them.
  • Warm air from the garage can leak into the house.
  • Make sure the space between the garage and living space is insulated. 

Sure, your garage is a great space to store extra toys, bikes, strollers and wagons. You might even be able to fit a car in there. But it could be costing you. That deceiving space seems like it’s inside. But chances are, it’s not air conditioned. So all that hot air in the garage might be making its way into your house, especially if you have living space above it.

Make sure the space between your garage and house is insulated. Not only will it save you on energy costs, but it will help keep you and your family safe from pollutants from car exhaust.

Here’s a great step-by-step guide on what to do from the Department of Energy. Check out more tips to get the job done here

Double-check your insulation

Before opening the packages, verify that the insulation material is the correct width and R-value.

Seal air gaps

Before insulating, carefully air seal gaps in the floor between the garage and the conditioned space as well as the garage and the outdoors (rim/band joists, for example). Use caulk for gaps smaller then ¼ inch and foam for gaps ¼ inch to 3 inches. In addition to improving energy efficiency, air sealing also helps keep exhaust fumes and other pollutants out of the conditioned space.

Fit insulation between joists

Make sure the insulation extends to the outside edge of each joist bay and is in contact with blocking or rim/band joist and the subfloor above. When using kraft-faced batts, install kraft facing against the conditioned side of the cavity. The kraft facing creates a vapor retarder that prevents trapped moisture from reducing the insulation's effectiveness.

Adjust insulation for a snug fit

Make sure the ends of insulation are butted snugly together and in full contact with the subfloor of the conditioned space above.

Fasten the insulation in place

Use wire fasteners to support the insulation so that it is in full contact with the subfloor but not compressed.


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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Gettin’ down on Thursday: Can a four-day workweek save energy?

My daughters discovered Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” and now it’s required listening at the end of ...

Tagged: save energy, Friday, Rebecca Black, Venezuela, Utah, workweek

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Gettin’ down on Thursday: Can a four-day workweek save energy?

Paperclip workweek

We all might have reason to break out our high heels and dance on Fridays if we can convince the bosses of the world to run our offices more like Venezuela.

Key Points

  • Shorter work weeks might save energy. Dictators say so.
  • Venezuela state employees are staying home on Fridays this month to save some watts.
  • Utah tried a four-day work week for a few years to save energy.  

My daughters discovered Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” and now it’s required listening at the end of each week. Here’s Annie celebrating to the tune (and yes, she looks how I feel most days):

We all might have reason to break out our high heels and dance on Fridays if we can convince the bosses of the world to run our offices more like Venezuela.

Yes. Venezuela. President Nicolas Madura gave 2.8 million state employees Fridays off during April and May to help save electricity. The country is in middle of an energy crisis because of low water levels at the country’s hydroelectric plant that provides about two-thirds of the nation’s energy needs.

Here in the U.S., there’s evidence that a four-day work week might be a legit way to save energy. A report in Scientific American sited Utah as an example:

“The state redefined the workday for more than 17,000 of its employees last August (2008). For those workplaces, there's no longer a need to turn on the lights, elevators or computers on Fridays — nor do janitors need to clean vacant buildings. Electric bills have dropped even further during the summer, thanks to less air-conditioning: Friday's midday hours have been replaced by cooler mornings and evenings on Monday through Thursday. As of May, the state had saved $1.8 million.”

From an energy-savings standpoint, it seems the Utah experiment was a success. But some argue that energy saved at the workplace may be offset by increased energy used at home on those days. Utah reverted back to a five-day workweek in 2011 due to public demand to have state services offered five days a week.

Has your office ever tried a four-day workweek? Did you like it? Do you know if it saved any energy?


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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Happy Earth Day! Go plant a tree

Happy Earth Day! Go plant a tree

Earth Day is turning 46 today. And to honor the occasion, Earth Day set a goal to plant 7.8 billion trees by the time ...

Tagged: Earth Day, tree, environment, save energy

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Happy Earth Day! Go plant a tree

Happy Earth Day

Planting a tree can help you keep energy affordable.

Key Points

  • April 22 is Earth Day.
  • Earth Day set a goal to plant 7.8 billion trees in the next five years.
  • Planting trees is good for the environment and can help you save on energy costs.

Happy Earth Day! Go plant a tree

Earth Day is turning 46 today. And to honor the occasion, Earth Day set a goal to plant 7.8 billion trees by the time it turns 50.

Planting trees is a good cause. Here are some of the highlights from www.earthday.org:

Trees help combat climate change. They absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. In fact, in a single year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced by driving the average car 26,000 miles.

Trees help us breathe clean air. Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.

Trees help communities. Trees help communities achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability and provide food, energy and income.

Earth Day didn’t list it, but planting a tree can also help you keep energy affordable. Tree-shaded neighborhoods can be up to 6 degrees cooler on a hot summer day than a treeless area.

Here are some tips from Energy.gov to make the most of your Earth Day tree planting party:

  • Plant a 6-8 foot deciduous tree near your home, and it will start shading your windows in the first year. Depending on the species and the home, it will shade the roof in 5-10 years.
  • Plant deciduous trees to the south of your home. They can screen 70-90 percent of the hot summer sun while allowing breezes through.
  • Plant trees with crowns lower to the ground on the west if you want to shade from lower, afternoon sun angles.
  • Plant evergreen trees and shrubs to the north and northwest of your home to stop wind.

Happy Day, Earthlings! 


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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Beyond the selfie: How to use your smartphone to save money

Summer is almost here. Time to bust out the sun screen, swimsuits and smartphone apps. Energy-saving apps, that is.

It can be overwhelming to weed through all the apps ...

Tagged: apps, save energy, energy cost, Energy Efficiency

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Beyond the selfie: How to use your smartphone to save money

Toddler taking a selfie

Here are the top eight free apps to help cut energy consumption and costs, just in time to help offset your summer cooling costs.

Key Points

  • Summer is almost here.
  • There are apps to help offset your summer cooling costs.
  • Here are the top eight, and they’re all free.

Summer is almost here. Time to bust out the sun screen, swimsuits and smartphone apps. Energy-saving apps, that is.

It can be overwhelming to weed through all the apps in the app store. Thankfully, US News & World Report did the leg work for us. Here are its top eight free apps to help cut energy consumption and costs, just in time to help offset your summer cooling costs.

Now the biggest challenge is only getting your phone back from your kids. Good luck with that.

1. JouleBug

Available on Android and iOS

Designed to make sustainable living fun, JouleBug rewards you with pins, badges and points every time you make an eco-conscious choice. Earn points for sustainable decisions, such as buying local, drinking draft beer instead of bottled and turning off the lights when you leave a room. Connect with your friends to see who can win the most points for eco-friendly actions. With the app, you'll also learn energy-saving tips, plus stats on the energy and money you'll save with your sustainable choices.

2. Light Bulb Finder

Available on Android and iOS

Named "Best Overall App" by the Environmental Protection Agency, Light Bulb Finder guides you through the process of swapping out your incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient ones. Simply input information about your home and current lightbulbs, and the app will suggest energy-efficient equivalents. You can view details on recommended bulbs' energy usage, appearance and lifespan, and order bulbs directly from the app.

3. Water Use Calculator

Available on iOS

Created by the National Ground Water Association, this app lets you calculate your daily, weekly and annual household water consumption. To estimate your water usage, the app asks you a series of questions about the number of people in your household. Based on this information, the app automatically computes how much water is being used by your showers, dishwashers and other common appliances. The app compares your water consumption to the average American household to reveal whether your family's habits can be improved.

4. MyEarth

Available on Android and iOS

MyEarth was dreamt up by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology. The app allows you to catalog the energy you use on a daily basis. MyEarth tracks your consumption based on everyday electricity, recycling, travel, food and usage activities. The app recommends things you can do differently to conserve more energy, such as recycling or replacing old appliances with more efficient ones. To demonstrate how even small actions can be steps toward a larger goal, MyEarth displays an image of a polar bear on an iceberg that grows as you conserve more energy.

5. CarbonDiem

Available on Android

The CarbonDiem app uses GPS data, GSM CellTower location and data from phone sensors to detect your transportation mode in real time. After determining whether you are traveling by car or plane, the app calculates your carbon emissions. With CarbonDiem, you can track the greenhouse gases emitted by your travel habits and adjust them as needed.

6. greenMeter

Available on iOS

Much like CarbonDiem, greenMeter detects your acceleration when you are traveling via car. Using this data, the app can to provide you with information on your vehicle's power, fuel usage and cost, crude oil consumption, and carbon emissions. As you drive, the app gives you feedback about whether your habits are environmentally friendly. It allows you to input information about your vehicle, current weather conditions and the average fuel cost for your area to ensure an accurate analysis.

7. Wink

Available on Android and iOS

Wink connects to home automation devices from popular energy-wise brands like Nest, Philips and Chamberlain. Using Wink, you can control lights, thermostats and other appliances after you've left your home. Use voice prompts such as "Ok Google, activate Away Mode on Wink" to lower your thermostat, lock your doors and turn off your lights. With the app, you can also be alerted of activities going on in your home, such as when a thermostat is adjusted or when a door was opened.

8. Carticipate

Available on Android and iOS

Carticipate helps you save money on gas and lessen your environmental impact by locating carpooling, ride-combining and ridesharing opportunities in your area. After posting your ride, the app will connect you to nearby users who are traveling to your destination. Carticipate includes a handy scheduler that allows you to post and manage multiple trips throughout the week.


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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How to landscape to save energy

Go ahead, play in the dirt. You just might be helping save some energy.

Landscaping can lower your energy bills. According to U.S. Department of Energy, a well-designed ...

Tagged: save energy, landscaping, Energy.gov

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How to landscape to save energy

Landscape design

A well-designed landscape saves enough energy to pay for itself in fewer than eight years.

Key Points

  • Good landscaping can help reduce energy costs.
  • Just make sure you’re smart about where you invest your landscaping dollars.
  • Different climates can benefit from specific trees and placement of vegetation.

Go ahead, play in the dirt. You just might be helping save some energy.

Landscaping can lower your energy bills. According to U.S. Department of Energy, a well-designed landscape saves enough energy to pay for itself in fewer than eight years. Your landscape can reduce your air conditioning costs by up to 50 percent. And tree-shaded neighborhoods can be up to 6 degrees cooler on a hot summer day than a treeless area.

This infographic provided by www.energy.gov is a great guide to make sure you get the most bang for your landscaping buck. It gives great tips for help you shade your home, create a windbreak and conserve water. It also breaks down the best landscaping strategies for the region where you live.

Happy planting!


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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New invention lets you take long showers without taking a bath on your energy bill

It’s hard to beat a long, hot shower. If you don’t consider the sound of my toddler pounding on the shower door demanding a snack that is not carrots, it’s the closest ...

Tagged: save energy, shower, recycle

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New invention lets you take long showers without taking a bath on your energy bill

Cat taking a shower

A Finland-based designer developed a shower loop. It captures your shower water going down the drain and recycles it.

Key Points

  • Long, hot showers can waste water and energy.
  • A new invention recycles the water in your shower.
  • It loops the water back to your shower head after cleaning it up a bit.

It’s hard to beat a long, hot shower. If you don’t consider the sound of my toddler pounding on the shower door demanding a snack that is not carrots, it’s the closest thing to a spa retreat I have.

The only downside to this little oasis is that hot water takes a lot of energy to heat. Plus, I feel a little guilty wasting all that water. And I don’t even live in an area facing a drought, like California.

A newly available invention just might let you take that long shower guilt free. A Finland-based designer developed a shower loop. It captures your shower water going down the drain and recycles it. Before it spews back out the spout it goes through a purification process that removes things like hair, odors, chemicals and bacteria. Plus, it maintains your water’s heat so you can save some of the energy you’d otherwise need to feed your hot water heater.

If you’re handy, you can install it yourself. The designers are making the kit available to consumers and invite folks to let them know if they come up with ideas to improve the design.

The kit costs about $1,600 right now, but the goal is to make it cheaper as they make improvements and the volume of sales increases. 


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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Laundry jargon guide

You might be doing your laundry all wrong.

Choosing the incorrect setting on your washer and dryer isn’t only bad for your clothes; it could be wasting energy.

For ...

Tagged: laundry, save energy, washing machine, save money

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Laundry jargon guide

Washer and dryer

Choosing the incorrect setting on your washer and dryer isn’t only bad for your clothes; it could be wasting energy.

Key Points

  • Choose the right settings on your washer and dryer to save your clothes and some energy.
  • Run full loads to save water.
  • Turn down your water heater thermostat to save on the cost of running your washing machine.

You might be doing your laundry all wrong.

Choosing the incorrect setting on your washer and dryer isn’t only bad for your clothes; it could be wasting energy.

For instance, choosing the “delicates” setting on your dryer might be a less energy-efficient option because it uses low heat, leading to a longer drying time.

Thankfully, the good folks over at Southern California Edison are taking the guess work out of all those settings. Here’s a handy infographic from SCE to help you save your clothes and some energy



Washer Settings

Hot Water (120-140°F) - Use for white cotton items; the higher temp helps kill more bacteria and keep whites bright.

Warm Water (85-105°F) – Use for synthetic fabrics (such as nylon, polyester or spandex) and colors to help prevent color fading and damage.

Cold Water (65-75°F) – Use for dark items and delicate fabrics to help prevent color fading.

Regular/Normal – This setting uses hot water and fast agitation, which is how much the center device shakes or spins your clothes. It’s good for washing white clothes. Washing darker colors in this setting could cause fading.

Permanent Press – This setting uses warm water, cool rinse and mild agitation. It’s good for colored clothing. 

Delicates – This setting uses cold water and light agitation. It’s good for more delicate or stretchable fabrics.

Dryer Settings

Automatic Dry – This setting is more energy-efficient than timed dry because it automatically adjusts the length of the cycle based on the level of moisture in the fabric. It also helps prevent damage to your clothes due to over-drying.

Regular/Heavy – This is the fastest and hottest setting and is best for drying white or light-colored clothes; however, keep in mind that washing in hot water and drying on Regulary/Heavy will shrink fabrics.

Permanent Press – This setting uses medium heat and is best for colored fabrics. Avoid drying delicate fabrics in this setting because they can get damaged.

Delicates – This setting uses low heat, so the drying time will be longer. It is best for delicate fabrics.

Air Fluff – This setting is not used to dry clothes, because it does not use heat. It instead draws in room temperature air, and should be used to “fluff” out your clothes and make them less stiff.

Other laundry energy-saving tips include washing only full loads, which could save over 3,400 gallons of water each year, or turning down your water heater thermostat to 120°F, which could allow you to save up to 20% on the cost of running your washing machine.


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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Sweet skyscraper aims high

LEED Certification is generally the holy grail of energy-efficient designs.

A new skyscraper being built in New York is aiming even higher with its energy-efficiency goals ...

Tagged: Passive House, LEED, Cornell University, skyscrapers, save energy

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Sweet skyscraper aims high

Leaning tower of donuts

To get the Passive House seal of approval, a building must meet strict criteria to cut energy consumption drastically, leaving certifications like LEED in its powdered-sugar dust.

Key Points

  • Buildings are getting more energy efficient.
  • Even skyscrapers.
  • A new standard sets strict standards to dramatically decrease energy consumption.

LEED Certification is generally the holy grail of energy-efficient designs.

A new skyscraper being built in New York is aiming even higher with its energy-efficiency goals and going for the Passive House standard. Passive House is to LEED what homemade doughnuts are to PopTarts. They take more work to make but are totally worth it.

Passive House is an extremely strict building standard. To get the Passive House seal of approval, a building must meet strict criteria to cut energy consumption drastically, leaving certifications like LEED in its powdered-sugar dust.

Until now, the standard has only been used in smaller buildings. But Cornell University is using this standard for its new 250-foot-tall dorm at its New York City campus.

Here’s a snapshot of some of Passive House’s criteria:

  • The Space Heating Energy Demand can’t exceed 15 kWh per square meter of net living space (treated floor area) per year. In climates where active cooling is needed, the Space Cooling Energy Demand requirement roughly matches the heat demand requirements.
  • The Primary Energy Demand, the total energy to be used for all domestic applications (heating, hot water, and domestic electricity) can’t exceed 120 kWh per square meter of treated floor area per year.
  • In terms of Air Tightness, a maximum of 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals pressure is allowed. In other words, the building must not leak more air than 0.6 times its total volume per hour.
  • Thermal Comfort must be met for all living areas during winter as well as in summer, with not more than 10 percent of the hours in a given year over 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit).

The hope is that Cornell’s skyscraper will be a shining example of how efficient buildings — of all sizes — can be. 


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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So that’s why we don’t use waterbeds anymore

As a child of the ‘80s, we all had water beds. My older sister, younger brother and my (I don’t even want to think about it) parents all slumbered on the sweet waves. If you ...

Tagged: Energy.gov, waterbed, save energy, Energy

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So that’s why we don’t use waterbeds anymore

Bed floating in water

Beyond what a huge pain it was to snake the garden hose all the way down to my bedroom, the heater at today’s U.S. average utility rate would not be cheap to run.

Key Points

  • Energy.gov has a handy calculator to see how much it costs to run everyday items in your house.
  • Waterbed heaters can cost $367.92 in electric costs each year.
  • Yes, waterbed heater is on the government’s list of frequently used household items. In 2016.  

As a child of the ‘80s, we all had water beds. My older sister, younger brother and my (I don’t even want to think about it) parents all slumbered on the sweet waves. If you had one, you probably experienced “that time my waterbed heater stopped working” and you woke up freezing cold and seasick.

But alas, the waterbed is now a thing of the past. And for good reason. Beyond what a huge pain it was to snake the garden hose all the way down to my bedroom, the heater at today’s U.S. average utility rate would cost us $367.92 to run.

I know that because the Energy Department included waterbed heater as an option on its new energy calculator. Because why wouldn’t our government want to help us know how much our water beds cost?

Beyond its super-helpful information about waterbeds, the calculator does a nice job of attaching dollar amounts to the things you use every day.

In the spirit of doing this the government way, here are some really, really long instructions to calculate annual electricity consumption and costs. But it’s much easier to just use their calculator available here.

And before you even ask, the answer is yes, they do include “boom box” as an option as well.

Estimate the number of hours per day an appliance runs.

There are two ways to do this:

Rough estimate

If you know about how much you use an appliance every day, you can roughly estimate the number of hours it runs. For example, if you know you normally watch about four hours of television every day, you can use that number. If you know you run your whole house fan four hours every night before shutting it off, you can use that number. To estimate the number of hours that a refrigerator actually operates at its maximum wattage, divide the total time the refrigerator is plugged in by three. Refrigerators, although turned "on" all the time, actually cycle on and off as needed to maintain interior temperatures.

It may be practical for you to keep a usage log for some appliances. For example, you could record the cooking time each time you use your microwave, work on your computer, watch your television, or leave a light on in a room or outdoors.

Find the wattage of the product.

There are three ways to find the wattage an appliance uses:

Stamped on the appliance

The wattage of most appliances is usually stamped on the bottom or back of the appliance or on its nameplate. The wattage listed is the maximum power drawn by the appliance. Many appliances have a range of settings, so the actual amount of power an appliance may consume depends on the setting being used. For example, a radio set at high volume uses more power than one set at low volume. A fan set at a higher speed uses more power than one set at a lower speed.

Multiply the appliance ampere usage by the appliance voltage usage

If the wattage is not listed on the appliance, you can still estimate it by finding the electrical current draw (in amperes) and multiplying that by the voltage used by the appliance. Most appliances in the United States use 120 volts. Larger appliances, such as clothes dryers and electric cooktops, use 240 volts. The amperes might be stamped on the unit in place of the wattage or listed in the owner’s manual or specification sheet.

Use online sources to find typical wattages or the wattage of specific products you are considering purchasing.

The following links are good options:

The Home Energy Saver provides a list of appliances with their estimated wattage and their annual energy use, along with other characteristics (including annual energy use, based on "typical" usage patterns. Continue using the equations here if you want to find energy use based on your own usage patterns).

Energy Star offers energy-use information on specific products that have earned the Energy Star. The information varies across products, but if you are considering purchasing a new, efficient product, Energy Star allows you to select and compare specific models. In some cases, you can use the provided information to do your own estimates using the equations here. The information may also help you compare your current appliances with more efficient models, so you understand potential savings from upgrading to a more efficient appliance.

Find the daily energy consumption using the following formula:

(Wattage × Hours Used Per Day) ÷ 1000 = Daily Kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption

Find the annual energy consumption using the following formula:

Daily kWh consumption × number of days used per year = annual energy consumption

Find the annual cost to run the appliance using the following formula:

Annual energy consumption × utility rate per kWh = annual cost to run appliance 


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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Corporate Kilowatt Karma: The Hershey Company

We’re a good couple of weeks into the New Year. Which means we’ve probably achieved a couple healthy weeks and are ready for a sweet or two. Here’s a little justification for ...

Tagged: Corporate kilowatt karma, Hershey, save energy

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Corporate Kilowatt Karma: The Hershey Company

Hershey's milk chocolate bar

Here’s a little justification for that chocolate. Hershey is working toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2017.

Key Points

  • Hershey has some good kilowatt karma.
  • The company created a new wrapper design to use less aluminum, saving electricity to process its packaging.
  • Eat chocolate. 

We’re a good couple of weeks into the New Year. Which means we’ve probably achieved a couple healthy weeks and are ready for a sweet or two. Here’s a little justification for that chocolate.

The Hershey Company is working to be energy efficient and help the environment.

The company created the Hershey Environmental Management System in 2013. One of its goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its U.S. distribution and transportation operations by 10 percent from 2013 baseline by 2017. Companywide, Hershey is working toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2017.

It’s achieving these goals by using more efficient shipping methods. It’s also piloting conservation projects in its plants to waste less water. And check out the wrapper next time you grab a mini Mr. Goodbar; Hershey also started using a new wrapper design that uses less aluminum, saving enough electricity to power 56 homes for a year.

Now gimme a Kiss.  


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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Corporate kilowatt karma: Disney

My little Annie’s favorite Christmas gift this year was a microphone that plays “Let it Go” with the push of a button. Because the only thing better than a toddler singing ...

Tagged: Disney, Corporate kilowatt karma, save energy, conservation

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Corporate kilowatt karma: Disney

Disney's Frozen characters

No surprise, Disney does some magical things to save energy.

Key Points

  • Disney takes its environmental impact seriously.
  • Some of its environmental goals include saving energy.
  • I can’t think of a third point because the lyrics to “Let it Go” are too loud in my head. 

My little Annie’s favorite Christmas gift this year was a microphone that plays “Let it Go” with the push of a button. Because the only thing better than a toddler singing a Disney theme song is a toddler singing that song even louder.

Since I can’t get its songs out of my head, this week we’re going to look at Disney’s corporate kilowatt karma. No surprise, it’s pretty magical.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the things Disney has taken on as part of its environmental initiatives, including a few specifically aimed at saving energy:

  • Since 2014, Disney has successfully reduced its net emissions by 31 percent. By 2020, it aims to reduce net emissions by 50 percent.
  • Disneyland Resort was honored with a Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, California’s highest environmental honor, for waste-reduction efforts. The program distinguishes organizations that are leaders in environmental stewardship and that make notable efforts to conserve California’s natural resources.
  • At Walt Disney World Resort, the nighttime spectacular “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” dazzles Epcot guests with new environmentally friendly lasers. Brighter and more precise, the show’s new solid-state lasers use the energy equivalent of a hair dryer, saving approximately 64,000 watts of power with each show.
  • Aboard Disney Cruise Line, all ships have dedicated Environmental Officers who monitor the ship’s water quality and supply, oversee shipboard recycling and sanitation initiatives and train other officers and crew members on environmental safety. To date, Disney Cruise Line programs have eliminated more than 6,400 tons of metal, glass, plastic and paper from traditional waste streams through recycling and removed 31,000 pounds of trash and debris from beaches and waterways.
  • Tokyo DisneySea recently introduced the first electric vehicle on the Big City Vehicles attraction and will transition the remaining six vehicles to electric by March 2017.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland is taking a similar approach to conservation by enhancing facilities at the resort. They have replaced the lighting systems in workshops with energy efficient LED lamps. Simple changes like these result in big energy savings.
  • At Disneyland Paris, a food waste collection program has been implemented in the resort’s restaurants and employee cafeterias. The waste collected is treated through biomethanization for energy recovery and use in organic soil. Additionally, during 2014, the resort’s wastewater treatment plant saved approximately 53 million gallons of water for the first year of use.

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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Skip the kale, do this instead

Happy Sweet ’16! This is YOUR YEAR! Or at least that’s what all the magazines told me when I scanned the covers at the grocery store while stocking up on New Year’s Resolution ...

Tagged: New Year's Resolution, New Year, save energy, office

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Skip the kale, do this instead

Women reading a diet magazine

A nice way to make a good change this resolution season is to take a look at ways to save energy (and money) at your office.

Key Points

  • Half of the nation’s energy use happens in the work place.
  • We can save a lot of energy (and money) at the office.
  • This is “your year!” 

Happy Sweet ’16! This is YOUR YEAR! Or at least that’s what all the magazines told me when I scanned the covers at the grocery store while stocking up on New Year’s Resolution kale today (they really should brand that).

What does making this “your year” even mean? Am I supposed to try to control the year to have everything go my way? Seems a little ambitious. I usually end up having more fun when things don’t go my way, like when June decided she wanted to make Valentine’s Day cookies for Christmas (I asked her if that was because she loves baby Jesus. She answered “no.” #parentingfail). 

Whether this is “your year” or not, a nice way to make a good change this resolution season is to take a look at ways to save energy (and money) at your office. Yes, that was a big leap. But half of the nation’s energy use happens at the places where we work, so there’s an opportunity there to make a big difference.

Here are some simple things Energy Star recommends doing at the office:

  • Maximize daylighting. Exposure to natural light at work has been shown to boost performance and improve sleep. And best of all, sunlight is free! Opt for natural light, and turn off the artificial lights when you can to save on lighting and heating costs.
  • Enable the power management function on your office computer(s). These settings automatically put computers to sleep when not in use. On average, activating the power management setting on your computer can cut annual energy use by $10–$50!
  • Deploy “Smart” power strips. These strips can reduce the power consumed by task lighting, computer accessories, fans, space heaters, and other miscellaneous plug loads in cubicles and offices. Did you know that electronic products continue to draw power from the wall even when they are powered off? Since it’s not always practical to unplug these items whenever you leave your desk, smart power strips can effectively do so for you

And don’t worry: The New Year’s resolution hype will be over soon, and we can start to focus on eating sugar again for Valentine’s Day. I have the cookies ready.  


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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This resolution makes yours look small

Lose 10 pounds. Stop gossiping. Wear “real pants” on the weekends. 

These are all admirable New Year’s resolutions. But they can’t compare to what the U.S. ...

Tagged: Department of Energy, New Year's Resolution, New Year, Energy Efficiency, save energy

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This resolution makes yours look small

Happy New Year 2016

The Department of Energy is calling this the largest energy-saving standard in history.

Key Points

  • U.S. Department of Energy announced new efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners and furnaces.
  • It’s the largest energy-saving standard in history.
  • The DOE’s resolution is bigger than yours. 

Lose 10 pounds. Stop gossiping. Wear “real pants” on the weekends. 

These are all admirable New Year’s resolutions. But they can’t compare to what the U.S. Department of Energy is doing.

The DOE recently announced new efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners and furnaces. And they’re calling it the largest energy-saving standard in history. It’s projected to save businesses $167 billion on utility bills and reduce carbon pollution by 885 million metric tons. Not that losing 10 pounds isn’t hard, but well, this is more like Extreme Makeover for A/Cs and furnaces than just fitting into those skinny jeans (that you will wear on the weekends).

“Just days after the Paris agreement to cut global emissions and create a new era of affordable energy, today’s announcement marks the largest energy-saving standard in history and demonstrates that America is leading the effort to reduce energy costs and cut carbon emissions,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in a press release. “This rule also shows that strong public-private partnerships can reap environmental and economic dividends and drive technology breakthroughs. These standards are a direct result of the Energy Department’s negotiated rulemaking process, which brings diverse stakeholders to the negotiating table and supports industry innovation, demonstrating how government and business can work together to meet U.S. carbon reduction goals.”

These new commercial air conditioning and furnace standards will occur in two phases. The first phase will begin in 2018 and will deliver a 13 percent efficiency improvement in products. Five years later, an additional 15 percent increase in efficiency is required for new commercial units.

Find more information about the energy efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners and warm air furnaces at www.Energy.gov.

Good luck with the pants. 


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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And the 2015 winners are…

The year is nearly over (Yes, Christmas is next week. Deep breath. Go to your happy place. Continue reading.)

After 12 months comes the big announcement you’ve all been ...

Tagged: energy star, Most Efficient, save energy

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And the 2015 winners are…

The Most Efficient 2015

Get comfortable because you’re going to want to soak this in.

Key Points

  • Energy Star named its “Most Efficient” 2015 winners.
  • Winners are the best in energy efficiency and technological innovation.
  • Categories include TVs, clothes washers, refrigerators and dishwashers to name a few. 

The year is nearly over (Yes, Christmas is next week. Deep breath. Go to your happy place. Continue reading.)

After 12 months comes the big announcement you’ve all been waiting for: “The Energy Star Most Efficient 2015.” Get comfortable because you’re going to want to soak this in.

As the EPA describes it, the Most Efficient 2015 is a “new distinction that recognizes products that deliver cutting edge energy efficiency along with the latest in technological innovation.” It’s like the Oscars but with no celebrities and more downloadable excel spreadsheets noting annual energy use.

Award categories include clothes washers, refrigerators, televisions and windows, to name a few. And the winners are impressive. Samsung, Sony, LG and Philips all had larger screen TVs make the cut with features including “Wide Color Enhancer Plus,” HD 1080p, surround sound, WiFi, LGD backlighting, and my personal favorite, a “Magic Remote Universal Control.”

Only two dishwashers made the cut, one from Bloomberg and one from Viking. The Viking Range is $1,999. Yeah, you read that right. It claims to “provide spotless dishes with three wash arms and a triple filtration system.” But can it clean the sippy cup with curdled milk I found in the back of my car? I’ll likely never know because did I mention it costs $1,999?

It is a fun list to peruse though, even if you’re not currently in the market for every item on there. See all the 2015 winners here. And let me know if you purchase the Viking dishwasher. I have some challenges for it. 


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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Another reason to add the Apple Watch to your Christmas list

Is the Apple Watch on your Christmas list? If so, you should probably forward this article to your Santa. “Hey honey, ...

Tagged: Apple, Apple Watch, Apple HomeKit, save energy

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Another reason to add the Apple Watch to your Christmas list

I know you think I just want an Apple Watch so I can be one of the cool kids, but I actually want it to help reduce our energy use, save money and maybe even reduce our nation’s carbon foot print.

Key Points

  • The Apple Watch might help you save energy.
  • The Apple HomeKit prompts you to turn off lights.
  • Please Santa? 

Is the Apple Watch on your Christmas list? If so, you should probably forward this article to your Santa. “Hey honey, I know you think I just want an Apple Watch so I can be one of the cool kids, but I actually want it to help reduce our energy use, save money and maybe even reduce our nation’s carbon foot print. I’m a good person. Buy me the watch.” 

Here’s your case: If you get the Apple Watch, you can remotely operate your lights and smart thermostats. Your watch will notice when you’re leaving, and prompt you to turn out the lights. The Apple HomeKit can even do things like open your kitchen shades to let the sunshine heat your home, even while you’re out.

If that’s not enough, the Apple Watch could keep you safe. If it detects a fire, it will turn on the lights automatically to help you find your way to safety.

So there you have it. Here’s to hoping Santa agrees.  


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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The truth about shutting your furnace vents

I was in the seldom-used basement the other night hiding Christmas gifts and noticed just how cold it is down there. Since we rarely use the extra square footage, the vents are closed ...

Tagged: Home Heating, furnace, save energy

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The truth about shutting your furnace vents

Furnace vents

While shutting your furnace vents seems like a good idea, it actually leads to increased energy use.

Key Points

  • Closing vents to save on heating costs seems like a good idea.
  • But it actually leads to increased energy use.
  • That extra “saved” heat gets lost anyway and cold rooms create a low pressure that lets even more cold air seep in. 

I was in the seldom-used basement the other night hiding Christmas gifts and noticed just how cold it is down there. Since we rarely use the extra square footage, the vents are closed so we don’t waste heat. Makes sense, right?

Well, turns out I’ve been doing it wrong.

Although shutting those vents seems like a good idea, it actually leads to increased energy use.  True story. The Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory even did a study on it.

I assumed that closing the vents meant that we didn’t waste precious warm air on the empty space and freed up that air to warm my daughters’ bedrooms, our upstairs living room, etc.

It’s not that easy.

Those cold, closed-off rooms make return ducts pull in cold air anywhere they can get it, like cracks in the windows or doors. So now we have extra cold air making its way into our home.

But that’s not all.

The extra warm air not being used in those rooms leaks out of the ducts or travels to other areas of the house like into floor cavities. So I have to pay for that heat anyway.

Even if you don’t believe that opening them is actually the more efficient way to go, consider this: Your furnace was probably matched to the square footage of your home, so closing vents can mess with its little furnace brain.

A better way to save on your heating costs would be to weatherize your home. And when it’s time to replace your furnace, make sure to get an energy-efficient one.

Now back to the gift hiding. If I forget, remind me in December that Annie’s Frozen keyboard that can play “Let It Go” with the push of a button is in the spare room closet. … Or on second thought, don’t.  


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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Black Friday savings

Happy day-after Thanksgiving! You might be reading this while waiting for Best Buy to open at midnight. Hat tip to you, super shopper.

Here are a few energy- (and money-) ...

Tagged: holiday, save energy, LED, black friday

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Black Friday savings

Black Friday savings illustration

Learn about a few simple things we can all do this holiday season to save energy.

Key Points

  • Hope you’re having fun shopping.
  • Here are some ways to save some money to offset those purchases.
  • Popcorn garlands are the best. 

Happy day-after Thanksgiving! You might be reading this while waiting for Best Buy to open at midnight. Hat tip to you, super shopper.

Here are a few energy- (and money-) saving tips to help offset that shopping trip. I don’t normally look to Florida for energy tips, but the gals in this video do a nice job outlining some simple things we can all do this holiday season to save energy.

My favorite tip? Using decorations that don’t have lights. Looks like we’re making popcorn garlands tonight, girls! 


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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Corporate kilowatt karma: Zappos

A lot of my favorite companies are doing big things to save energy. In the next few weeks, we’ll look at a few industry rock stars banking on some good kilowatt karma to help their ...

Tagged: Zappos, LEED Gold certified, save energy

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Corporate kilowatt karma: Zappos

Zappos Shoebox

Go ahead and order those boots. It’s less of a purchase and more of a way to help the planet.

Key Points

  • Zappos has some good kilowatt karma.
  • The company has electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Its headquarters is LEED Gold certified.

A lot of my favorite companies are doing big things to save energy. In the next few weeks, we’ll look at a few industry rock stars banking on some good kilowatt karma to help their bottom line and do some good for the earth.

Today is one of my favorites: Zappos. If you’ve ever shopped with Zappos, you know that they take good service seriously. Returns are easy. A call with a customer service representative makes you feel like you’ve made a new friend — a friend who helps you make questionable decisions when debating whether to buy that new pair of boots or not (just the kind of friend I like).

So it wasn’t a huge surprise to learn that this company is also an energy star. Its corporate headquarters in Las Vegas is LEED Gold certified. Zappos is also part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge. That means they have electric vehicle charging stations on sight for all employees and guests.

Plus, they have this cool blog where they encourage employees and customers to live a lifestyle that saves energy and helps the environment.

Here are a few ways Zappos boasts it saves energy:

  • Our campus has an interior lighting power density (LPD) of 0.57 Watts per square foot — nearly half the average office LPD of 1.0 Watt per square foot.
  • The campus uses energy-efficient T8 fluorescent lamps in open-office areas combined with individual task lighting at every desk. We are also testing several L.E.D. options.
  • Meeting rooms and bathrooms are all equipped with motion sensors and timers.
  • We don’t have cubes or offices. Zappos’ open office arrangement demonstrates “high-employee-density.” Unlike the average office, we allocate less than 100 square feet per
    employee, therefore less energy is used per square foot per employee (kWh/ ft2/employee). It’s a cool metric to use for your building too!
  • The Zappos Energy Model demonstrates a 25% reduction in energy use against the baseline consumption, which is huge!
  • The campus underwent Enhanced Commissioning (Cx), which verifies that a building's systems operate according to planned requirements. The benefit of Enhanced Commissioning is a typical yield of 5-16% improvement in energy efficiency.
  • The existing roof was replaced with materials that have a high solar reflectivity index (SRI), which measures a surface's ability to stay cool by reflecting solar radiation and emitting thermal radiation. This also reduces Zappos' contribution to the heat island effect.
  • Both of our parking garages were retrofitted with new, brighter induction lamps to replace the yellow high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs. Our south garage features dimming controls and daylight sensors that help to save almost two thirds of the energy compared to the old lighting system.
  • We have an awesome building management system (BMS) that allows us to fully control our heating, cooling and lighting. We think its super cool (pun – get it!?)
  • Big stuff — we bought two new efficient chillers for our central plant. All four chillers are equipped with variable frequency drives (VFD’s) to decrease energy consumption.
  • Renewable energy? Yes! We installed our first solar PV array on campus during the summer of 2014.

So go ahead and order those boots. It’s less of a purchase and more of a way to help the planet. And no, my husband didn’t buy that logic either, but it’s worth a shot. 


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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Big news that might make you actually want to eat at Arby’s (but probably not)

Tagged: Arby's, Energy Department, restaurant, save energy, Better Buildings Challenge

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Big news that might make you actually want to eat at Arby’s (but probably not)

Arby's drive-through

Arby’s is committed to energy savings and cutting energy waste.

Key Points

  • Arby’s is an energy efficiency all-star.
  • The restaurant chain is part of the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Challenge.
  • That might be enough to make you even want to eat there. 

You might not have to be facing death by starvation on a desert island to actually be hungry enough to eat at Arby’s anymore.

That’s because the fast food chain is now an energy all-star. The United States Department of Energy recently recognized Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc. for its leadership in energy efficiency. Four years ago, Arby’s committed to 20 percent energy savings over 10 years, across 2.7 million square feet of building space, at company-owned restaurants. And they’re already more than halfway to meeting their goal (for you non-math-majors out there, that’s ahead of schedule).

Arby’s is also one of 250 organizations participating in the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge, a program designed to cut energy waste in restaurants and buildings. Arby’s is making improvements to its lights, HVAC systems, hot water use and refrigeration to meet its energy efficiency goals.

“Arby’s energy efficiency work is proof that brands can set ambitious energy savings goals,” said David Danielson, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Even with historically energy-intensive buildings like restaurants, Arby’s is committed to developing innovative and successful models and approaches with restaurant owners interested in replicating gains in efficiency.”

So go ahead and get a roast beef sandwich for lunch. I won’t judge you. Really.  


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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Just when you thought you were safe

You survived Halloween and probably think that you’re in the clear for any vampire attacks.

Wrong.

Vampires are lurking all over your house. Energy vampires. ...

Tagged: save energy, energy vampires, Berkeley Lab, unplug

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Just when you thought you were safe

Energy vampire

Vampires are lurking all over your house. Energy vampires.

Key Points

  • Energy vampires are sucking your energy.
  • But it’s not always practical to unplug everything in your house.
  • Here’s a guide to what to leave in the socket. 

You survived Halloween and probably think that you’re in the clear for any vampire attacks.

Wrong.

Vampires are lurking all over your house. Energy vampires. They’re things like the plugged-in basement TV you never use or the electronic treadmill that’s collecting dust while sucking energy (and silently judging you).

Some will tell you to go unplug everything. But let’s be real. I’m not going to plug in my microwave every time I need it. Trying to warm up an uncured, organic, non-cancer-causing hot dog with one hand while holding a crying baby is hard enough.

Thankfully, some really smart people have my “are you kidding me?!” back. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California recently discussed what’s really worth unplugging to save some energy and what’s better left plugged in.

Count your energy losses, and leave these devices plugged in:

  • Microwave — According to scientist Alan Meier, microwaves aren’t worth the hastle of unplugging. “The cord is not designed for being plugged and unplugged twice a day. If you do that, the cord could become damaged over time”
  • Cable and satellite set-top boxes — Unplugging these is a big pain because it takes a long time to re-start. Instead, use a timer to switch off the set-to box and turn it back on automatically.
  • Computers — Just shut them down normally to avoid losing data.
  • Mobile phone charger — It’s a myth that that charger is costing you big bucks.

Unplug. It’s worth the hassle:

  • Game systems — These are big energy suckers. If you don’t unplug, be sure to check your device’s settings to see if there is an energy efficiency mode.
  • Exercise equipment — Because you’re not using it anyway.
  • Printers, shredders and scanners — Most home offices don’t use the printer daily, so this is an easy way to save a little energy with minimal work.
  • Rechargeable vacuums — Once it’s charged up, give it a rest. It needs one after sucking up all that pink glitter from craft time. 

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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Happy end of Daylight Saving Time Day!

I hope you enjoyed your extra hour this weekend. Before I had kids, I used it to get an extra glorious hour of sleep after an evening of socializing with friends. I probably even ...

Tagged: Daylight Saving Time, save energy

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Happy end of Daylight Saving Time Day!

Daylight saving time

I’m always looking for ways to save energy, so if keeping Daylight Saving Time would help our electric demand, I’d be all for it.

Key Points

  • Most states recognized the end of Daylight Saving Time this weekend.
  • Jury is still out on if DLT saves any energy.
  • If you see a young parent today, hand him or her a large coffee and walk away.  

I hope you enjoyed your extra hour this weekend. Before I had kids, I used it to get an extra glorious hour of sleep after an evening of socializing with friends. I probably even showered and took time to put on makeup. I wish I could yell to that young self, “Enjoy this moment when your jeans fit, the only thing on your to-do list tomorrow is to take a ‘long run,’ and your idea of lots of laundry is anything more than one load a week!”

I was so naïve and had no idea that while I was celebrating an extra hour of zzz’s, parents everywhere were cursing me.

Things have changed. The end of Daylight Saving Time means that June and Annie think it is 6:30 a.m. when it’s now only 5:30 a.m. More. Caffeine. Now.

I’ve heard lots of reasons why we have Daylight Saving Time. Farmers, energy savings, “because Ben Franklin said so,” war time strategy, etc.

And it turns out, there’s a bit of truth to each of those rumors. Here’s a quickie history of DST.

1784

Ben Franklin writes an essay that suggests adjusting the clocks in the spring could be a good way to save on candles.

1895

George Vernon Hudson unsuccessfully proposes an annual two-hour time shift to the Royal Society of New Zealand. His goal was to match daylight hours to the times when most people are awake, helping conserve energy.

1905

A British construction magnate named William Willett tries to convince the United Kingdom Parliament that citizens should adjust their clocks each spring and fall to allow more time for recreation in daylight hours. It, too, fails to get any traction.

1916

Germany and Austria implement a one-hour clock shift to help conserve electricity needed for the war effort.

1918

United States first observes Daylight Saving Time, also as a wartime effort to conserve electricity.

1919

United States repeals Daylight Saving Time as wartime efforts end.

1942

United States reinstitutes daylight saving during World War II. This time, several states decide to keep the adjusted hours after the war.

1966

Congress passes the Uniform Time Act, standardizing the time change as starting in April and ending in October.

2005

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extends DST by two months. It now starts each year in March and ends in November. However, states are not required to follow this guideline, which is why states like South Dakota can consider ignoring it altogether. That’s how we roll in South Dakota. Or, in this case, don’t roll (the clocks, that is).

I’m always looking for ways to save energy, so if keeping DST would help our electric demand, I’d be all for it. But many studies have shown that there really isn’t any energy savings associated with DST. In fact, this report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in some regions the extra hour of light in the evening can actually lead to increased electric consumption.

In 2008 the Department of Energy analyzed the theory that DST could save energy and concluded that it could save some electricity but might indirectly add to people’s overall energy consumption:

“Assuming that businesses and households maintain their daily schedules (with respect to clock time) after the transition to EDST, extra evening daylight hours may lower electricity consumption because of the delayed need for lighting. Morning electricity use could increase, as people awaken to darker homes and the need for electric lighting is greater. Some parts of the country enjoy cooler or warmer evening weather, and EDST could result in changes in the amount of electricity used for heating and air conditioning.

“Daylight Saving Time also provides people with the opportunity to pursue more outdoor activities during the lighter (and warmer) late-afternoon/evening hours. Consequently, while reducing electricity consumption in homes, extra daylight might lead to more driving, which would likely translate into more miles.”

Overall, it looks like the jury is still out on if DST is an energy saver or not. But even if this legislation doesn’t help us save energy, I’m for any way to keep nap and bedtime disruptions to a minimum. Pass the coffee. 



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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Three layers to stay warm this winter

There are so many high-tech ways to save energy. Fancy energy-efficient appliances, programmable thermostats and special lightbulbs to name a few. But I’m getting back to the basics ...

Tagged: save energy, warm, layers, dress

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Three layers to stay warm this winter

Girl outside in snow

Dressing properly for the season can help you stay warm no matter what temperature the thermostat is set at.

Key Points

  • There are lots of high tech ways to save energy.
  • One very non-techy way to stay warm and save energy is to dress properly for the season.
  • Don’t trade in your furnace for a parka, but do use common sense to help stay warm this winter.

There are so many high-tech ways to save energy. Fancy energy-efficient appliances, programmable thermostats and special lightbulbs to name a few. But I’m getting back to the basics today. Like caveman basics. How to dress to stay warm.

Dressing properly for the season can help you stay warm no matter what temperature the thermostat is set at.

I’m not suggesting you trade in your furnace for a parka this winter, but sometimes the most common-sense approach, like putting on a sweater, can make a bigger difference than you’d think.

In more extreme cold, check out these life hacks to make the most of your layers.

  1. Base layer — The goal of the base layer is to regulate body temperature by moving perspiration away from your skin. It should fit snuggly and be a natural fiber that wicks away moisture.
  2. Mid layer — This layer should trap your body heat.
  3. Outer layer — This layer should be water and wind proof to protect you from the elements. It’s helpful to have some zippers and vents to use in case you get too hot from all those expertly placed layers.

Again, I’m not advocating trading in your heater for a coat, but consider your clothes your first line of defense against the cold this winter.


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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Get inspired by the tiny house movement (even if you’re unwilling to give up your walk-in closet)

Do you ever feel buried by all your stuff? I was attempting to organize the girls’ toys the other day and was frustrated with how I’ve allowed our house to get buried in things. ...

Tagged: tiny house, save energy, energy efficient, Alliance to Save Energy

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Get inspired by the tiny house movement (even if you’re unwilling to give up your walk-in closet)

Tiny houses

With the small size comes some big energy savings.

Key Points

  • Tiny houses are getting more popular.
  • They’re efficient with space and energy use.
  • Even if you’re not ready for an extreme downsize, you can save energy like tiniest of tiny houses. 

Do you ever feel buried by all your stuff? I was attempting to organize the girls’ toys the other day and was frustrated with how I’ve allowed our house to get buried in things. Things that take up space, seldom get used and make cleaning a royal pain.

For a spit second, I had a glamorized vision of selling everything and moving our family into a tiny house. Then I realized that it would probably include downsizing my fridge, oven, washing machine and other average American home luxuries.

But if we did get on the tiny house bandwagon, we’d not only save on stuff, we’d save a lot of energy.

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, tiny houses average 100-400 square feet. Most could probably fit in the walk-in closet of the average American home that boasts around 2,600 square feet.

With the small size comes some big energy savings. On a basic level, there’s less space to heat and cool. Beyond that, many tiny homes use the latest in energy-efficiency technology like solar panels and Energy Star appliances.

I might not be ready to downsize to the tiny house extreme, but the Alliance to Save Energy says that’s OK. It believes that although tiny houses are great, it’s the little behaviors each of us make every day that will add up to a bigger change.

A few tiny house energy-efficient inspirations we can all adopt include installing LED lights, making sure our big ol’ houses are properly insulated, and actively thinking about reducing our every day consumption by turning off and unplugging the electronics we’re not using. And cleaning out unused toys never hurt anyone either. 


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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Sarah's Surprise Attack Savings - At the movies

When we talk about energy savings, the usual things come to mind. Turn down the thermostat. Use efficient bulbs. Buy Energy Star-rated appliances. Record. Broken.

But there ...

Tagged: Surprise Attack Savings, save energy, movie theatre

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Sarah's Surprise Attack Savings - At the movies

Group of kids at the movies

If we look around, there are simple adjustments we can make to our daily routines to save energy.

Key Points

  • Think beyond the lightbulb for energy savings.
  • I’m surprise attacking people with my camera to see how they save.
  • No restraining orders yet (fingers crossed). 

When we talk about energy savings, the usual things come to mind. Turn down the thermostat. Use efficient bulbs. Buy Energy Star-rated appliances. Record. Broken.

But there are a lot of resourceful ways to save cash too. Ways I’ve never even thought of. I started to surprise attack local businesses, random people on the street, and friends and family with my camera, asking how they save last year. And I learned a few things. First, sometimes people are frightened by a crazy lady holding a crying baby and yelling, “tell me how to save it!” Second, if we look around, there are simple adjustments we can make to our daily routines to save energy.

Here’s how one business saves energy. The Elks Theatre is my favorite movie theater in town. So when I saw the opportunity to talk with them about how they save energy, I jumped at the chance (and scored some movie theater popcorn). Here’s what Kriste Steinken with the Elks administration had to say.

Watch out. You might be the next victim of Sarah’s Surprise Attack Savings. Mwahahaha. Ha. Ha.  


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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Bring on the casserole

Labor Day has come and gone. Time to trade our outdoor barbeques for cozy casseroles (or hotdish, depending on what state you're from).

I always assumed that using my slow ...

Tagged: energy efficient, save energy, crockpot, oven

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Bring on the casserole

Caserole dish

Crockpot or oven, which appliance is the most energy efficient option?

Key Points

  • Fall is here, time for stews and casseroles.
  • Slow cookers don’t always save energy.
  • Your oven might be the more energy efficient option. 

Labor Day has come and gone. Time to trade our outdoor barbeques for cozy casseroles (or hotdish, depending on what state you're from).

I always assumed that using my slow cooker was the most energy efficient option to cook my favorite stews and one pot meals. It’s so little, it must be better than that big oven, right?

Nope.

Turns out that your oven might beat your Crockpot for energy use. The University of Connecticut looked into it. Here’s what they found:

"Crock pots run with lower energy wattage (70-250) than a conventional electric oven (2000-3000). However, while slow cookers’ heating elements stay on continuously, electric ovens cycle their elements on and off as needed to maintain temperature, often being on for only about one fourth of the actual cooking time. Assuming you would use a slow cooker on high for twice as many hours as your electric oven, the energy usage would probably come out about the same.

Total energy usage can be calculated by multiplying the wattage by your recipe’s cooking time. If you use a gas stove to cook with, it is harder to determine what the energy savings would be. Natural gas is a more efficient fuel than electricity, and the newer electric-ignition gas ranges are about 30 percent more efficient than older models that have a continuously burning pilot light. Units used to measure energy consumption are different between gas and electric energy sources so they are more difficult to compare."

Bottom line: Your slow cooker might save you energy by helping you get dinner on the table after a busy day of work, but it’s not necessarily saving you the kind of energy that comes from electrons.

Here are some great slow cooker hacks to help you prepare for casserole season. Just don’t forget to sprinkle on some cheese before serving. I don’t care what the recipe says: It’s always better with cheese.


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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Would winning suite tickets to a Lion’s game motivate you to save some energy?

OK, maybe that’s a trick question. Let’s pretend like the Lions have actually won ...

Tagged: DTE Energy, save energy, Detroit Lions, gameday

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Would winning suite tickets to a Lion’s game motivate you to save some energy?

The good people over at DTE Energy are betting it will.

Key Points

  • DTE Energy is offering Lions tickets for Gameday energy savings.
  • Hopefully customers are more successful at saving energy than the team is at winning games.
  • Just kidding. We love you Detroit. 

OK, maybe that’s a trick question. Let’s pretend like the Lions have actually won a playoff game since 1991. Now would you want to?

The good people over at DTE Energy are betting it will. Its customers can enter a contest to win tickets by simply sharing their favorite ways to save energy on gameday.

I can’t offer you NFL tickets, but take the quiz below to show how you plan to save some energy.

I’m going to save energy on Gameday by hiding my husband’s iPhone and laptop so he can’t check his fantasy teams scores (yes, plural, as in six). Because I care about energy efficiency that much. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Any other ideas on how to save during the game? Please comment below.  


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: More fun than your back-to-school Facebook feed

Quick: Where do most of your energy dollars go? No, it’s not charging your phone after posting 20 first-day-of-school pictures of your kids on Facebook.

It’s heating.

And ...

Tagged: save energy, energy audit, Home Heating, back to school

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Energy savings: More fun than your back-to-school Facebook feed

June Folsland's first day of school

Do you know where most of your energy dollars go?

Key Points

  • Back to school means winter is on its way.
  • That means it’s time to get your house ready.
  • Sometimes the best bang for your buck is calling a pro.

Quick: Where do most of your energy dollars go? No, it’s not charging your phone after posting 20 first-day-of-school pictures of your kids on Facebook.

It’s heating.

And since it’s almost heating season, we have to talk about the elephant in the “keeping energy affordable” room: how to save energy this winter by reducing your heating costs.

What you’ll need:

  • A phone.
  • Caulk and weather stripping.
  • A phone.

Why the phone? Because even though there are a lot of things you can do yourself, like caulk and weather strip your windows, turn down the thermostat and wear your Daniel Tiger sweater (Mr. Rogers to those born before 1990), or open your curtains during the day to let the sunshine in, other things require a pro.

According to Consumer Reports magazine, having the ductwork professionally sealed in your forced-air system can save you hundreds every year. Twenty-five to 40 percent of air, whether heated or cooled, is lost to leaks. Another good bang for your buck is making sure your attic is adequately insulated. You need 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose insulation to get the job done.

Still not convinced? Take a moment to fill out a home energy audit to pinpoint where your home might save some energy dollars. Most utilities offer one for free. Wherever you live, I’d bet you an LED light bulb yours has one too.

After you’re done with that, go ahead and head back to Facebook to post that other shot of your kids walking away from you wearing their gigantic backpacks. No, you haven’t posted too many yet. And yes, they are adorable.  


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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Do streetlights make us safer?

Fall is right around the corner. On the bright side, that means we get to enjoy the autumn colors, bust out the boots and welcome back our primetime friends (Nashville premieres ...

Tagged: streetlights, dim lights, save energy, United Kingdom

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Do streetlights make us safer?

Lights at night

The United Kingdom started dimming or shutting off streetlights recently to save money and reduce energy use.

Key Points

  • Dimming or turning off streetlights could save energy.
  • Researchers are studying if dark streets are safe.
  • A new study shows turning off or dimming the lights didn’t increase collisions or crime. 

Fall is right around the corner. On the bright side, that means we get to enjoy the autumn colors, bust out the boots and welcome back our primetime friends (Nashville premieres Sept. 24, if you were wondering. Which I’m sure you were).

On the not-so-bright side, literally, is the end of our long, sunlit evenings. Soon the sun will set before most people even leave the office for the evening. But thank goodness for streetlights. They help keep our streets safe during these dark evenings, right?

Well, maybe wrong.

The United Kingdom started dimming or shutting off streetlights recently to save money and reduce energy use. Local citizens weren’t too happy about the change, saying the unlit streets make them feel vulnerable and cause more car accidents.

But new research from the University College London says just the opposite. The group studied police data and found that dim or no street lighting had no impact on collisions or crime.

This might be because people who are scared of the dark stayed home, decreasing the number of folks who could be involved in accidents. And increasing the use of the term “scaredy-cat” throughout London.

Numbers aside, well-lit streets make us feel safer. Turning off or dimming the street lights on my suburban street probably wouldn’t have a huge impact because we drive cars with light beams and keep our front porch lights on. But I do avoid dark streets if I’m out for an evening walk.

There’s a group called “dark sky advocates” who want to cut out lights and make it easier to see the stars sparkle even in city centers.

I’m all for saving some energy and money, but it seems something between a blackout and Times Square is the answer.

What do you think? Would you be willing to forgo street light for energy savings? 


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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Shut the front door!

No, really. Shut the door. You’re wasting a lot of energy.

That’s what New York City officials are telling business owners. The city is enforcing a law that makes it ...

Tagged: New York City, save energy, AC

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Shut the front door!

Open shop door

New York City officials are making it illegal for businesses to keep doors wide open.

Key Points

  • New York is enforcing a law making it illegal to keep business doors open while running the AC.
  • Stores open the doors to lure in customers with the cool air.
  • Turns out, that practice wastes energy and increases electric costs. 

No, really. Shut the door. You’re wasting a lot of energy.

That’s what New York City officials are telling business owners. The city is enforcing a law that makes it illegal for businesses to keep doors wide open, hoping to lure in customers with crisp, air conditioned air.

I’ve never been in New York during the summer months, but I saw Jim Gaffigan describe it recently as “walking through urine,” so I feel like I have a pretty good idea of how bad it might be.

Still, my Midwestern practicality finds it hard to believe that people would willingly waste that much energy. I used to get in trouble for leaving a light on growing up. Dad most definitely wouldn’t approve of this.

Here’s the full story.

 

So here’s today’s tip to keep energy affordable: if you’re running you’re A/C, shut the front door. 


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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Sibling showdown: Using 30 years of rivalry to motivate change

I just got a Fitbit, and I’m addicted. I know that exercise is good for me, but now that I have the chance to help my health ...

Tagged: save energy, competition, EPA, energy star, Fitbit, Campus Conservation Nationals

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Sibling showdown: Using 30 years of rivalry to motivate change

Sarah and her sister

If helping future generations and your pocketbook still isn’t enough to motivate you, maybe you need a little friendly competition to get going.

Key Points

  • Energy reduction competitions are getting popular.
  • They use competition to motivate us to be more energy efficient.
  • Is sibling rivalry weird in your 30s? 

I just got a Fitbit, and I’m addicted. I know that exercise is good for me, but now that I have the chance to help my health and beat my sister in our Fitbit steps competition, I’m even more motivated to sweat (#middlechild, #siblingrivalry).

The same might be true for saving energy.

Sure, being energy efficient can save you money and reduce your footprint on the world, making it a better place for your kids and grandkids to live. But if helping future generations and your pocketbook still isn’t enough to motivate you, maybe you need a little friendly competition to get going.

Energy reduction competitions are gaining popularity. One competition, the Campus Conservation Nationals, just celebrated its fifth year, pitting 125 schools against one another to see which is the best at conserving energy. Other programs in California, Kansas and the EPA’s Energy Star National Building Competition have gained steam using our competitive natures as an energy efficiency motivator.

The California Institute for Energy and the Environment recently published a report on the effectiveness of these energy reduction competitions. The study found that competitions resulted in an average energy reduction of about 5 percent. Not bad.

The tricky part is determining if the competitions lead to lasting change. Do people still turn the A/C off at night and open windows even after the competition ends? There isn’t any concrete evidence that the competitions lead to new long term habits, but anecdotal data collected by the study suggests that it does.

Do competitions — for exercise, energy efficiency, or otherwise — motivate you?

Oh, and for the record, I’m totally beating my sister in Fitbit steps.  


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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And the Oscar (of innovation) goes to …

I’m sure you were counting down the days to the R&D 100 Awards. In case you missed it on E! News, the red carpet featured ...

Tagged: save energy, R&D Awards, Universal Smart Window Coating, 40 Q-Mode Geothermal Heat Pump

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And the Oscar (of innovation) goes to …

Oscar statue

One recent energy-saving all star promises to help us let the light in while keeping the heat out, another uses the Earth as a heat source. Bravo!

Key Points

  • Two energy saving technologies were recently recognized with R&D Awards.
  • One makes windows smart, allowing users to control how much heat and light come through them.
  • The other uses the earth for space conditioning and water heating. 

I’m sure you were counting down the days to the R&D 100 Awards. In case you missed it on E! News, the red carpet featured designer white lab coats, and the after party reportedly included a Star Trek marathon.

The R&D Awards recognize exceptional new products or processes. Two of the recent winners were energy-saving all stars.

Best Special Effects

Windows created by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory keep heat out and light in. This combo is a win-win, decreasing the need for air conditioning and artificial lighting. The technology is called the Universal Smart Window Coating. The coating allows users to control how much heat and light to allow in their homes. No word yet on if it can also keep the neighbors from seeing you do the “Hot Dog Dance” each evening.

While you wait for this new tech to come to market, here are some other tips to save energy with your windows.

Best Adapted Energy

Say this with me: ClimateMaster Trilogy 40 Q-Mode Geothermal Heat Pump 5000. Actually, there’s no 5000 on the end, but it just kind of rolls off the tongue, right?

Other than having a pretty sweet name, this device developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory uses the Earth as a heat source and heat absorber for space conditioning and water heating. In addition to saving energy, it’s good for the environment, cutting carbon pollution.

But until the infomercial comes out to buy your own (because with a name like that, you know it will — likely with free shipping if you buy now), here are some tips to save some energy on your home’s heating and cooling.

Have you seen any great new technologies that should be up for an award? 


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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The war on air conditioning: Which side are you on?

I grew up without air conditioning in our house (yes, cue the violins). We’d open windows, run fans and kick off the blankets. Even in college, our dorm rooms and eventually my ...

Tagged: air conditioning, Energy Efficiency, save energy, New York Times

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The war on air conditioning: Which side are you on?

The hot and cold AC debate

The cultural debate about if air conditioning is good or evil is heating up.

Key Points

  • We’re at war. A war on air conditioning.
  • The debate on if AC is good or evil misses the point that we should all use energy efficiently.
  • Whether you’re heating your home, or cooling it, make sure to do it right to save energy and money. 

I grew up without air conditioning in our house (yes, cue the violins). We’d open windows, run fans and kick off the blankets. Even in college, our dorm rooms and eventually my sorority house lacked cooling. So sometimes now, as I set my home thermostat on hot days to a nice cool temperature, I feel a little pang of guilt. Surely I’m wasting energy and squandering money on an unnecessary luxury, not to mention hurting the Earth with my indulgent 72 degrees.

The cultural debate about if air conditioning is good or evil is heating up. The New York Times recently published an editorial about why America is so over-conditioned. The article suggests that “being able to make people feel cold in the summer is a sign of power and prestige.”

OK, I get it. Air conditioning is a luxury. I was right to feel so guilty. Definitely need to turn off my energy-sucking, pollution-creating evil box.

But then I looked into what the other side is saying in the war on air conditioning. Slate magazine noted that America uses about a fourth as much energy on cooling as it does on heating (40.4 million British thermal units on home heating compared to 9.3 BTUs on home cooling). The article argues that it’s more efficient to air condition homes in Florida than it is to warm the ones in Minnesota. This side of the debate notes that labeling air conditioning as evil and home heating as good is a trendy way to appear like you care about the Earth but misses the point that we all use a whole lot of energy.

Air conditioning and home heating both save lives. Both make life more livable during extreme temperatures. And yes, both use a lot of energy.

As with most things in life, the answer seems to be balance. Getting rid of either of these modern conveniences doesn’t make sense. Instead, we can use them with a little more common sense.

Make sure you’re heating and cooling efficiently. Here are tips to keep your AC tuned up, and here are some to keep your furnace in tip top efficiently-running shape


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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Bargain alert – energy could be cheaper in the evenings

If you’re a parent, you can identify with a busy evening routine. Read books. Brush teeth. Rock and cuddle. Sing a song. One more song. Last ditch delay tactic potty break. A little ...

Tagged: utilities, save energy, demand, supply, power plants

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Bargain alert – energy could be cheaper in the evenings

Lady with yes sign

Some utilities have programs to incentivize customers to delay energy-sucking tasks until later in the day.

Key Points

  • Energy can be more expensive when demand is high.
  • Some utilities offer programs to encourage us to use energy when demand is lower, like in the evenings.
  • Programs like this help consumers control how much they spend on energy. 

If you’re a parent, you can identify with a busy evening routine. Read books. Brush teeth. Rock and cuddle. Sing a song. One more song. Last ditch delay tactic potty break. A little more rocking. And we’ve achieved the seemingly impossible: sleeping kids and a quiet house.

And now on to the next work shift: cleaning. I usually run a load of laundry and the dishwasher as my last task of the day. And it turns out, this could be helping keep energy affordable.

Some utilities have programs to incentivize customers to delay energy-sucking tasks until later in the day. This helps reduce peak power demands. As a product of basic supply and demand, when everyone is using energy in middle of the day to run air conditioners, power office computers and lights, and cook meals, demand is high — and so is the price.

By spreading some of the demand to times when energy use is lower, utilities can save money. If extremely successful, lowering peak demand could help keep energy more affordable all the time if utilities can prevent investing in new power plants.

Some utilities even have programs where you pay market price for your power. Under this system, I could watch current rates, and determine if it’s worth the inconvenience to delay using energy until the price comes down later in the day.

This could be an easy way to save a little cash each month, or at least give us more control over our energy bills.

Would you use a program like this? Or have you used a time-based rate program? Please share your thoughts. 



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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Cinderella’s Laundry Tips

If, as Cinderella put it, a dream is a wish your heart makes, then my heart is longing for laundry. No really, I dream to one day have every article of clothing and linen in my home ...

Tagged: Energy.gov, save energy, Cinderella

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Cinderella’s Laundry Tips

Little Cinderella

Now if I could just figure out a way to get some birds and mice to fold and iron it all.

Key Points

  • Be smart about how you do laundry to save energy and money.
  • Switch your washer’s temperature setting from hot to warm to cut each load’s energy use in half.
  • Wash and dry full loads to be more efficient. 

If, as Cinderella put it, a dream is a wish your heart makes, then my heart is longing for laundry. No really, I dream to one day have every article of clothing and linen in my home clean at a single moment in time. I’d free myself of pink mountains piled high with dirty footsy pajamas.

I know it’s pretty ambitious, but we just got back from Disney World, and I drank the “dreams-really-do-come-true” Kool-Aid. I’m not sure laundry is exactly what the princesses were going for, but I’m sure Cinderella would understand.

According to Energy.gov, I can save a lot of energy when I make this dream come true. The key is to use less water, and when possible, use cooler water. Just switching the temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half.

Here are some more tips from Energy.gov:

  • Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.
  • Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
  • Don't over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
  • Clean the lint screen in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation and prevent fire hazards.
  • Periodically, use the long nozzle tip on your vacuum cleaner to remove the lint that collects below the lint screen in the lint screen slot of your clothes dryer.
  • Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer.
  • Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material — not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.
  • Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Air drying is recommended by clothing manufacturers for some fabrics.
  • If you have a front-loading washer or high-efficiency top-loader, use detergent labeled for high-efficiency machines. According to the American Cleaning Institute, HE detergents are low-sudsing and quick-dispersing to clean well in high-efficiency washers that use less water.

 Now if I could just figure out a way to get some birds and mice to fold and iron it all.


 

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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Three ways to save energy (and money) on your summer road trip

If your idea of a great vacation includes seeing sights like Wall Drug, the world’s largest peanut statue and a gigantic twine ball, then we have the road trip tips you need to ...

Tagged: roadtrip, alternative fuel, save energy, save money, Energy Department

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Three ways to save energy (and money) on your summer road trip

VW on a roadtrip

Which car should I use? How can I get more gas mileage? Where's the nearest alternative fueling station? We've got you covered.

Key Points

  • You can save energy and money on your road trip.
  • Use online tools to determine which vehicle has the cheapest ride.
  • Skip the overhead cargo bin and avoid aggressive driving to increase fuel economy.  

If your idea of a great vacation includes seeing sights like Wall Drug, the world’s largest peanut statue and a gigantic twine ball, then we have the road trip tips you need to save energy this summer.

Here are three tools to help you save some energy on your road trip, and free up more cash for those commemorative spoons you’ve been eying:

  1. Trip Calculator  – This tool helps you decide which car to use. So if you’re debating between taking the minivan or the station wagon, you can make an informed decision. On a side note, we had a weird station wagon with a third row that faced backwards growing up. As the outcast middle child, I always ended up back there. Riding backwards sounds like a lot of fun until you get car sick on the winding roads in the Black Hills, no matter how much more fuel efficient it is.
  2. Fuel Economy – This site gives tons of great tips on how to get more mileage from each tank. For instance, aggressive driving can cost you as much as 28 cents a gallon. And try to pack light – that overhead cargo bin could be costing you as much as 47 cents a gallon because of its wind resistance.
  3. Plan your route – Check this site out if you need to figure out where you can charge your electric vehicle, or where you can get alternative fuels like biodiesel, compressed natural gas or E85. As a bonus for you excel-loving geeks out there, it will even make a spreadsheet for you complete with each station’s contact info and hours of operation. If you’re an accountant, you’re probably getting so giddy you almost spilled coffee on your ten key. Settle down.

For even more tips, check out this #AskEnergySaver article over at energy.gov to get the skinny on whether it’s more efficient to use the AC or drive with the windows down, and what your tire pressure can do for your  gas mileage.



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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Savings and the City

According to a recent poll, 71 percent of New Yorkers can agree on one thing: the city should start shutting off the lights.

The New York City council will soon consider ...

Tagged: New York City, save energy, Con Edison, lights

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Savings and the City

New York City skyline

The New York City council will soon consider a bill that would require most offices to flip the switch at night to help cut energy costs.

Key Points

  • The New York City Council will soon consider a bill to dim the lights.
  • The bill would require commercial buildings to turn off the lights after midnight.
  • Opponents worry that this could make the streets less safe, and less sparkly (they love sparkles).

According to a recent poll, 71 percent of New Yorkers can agree on one thing: the city should start shutting off the lights.

The New York City council will soon consider a bill that would require most offices to flip the switch at night to help cut energy costs. The proposal would require commercial buildings at least 20 stories high to turn off the lights after midnight if no one is inside. It would exempt landmarks like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and Times Square.

Why people like it

Paris started making office and shop buildings turn off their lights at night a few years ago. And New York said “Hey! We want to be the world leader for things like that!” Touché.

Proponents note that this is an easy way to save. No upfront costs for property owners, just immediate savings.

Others think dimming the lights would help birds. Sometimes birds get confused by all the lights when they’re migrating. I understand. I get distracted by shiny things sometimes too.

What’s causing concern

Some wonder if turning out some lights might make the city less safe. Because nothing good happens in the dark. Or after midnight. At least that’s what my mom told me. 

Others think that taking away some of the city’s sparkle will make the city less special.

The utility that serves NYC, Consolidated Edison, hasn’t come out on either side of the issue but has said that it’s reviewing the proposal. 


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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Dixie Chicks, cookies and conservation: The perfect combo

 

My husband does an impression of me listening to country music and baking cookies. It includes some pretty amazing dance moves and using a mixing spoon as a mic. ...

Tagged: save energy, save money, Dixie Chicks

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Dixie Chicks, cookies and conservation: The perfect combo

Woman cooking

Three ways to save money in the kitchen right now.

Key Points

  • Saving energy in the kitchen is easy.
  • Use flat pots. Warped ones waste energy.
  • Prep before you cook to reduce burner time. 

 

My husband does an impression of me listening to country music and baking cookies. It includes some pretty amazing dance moves and using a mixing spoon as a mic. I choose to ignore his ridicule and continue this favorite pastime of mine. There’s nothing better than a little cooking therapy. And singing with my friends Martina, Carrie and Taylor only makes it better. Throw in a Dixie Chick or two, and it’s a party.

Whether you like to spend a whole day creating five-course feasts, or you prefer to use a microwave to heat up quick meals, we can all save some money in the kitchen.

Here are three ways to save right now:

  1. Make sure your pots and pans are up to the job.
    You know those old pans left over from your dorm room days that teeter back and forth when you set them on the counter? It’s time to let them go. Not only are they probably not cooking your onions evenly, they’re taking a lot of energy to do it. In fact, a pot with a warped bottom takes 50 percent more energy to get the job done than one that’s flat.
  2. Don’t forget the prep.
    When my favorite Food Network chefs cook, I’m always a little jealous of the neat little bowls full of chopped and measured ingredients. Sure you can make this meal in 30 minutes Rachel – the prep was all done before you started the timer! It turns out doing all that chopping and measuring before you turn on the stove top does more than make cooking easy. It saves energy. We tend to leave the burner on too long when we’re distracted with the cutting board and measuring spoons. Your meal will turn out better, and you’ll save some money.
  3. Use your self-cleaning oven wisely.
    Instead of turning on the clean cycle at random, time your oven’s cleaning for just after you’ve used it to bake. That way your oven will already be warm, saving some major ramp-up heat.

Happy cooking! And if anyone asks, yes, Earl really did have to die.  


Sarah 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. 

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Another (surprising) reason more sleep should be your New Year’s resolution

Get more sleep. Be more social. Volunteer. Exercise. 

Sounds like your typical New Year’s Resolution list, right?

It also happens to be ways we can all ...

Tagged: New Year, Resolution, save energy

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Another (surprising) reason more sleep should be your New Year’s resolution

Sleeping Kitten

Four ways to get happy and use less energy this year.

Key Points

  • Our typical New Year’s Resolutions happen to save energy.
  • Sleep saves energy (personal and electric).
  • Be more social, volunteer and exercise to reduce your energy bill.

Get more sleep. Be more social. Volunteer. Exercise. 

Sounds like your typical New Year’s Resolution list, right?

It also happens to be ways we can all save some energy this year. Yep, hitting snooze can make you healthier, happier and help the planet (unless your alarm is a 2-year-old yelling “mommy, come back heeeeere.” Then you should not hit anything).

The Washington Post did a story this week about some research on activities that use less energy. And the ones that don’t use much just happen to be ones that tend to make us happy.

Here’s a snapshot of four ways to get happy and use less energy this year:

  1. Get more sleep.
    As the Washington Post explains:

    "Sleep saves energy simply because when you're sleeping, you (hopefully) aren't running all the other gadgets in your home. This is sort of inherent to the activity, but especially in winter, people can save extra energy while sleeping by using a home heating strategy that employs a programmable or “smart” thermostat to lower the home temperature for the hours of repose. You don’t need the heat then anyway — you’re under the covers. Programming your thermostat to lower the temperature at night can save 5 to 15 percent on your heating costs."
     
  2. Socialize — especially close to home.
    Getting together with your friends and family can save energy. Researchers attribute this finding to the fact that when we’re all together, we consolidate our energy needs.  Think one room with lights on versus lights on in each of our homes, etc.
     
  3. Find a hobby, volunteer, or do something spiritually meaningful.
    Not only will you be helping someone else, you’ll be saving energy. These types of activities generally don’t require a lot of energy use.
     
  4. Exercise.
    The research showed that enjoying a sport or other outdoor activities don’t use much energy (the electric kind, anyway). Take a run or play some basketball in the driveway. Your heart — and your electric bill — will benefit. 

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Release your inner Griswold

Is your house on fire, Clark? No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights. - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Oh, Clark Griswold. Your life could ...

Tagged: LED, save energy, lights

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Release your inner Griswold

Christmas Lights

Key Points

  • LED lights are the gift that keeps on giving. Just like that jelly of the month club membership.
  • LED Christmas lights can save you money on your energy bill.
  • LED lights have other benefits including being safer and sturdier than incandescent ones.  
Is your house on fire, Clark? No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights. - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Oh, Clark Griswold. Your life could have been so much easier if they made LED Christmas lights in the ‘80s. We couldn’t change your jelly of the month club membership or take away the RV in your driveway, but we could help you save some cash on all those lights. And, as a bonus, they wouldn’t burn your house down or blow every fuse in your box.

It’s November already, and that means it’s time to start getting our homes ready for Christmas. I decided to look into using LED Christmas lights this year. I knew LEDs use less energy, but until I saw this chart on savenergy.gov I didn’t realize just how much.

Estimated cost of electricity to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days

Incandescent C-9 lights

$10.00

LED C-9 lights

$0.27

Incandescent Mini-lights

$2.74

LED Mini-lights

$0.82

Estimated cost* of buying and operating lights for 10 holiday seasons

Incandescent C-9 lights

$122.19

LED C-9 lights

$17.99

Incandescent Mini-lights

$55.62

LED Mini-lights

$33.29

*Assumes 50 C-9 bulbs and 200 mini-lights per tree, with electricity at $0.119 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) (AEO 2012 Residential Average). Prices of lights based on quoted prices for low volume purchases from major home improvement retailers. All costs have been discounted at an annual rate of 5.6%. Life span assumed to be three seasons (1,500 hours) for non-LED lights.

Granted, the upfront costs are quite a bit higher, but when you consider how much you can save on your energy costs in the long run, it’s worth making the leap to LED.

And if the cost savings aren’t enough to convince you, here are some other LED benefits, according to saveenergy.gov.

  • Safer: LEDs are much cooler than incandescent lights, reducing the risk of combustion or burnt fingers.
  • Sturdier: LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, and are much more resistant to breakage.
  • Longer lasting: The same LED string could still be in use 40 holiday seasons from now.
  • Easier to install: Up to 25 strings of LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket.

In the words of Clark Griswold, get ready to have the “hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.” And consider using LED lights this year.

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