Scientists shake it off, shake it off, for savings

I, I shake it off, I shake it off.

Imagine a bunch of scientists in white coats jamming out to Taylor Swift in the lab while working on ground-breaking research.

Clearly, ...

Tagged: laundry, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

Scientists shake it off, shake it off, for savings

Woman juggles laundry

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using vibrations to dry clothes. No heat needed. No lint left behind. And it is up to five times more energy efficient. Oh, and it cuts the drying time in half.

Key Points

  • A new dryer scientists developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory shakes the water out of your clothes.
  • Eliminating the need for heat, these new dryers are up to five times more efficient than traditional models.
  • They also take half the time to dry clothes and leave little lint behind. 

I, I shake it off, I shake it off.

Imagine a bunch of scientists in white coats jamming out to Taylor Swift in the lab while working on ground-breaking research.

Clearly, only Taylor could inspire researchers to come up with a way to revolutionize dryers to shake the water out of clothes.

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are using vibrations to dry clothes. No heat needed. No lint left behind. And it is up to five times more energy efficient. Oh, and it cuts the drying time in half. 

If these new dryers make it to a store near you, investing in one could help you save energy and money.

Check out the new dryer in action:

In the meantime, here are some tips from the Department of Energy to keep your old dryer safe and efficient:

  • Wash and dry full loads. If you’re 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 make sure it’s 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.

Now back to those dancing scientists. Remember that the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, but I, for one, am very impressed with your work. Keep it up.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: laundry, Energy Efficiency

Pool prep: What you need to know before taking the plunge

Memorial Day is just around the corner, marking the unofficial start of summer and the opening of most neighborhood pools.

Between barbecues and bike rides, take a moment ...

Tagged: pool, Energy Efficiency, summer safety

Expand Article

Pool prep: What you need to know before taking the plunge

Little girl in sunglasses floats in a pool

Between barbecues and bike rides, take a moment to make sure you and your family are ready to take the plunge this summer.

Key Points

  • Pools are fun, but they use a lot of energy.
  • Use a pool cover to conserve water and save on pool-heating costs.
  • Keep safety top of mind while at the pool. 

Memorial Day is just around the corner, marking the unofficial start of summer and the opening of most neighborhood pools.

Between barbecues and bike rides, take a moment to make sure you and your family are ready to take the plunge this summer.

Consider the energy costs:

  • If your neighborhood watering hole is more than 10 years old, talk with the staff to make sure their systems are up to date. Updated pool pumps and filters turn off automatically if someone’s hair gets caught in it. These safer systems also tend to be much more energy efficient than the systems used a few decades ago.
  • If you have a pool at home, make sure to use a pool cover when you’re not using your pool to reduce water loss through evaporation and save up to 50-70 percent on your pool-heating costs. Also, consider installing an efficient swimming pool heater. Learn your options and estimate the costs for gas, heat pump or solar pool heaters.
  • Determine the best temperature for your pool to make sure you’re operating your pool for maximum efficiency. Most pools are kept at 78-82 degrees; each degree rise in temperature will cost 10-30 percent more in energy costs, depending on your location. If you have a pool at home, consider the energy costs when setting the water temp.

Keep safety top of mind:

  • Remember that electricity and water don’t mix. Never operate electrical equipment in or near the pool.
  • Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and teach children how to swim.
  • Install proper barriers, covers and alarms on and around your pool and spa.
  • Know how to perform CPR on children and adults.

Reapply sunscreen frequently and consider wearing sun protectant clothing. 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: pool, Energy Efficiency, summer safety

Commercial buildings getting better at using natural gas

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

Tagged: commercial buildings, Natural Gas, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

Commercial buildings getting better at using natural gas

Commercial buildings in a metropolitan area

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

Key Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks commercial buildings. Keep up the good work. 


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

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: commercial buildings, Natural Gas, Energy Efficiency

The Super Bowl was super energy efficient

Yesterday marked the biggest day of the year for football fans. I hope they all had a good time.

Me? I can’t tell you who played, what the score was or name a single ...

Tagged: Super Bowl, Energy Efficiency, LED

Expand Article

The Super Bowl was super energy efficient

Lights illuminate a football field

[T]he Houston NRG Stadium was one of the first to install the efficient lights, and as a result, it uses 65 percent less energy on lighting than it did before.

Key Points

  • The Super Bowl was illuminated by all LED lights this year.
  • They used 65 percent less energy than traditional lights.
  • Venues for the 2018 and 2019 Super Bowls are set to be really energy efficient too. 

Yesterday marked the biggest day of the year for football fans. I hope they all had a good time.

Me? I can’t tell you who played, what the score was or name a single player who made a goal/touchdown/point or whatever you super sports fanatics call it (there aren’t baskets in this game, right?).

But I can give you an exciting scoop: The stadium where the match was held was pretty energy efficient.

The field was illuminated entirely with LED lights — 65,000 of them to be exact. Back in the olden days — pre-2015 — big, professional venues like this didn’t use LEDs.

But the Houston NRG Stadium was one of the first to install the efficient lights, and as a result, it uses 65 percent less energy on lighting than it did before.

The LEDs did more than save energy and money. They also made Lady Gaga look good. The lights don’t flicker, don’t have a warm-up time and can be dimmed, which can set the mood and save even more energy.

The future looks bright too. In 2018, the Super Bowl will be at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, an LEED certified venue (which means it is really energy efficient). In 2019, the players will take to the field in Atlanta, where its new stadium, under construction now, is set to be LEED Platinum (that means really, really energy efficient).

Until next year, good job to all you players. I heard the goalie did great.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Super Bowl, Energy Efficiency, LED

Is your house ready for hygge?

Denmark is cold.

And dark.

Yet its citizens consistently rank as some of the happiest people in the world.

Some attribute that to the Danish tradition ...

Tagged: hygge, winter, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

Is your house ready for hygge?

Feet and warm beverages by the hygge fire

As we stare down some of the coldest months of winter, embrace a little hygge in your own home. Just make sure to do it the energy efficient way.

Key Points

  • Hygge is a Danish tradition of celebrating the coziness of winter.
  • It feels like a warm hug.
  • Bring this feeling to your home, and do it in the most energy efficient way. 

Denmark is cold.

And dark.

Yet its citizens consistently rank as some of the happiest people in the world.

Some attribute that to the Danish tradition of hygge. There’s no direct translation for hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), but it generally means coziness or the feeling of a warm hug.

As we stare down some of the coldest months of winter, embrace a little hygge in your own home.

Just make sure to do it the energy efficient way.

Here are a few hygge traditions and the most efficient way to do them.

  • Warmth — Hygge is traditionally celebrated around a warm fire. Here are some tips to make sure yours isn’t leaking any of that warmth.
  • Bubble bath — Ready for a warm, relaxing soak? Go for it. The Danes would definitely approve. And if you’re in the market for a new water heater, make sure to check these tips out first. The Department of Energy breaks down everything you need to know about which water heater to choose based on fuel type, size, energy efficiency and cost.
  • Mulled glogg — Think of it as mulled wine, only better. Here’s a recipe. Yes, the ingredients include wine, brandy and beer, because winter. And while all that goodness is simmering, make sure to use energy-efficient kitchen techniques. Use a burner that fits your pot and a pot with a flat bottom to make sure no heat is escaping through the cracks. I could recommend drinking it quickly here so you can turn that burner off, but that doesn’t seem responsible, so forget I said that.
  • Cozy lighting — LED bulbs can be six to seven times more energy efficient than conventional incandescent lights. But back in the day, LED lighting was anything but cozy. Thanks to new advancements, LEDs might just pass the hygge standard. You can now opt for LEDs with a warmer color spectrum. And it helps if you drink more glogg.
  • Soft blankets — If you really want to be cozy, you need to wrap up in a big, soft blanket. But when you inevitably spill glogg all over it, make sure you save a little energy when you try to wash out that stain. Wash it in cold water, and maybe even consider laying it out to dry. Perhaps next to the fire. But not too close. In fact, maybe hold off on any chores until the glogg has worn off. Check these tips out for energy efficient laundry. Tomorrow. Afternoon.

Happy hygge! 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: hygge, winter, Energy Efficiency

Maybe Santa should check this list twice

He’s making his list and checking it twice.

And he may find that some of the products on Energy Star’s list are more naughty than nice.

Consumer Reports recently ...

Tagged: energy star, Energy Efficiency, consumer reports

Expand Article

Maybe Santa should check this list twice

Is that fridge as energy efficient as it says it is?

Consumer Reports recently tested some of the products with the Energy Star label and found that many used much more energy than they claimed.

Key Points

  • Consumer Reports found that some Energy Star products use more energy than they claim.
  • There is no third-party verification for the Energy Star program.
  • The Department of Energy is working on a solution, but make sure to do your homework before buying. 

He’s making his list and checking it twice.

And he may find that some of the products on Energy Star’s list are more naughty than nice.

Consumer Reports recently tested some of the products with the Energy Star label and found that many used much more energy than they claimed.

Particularly, the magazine’s researchers found two refrigerators that used 50 percent more energy than the manufacturer stated.

Celia Kuperszmid-Lehrman, deputy home editor for Consumer Reports, told NPR that part of the problem is that the Energy Star program is self-reporting. That’s good for getting products through the system in a timely manner but also allows for discrepancies. The Department of Energy is working on a solution and plans to start using third-party verification soon.

So what should you do if you’re in the market for a new appliance?

Kuperszmid-Lehrman says it’s still good to use the Energy Star label as a general guideline, but be an informed consumer.

“I think it's a good relative rating," she told NPR. "But there are instances like I've mentioned with refrigerators, with freezers, that the numbers are not quite what they seem to be."

In general, newer models of things like refrigerators and furnaces will likely use less energy than a much older model due to new technology and design improvements, but it’s always good to do your homework to make sure you’re buying something that can also help you save some money on your energy bill.

Energy Star is one tool in the energy saving toolbox, but you can also consult resources like Consumer Reports or talk with your local utility.

In the meantime, I have an extra Elf on the Shelf that may just need to find its way to some manufacturers. And he will surely tell Santa all about any energy consumption discrepancies. 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: energy star, Energy Efficiency, consumer reports

OK, Nick Offerman, I’ll do it already

The holidays are here. Time to bake cookies, decorate the tree, and run Nick Offerman’s Yule Log on every screen in the house.

If you haven’t experienced the most amazing ...

Tagged: nick offerman, chimney safety, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

OK, Nick Offerman, I’ll do it already

Nick Offerman silently judges you

According to energy.gov, you should have your chimney cleaned every year to make sure there isn’t any soot and creosote buildup that could be a major household fire risk.

Key Points

  • Nick Offerman is silently judging us.
  • Make sure to get your chimney cleaned this year.
  • Make your fireplace more energy efficient by always closing the flue and sealing cracks. 

The holidays are here. Time to bake cookies, decorate the tree, and run Nick Offerman’s Yule Log on every screen in the house.

If you haven’t experienced the most amazing 45 minutes on YouTube yet, prepare yourself to look deep in to Nick’s eyes for nearly an hour.

No words necessary.

I had Nick up on our TV yesterday while my daughter and I did some baking. This led to two things:

  1. A very confused 4-year old
  2. A guilty conscience on my part

Nick’s fireplace is crackling. Which reminded me that I love when we start our own fireplace. But I’ve procrastinated getting a chimney sweep over to inspect our chimney.

According to energy.gov, you should have your chimney cleaned every year to make sure there isn’t any soot and creosote buildup that could be a major household fire risk.

And while we’re talking about it, make sure you’re not letting your fireplace waste any energy in your home. Always close the flue when you’re done with your fire. When left open, it’s a great escape route for the warm air in your house. It’s also a good idea to check your hearth each year for any cracks that could be letting warm air out and cold air in.

I’m on to you, Nick Offerman. You seem so chill there in your leather chair drinking your whiskey. But I know you’re just silently judging me. I promise I’ll call that chimney sweep, just as soon as this batch of cookies is done. Back off. 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: nick offerman, chimney safety, Energy Efficiency

Move over ‘Real Housewives,’ energy efficiency reality TV is here

A new season of jealousy, rivalry and facelifts just premiered.

No, it’s not the Real Housewives.

It’s SWAP, a reality show by the Department of Energy.

This ...

Tagged: swap, Energy Efficiency, reality tv

Expand Article

Move over ‘Real Housewives,’ energy efficiency reality TV is here

Man and woman shocked by TV

Sure, the idea of watching a show produced by the Department of Energy sounds pretty lame. But this is cool. Really.

Key Points

  • The Department of Energy just released season 2 of SWAP.
  • It pits the Air Academy and Naval Academy against one another.
  • They help each other find new ways to be energy efficient. 

A new season of jealousy, rivalry and facelifts just premiered.

No, it’s not the Real Housewives.

It’s SWAP, a reality show by the Department of Energy.

This season, it pitted the Air Academy against the Naval Academy. Leaders from both campuses traded places to see how their rivals are saving energy.

Sure, the idea of watching a show produced by the Department of Energy sounds pretty lame. But this is cool. Really. The showdown of military rivals will have you on the edge of your seat and looking for an energy-efficient fridge.

A team from the Air Force Academy heads to Maryland to scope out what the Naval Academy is doing, and even the ladies from the OC would be impressed with how the team picked apart the competition. Let’s just say that those fridges are so last season.

And here are some recommendations the teams gave each other. Some of them are even applicable to those of us without reality TV shows.

  • Replace single pane glass windows.
  • Turn off ventilation systems for kitchen equipment (hoods and warmers) when equipment isn’t on.
  • Convert to LED lighting.
  • Unplug electronics when not in use to reduce the plug loads in dorm rooms.
  • Take advantage of natural light by turning off decorative lights near window walls.
  • Implement individual controls for heating and cooling to better manage comfort level and energy use.
  • Upgrade HVAC to eliminate condensation on units.

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: swap, Energy Efficiency, reality tv

Shower vs. iron: The most energy-efficient way to get wrinkle-free

Some might call it the lazy man’s wrinkle releaser. Instead of reaching for the iron, you turn on a hot shower and hang a garment in the bathroom for a quick steam to get out the ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, saving energy

Expand Article

Shower vs. iron: The most energy-efficient way to get wrinkle-free

Wrinkly dog wears ironed clothes

The guys over at Touchstone Energy did an analysis to compare the two methods. Here’s what they found.

Key Points

  • It’s time to settle the iron versus shower debate for once and for all.
  • No matter how convenient it might seem, steaming your clothes in the shower isn’t the best choice.
  • The shower method uses 16 times more energy than an iron.

Some might call it the lazy man’s wrinkle releaser. Instead of reaching for the iron, you turn on a hot shower and hang a garment in the bathroom for a quick steam to get out the creases. But that shortcut might be costing you a lot on your energy bill (and few angry family members who had to take cold showers).

The guys over at Touchstone Energy did an analysis to compare the two methods. Here’s what they found:

Iron

A typical iron is rated at 1,100 watts. Settings will vary, but let’s assume the iron uses 1,100 watts, and it takes you 15 minutes (0.25 hours) to iron your clothes. Energy used = (1,100 watts x 0.25 hours) / (1,000 watts/KW) = 0.275 kWh. That’s about 3.5 cents worth of electricity at the 2015 national average residential cost of electricity, 12.7 cents according to EIA.gov.

Shower

Let’s assume you are at home with your water heater set at 120 degrees. Most shower heads are limited to a 2.5 gallon per minute flow.

So how much energy would it take to heat the water used if you turned on the shower for the same 15 minutes it took you to iron? We will only consider the energy used to heat the water, and we will assume we are using an electric resistance water heater. With the shower on at 2 gallons per minute, the answer is a surprising 4.4 kWh — 16 times more than the iron.

As with most things, using the right tool for the job is usually the best choice. And you won’t even have to answer to anyone for using up all the hot water.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Energy Efficiency, saving energy

Happy Halloweenergy!

Today is Halloweenergy. Haven’t heard of it? Think of it as Festivus, only instead of “airing of the grievances” we have an “airing of the filter” where we change the air ...

Tagged: Halloweenergy, Ernest Moniz, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

Happy Halloweenergy!

Ernest Moniz

What kid wouldn’t want to dress up as a solar panel or United States Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz?

Key Points

  • Halloweenergy is way cooler than Halloween.
  • It’s like Festivus for the rest of us, only we save lots of energy and money.
  • Check out the costumes to have the best Halloweenergy ever. 

Today is Halloweenergy. Haven’t heard of it? Think of it as Festivus, only instead of “airing of the grievances” we have an “airing of the filter” where we change the air filter in our heater to help it run efficiently and save some money. We also swap out the “feats of strength” for “feats of savings” and do things like weatherize our windows.

It’s great fun.

Really.

Not convinced? Then check out these Halloweenergy costume ideas from www.energy.gov. What kid wouldn’t want to dress up as a solar panel or United States Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz?

Now go celebrate Halloweenergy. Festivus for the rest of us, and Halloweenergy for everybody! 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Halloweenergy, Ernest Moniz, Energy Efficiency

Spend less on energy, more on candy this Halloween

Halloween is for more than tricks or treats. Out on a walk the other day, I was impressed with how many homes decorate for this spooky holiday. Blame Hobby Lobby or Pinterest, but ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, holidays, Lighting

Expand Article

Spend less on energy, more on candy this Halloween

jack-o-lantern lights

LEDs are worth it. They consume 80 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent strands.

Key Points

  • Halloween decorations are a big deal.
  • When making your home spooky, make sure it’s energy efficient too.
  • LEDs are worth the investment, no matter what holiday you’re decorating for. 

Halloween is for more than tricks or treats. Out on a walk the other day, I was impressed with how many homes decorate for this spooky holiday. Blame Hobby Lobby or Pinterest, but Halloween decorating is big business now.

Before you hang that string of orange lights, remember to keep your Halloween energy efficient. LEDs are worth it. They consume 80 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent strands. LEDs are great options to light up your pumpkins too.

Still not convinced? Then check out these LED treats from the Department of Energy:

  • 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.

And just to keep things interesting, you have my permission to skip the treats and go straight to tricks for any home that chooses not to use LEDs. 

Just kidding. Don’t do that. Really.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Energy Efficiency, holidays, Lighting

How to buy a new fridge (and not lose your mind)

Shopping is fun. Until it’s not. When you first decide to make a big purchase, like a new refrigerator, it’s exciting to think about choosing the perfect appliance. Stainless ...

Tagged: energy star, Energy Efficiency, refrigerators

Expand Article

How to buy a new fridge (and not lose your mind)

rows of fridges

But then the reality hits that sorting through all the models can actually be a little stressful. Thankfully, Energy Star breaks it all down so the decision-making process is a little easier.

Key Points

  • New refrigerators have so many options, it can be difficult to choose which model to buy.
  • Many conveniences, like ice makers, require additional energy use.
  • Use Energy Star’s guide to help you decide what’s best for your home. 

Shopping is fun. Until it’s not. When you first decide to make a big purchase, like a new refrigerator, it’s exciting to think about choosing the perfect appliance. Stainless steel, side-by-side doors, ice maker, so many options!

But then the reality hits that sorting through all the models can actually be a little stressful. Thankfully, Energy breaks it all down so the decision-making process is a little easier. For instance, did you know that an Energy Star certified top freezer refrigerator costs about $45 a year to run, a side-by-side costs about $77, and a bottom freezer costs about $70? True story.

Here are a few other things to consider while choosing a new fridge, courtesy of Energy Star.

Look for the Energy Star

Energy Star is the simple choice for saving energy, saving money and helping to protect the environment. After heating, cooling and hot water, the refrigerator is probably the next largest energy user in your home. Thanks to recent improvements in insulation and compressors, today's refrigerators use much less energy than older models. In fact, a 15-year-old refrigerator uses twice as much energy as a new Energy Star-certified model. You could save as much as $260 during the next five years and reduce your carbon footprint by 7,900 pounds by replacing that old refrigerator.

Consider a refrigerator with a top-mounted freezer

Refrigerators are sold in many configurations including top freezer, bottom freezer and side-by-side. Your new refrigerator doesn’t have to be the same configuration you had before, so long as you account for proper sizing as discussed below. A top-freezer refrigerator that has earned the Energy Star uses less energy than a 60-watt light bulb. Top freezer models tend to use the least energy of all refrigerator configurations and are affordably priced.

Purchase an appropriately sized refrigerator

Generally, the larger the refrigerator, the greater the energy consumption. The most energy-efficient models are typically 16-20 cubic feet. When you replace an old refrigerator with a new one, do not keep the old refrigerator for extra cold storage. If your refrigeration needs absolutely cannot be met by a single refrigerator, make sure that the second refrigerator or freezer is an energy-efficient model that is no bigger than what you need. Be certain to recycle your existing second refrigerator.

Consider the features that are most important to you

Think about whether you’ll want an icemaker, through-the-door ice or hot water so that you only pay for what you use — both in the initial purchase price and over the lifetime of the product. For example, through-the-door ice adds about 84 kWh of energy — or $10 per year — to your utility bill. Peruse the Energy Star Product Finder to compare features among energy-efficient refrigerator models and optimize your purchase. 

Recycle your old refrigerator

Recycling old refrigerators is another important way to help prevent global warming. Not only does it prevent energy-wasting units from ending up in someone else’s home, but it avoids the release of harmful materials. Keeping all that old refrigerant and foam from getting into the environment could prevent an extra 10,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Learn how to Flip Your Fridge and save.

Take advantage of utility rebates

Visit the Energy Star Rebate Finder to check for special offers from your local utility on purchasing a new refrigerator and/or recycling an old one.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: energy star, Energy Efficiency, refrigerators

Feeling blue? Blame the street lights

As winter approaches and the reality of 4 p.m. sunsets sinks in, I’m thankful for street lights to help keep us safe and light up the long winter evenings. But these pillars of ...

Tagged: LED, Energy Efficiency, energy technology

Expand Article

Feeling blue? Blame the street lights

LED streetlight

Thankfully, there have been big breakthroughs to make LEDs more appealing, like tweaking the design to get rid of the bluish tint, changing their brightness, and focusing the light where it’s really needed.

Key Points

  • LED street lights save a lot of electricity.
  • The first versions of LED lights were blue and harsh.
  • New versions are much more appealing to the eye and take into consideration the impacts of light on the environment. 

As winter approaches and the reality of 4 p.m. sunsets sinks in, I’m thankful for street lights to help keep us safe and light up the long winter evenings. But these pillars of light have a dark side.

Light-emitting diode, or more commonly called LED, lights hit the scene a few years ago. These energy-saving lights grew even more popular as they became more affordable, and many cities started to use them to save energy and money with their street lights. Unfortunately, there were some unintended consequences to the energy-efficient switch.

The first versions of LEDs were blueish and harsh to the eye. Studies found that these lights could disrupt sleep patterns, confuse animals and wash out the natural beauty of the stars. Thankfully, there have been big breakthroughs to make LEDs more appealing, like tweaking the design to get rid of the bluish tint, changing their brightness, and focusing the light where it’s really needed. These improvements make LEDs an even more appealing choice. 

The bad news is that many communities jumped on the LED bandwagon before these improvements were available and are now stuck with the harsh LED lighting systems. And, because they’re so stinkin’ efficient, they’ll last, oh, about forever.

This situation brings to light a few aspects of energy efficiency. In the past, going energy efficient often meant making some sort of sacrifice. “Hooray!  Efficient lights! … That will ruin your life. Booooo.”

Now, thanks to advancements in the industry, energy-efficient products can be just as good, if not better, than their energy-sucking counterparts.

Check out this great article for more about the evolution of LEDs. Have you seen any other energy-efficient products that have improved with time?


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

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: LED, Energy Efficiency, energy technology

Keep your kids safe, lower your energy bill with this one small tweak

I was filling the bathtub up for my daughters the other night. I turned my back for one second to get their towels when my two-year-old turned off the cold handle, leaving only our ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, Saving Money, energy safety

Expand Article

Keep your kids safe, lower your energy bill with this one small tweak

Baby in the bath

According to the Department of Energy, turning down our water heater temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees could save us $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses.

Key Points

  • Turning down your hot water heater can save you money on your energy bill.
  • It will also reduce the risk of scalding.
  • Experts recommend setting it to 120 degrees. 

I was filling the bathtub up for my daughters the other night. I turned my back for one second to get their towels when my two-year-old turned off the cold handle, leaving only our hot water running. Thankfully we avoided any scalding, but it reminded me that I need to turn down the temperature on our hot water heater.

In addition to keeping my kids safe, turning down our hot water heater could help us save on our energy bill. According to the Department of Energy, turning down our water heater temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees could save us $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses.

But here’s the tricky part: actually going down to the utility room and getting it done. Thankfully, www.Energy.gov has us covered; check out this video showing you how to change your heat setting:

And here is the step-by-step guide:

  1. Find the current temperature.
    Measure the beginning temperature of your hot water using a thermometer at the tap farthest from the water heater. Thermostat dials are often inaccurate.
     
  2. Mark the setting, then turn down the thermostat.
    Mark the beginning temperature on your water heater thermostat with a marker, and then turn the thermostat down.
     
  3. Measure and adjust.
    Wait a couple of hours, and then measure the water temperature again at the farthest tap from the water heater. Several adjustments may be necessary before you get the temperature you desire.
     
  4. Mark the new temperature.
    If you are satisfied with the temperature, mark the new temperature on the water heater thermostat with a marker, so that you can make adjustments in the future if necessary.
     
  5. Turn down or off when away.
    If you plan to be away from home for at least three days, turn the thermostat down to the lowest setting or completely turn off the water heater. To turn off an electric water heater, switch off the circuit breaker to it. For a gas water heater, make sure you know how to safely relight the pilot light before turning it off.

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Energy Efficiency, Saving Money, energy safety

Farmers’ Almanac is predicting this winter will be _______

Fall is in the air. School is starting, Hobby Lobby is full of Christmas decorations and it’s just a matter of time before pumpkin spice takes over everything including lattes, ...

Tagged: Farmers' Almanac, Energy Efficiency, weatherization, cold

Expand Article

Farmers’ Almanac is predicting this winter will be _______

Walking in the wintertime

With frigid temperatures on the horizon, weatherizing our homes will be important.

Key Points

  • The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a cold winter.
  • Energy efficiency will be more important than ever.
  • Pass the hot chocolate. 

Fall is in the air. School is starting, Hobby Lobby is full of Christmas decorations and it’s just a matter of time before pumpkin spice takes over everything including lattes, Oreos, M&Ms, pancakes and Pringles (yes, really).

It’s also time to start thinking about winter. And so far, predictions are for a cold one. The Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting an exceptionally cold season for much of the nation. “We’re calling it the return of the old-fashioned winter. The ice-cold winter is back,” said Sandi Duncan, the Almanac’s managing editor.

With frigid temperatures on the horizon, weatherizing our homes will be more important than in recent El Nino-driven warmer winters.

Here are some tips to keep the cold out this winter:

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

Seal your windows – Consider using those plastic sheets available at your local hardware store to cover your windows. Bonus: your kids will think you know magic when your hair dryer shrinks the plastic taut for an unobstructed view. Well, maybe that’s just my kids; they’re easily amused, and one is too young to talk yet, so I just assume she thinks I’m amazing and magical.

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

Pamper your heater – Replace your filter so it doesn’t have to work so hard to circulate all that warm, comfy air.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Farmers' Almanac, Energy Efficiency, weatherization, cold

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

Expand Article

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Girl Scouts, save energy, Energy Efficiency, children

How to save energy this Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July! Independence Day food is the best. Burgers. Hot dogs. Watermelon. Potato Salad. Beans. And, it turns out this food fare is also good for your utility bill.

It’s ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, grill, Independence Day

Expand Article

How to save energy this Independence Day

Summertime picnic

Make sure to give your oven a break today and keep your cooking in the backyard to save on your home cooling.

Key Points

  • Grilling outside can help save energy.
  • Warm ovens make your A/C work harder.
  • Make sure to stock your fridge full of potato salad too. For America. 

Happy Fourth of July! Independence Day food is the best. Burgers. Hot dogs. Watermelon. Potato Salad. Beans. And, it turns out this food fare is also good for your utility bill.

It’s all about the grill. Make sure to give your oven a break today and keep your cooking in the backyard to save on your home cooling. Air conditioners have to work extra hard to keep a house cool with a hot oven heating up the kitchen.

Having a fully stocked fridge helps too. The more food that’s in there, the less air for your fridge to cool. So go ahead and make the extra big batch of potato salad. Because you love ‘Murica.

Finally, warm those beans up in a slow cooker instead of using the stove top or oven. It won’t release as much heat into your kitchen and uses less energy to keep your food warm.

Now happy eating. Because nothing says “I love America” more than gaining five patriotic holiday pounds. 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Energy Efficiency, grill, Independence Day

New way to finance your home energy-efficiency project

Homestyle. It’s not just code for “lots of butter and, if you’re lucky, some gravy” on your local diner’s menu. It’s the name of a new loan program through Fannie Mae ...

Tagged: energy efficient, Energy Efficiency, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, mortgage, loan

Expand Article

New way to finance your home energy-efficiency project

Glass piggy bank

A new loan program is designed to finance energy-efficiency improvements to your home.

Key Points

  • Fannie Mae has a new program to finance energy-efficiency projects.
  • It’s a loan program that uses long-term mortgage money.
  • Improvements can reduce energy bills and increase home value. 

Homestyle. It’s not just code for “lots of butter and, if you’re lucky, some gravy” on your local diner’s menu. It’s the name of a new loan program through Fannie Mae designed to finance energy-efficiency improvements to your home.

HomeStyle Energy Mortgage is designed to get you a low interest rate and long-term mortgage money for improvements like installing solar panels, replacing leaky windows and doors, replacing HVAC systems or adding insulation. You can even use the loan to pay off energy-related debt you might be carrying on a credit card or home equity credit line.

Here’s the fine print:

  • Owners can borrow no more than 15 percent of the as-completed appraised value of the home for energy upgrades.
  • Portion of the loan amount designated for these improvements must be placed into an escrow account overseen by the lender.
  • Appraiser must determine the as-completed, enhanced valuation of the property to be expected after the improvements and verify that they were completed.
  • For upgrades costing more than $3,500 in total, an energy efficiency analysis is required.

Don’t forget about Freddie.

Freddie Mac has energy-financing too. Freddie spokesman Brad German told the Washington Post that its loans have some key advantages over Fannie’s program: There is no cap on the percentage of as-completed appraised value that can go for energy improvements. There is no mandatory residential home energy report. And Freddie’s maximum debt-to-income limit for borrowers is 45 percent, vs. Fannie’s 38 percent.

Whether you choose Freddie, Fannie or another financing option, make sure to do your projects right. Here’s a great link with helpful tips on where to start your home energy-efficiency projects. 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: energy efficient, Energy Efficiency, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, mortgage, loan

Energy efficiency is a big deal, and here’s why

If you had to choose between paying your utility bill or putting food on the table, what would you choose?

Far too many households have to make that decision each month. ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, affordable energy, income, energy efficient

Expand Article

Energy efficiency is a big deal, and here’s why

Family financial struggles

Heating and cooling costs are up to three times more expensive for low-income households than for higher-income households.

Key Points

  • Experts define affordable energy as 6 percent of total gross household income.
  • Lower-income households tend to pay a higher percentage of household income.
  • Those households might have higher costs because of a lack of access to energy-efficiency solutions.

If you had to choose between paying your utility bill or putting food on the table, what would you choose?

Far too many households have to make that decision each month. A new study looked into why this happens, and the answer might surprise you.

The Renewable Energy Transition team found that many lower-income households fall into energy poverty, which means that they have to spend about 10 percent of their income on energy-related studies. That’s much more than middle-to-upper-income households that only spend 5 percent — or as little as 1 percent.

Why the big difference? Access to energy-efficient homes.

Here’s how the researchers put it in an article in The Atlantic:

“Lower incomes, less efficient housing, and limited access to energy efficiency programs can explain the higher energy burdens faced by these groups,” the authors wrote. “We found that even though these families paid less overall on energy bills, they paid more per square foot, which indicates the relative inefficiency of their homes.”

That reasoning is confirmed by data from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. They found that heating and cooling costs are up to three times more expensive for low-income households than for higher-income households.

Which brings us back to the question: Would you choose food or heat? Here’s to rededicating our efforts to making sure no one has to make that decision.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Energy Efficiency, affordable energy, income, energy efficient

Paint for energy-efficient windows

I weatherized my 1-year-old’s windows in the hopes that if she were snuggly warm, she’d sleep longer. Also to save energy. Yes, the energy savings were top priority (cough, cough).

That ...

Tagged: weatherization, Energy Efficiency, magic paint, windows

Expand Article

Paint for energy-efficient windows

A girl and her dog

A team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Colorado and the California Institute of Technology is working on a magical paint to solve all our problems. It would make windows more efficient with the stroke of a brush.

Key Points

  • Researchers are working on a paint that will make your windows more energy efficient.
  • The paint allows visible light in and reflects infrared light back into the sky.
  • It will reduce need for air conditioning by reducing the amount of heat trapped in buildings.

I weatherized my 1-year-old’s windows in the hopes that if she were snuggly warm, she’d sleep longer. Also to save energy. Yes, the energy savings were top priority (cough, cough).

That totally backfired the other night when it was windy. The wind came in at the perfect angle to make that plastic covering really, really loud. And it scared the bajeebas out of Annie. She did. Not. Sleep. 

Granted, there’s a sliiiiiight chance that user error was involved. If I had secured the plastic to the window a little tighter, maybe it wouldn’t have been so noisy. And overall, it really has helped keep her room warmer.

I must not be the only one with weatherizing woes.

 A team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Colorado and the California Institute of Technology is working on a magical paint to solve all our problems. It would make windows more efficient with the stroke of a brush. Something similar exists for commercial use, but it’s really expensive. This new version would be affordable and available to desperate moms like me.

We usually think of weatherizing our windows in the winter as a way to save on our heating costs. But as we approach spring and summer, this would be a way to save on our cooling costs as well.

Here’s how The Daily Californian describes the new technology:

“The coating uses the unique geometry of bottlebrush polymers to reflect infrared light back into the sky while allowing visible light to pass through painted windows. The process reduces the amount of both heat trapped in buildings and the carbon dioxide emitted through less air conditioning use, allowing buildings in warmer climates to save more energy.”

If successful, the team could make a big impact on energy efficiency. Good window design can reduce energy consumption from 10 to 50 percent.

The team is still in the early stages of development, but they have funds from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to help. 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: weatherization, Energy Efficiency, magic paint, windows

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

Expand Article

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: apps, save energy, energy cost, Energy Efficiency

Department of Energy takes cue from Lindsey Lohan

Lindsey Lohan originally won our hearts as the star of Disney’s “Parent Trap” reboot over a decade ago. I love “The Parent Trap.” What could be better than discovering ...

Tagged: Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Tips, Energy Department

Expand Article

Department of Energy takes cue from Lindsey Lohan

Illustration of people wearing suits

Turns out executives from Whole Foods and Hilton give each other some great energy-efficiency tips.

Key Points

  • The Department of Energy is playing the parent trap.
  • Only it involves middle-aged executives, not adorable twin girls.
  • They trade places and give energy advice. Almost as challenge as trying to get your divorced parents to fall back in love. 

Lindsey Lohan originally won our hearts as the star of Disney’s “Parent Trap” reboot over a decade ago. I love “The Parent Trap.” What could be better than discovering that your divorced parents have kept your identical twin a secret from you your entire life, only to meet her at a summer camp? How could that storyline play out with anything but a happy ending?

The Department of Energy must be a big fan too. They just debuted their own version of the movie. Only instead of adorable girls, middle-aged men in suits trade places. And instead of tricking their divorced parents, the men go to task on each other’s energy-efficiency tactics. And you guessed it, mayhem ensues.

Joking aside, this is a very clever attempt to get industries to share ideas about how to save energy. Executives from Whole Foods and Hilton give each other some great tips. And thanks to some very dramatic narration and music, it’s pretty fun to watch.

The season is available to view here.

Enjoy! 


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Tips, Energy Department

How to find your energy tax credits, rebates and savings

It can be tricky to find all the tax credits, rebates and savings programs you’re eligible for. Many utilities offer programs that can help you save energy, and reduce the costs ...

Tagged: taxes, Energy Tax Incentives, Department of Energy, Energy Department, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

How to find your energy tax credits, rebates and savings

$100 dollar bill

It's tax time! Make sure you're claiming all of the tax credits you're eligible for.

Key Points

  • There are lots of programs to save you money on energy-efficient improvements to your property.
  • One website lets you search them all based on where you live and what kind of customer you are.
  • Happy searching.

It can be tricky to find all the tax credits, rebates and savings programs you’re eligible for. Many utilities offer programs that can help you save energy, and reduce the costs of new energy efficient purchases. Layer on programs from your town, county, state and the feds, and you might get carpel tunnel just thinking about it.

Luckily, www.energy.gov has a one-stop spot to get everything you need. Here it is. You can easily search for programs based on where you live and even sort it by who the program is intended to help.

And as a bonus, here’s a quick breakdown of the federal incentives for this year according to The Department of Energy:

  • Federal incentives are available for some building envelope, heating, cooling, and water heating products through 2016. Learn more.
  • Federal tax credits are available for solar energy systems through 2021, and for small wind electric systems, geothermal heat pumps, and fuel cells through 2016. Learn more.
  • Federal tax credits are available for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Learn more.

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: taxes, Energy Tax Incentives, Department of Energy, Energy Department, Energy Efficiency

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

Expand Article

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Department of Energy, New Year's Resolution, New Year, Energy Efficiency, save energy

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

Expand Article

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: air conditioning, Energy Efficiency, save energy, New York Times

Savings in Seattle – Slashing mortgage rates for energy efficiency

Coffee. Meg Ryan rom-com. Amazon shopping. Lots of positive things come to mind when I think of Washington. And now here’s one more.

Residents of Washington will soon ...

Tagged: Washington, EnergySpark, Energy Efficiency, Seattle

Expand Article

Savings in Seattle – Slashing mortgage rates for energy efficiency

US road map

Good job, Seattle. I’ll add this to my growing list of reasons to like you.

Key Points

  • The state of Washington will soon offer mortgage rate reductions for energy efficient homes.
  • The program aims to save homebuyers money on their mortgage, and on future utility bills.
  • The program can also help finance energy efficiency improvements to existing homes. 

Coffee. Meg Ryan rom-com. Amazon shopping. Lots of positive things come to mind when I think of Washington. And now here’s one more.

Residents of Washington will soon have one more reason to make home energy efficiency a priority. Later this month, the state will start offering eligible homeowners .25 percent off their mortgage interest rates for energy-efficient homes.

It’s part of the Washington State Housing Commission’s EnergySpark program. EnergySpark aims to save homeowners money with a one-two punch – a lower mortgage rate and a lower utility bill.

Here’s who qualifies:

  • Household income under $97,000
  • Credit score at least 620
  • Purchasing either:
    • A new home that exceeds Washington state energy standards by at least 15%, or
    • An older home that can be upgraded for 10% energy savings over its current use.

To be eligible, new homes must meet certain energy efficiency standards, like Northwest Energy Star Homes® or LEED® for Home Silver, Gold or Platinum. Older homes can get in on the savings too. Buyers can identify projects that would improve a home’s efficiency by at least percent, and factor those improvement costs into the mortgage. This is a win-win for homeowners who get to finance the projects with their mortgage at the reduced rate.

This seems like a great program. I like that it offers an incentive to save energy, and will help homeowners save money for years to come.

Good job, Seattle. I’ll add this to my growing list of reasons to like you. 

Learn more information about the EnergySpark program.


 

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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Washington, EnergySpark, Energy Efficiency, Seattle

Simple morning hacks to help you save energy all day

A good morning can set a great tone for the entire day.

Benjamin Franklin started every morning with a simple routine: “Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness. Contrive ...

Tagged: morning, Energy Efficiency, EPA-certified, energy star

Expand Article

Simple morning hacks to help you save energy all day

Good morning written in toast

Adding these simple steps to your morning routine will help you save energy before you’ve even left the house.

Key Points

  • You can save energy before you even leave the house in the morning.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath and set a programmable thermostat.
  • Use a drip machine to make your coffee, and skip your dishwasher’s dry heat cycle.

A good morning can set a great tone for the entire day.

Benjamin Franklin started every morning with a simple routine: “Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness. Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day: prosecute and present study, and breakfast.” 

Here’s how Steve Jobs describes his morning routine:

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

My morning routine is pretty similar to Benjamin’s. I just add a few things to his template, like getting dressed one-handed while holding a baby, letting a toddler pick out my shoes (which sometimes even match), playing three rounds of hide-and-seek and doing the limbo to the Wiggles while we make toast. It does include a lot of “addressing Powerful Goodness.” 

However you start your day, adding these simple steps to your morning routine will help you save energy before you’ve even left the house.

  • Skip the bath, take a smart shower — In general, showers use less water than baths, and that means your hot water heater isn’t sucking up as much energy. There are several variables — size of bath, how long your shower is (I’m talking to you, 20-minute-shower-husband), and what kind of showerhead you have. But overall the Alliance for Water Efficiency found that a shower is the way to go. But make sure you’re making that shower efficient. About 20 percent of every shower is wasted when we turn on the nozzle, then leave to wait until the water gets hot. Your hot water heater accounts for about 17 percent of your home’s total electric use, so minimizing the time unused hot water is pouring down your drain can add up to big savings in a hurry. Make sure your shower head is EPA-certified to save on average 370 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year — enough to power a home for about 13 days. 
  • Program your thermostat — According to EnergyStar, using a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs. This option is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week.
  • Brew an efficient cup — Drip machines use less energy than single serve pod machines. To maximize your energy savings, unplug your machine after you pour your cup, or at a minimum, turn off the burner. Use a thermos-type cup to keep your brew warm instead of reheating it halfway through your sipping.
  • Let the dishes dry while you’re out — Run the dishwasher before you leave and skip the high-heat dry cycle at the end. The dishes can dry while you’re at work. As a bonus, you can cross your fingers that your spouse will put them away if he or she beats you home that evening.


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.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: morning, Energy Efficiency, EPA-certified, energy star

Uncle Sam got you a last-minute gift

He’s kind of like that uncle who shows up to Christmas when everyone thought he was spending it skiing. And he brings presents. Good ones.

Uncle Sam came through for ...

Tagged: Energy Tax Incentives, Congress, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

Uncle Sam got you a last-minute gift

Uncle Sam

You might have missed it between wrapping presents and sledding, but the 113th Congress closed by extending some tax incentives for your home projects.

Key Points

  • The 113th Congress extended some energy-efficiency tax credits for home improvement projects.
  • You can claim them on your 2014 taxes.
  • No word yet on if they’ll be offered again for 2015.

He’s kind of like that uncle who shows up to Christmas when everyone thought he was spending it skiing. And he brings presents. Good ones.

Uncle Sam came through for energy efficiency this year. You might have missed it between wrapping presents and sledding, but the 113th Congress closed by extending some tax incentives for your home projects.

We thought tax credits — up to $500 for things like installing qualified insulation, windows, doors, roofs, certain water heaters, and heating and air conditioning systems — went away at the end of 2013. But good news: Those credits were extended through Dec. 31, 2014, which means you can claim these when you do your 2014 taxes. There was talk of changing some of the qualification levels, but in the end, Congress decided to keep it as is. They must have wanted to get home for the holidays.

More details about the credits are available at energytaxincentives.org.

It’s unclear if these incentives will extend to the coming year. Congress will have to decide whether to offer them again to cover 2015. That makes it hard to budget them in if you’re on the fence about tackling a project this year, but who am I to debate the effectiveness of Congress? 

In other last-minute to-dos, the 113th gave the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy $1.93 billion. That’s $25 million more than last year. Most of that increase will go toward weatherization assistance programs and advanced manufacturing projects.

Thanks, Uncle Sam, for the present. Maybe next year you can let us know a little sooner if you’ll be joining us. Now things are all awkward because we didn’t have time to get something for you.  

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Energy Tax Incentives, Congress, Energy Efficiency

Thanks, Debbie Downer, I’ll go turn my heat up now

Your small steps aren’t making a difference for energy efficiency. That’s according to a recent post by John Hofmeister for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks, Debbie Downer. Here ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, small steps

Expand Article

Thanks, Debbie Downer, I’ll go turn my heat up now

sad face

We need major structure and systemic change.

Key Points

  • One energy expert believes that small steps aren’t making a difference for energy efficiency.
  • He writes that we’re not ready for the major cultural shift that needs to happen.
  • Would you be willing to pay more taxes and have more regulation to help reach energy goals? 

Your small steps aren’t making a difference for energy efficiency. That’s according to a recent post by John Hofmeister for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks, Debbie Downer. Here I was trying to turn out the lights, turn down the thermostat and convince my husband to let us install energy-efficient windows. I was even imagining my small steps were saving a little girl from an asthma attack. Cue the whaant whaant whaant music.

Hofmeister asserts that it’s going to take whole lot more than small steps to really make a difference. Instead, he says we need major structure and systemic change.

Here’s what he believes needs to happen:      

“Land-use management that requires increased penetration of multifamily and high-rise home construction in new-build housing stock; mandatory combined heat and power electricity generation where high temperature manufacturing is done; comprehensive re-lamping with lower-efficiency-lighting products; electricity pricing that rises with increased consumption or higher volumes, contrary to most pricing history for consumers; taxing mobility based on miles driven or flown; property taxes that reflect home or building aging, unless offset by documented building efficiency improvements.”

But he worries that none of these will become reality because it requires a major cultural shift that Americans aren’t committed to making.

He has a point. I wouldn’t be too happy if you told me that I was going to be taxed for a road trip or that my property taxes were going up because of the age of my home. It is true that we could be doing more to save energy, but at what cost to our personal freedom and, more immediately visible, our cost of living?

We’ve talked before about how a more emotional and local appeal to saving energy can be a motivating factor to make better personal decisions. Are motivators like that and a broader concern for our energy future enough to get you to agree to higher taxes and more regulation? 

Read John's article here.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Energy Efficiency, small steps

I Love Air Conditioning

I grew up in the mid-west and each summer I would spend at least a couple of weeks at my grandparents farm in southern Missouri. I enjoyed being outside ...

Tagged: air conditioning, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

I'm sure there are many people that say AC isn't important to them, but it is to me.

Key Points

  • Efficient use of energy is a lifestyle and budget choice.
  • We all have different energy use preferences and thankfully have options.

I grew up in the mid-west and each summer I would spend at least a couple of weeks at my grandparents farm in southern Missouri. I enjoyed being outside and helping my grandpa around the farm but I always looked forward to the moment when I would come inside and stand in front of the window AC unit. For me, it is the smell of freon rather than apple pie that makes me think of my grandparents. Needless to say, I confess that I love air conditioning.

Now I live in western South Dakota and for the most part, I don't need air conditioning the way I did when living in Missouri. But once the outside temperature gets over 80 degrees I can guarantee that the AC will be running.

I was recently looking through energy efficiency tips and saw that setting the thermostat over 78 degrees is recommended to save energy. I'm sure there are many people that say AC isn't important to them, but it is to me. 

I choose to save energy in other ways so that I can have the AC set at a temperature that works for me. It is my choice to efficiently manage energy in a way that makes sense for my lifestyle. Thankfully there are many ways to manage energy and I have choices and options to do so. I'd rather hand-wash dishes in the dark than turn up my thermostat, but that's just me.

What are your energy priorities and choices? Leave a comment below.

[Picture Source]

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: air conditioning, Energy Efficiency

Dunk A Computer

Intel and SGI have been testing a supercomputer that's kept cool by submerging the electronics completely in fluid, a system they say can dramatically reduce energy bills.

The ...

Tagged: computer, Energy Efficiency

Expand Article

Dunk A Computer Server To Save Energy

Key Points

  • A very new technology that could reduce energy costs for computer servers by up to 90%
  • Quite a bit of work needed to get this technology to the point that it can be used

Intel and SGI have been testing a supercomputer that's kept cool by submerging the electronics completely in fluid, a system they say can dramatically reduce energy bills.

The technology has the potential to slash data-center energy bills by more than 90 percent, said Michael Patterson, senior power and thermal architect at Intel.

It could be a while before companies are buying immersion-cooled servers, but Intel thinks the technology may have a future.

"We wouldn't have done this if we didn't believe it had potential," Patterson said. "That's why we're taking this to the next step and learning more about Novec."

Check out the full article over at IT World.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: computer, Energy Efficiency

Stop Energy Bullying

The cover of this weeks’ Time Magazine issue had an interesting article by Comedians Key and Peele titled “The Case for Mockery.”  They claim we have changed our sense ...

Tagged: Customer Care, Energy Efficiency, General, Grid Operations, Grid Security, Industry Structure

Expand Article

Stop Energy Bullying

Stop Energy Bullying

Sorry to destroy your simplistic energy doctrines and dogmas about renewables, but they are useless without real firm energy capacity … the kind provided by natural gas, nuclear, hydro and even coal.

The cover of this weeks’ Time Magazine issue had an interesting article by Comedians Key and Peele titled “The Case for Mockery.”  They claim we have changed our sense of openness in making fun of things and that has now thwarted a lot of creativity at the altar of political correctness.  In a sense, their premise is that our inability to laugh at ourselves closes our minds to creative discussion and change.  Their central premise is that certain groups are now bullying us into silence.

As I thought about this, it struck me that we have this bullying going on everywhere.  I see it in our churches, politics, and even the energy industry.  I believe the root to all of it is our tendency to be superficial.  We are happy with our limited understanding just as long as the superficial sound bites satisfy our encapsulated dogmas and doctrines.  Then, when we encounter others with different points of view, we become increasingly defensive about this and that.  We have lost our sense of humor that perhaps, just maybe, we don’t know as much as we seem to think we know.  Maybe new information might give us a bigger sense of the truth than the tiny portion of it we think we now own.  As a result we become increasingly polarized and define ourselves by our unique perspectives. 

I copied two of the most powerful quotes from the article into this blog to point out how obvious this is once you stop and think about it.  Who can argue that we are now operating in a sea of political correctness where we can’t really call a spade a spade any longer? 

Political correctness?  Joel, are you kidding me?  No, think about it. It has now become sacred to let energy zealots run the table on energy decisions in this country and, for that matter, around the world.  Renewable energy is the new religion and they are on a crusade to replace the energy systems with solar and wind.  Worse yet, the rampant inclusion of these sources without due consideration of the longer term financial and operational reliability impacts threaten the reliability and sustainability of the very system everyone in this country counts on.  The bullying starts right here:  People who think about this critically are called members of the flat earth society because their questions and concerns take the bloom off the energy zealot’s idealistic dreams.  Sorry my zealot friends … that is bullying.

So, let me play Captain Obvious to anyone who truly knows anything about planning an energy supply system.  You need both capacity and energy.  You must have both and they must be there in balance.  Disturb this balance and the lights go out.  Sorry to destroy your simplistic energy doctrines and dogmas about renewables, but they are useless without real firm energy capacity … the kind provided by natural gas, nuclear, hydro and even coal. 

Renewable energy sources are just that … energy sources.  They are not capacity sources.  They provide kWh but not kW.  You need capacity sources to keep the lights on and you need an operational electrical grid to move the capacity sources to where the energy balance needs correction. 

By the way, this grid was never designed with anticipation of these new sources and certainly not where they are being located.  So, we don’t have the capacity resources located necessarily where we need them.  Wind is often nowhere close to the load centers (population) and it is horribly intermittent.  Solar sources can be located close to population centers but it is also often intermittent in many areas of the world.  We need capacity to keep the lights on and the cost of that capacity has to be paid for by the users of the system in some equitable balance.  And we need a transmission and distribution system that can accommodate the necessary flows while maintain both voltage and frequency.  By the way, the costs for this newly required capability is far from small and the existing ways these costs get recovered by no means charge the right people for the costs they are incurring.

So, as the article in Times Magazine points out, it is time to poke a bit of fun at the energy zealots for the obvious imbalance in their position.  It is time to balance the electric rate making process to properly recover the true costs of including these new energy sources in the energy mix and from the right people. 

But let me also point out that the conversational balance needs to also move away from the tone today which I would describe as a form of energy bullying.  The energy zealots have not only gotten the microphone but they have dominated the agendas that result.  They are also demeaning and failing to show respect for other points view.  Tone it down please.  Respect your elders.

Our society will not thrive if we continue to let this one point of view dominate the air waves.  There is more to the story.  There is more to keeping the grid reliable than what they are telling everyone.

If we fail to regain balance here, we are headed down a slippery slope of tragic energy decisions.  We still have time in the United States.  Germany many have slipped into the abyss.   Check it out if you are willing to face the complete truth: http://www.intelligentutility.com/article/14/02/2020-vision-look-european-electricity-market

Thanks to Joel Gilbert from EnergyBlogs.com for this post.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Customer Care, Energy Efficiency, General, Grid Operations, Grid Security, Industry Structure