Don’t fall for these summer savings scams

Some people call it gullible, but I call it choosing to trust people.

Sure, I’ve fallen for my fair share of jokes, like the time I truly believed that I could catch ...

Tagged: energy-savings myths, summer, Saving Money

Expand Article

Don’t fall for these summer savings scams

Woman's face and hair freeze as she's blasted by an A/C unit

Now that I’m an adult, I’m very wise and definitely won’t fall for things like these summer energy efficiency myths.

Key Points

  • There are plenty of myths about energy savings.
  • Your home won’t cool more quickly if set your thermostat really low.
  • Fans cool people, not rooms, and shutting vents in unused rooms is hard on your system. 

Some people call it gullible, but I call it choosing to trust people.

Sure, I’ve fallen for my fair share of jokes, like the time I truly believed that I could catch a “snipe” bird by staying out all night with a garbage bag and flash light at summer camp. I was determined. And also bore the brunt of a lot of jokes when I was the last kid who figured out it was all an elaborate scheme.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m very wise and definitely won’t fall for things like these summer energy efficiency myths.

  1. Cool your house down quickly by setting your thermostat really low — You get home from work. Your house is really warm and stuffy, so you head over to the thermostat and set it to 55 degrees to cool it down quickly. Great idea, right? Wrong. Setting it to a lower temperature does not speed up the cooling time. The HVAC will work at the same pace until it reaches a certain temperature. Plus, you’ll be wasting a lot of energy if you forget to reset your thermostat later. Instead, just set it where you want it. Or better yet, get a programmable thermostat. That way you don’t have to keep your A/C running all day, but the HVAC can kick in right before you get home.
  2. Save energy by shutting the vents in unused rooms — We hardly ever use the spare room in the basement, so I should just shut the vent in there, right? Nope. Turns out that shutting vents can actually put extra strain on your system. Most central air systems are designed to distribute air throughout the entire house. Blocking vents messes with them and can lead to more system break downs.
  3. Run ceiling fans all the time to help keep the house cool — Fans cool you down, so you decide to keep them on all the time as a major cooling source — even when you’re not there. Bad idea. Fans make you feel cool because the breeze they create cools your skin. But they don’t change the temperature in the room. So, if there isn’t anyone there to benefit from the breeze, you’re better off turning it off and saving some electricity.

Now you don’t need to worry about falling for these myths ever again. And as a bonus tip, never trust an overly enthusiastic camp counselor who thinks it will be really fun to go on a snipe hunt. 


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-savings myths, summer, Saving Money

Don’t fall for these summer savings scams

Some people call it gullible, but I call it choosing to trust people.

Sure, I’ve fallen for my fair share of jokes, like the time I truly believed that I could catch ...

Tagged: energy savings myths, summer, Saving Money

Expand Article

Don’t fall for these summer savings scams

Woman's face and hair freeze as she's blasted by cold air from an A/C unit.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m very wise and definitely won’t fall for things like these summer energy efficiency myths.

Key Points

  • There are plenty of myths about energy savings.
  • Your home won’t cool more quickly if set your thermostat really low.
  • Fans cool people, not rooms, and shutting vents in unused rooms is hard on your system. 

Some people call it gullible, but I call it choosing to trust people.

Sure, I’ve fallen for my fair share of jokes, like the time I truly believed that I could catch a “snipe” bird by staying out all night with a garbage bag and flash light at summer camp. I was determined. And also bore the brunt of a lot of jokes when I was the last kid who figured out it was all an elaborate scheme.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m very wise and definitely won’t fall for things like these summer energy efficiency myths.

  1. Cool your house down quickly by setting your thermostat really low — You get home from work. Your house is really warm and stuffy, so you head over to the thermostat and set it to 55 degrees to cool it down quickly. Great idea, right? Wrong. Setting it to a lower temperature does not speed up the cooling time. The HVAC will work at the same pace until it reaches a certain temperature. Plus, you’ll be wasting a lot of energy if you forget to reset your thermostat later. Instead, just set it where you want it. Or better yet, get a programmable thermostat. That way you don’t have to keep your A/C running all day, but the HVAC can kick in right before you get home.
  2. Save energy by shutting the vents in unused rooms — We hardly ever use the spare room in the basement, so I should just shut the vent in there, right? Nope. Turns out that shutting vents can actually put extra strain on your system. Most central air systems are designed to distribute air throughout the entire house. Blocking vents messes with them and can lead to more system break downs.
  3. Run ceiling fans all the time to help keep the house cool — Fans cool you down, so you decide to keep them on all the time as a major cooling source — even when you’re not there. Bad idea. Fans make you feel cool because the breeze they create cools your skin. But they don’t change the temperature in the room. So, if there isn’t anyone there to benefit from the breeze, you’re better off turning it off and saving some electricity.

Now you don’t need to worry about falling for these myths ever again. And as a bonus tip, never trust an overly enthusiastic camp counselor who thinks it will be really fun to go on a snipe hunt.


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 savings myths, summer, Saving Money

Energy savings have never been tastier

Everything tastes better grilled.

One time, my husband even ate some vegetables when they were cooked on the grill.

True, I think he meant to get a bite of ribeye ...

Tagged: natural gas grilling, grilling, Saving Money

Expand Article

Energy savings have never been tastier

Grilled cheeseburger with pineapple on top

Besides being a delicious way to cook, grilling is also a great way to save some money.

Key Points

  • Grill season is finally here.
  • Cooking outside keeps the heat out of your kitchen and gives your A/C a break.
  • Grilling with natural gas is cheaper than using charcoal or propane.

Everything tastes better grilled.

One time, my husband even ate some vegetables when they were cooked on the grill.

True, I think he meant to get a bite of ribeye and accidentally got some mushroom on his fork, but still, I’m counting that as a grill success.

Besides being a delicious way to cook, grilling is also a great way to save some money. In the summer, your air conditioner works overtime to keep the house cool, especially if you have a hot oven warming the kitchen. Ovens can raise the temperature in your kitchen by 5-10 degrees.

Keep in mind that not all grill fuels are created equal.

The three general sources of heat for a grill are charcoal, propane or natural gas.

  • Charcoal is the most expensive and time-consuming option.
  • Propane is the mid-cost option, but you run the risk of your tank running empty mid-cookout.
  • Natural gas is the lowest-cost option. A grill fueled by natural gas is generally about one-sixth the cost to run than charcoal. Plus, since the gas line runs directly to your grill, you don’t have to worry about having to leave raw burger behind to go fill an empty tank.

If you decide to run a natural gas line to your grill, make sure to check in with your local utility for assistance. Some utilities offer a service to hook it up for you, and others have lists of qualified contractors who can help you out.

So long, oven. I won’t be needing you until fall. (Who am I kidding? I’ll see you next week for cookies, but otherwise, really, you’re on vacation.) 


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

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: natural gas grilling, grilling, Saving Money

Your ’16 home improvement project could get you a $500 tax credit

Did you make any improvements to your home last year?

Then make sure to check if you qualify for any home energy tax credits. The Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit ...

Tagged: tax credit, Saving Money, home improvement

Expand Article

Your ’16 home improvement project could get you a $500 tax credit

Getting money back on your taxes

The Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit could help you save as much as $500 on some of those projects completed before 2016 ended in a haze of glory.

Key Points

  • Don’t miss out on tax credits for your 2016 home improvement projects.
  • The Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit could help you save as much as $500.
  • Check out state and local incentives too before you file your 2016 taxes. 

Did you make any improvements to your home last year?

Then make sure to check if you qualify for any home energy tax credits. The Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit could help you save as much as $500 on some of those projects completed before 2016 ended in a haze of glory.

Here are links compiled by the Department of Energy for specific requirements:

Building envelope improvements

Heating, cooling and water-heating equipment

But wait, there’s more!

Check out this handy link to search for state and local tax credits, rebates and savings.

Happy saving!


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: tax credit, Saving Money, home improvement

This post-holiday bargain will save you money now — and later

You’ve been shopping all month getting ready for the holidays. What could you possibly need next week after the Christmas gifts have all been opened?

LED Christmas lights.

Yes, ...

Tagged: leds, saving energy, Saving Money

Expand Article

This post-holiday bargain will save you money now — and later

LED holiday lights twinkle in the dark

LED Christmas lights go on sale big time after Christmas, so buying them now will save you money at the point of purchase, plus you’ll save money on your energy bill next year when you put them up.

Key Points

  • LED holiday lights save energy and help keep your energy costs down.
  • If you’ve been on the fence, consider buying them right after Christmas.
  • Many stores mark them down as much as 50 percent right after the holidays. 

You’ve been shopping all month getting ready for the holidays. What could you possibly need next week after the Christmas gifts have all been opened?

LED Christmas lights.

Yes, you’re probably ready to finally take your lights down, but trust me on this.

LED Christmas lights go on sale big time after Christmas, so buying them now will save you money at the point of purchase, plus you’ll save money on your energy bill next year when you put them up. And yes, this means that you can’t leave this year’s lights up all year and just plug them in again come November. Busted.

Still not convinced? Here’s a breakdown of the savings you’ll see with LED lights, courtesy of the Department of Energy:

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

Incandescent C-9 lights

$10

LED C-9 lights

$0.27

Incandescent Mini-lights

$2.74

LED Mini-lights

$0.82

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

Incandescent C-9 lights

$122.19

LED C-9 lights

$17.99

Incandescent Mini-lights

$55.62

LED Mini-lights

$33.29

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

Not only do LED holiday lights consume less electricity, they also have the following advantages:

  • 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.

So go treat yourself to some short-term and long-term savings after Christmas. I knew those power shopping skills had value. 


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: leds, saving energy, Saving Money

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

Sarah’s surprise attack savings – Hotels

Welcome back to our social experiment Surprise Attack Savings. When I say surprise, I mean having a mom in mismatched clothes, no make-up, and a baby on her hip run up to you and ...

Tagged: Saving Money, Surprise Attack Savings

Expand Article

Sarah’s surprise attack savings – Hotels

It’s amazing how when you stop and think for a minute, you see ways all around you to be energy efficient.

Key Points

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

Welcome back to our social experiment Surprise Attack Savings. When I say surprise, I mean having a mom in mismatched clothes, no make-up, and a baby on her hip run up to you and ask how you save energy. I’m just a mom. Trying to multitask. Hoping you won’t judge me for the spit up on my shirt. 

This week, we wandered downtown and stopped by a hotel front desk. When I asked the guys how they save energy, at first they weren’t sure how to answer. But it’s amazing how when you stop and think for a minute, you see ways all around you to be energy efficient.

Jacob Bohlmann covered a lot and was very composed for just being surprised attacked. Thanks, Jacob!

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

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Saving Money, Surprise Attack Savings

Sarah’s Surprise Attack Savings – College edition

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to save energy. But it doesn’t hurt, either.

I asked Jason Ash, Ph.D. what he does to save energy. You can tell from all the papers around him ...

Tagged: Saving Money, Surprise Attack Savings

Expand Article

Sarah’s Surprise Attack Savings – College edition

College Professor

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to save energy. But it doesn’t hurt, either.

Key Points

  • Surprise attack savings strikes again!
  • Smart people are smart about their energy use.
  • Let your appliances save energy for you.  

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to save energy. But it doesn’t hurt, either.

I asked Jason Ash, Ph.D. what he does to save energy. You can tell from all the papers around him that he’s smart. And he teaches in the mechanical engineering department at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

So yeah, this guy knows his stuff.  Here’s how he saves energy:

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

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Saving Money, Surprise Attack Savings

Sarah’s surprise attack savings – AJ’s Wicked Salon

People are smart. And nice.

I’ve learned that by using my camera and surprise attacking local businesses, random people on the street, and friends and family, asking ...

Tagged: Saving Money, Surprise Attack Savings

Expand Article

Sarah’s surprise attack savings – AJ’s Wicked Salon

AJ's Wicked Salon

It takes a lot of electric gadgets to tame my mane. And in a salon, that adds up to a whole lot of devices to unplug at the end of the night.

Key Points

  • Surprise attack savings strikes again!
  • Salons use a lot of energy.
  • To save time and energy, one salon has a quick solution to turn everything off. 

People are smart. And nice.

I’ve learned that by using my camera and surprise attacking local businesses, random people on the street, and friends and family, asking how they save energy. I’ve been surprised at the resourceful ways people conserve.

In this week’s surprise attack savings, I busted out my phone while scheduling a bang trim at AJ’s Wicked Salon.

It takes a lot of electric gadgets to tame my mane. And in a salon, that adds up to a whole lot of devices to unplug at the end of the night. To avoid letting these energy vampires run up her electric bill, owner Miranda Papendick has a simple solution.

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

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Saving Money, Surprise Attack Savings

Sarah’s surprise-attack savings – Pottery 2 Paint

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

But ...

Tagged: Saving Money

Expand Article

Sarah’s surprise-attack savings – Pottery 2 Paint

Pottery to Paint

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

Key Points

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

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

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

Here’s one example. Pottery 2 Paint is one of my favorite places to take my two-year-old, June. We sit and paint a piece of pottery, and then, as June says, “Give it to the nice lady to put in the fire.” Which means kiln. We asked the manager Shelli Goetzinger how she saves energy, and she had a great answer. 

 

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

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Saving Money

Simple Money Saving Tips

Did you know you can impact how much you pay for energy by simply changing the color of the paint on your walls? The interior design of your house may be impacting your energy bill ...

Tagged: Saving Money, save water, Lighting

Expand Article

It's the little things

Light home interior can save you money.

If you install four faucet aerators and two low-flow showerheads, you will save an average of $255 a year!

Key Points

  • Make brighter choices
  • Save water
  • Control lighting

Did you know you can impact how much you pay for energy by simply changing the color of the paint on your walls? The interior design of your house may be impacting your energy bill more than you think. You can find other clever ways to save money and energy in this article on yahoo.com

What tricks do you use to save money and energy around your house?

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Saving Money, save water, Lighting