HEA logo

HEA logo

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cooking Up Holiday Energy Savings

For many of us, the best holidays involve home-cooked meals and wonderful aromas of turkey, stuffing and baked goods wafting throughout the house. It means a busy kitchen and a bustling house full of family and friends. If this rings true for you, despite the increased kitchen activity, you still have an opportunity to save energy during the holidays.

Cut carbs (carbon) painlessly
In addition to being the “heart of your home,” your kitchen could pump savings back into your wallet.  According to the Department of Energy, cooking accounts for 4.5 percent of total energy use in U.S. homes. This number, combined with the energy use associated with refrigeration, dishwashing and hot water heating means that as much as 15 percent of the energy in the average American home is used in the kitchen. So, saving energy here can have a significant impact on your household budget.
For example, when preparing side dishes, baked goods, soups and such, consider using small appliances like a crock pot, toaster oven, microwave or warming plate instead of your conventional oven or stovetop. These small appliances are a smart, energy-saving alternative, typically using about half the energy of a stove. 

Seal in efficiency
When using your oven, don’t peek! Opening the oven door can lower the temperature by as much as 25 degrees and causes your stove to work harder (consuming more energy) to return to the desired cooking temperature. If your recipe calls for baking the dish more than an hour, it is not necessary to preheat the oven.  If your oven is electric, you can likely turn the oven off for the last five to ten minutes of cooking and allow the residual heat to complete the job. Clean burners and reflectors increase efficiency and offer better heating, so don’t neglect this small but important task.     
Just as keeping the oven door closed seals in efficiency and enables the stove to operate more economically, the same rules apply to the refrigerator and freezer. Keep the doors closed as much as possible so cold air doesn't escape. However, leaving the door open for a longer period of time while you load groceries or remove items you need is more efficient than opening and closing it several times.
If you are entertaining a large group, you may be able to give your furnace a brief holiday. When your oven is working hard and you have a house full of guests, the heat from the stove and the guests will keep your house comfortable, enabling you to turn down the thermostat.

Clean up with energy savings
When it’s time to clean up, extend fellowship to the kitchen, and wash and dry dirty dishes by hand. This uses less energy than a dishwasher. However, don’t leave the water running continuously, or you will waste energy. If you do use the dishwasher and rinse dishes before loading them, use cold water. Run the dishwasher with full loads only, and if possible, use the energy-saving cycle. Note that dishwashers that have overnight or air power dry settings can save up to 10 percent of your dishwashing energy costs.

By adapting these efficient practices in your kitchen, energy savings will be one more thing to be thankful for this holiday season. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Invest in Efficiency and Watch Your Savings Grow

It is summer in Alaska and most of us use less electricity now than in the winter. But it is always a good time to investment in energy efficiency - it's a year-round awareness.
Making your home more energy efficient is still one of the safest investments you can make. Try employing these energy saving measures to collect major returns on your investments:
  • Install a programmable thermostat
  • Install a hot water heater “blanket”
  • Change your shower heads
  • Upgrade appliances like your clothes washer or your refrigerator
  • Replace old windows with energy efficient ones
  • Install water efficient toilets  

Making all of these changes at once could be difficult – if not impossible – but investing in just one of these measures can yield a significant return on your investment.
For example, installing a new, energy efficient clothes washer can yield around a 24 percent return on investment. Do your research, and make sure you are purchasing the right size appliances. A small, energy efficient washer will save you money, but if you have a larger family, having to do multiple loads could negate your energy savings.
Investing in any of these energy efficient improvements will keep you cool in the summer, warm in the winter and will make significant changes to your energy bills. So do yourself, and your wallet, a favor and invest in a more energy efficient home! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Making the Digital Switch: Upgrade your lights from analog to digital with LED bulbs

Just as you upgraded your TV/cable and phone from an analog system to digital for better sound and picture quality, the lighting industry has been modernizing its options and products in order to offer consumers greater energy efficiency. For the past several years, traditional incandescent bulbs have been phased out in favor of halogen and compact fluorescent (CFL) lights that offer greater efficiency. Even more recent innovations in technology have focused on Light Emitting Diode light sources, or LED bulbs, which are essentially digital light.  

Longevity and efficiency in one

Known for their longevity and efficiency, LED lights have an estimated operational life span of up to 50,000 hours. This equates to 17 years of continuous operation, or 34 years of 50 percent operation. So if you were to use an LED fixture for eight hours per day, it would take approximately 17 years before it would need to be replaced.

LED lights are different from fluorescent and incandescent light sources, as LEDs do not contain a gas or filament of any kind. Instead, the entire LED is made up of a semiconductor, which is solid in nature and makes LEDs more durable. LED lights are small, packed electronic chip devices where two conductive materials are placed together on a chip (a diode). Electricity passes through the diode, releasing energy in the form of light. Unlike fluorescent lights that require a few minutes to warm up before reaching their full level of brightness, LEDs achieve full illumination immediately.

The cost of “analog” lights

If you are still hanging on to your traditional or “analog” era lighting, your light bulb is operating at only 20 percent energy efficiency. Eighty percent of the electricity from the “analog” bulb is lost as heat. To illustrate how this inefficiency impacts your wallet, consider this. If you have traditional lighting and your electric bill is $100, then you are spending $80 to heat the room instead of light it. Using LED illumination with 80 percent efficiency, your electricity cost would be approximately $20, saving you about $80.

Ideal for outdoor use

LEDs are ideal for outdoor use because of their durability. LED lights are resistant to vibrations, shock and external impacts such as exposure to weather, wind and rain. In addition, they are temperature resistant and operate in colder outdoor temperatures. In contrast, colder temperatures may affect operation of fluorescent lamps. LEDs can also be dimmed, allowing maximum flexibility in usage.

Smart choice for emergency use

If you have a portable generator or battery-back-up, in the event of a power outage or weather emergency, LED lights are a smart complement to your back-up power system. Because they draw so little power, using LED lights instead of CFL or traditional bulbs will allow you to illuminate more areas or channel the “saved” energy to other needed applications.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Unwrap Winter Energy Savings

The holidays are upon us! It’s that special time of year when we spend a great deal of time with friends and family, either in the kitchen or out and about shopping for the perfect gift. As you find yourself wrapped up in the holiday excitement, Homer Electric reminds you of a few ways to be energy efficient during this busy time of year.

Be kind to your oven. Every time you open the oven door to check on that dish, the temperature
inside is reduced by as much as 25 degrees. This forces the oven to use more energy in order to get back to the proper cooking temperature. Try keeping the door closed as much as possible. Also, remember to take advantage of residual heat for the last five to 10 minutes of baking time – this is another way to save energy use. If you’re using a ceramic or glass dish, you can typically set your oven 25 degrees lower than stated, since these items hold more heat than metal pans.
Give your burners some relief. The metal reflectors under your stovetop burners should always be clean. If not, this will prevent your stove from working as effectively as it should.
Utilize small appliances. During the holidays, the main appliances used are the oven and stovetop. Try using your slow cooker, microwave, toaster oven or warming plate more often. This will result in substantial energy savings.

Take advantage of heat from the sun. Open your curtains during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill from cold windows.
Find and seal all air leaks. Check areas near pipes, gaps around chimneys, cracks near doors and windows and any unfinished places.
Maintain your heating system. Schedule services for your heating system before it gets too cold to find out what maintenance you may need to keep your system operating efficiently.
Eliminate “vampire energy” waste. When you are not using an appliance or an electronic, unplug it to save energy. Power strips are definitely a good investment for your home.

Purchase LED holiday lights. A string of traditional lights uses 36 watts of power and a string of LED lights only uses 5 watts. They can even last up to 10 times longer!
Ask for Energy Star-rated TVs and appliances. This will save you a lot of power use because the standby-mode is lower and the device will use less energy overall.
Combine errands to reduce the number of small trips. To-do lists seem to pile up around this time of the year. Believe it or not, several short trips in the winter can use twice as much fuel as one longer trip covering the same distance as all of the shorter ones.
Being energy efficient is usually not top priority when celebrating the holidays, and most of us don’t realize the lack of efficiency until the next bill comes in. Prevent your post-holiday shock this year by thinking creatively and remembering all of these tips!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Draft Dodgers: Weather Stripping Your Home

There is no doubt about it; the cold weather is on its way. Not only is it important to make sure that your heating unit is working properly, but you should check your home to make sure that none of that heat is escaping.

When the weather turns colder, drafts around windows and doors are constantly letting in cool air. Most people will immediately want to raise their thermostat even higher; however, that will cause you to use more energy when you don’t necessarily need to. The best solution is to weather strip your home. This is typically an easy fix that will eliminate energy waste and help you save on your monthly electric bill.

Sometimes drafts are obvious, and other times the openings are much smaller. Here are two quick ways to find out if heat is escaping from your home. For doors, look for daylight between the door and its frame, if you see even a hint of light in between the two, you need to weather strip that area. For windows, place a piece of paper between the sash and the seal then close it. If you can remove the piece of paper from the window without ripping it, you need to weather strip that area as well.

The great thing about all of this is that weather stripping is easy! There is an assortment of materials available to you (like rubber, foam, metal, etc.) and they are all inexpensive. Once you have purchased what you need, keep the following in mind before you begin weather stripping: be sure the surface is dry and clean, measure the area more than once for best accuracy, and apply so that strips compress both sides of the window or door.

To weather strip windows:

  • Place the stripping between the frame and the sash.
  • Be sure that it compresses the window when shut.
  • Check to make sure that the stripping does not interfere with the moving of the window.

To weather strip doors:

  • Choose the proper sweeps and thresholds for your door.
  • Weather-strip the entire door jamb.
  • Make sure the stripping meets tightly at both corners.
  • Use a thickness that allows for a tight press between the door and the ground, but one that does not make the door difficult to shut. 

Roughly half of the energy that your home uses comes from heating and cooling. So the next time you feel an uncomfortable draft in your home, do not immediately crank up the heat. Check to find out where the draft is coming from and properly weather strip the area. This will ultimately save you more energy and more money in the end.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Using Energy Efficient Window Treatments

A recent study by two federal agencies used rigorous science and analysis to dissect window-covering choices—how you use them, where you install them and whether they really save energy. These days, every penny counts, which is why Homer Electric always recommends finding ways to be energy efficient around the house.

Windows account for 25 to 40 percent of annual heating and cooling costs, especially in older homes. Blinds, shades, films and drapes are all good options to consider if old or inefficient windows can’t be replaced.

According to a joint government and industry research effort (including the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Window Covering Manufacturers Association), window coverings—blinds, shades, curtains and awnings—could save significant amounts of energy at a relatively low cost to the consumer. Researchers next want to quantify how much energy consumer households could save based on the dominant types of window coverings used, in which climate zones people live and how U.S. households currently operate their window treatments. In the meantime, you may want to give your window treatments a second look when it comes to cooling, heating and comfort in your home.

It’s important to remember that location, placement and materials are key.  Windows facing west let in the hottest light and need the most coverage, while windows facing south are the most important natural light source and only need light coverage.

Drapery.  During the winter months and in cold climates, draperies work best. Their ability to reduce heat loss depends on fabric type (closed or open weave), color, the season and other factors. Keeping drapes drawn during the winter, especially at night, could save up to 10 percent of heat loss from a warm room. When hanging draperies, make sure they are placed as close to windows as possible to reduce heat exchange and that they are long enough to fall onto a windowsill or floor.
Shades. Shades—pleated or cellular, quilted roller and dual—are one of the simplest product choices for insulating rooms. But depending on the material, some are more energy efficient than others. Cellular or pleated shades are one example of an energy efficient choice. They can help keep air from either entering or escaping your home. Dual shades—highly reflective (white) on one side and heat absorbing (dark) on the other side—are also energy efficient and can be reversed with the seasons. In the summer, lower shades on sunlit windows. Shades on the south side of a house should be raised in the winter during the day, then lowered at night.

Interior blinds. Because of their spacing and openings, blinds tend to be more effective at reducing summer heat gain than winter heat loss. But the level of cooling and heating can also be influenced by the position of the slats. When completely closed and lowered at a sun-filled window, for example, heat gain can be reduced by around 45 percent, according to industry estimates. Slats can also be adjusted to block and reflect sunlight onto a light-colored ceiling.

Window film. Residential window films can be high-end and permanent or inexpensive and temporary solutions to improve the energy efficiency of windows. Clear solar-control window films can block up to 84 percent of the solar energy that would normally enter through windows, according to the International Window Film Association, a nonprofit organization of window film dealers, distributors and manufacturers. When installed well, you may not even know some types of film have been applied to your interior windows, manufacturers say, but they’re working year-round to block ultraviolet light in summer and retain warmth in the winter.

With these and other carefully selected window treatments, you can reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer – keeping your house comfortable and your energy bills lower.

Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy.gov, and “Residential Windows and Window Coverings: A Detailed View” September 2013 Report (http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/11/f5/residential_windows_coverings.pdf)