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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)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Light Shopping

Bulbs, brands, lumens, and labels—oh my!

If you have been gradually making the switch to the new energy efficient lighting choices, you’ve noticed that more changes have come to the light bulb aisle. Remember when the odd looking corkscrew compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb was introduced to consumers a few years ago? It’s still there and so are most of the classic pear-shaped incandescent bulbs. But today’s lighting choices have expanded and gotten serious makeovers­—their packaging labels and lingo included. There are LEDs, CFLs, halogen, lumens, CRI, and more, and there is a host of lighting brands. But in recent years, the focus has been on making all bulbs more energy efficient and cost effective. 
End of an Era
We’ve basked in the golden glow of Thomas Edison’s incandescent bulb since the 1800s, but this January marked the end of its run. That’s when the federal government finalized its mandated phase out of selected general-purpose light bulbs and Edison’s less energy efficient incandescent ones. While you still may find 100- and 75-watt bulbs on store shelves, manufacturers in the U.S. stopped producing them. The old 40- and 60-watt bulbs, which represented over half the market, are following suit. What brought about the lighting change? In 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that home and commercial lighting was consuming more electricity annually–about 300 billion kilowatt-hours of lighting or the equivalent of about 100 power plants—but most of it was wasted. Old-fashioned incandescent bulbs used plenty of energy to produce only 10 percent light, with 90 percent of the energy given off as heat. In comparison, today’s more energy-saving incandescent light bulbs use 25 percent less energy to do the job of lighting the same spaces in your home.
Look on the Bright Side
Prime replacements for the traditional incandescent light bulb are the higher-efficiency CFL and LED or light emitting diode bulbs. But be prepared to pay more upfront for some of the bulbs you choose. Lighting experts say that LEDs are the best choice for energy efficiency and if price is not a concern—they can last for up to two decades, save you 75 percent or more in energy costs, and offer superior color and brightness. However, they can cost an estimated $10 to $60 per bulb.
The Energy Department assures consumers that there is a bright side—lower electricity bills over the longer term. These are their estimates: using a traditional incandescent bulb adds about $4.80 per year to the average household electric bill, but a CFL bulb adds just $1.20 a year and an LED about $1 per year. That means that a typical household could potentially save about $50 per year by replacing 15 old incandescent bulbs.
 Lighting the Way
Since lighting accounts for nearly 20 percent of the average home’s electricity use, don’t stay in the dark when shopping for new bulbs that save on energy and your electric bill. Things to know before you go:

·         Lumens are the new watts. It’s all about the lumens or the amount of light a light bulb emits. Remember this formula: The higher the lumens, the brighter the light—to replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, choose a bulb that offers about 1,600 lumens. There are handy charts at www.energystar.gov/ that help you compare the old measure of watts to lumens.  

·         Three-steps to your new bulbs. STEP 1: Choose the amount of lumens you need based on how bright you want a room; STEP 2: Determine which bulb has the lowest estimated energy cost per year. This will save you the most money; and STEP 3: Choose bulbs based on your needs—how long it will last and light appearance.

·         Read the label. Always check the package, making sure that it carries the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR® logo. New Lighting Facts labels on boxes will also help consumers understand what they are purchasing—amount of lumens, estimated annual operating cost, and light color.