Efficient and Economic Living In Tiny Houses

Oversize homes, oversize mortgages and oversize energy bills have been replaced by tiny homes. Living the high life and moving on up to the top while living in a tiny home.
Tiny Wooden House on Wheels
Tiny houses use less building material [...] which takes less energy to produce.

After the housing crisis of 2008, many homeowners grew disillusioned with the McMansions that had gotten them deep into debt. Aside from their super-sized mortgage, large homes typically also carry a large utility bill to heat, cool and light jumbo spaces. So, as Americans adopt a more minimalist lifestyle, it makes perfect sense that they’d also embrace tiny homes, with some as small as 196 square feet! We’re so fascinated with tiny homes that there are now reality TV shows like Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters, blogs that discuss the ins and outs of tiny living and even a Tiny House Magazine.

On first glance, one might assume that tiny homes make sense for single people without much stuff. That’s one demographic that inhabits tiny homes, but believe it or not, families with children and dogs also share tiny homes. Some homeowners even use a tiny home as an in-law suite or guest cottage built on their land rather than building an addition to their home.

Tiny house interior
On first glance, one might assume that tiny homes make sense for single people without much stuff.

And while creative storage solutions and a willingness to pare down your belongings is essential, here’s a look at a few benefits offered by tiny homes:

  • Less environmental impact: Tiny houses use less building material (and oftentimes use recycled or repurposed material), which takes less energy to produce. Heating, cooling and lighting a tiny house also takes less of an environmental toll. Some tiny homes operate off the grid using a composting toilet and solar power or wind turbines. Others are connected to a water and electrical supply, but still wouldn’t draw as much water and electricity as a full-sized home.
  • Less space to clean: Dusting, vacuuming and otherwise cleaning a full-sized home can feel like a never-ending chore. But when you live in less than 200 square feet, there are fewer surfaces to keep clean and more time for other activities.
  • Less temptation to accumulate stuff: Some tiny homeowners have extra storage at a friend or relative’s place and rotate items seasonally. But without huge closets and a basement or attic right at their fingertips, most tiny homeowners don’t feel the need to buy tchotkes or other extra stuff they don’t need. Many people find it freeing when they reduce their possessions to just those items they love and use on a regular basis.
  • Less expensive to acquire and maintain: You can sometimes get a bank loan or manufacturer financing for a tiny home. However, many owners pay for a tiny home out of their own savings (often less than $100,000), which means there’s no ongoing mortgage (although they might need to pay rental fees on or purchase the land). With less money devoted to housing costs, tiny homeowners are able to prioritize other goals like paying for travel and experiences, paying down student debt or working less and spending more time with family.

Looking for a more information about tiny houses in New England?  Check out www.tinyhousenortheast.com. They have tiny homes for sale, designs/plans and tons more info about tiny living in New England.

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Making A Difference and Saving Energy With Cloud Computing

U.S. companies using cloud computing could save $12.3 billion in energy savings and 85.7 million metric tons of CO2 savings a year by 2020. Why hasn't your company taken advantage of this yet?

More and more companies are shifting their IT infrastructure to the cloud rather than using servers, a move that can help reap tremendous savings in carbon emissions and energy costs. In fact, a study by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) found that U.S. companies using cloud computing could save $12.3 billion in energy savings and 85.7 million metric tons of CO2 savings a year by 2020. The firms interviewed for the study anticipated reducing costs by as much as 40 to 50 percent.

The study also analyzed the business impact of transferring human resources to the cloud and found that it could achieve payback in less than a year. Beyond reducing their carbon footprint, cloud computing saves companies in other ways like avoiding up-front investments in infrastructure, improving time-to-market and improving automation. Cloud computing offers additional business benefits such as greater flexibility and scalability and easier upgrades.

As a Rackspace white paper points out, the key to achieving the benefits of cloud computing is proper vendor selection. Here’s a look at several factors to consider when choosing a cloud computing vendor:

  • Pricing model: The white paper recommends looking for a cloud computing vendor that bills cloud computing infrastructure on an hourly basis, because spikes tend to last only a few hours. Companies would not reap as much savings with a cloud computing vendor that charges by the day rather than the hour. Some cloud computing vendors also charge users a setup fee for provision (and even de-provision, in some cases) to offset their costs, so try to avoid vendors with high setup costs.
  • Security and compliance: Whether you’re used on-premise servers or a cloud-based solution, you need to do your due-diligence about the vendor’s security protocol. If your business is subject to standards such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), you’d want to choose a vendor who complies with those standards.
  • Performance: Cloud computing offers a high level of reliability but it’s not infallible. Look for a provider who can offer you a strong Service Level Agreement (SLA) covering factors like host failure and network availability.
  • Support: Your in-house IT department may not have the bandwidth to offer around-the-clock support, so find out what level of support you can expect from your vendor. With the global economy, outages at any time of day are inconvenient and cost you money.

Cloud computing has the potential to save your business energy and money, but it’s important to select your cloud computing provider carefully to ensure the right fit for your needs.

 

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Energy Efficiency at Work

Lowering your energy costs around the office can not only help the environment, but also boost your business's bottom line. Here's a look at strategies for improving energy efficiency at work.

It doesn’t matter if your office or workspace is in  luxury building in a big city or the “spare room” at your home.  Lowering energy costs around the office not only helps the environment, it also boosts your business’s bottom line.  Here’s a look at strategies for improving energy efficiency at work.

Buy energy efficient equipment:

When it’s time to replace computer monitors and other equipment, consider purchasing ENERGY STAR models. This could cut energy consumption by up to 75 percent compared to conventional products.

Power down and unplug equipment that’s not in use:

Have employees turn off and unplug their computers, printers or another equipment before they leave the office. Electronic devices that are turned off but still plugged in can still draw a small amount of power, so use an energy strip to reduce this energy drain.

Set electronics to hibernate or sleep mode:

This way, even if workers forget to power down their computers or other equipment or they walk away for a short time, they’ll consume less power. Most printers and copiers also have an energy-saving mode you could use to reduce your energy consumption.

Use energy efficient lighting:

Use natural lighting when you can and consider replacing conventional light bulbs with more compact fluorescent bulbs. Keep windows and skylights clean to maximize natural lighting.

Add motion sensors:

Installing motion sensors in storage rooms, conference rooms, or other areas that are occupied only sporadically will reduce your energy usage instead of relying on employees to flip off the switch themselves when they leave the room.

Get a programmable thermostat:

During weekends and evening hours when your offices are likely not occupied, set the temperature accordingly to reduce heating and cooling costs.

Use cloud computing to reduce local server costs:

Running a local server incurs energy costs around the clock, so some businesses have switched to cloud computing instead. Cloud computing also allows employees to work from home, another source of energy savings.

Allow employees to telecommute:

If your line of business allows for telecommuting, then having fewer people in the office running computers and printers could help reduce your energy use. If telecommuting becomes very successful, you may find that as your head count increases, you won’t need to expand your office space proportionately. Remember: a larger office space often costs more money to heat, cool and light.

Research environmental grants and loans:

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers environmental grants and loans to help small businesses defray the costs of energy efficient upgrades. If you’re planning an upgrade, these options may be worth investigating.

 

*Photo courtesy of Financial Times, CC / BY 2.0

 

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6 Tips for Renters on Saving Money on Electricity

Do you rent your home and looking to be more energy efficient and save on your power bill? Chances are you don't want to pay for pricing things like windows or insulation. Fortunately renters can still make a host of small changes to help lower their heating and cooling bills.

Most energy-savings tips only apply to homeowners—if you’re only renting, you’re not likely to pay for pricey insulation in a house you don’t own. But even if you can’t make major renovations or upgrade to energy-efficient appliances, renters can still make small changes to help lower their heating and cooling bills.

Windows are a great place to focus, as many apartments have older ones that aren’t well-insulated and allow for heat loss. And when landlords aren’t footing the energy bill, they have little incentive to pay for upgrades.

Here’s a look at several renter-friendly strategies for saving money on your electricity and heating bills.

Use insulated drapes

Insulated drapes are an inexpensive way to keep out cold air, especially in a room with lots of windows. You should be able to purchase simple insulated drapes inexpensively and move them with you to future apartments. Use tension rods if you’re concerned about leaving nail or screw holes above the windows.

Place plastic on the windows

An inexpensive plastic window insulation kit can help you keep out drafts. This video shows how to weatherize windows using plastic. Once windows are sealed, you can’t easily open them again without removing the plastic, so you may want to leave one or two windows in the kitchen uncovered case you overcook something and need to air out the room (remember to close the window later).

Weather strip doors and windows

This video shows you how to install peel-and-stick weather stripping. A few benefits of weather stripping: you can still open and close your windows and they can help keep out bugs and outside noise. You can use weather stripping in combination with plastic insulation or insulated drapes.

Get a space heater

If you need to heat a small space like a bedroom, it’s sometimes more efficient to use a space heater rather than heating the entire apartment or house. Just be sure to position the space heater away from other furniture and turn it off when you leave the room to lower your risk of fire.

Clean heating and cooling vents

When dust and other debris build up in in your heating and cooling system, it forces the system to work harder to heat or cool your home. By changing the HVAC filters (if applicable) and vacuuming the vents periodically, you’ll help the system run as efficiently as it can, even if your landlord isn’t ready to upgrade.

Remove window AC units

If you leave an air conditioning unit in your window year round, you’re likely letting warm air escape or cold air in through gaps between the unit and your window. Remove AC units at the end of the warm season and store them until the following spring. Better yet, use fans and open windows instead of running energy-sucking AC units.

 

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New England Pipeline Expansions Proposed

Earlier this fall, energy pipeline operators announced plans to boost the energy supply across New England, reports the Boston Globe. This region has not added any new gas pipeline capacity for the past two decades, which has created supply issues and temporarily boosted wholesale prices for gas and electricity during extreme winter temperatures.

Earlier this fall, energy pipeline operators announced plans to boost the energy supply across New England, reports the Boston Globe. This region has not added any new gas pipeline capacity for the past two decades, which has created supply issues and temporarily boosted wholesale prices for gas and electricity during extreme winter temperatures.

Availability of natural gas is a significant driver in the cost and production of electricity. In fact, at one point during a cold spell last winter, wholesale electricity prices jumped up to $1,290 per megawatt hour, which is more than 35 times the yearlong average of $36 per megawatt hour!

Increasing the energy supply could help alleviate these dramatic spikes in cost, and ultimately help energy residential customers across New England lower their energy bills. One potential project called Access Northeast would impact the Algonquin pipeline, which runs from New Jersey to Everett, and the Maritimes & Northeast line, which carries liquefied natural gas pumped from ships off the coast of Eastern Canada.

Officials at Spectra and Northeast Utilities, the companies proposing the expansion, say the project would be finished in 2018, assuming the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) gives its approval (the companies have not yet filed a formal proposal with FERC, but say they plan to do so next year). The two companies plan to invest $3 billion into the project, delivering an additional 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day into New England. That is enough to supply over 3 million homes. Spectra has already proposed a 14 percent expansion of the Algonquin pipeline, a project that, if approved, would likely be completed during the winter of 2016-2017. The new Access Northeast project would complement that expansion.

Energy customers would help recover the project costs of Access Northeast over the first year after the project’s completion, but increasing access to affordable natural gas would likely result in lower energy bills over the long term. Fracking in Pennsylvania and other areas has helped lower the cost of natural gas in other parts of the country, but without increased pipeline capacity, New England customers have not benefited from those cost savings.

The other pipeline expansion proposal involves building a pipeline to supply gas from Pennsylvania across New York and Western Massachusetts. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, the energy company behind that proposal, plans to solicit public input later this year and file a pipeline application next fall.

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