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Oversize homes, oversize mortgages and oversize energy bills have been replaced by tiny homes.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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Just Another Reason to BBQ

No matter how old, your home appliances use a great deal of electricity. While they are more energy efficient than even 5 or 10 years ago. Even the most energy efficient appliances and electronics account for 20% of the average household energy bill. So, stop using them and fire up the grill.

We have finally shoveled our lawns, many are breaking out the BBQ.     If you haven’t…what are you waiting for? Baseball  and softball season is underway.  The days are  longer.  Do we really need another reason to BBQ?  How about saving money?

For every hour you use your oven  (at 350 degrees) it costs about  .20 cents.    Microwaving those steamed veggies for 2 minutes will add .07 cents to your power bill.     Boiling water on your electric stove top will set you back  .11 cents. By using the convection oven for 30 minutes will add a whopping .10 cents to your power bill.

No matter how old, your home appliances use a great deal of electricity. While they are more energy efficient than even 5 or 10 years ago.  Even the most energy efficient appliances and electronics account for 20% of the average household energy bill.

Get out of the kitchen and instead use the grill.     Unless you are a gourmet,  everything tastes better on the grill.  In addition even grilling is getting greener.

There has been considerable debate about which is “greener” charcoal or propane for grilling.      Energy efficient grills are all the rage.  Which ever your preference (charcoal or propane),  using  grills that retain the most heat will reduce how much fuel you have to use.    Consider  a ceramic grill-check out the Grilldome!

There are even a host of environmentally friendly  BBQ briquettes available.     Try coconut briquettes or natural wood briquettes.

What ever your  choice of fuel for grilling, after this long, cold winter, we deserve a good BBQ.  Our spring and summer is too short to not take advantage of  all the outside family time we can get.  So enjoy.

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Repair It or Replace It – What’s the Most Energy-Efficient Choice?

We’ve all been there—gazing woefully at a washing machine that’s stopped spinning, or a refrigerator that’s lost its cool. But, how do you decide whether to repair it or replace it? Here are some crucial things to consider.

We’ve all been there—gazing woefully at a washing machine that’s stopped spinning, or a refrigerator that’s lost its cool. You dutifully call your repair shop and wait for the verdict. And when the estimate comes in, you have to make the expensive choice of whether you are throwing good money after bad by paying to fix the appliance, or whether it’s time to cut your losses and buy a new one.

Here are four questions to ask to help you answer the Repair or Replace conundrum:

How old is the appliance  

This is the key factor for two reasons:

  • What is the expected life of the appliance? In other words, how long can your existing piece realistically be expected to last after the repair, and
  • An even more important factor: how energy efficient is it? Energy savings alone can help justify replacing some appliances that aren’t working as they should. As just one example, if all refrigerators sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR certified, the energy cost savings would top $400 million each year, and prevent eight billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions—equivalent to the emissions from 750,000 vehicles.

Is it a quick fix?

It’s surprising how many repairs can be diagnosed and fixed easily by doing some research and watching a how-to video. RepairClinic.com is a great source for DIY-ers, and you’d be surprised how much intel you can find on YouTube as well.

What is the incremental cost of the repair?

Spending $600 to repair the motherboard of a refrigerator that would cost $1,000 to replace might not be the best use of money. It’s painful, but if spending $400 dollars will extend the life of the appliance by 10 years, rather than two, it will be money well saved. A good rule of thumb is not to spend more than 50 percent of the cost of a new product on repairing the old one. And, if this is a subsequent repair, think twice before repairing at all.

What will happen to your existing appliance?

Don’t just tote it to the landfill – when you purchase a new appliance, the store typically will take your old one away and recycle it in an environmentally friendly way. They often reuse many of the parts, so you know that your piece is being repurposed. Thinking about sticking your old fridge in the garage? You might not want to – [C1] energy hogs have no place in your home. Another option for recycling is to search the database on Earth911.com  which will offer environmentally friendly options based on your zip code.

If you do need to replace, this is your chance to make a wise choice: do your research and consider energy usage as a top factor when you purchase your new appliance. Also, only buy what you need – the more bells and whistles on a piece, the more opportunity for things to break.

Then, once you get it home, ensure that your new appliances perform at their peak by using them in the most energy-efficient manner possible. Conservation is everyone’s job!

 

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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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5 Tips to Getting More Warmth Out of Your Fireplace

During the winter, we like to sit by the cozy fire. Here are some tips on how to fix up your fireplace to get maximum warmth possible.

When you think about staying warm in the winter, one image that comes to mind is sitting curled up in front of a crackling fireplace – especially with all the snow that New England has been seeing recently. What you might not realize is that your favorite cozy spot could be a huge source of heat loss, even when it’s fired up.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a wood-burning fireplace is an inefficient way of heating your home since most of the heat goes right out the chimney. And, it’s estimated that your heating bill could increase as much as 30 percent if you’re not properly using your fireplace, or leaving the damper open when you’re not burning a fire, as reported by Zillow.com. That’s because even though you may feel warmth in the immediate area surrounding the  fireplace, your other rooms will experience a drop in temperature as the warm air is drawn up the chimney. That will force your home heating system to run more, thus increasing your bill.

So how can you enjoy the aesthetic appeal and comforting warmth of your fireplace without losing too much heat? Here are some strategies on how to fix up your fireplace to get maximum warmth…

Do a damper check

If you think about it logically, the chimney allows airflow so that smoke can escape when you light a fire, but when not in use, you’re letting the warm air from your home out. In other words, if you don’t close your damper (the small door that opens up the chimney flue) when your fireplace is not lit, it’s like losing heat through an open window or front door.

Caulk it

As with windows and doorways, you want to do your best to make sure that air isn’t escaping through cracks or crevices in your fireplace. Caulk around the hearth, and make sure that the flue damper is properly sealed as well. By making this part of your home’s winterizing routine, you’ll be able to heat your home more efficiently.

Keep heat in

An air-tight tempered glass door can help prevent heat loss, even though it might not look as pretty as an open fire. Experts also recommend closing the doors in the room when your fireplace is lit and cracking a nearby window to reduce heat loss.

Install a heat exchanger

Consider upgrading your fireplace with a heat-air exchange system to blow warmed air back into the room. Think of it as recycling warm temperatures.

Seal it

If you’re not lighting the fireplace, you can purchase a chimney balloon, which will block off most of the opening to prevent warm air from escaping. If you really have no intention of lighting any fires, however, you should plug and seal your fireplace flue for good.


Diligent upkeep and maintenance of your fireplace will save you money over the course of a long winter, so you can continue enjoying those evenings in front of the fire without burning a hole in your budget.

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Is it Time to Pull the Plug on Your Garage Fridge?

Remember that old joke: “Is your refrigerator running? Well then you better catch it!” Now, we should be rethinking that old joke. It's time to unplug.

Remember that old joke: “Is your refrigerator running? Well then you better catch it! The update should be: “Is your garage refrigerator running? Well then you better unplug it!”

Do you still have that massive old fridge consuming prime real estate in the garage? You probably used it over Super Bowl weekend to keep your beer cold while you cheered on our Patriots—but maybe that should be the end of its run, because garage space is not all it’s consuming!

Here are some of the pitfalls of keeping an old garage fridge:

  • It’s an energy hog. This is the main reason, of course. The strides that have been made in energy-efficiency over the past decade are staggering. Today’s refrigerators are up to 75 percent more energy efficient than models produced in the 1970s and 80s. In fact, if all refrigerators sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR® certified, the energy cost savings would grow to more than $1.4 billion each year and 19 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented, equivalent to the emissions from 1.8 million vehicles.
  • It costs money. The EPA estimates it costs about $205 to run a 1980s refrigerator every year, compared to $50 for a 2013 ENERGY STAR®® qualified model.
  • One is better than two. If you really need more space on a consistent basis, consider getting a larger fridge rather than running two. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient America, one fridge is more efficient that two larger ones.
  • You probably don’t use it very often. Think about how often you really use it—probably just over the holidays or for parties. And, with the exception of summer parties, most other holiday times offer you the option of the “outdoor refrigerator.” Yes, soda stays just as cold when left outside in cold temps as it does in the refrigerator. And during the warmer months, tossing your drinks in a cooler with a bag of ice is a cheap and simple alternative to using a refrigerator.
  • Your garage is one of the worst places to have a refrigerator. Few garages are insulated so that means they are even warmer in the summer, forcing the fridge to work that much harder.
  • Your fridge is likely using outdated and inefficient technology. One study estimated that 15 percent of U.S. homes have a second refrigerator that is at least 20 years old – when standards were far less energy efficient.
  • It’s easy to recycle. If you do get rid of it, don’t just take it to the dump. Check here for safe options for recycling it. According to ENERGY STAR®, recycling an older or second refrigerator properly can lead to savings of $300 to $700 over a five-year period, and avoid up to 20,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

Still feel like you need a second fridge? Consider unplugging it when not in use. Or purchase an ENERGY STAR® rated fridge – just be sure to shop carefully. Assess which features you most need and make the most energy-efficient choice among the different ENERGY STAR® styles – for example, an over/under rather than a side-by-side style. And then, make sure you use it efficiently.

The best strategy? Say goodbye to your garage fridge, and hello to lower energy bills and a cleaner environment.

 

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