Energy Saving Advice for People Who Can’t Get Away From Technology

It seems as though technology innovation is moving at a faster-than-ever pace, and keeping up with the latest trends can be important to some. If you’re like me, always on the computer or laptop, or simply perusing the different apps you have on your phone, here are some tips for you to save on energy consumption while doing so.

I’m sure you’re already well aware of the two new iPhone 6’s that recently hit the market. I’m usually not one to go out and buy the latest new things, but I did get this one. After all, the phone I had before was sooo 2010.

It seems as though technology innovation is moving at a faster-than-ever pace, and keeping up with the latest trends can be important to some. If you’re like me—always on the computer or laptop, or simply perusing the different apps you have on your phone—here are some tips for you to save on energy consumption while doing so.

Take Inventory

What do you have vs. what do you actually use? A good example – I am an Apple user, so I have an iPhone, MacBook Pro Laptop, an iPad, and an iPod. Phew, that’s a long list. I’m exhausted just talking about it. But, imagine how much energy they consume if they are left running when not in use? I am never running these four devices at once, so when they aren’t being used, guess what they’re doing? With the exception of my phone, all other devices are turned OFF or in SLEEP MODE when not being used. Know what purpose each device serves, and only use them for what they are intended for. The longer the batteries for your devices stay charged, the less often you will have to charge them. Which ultimately means saving electricity and money.

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Re-evaluate Your “Need”

This can be a scary concept to grasp for all you folks (and myself) who are constantly connected to everything through our devices. With the emergence of popular apps like SnapChat, Instagram, Tinder, and Candy Crush, it’s almost impossible to stay off our phones, as that is the only way to access many of these apps. However, we must resist the urge to have multiple devices running at once and choose between the Internet or phone apps. How badly do we really NEED to be SnapChatting, posting to Facebook, and checking email at the same time? Pick one over the other, and when you’re done using the device, it’s now acceptable to pick up your phone and start snapping away. Remember, the less time you are glued to your devices, the less energy they are expending.

using one device - energy saving advice

Play with Settings

Turn your “power saver mode” on, and make sure the brightness of your device isn’t at its maximum. Close out your apps or programs after you’re done with them and ALWAYS remember to unplug any cords from your computer when they aren’t in use. By doing these things, your device will get some extended battery life, making it so that you don’t have to “plug-in” as often.

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Charging

Deciding when to charge your device can be a challenge. Especially if you run out of power multiple times a day. Do I charge my phone when it still has 30% battery so it will last the whole night, or do I let it die half way through the evening? The struggle is real, people.

For the most part, though, I only charge my devices when they absolutely need to be charged. It’s also important to turn them off when charging so the device isn’t using and taking in energy at the same time. This can leave the device as confused as we were when Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” music video came out. Wait to unplug your device until it’s fully charged so the battery doesn’t start creating a memory that will eventually cause it to drain faster.

And finally, I know it’s tempting, but try NOT to charge your devices overnight. It doesn’t really take a full 8 hours to charge a phone or computer, does it? At maximum, it only takes a couple of hours. So, before you waste all that energy and electricity, be sure it’s sufficiently charged before you crawl into bed – the last thing we want is to miss our morning alarm because the device wasn’t charged enough.

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Unplug

After your technology is good and charged for the day, don’t forget to unplug the chargers from the wall. No matter what the device is (laptop, phone, tablet, camera), this is an essential step in the conservation of energy. And also the conservation of dollar bills in your pocket.

unplug - energy saving advice

Being obsessed with technology is a country wide pandemic, especially for people who grew up with the stuff or have to use it for work. We are all aware and fully capable of understanding the fact that technology is here to stay. However, there are ways to curb our addiction, as expressed above. If we cut back a little on when we use technology and consciously think about how we use it, it could greatly benefit our lives. Not only will we save energy (which equates to cash!), but we might find a healthier balance between our online and actual social lives.

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5 Smartphone Apps to Make You More Energy Efficient

You may not realize it, but your smartphone is good for more than checking email, making calls, and playing Minecraft—you can use it to help you track your energy efficiency and save on your electricity bills, thanks to a number of innovative mobile apps.

If you’re like most of the American population, you’ve probably got a smartphone in your pocket right now (or maybe you’re even reading this from your mobile screen). You may not realize it, but your smartphone is good for more than checking email, making calls, and playing Minecraft—you can use it to help you track your energy efficiency and save on your electricity bills, thanks to a number of innovative mobile apps.

Here are five apps worth checking out for help with going green around your house:

Green Outlet (iOS, $0.99)

Do you know how much you’re paying for kilowatt/hour of electricity? Just plug in that number, add the appliances and electronics you use in your house, and this app will help you learn how much you’re paying to power all of your electronic devices. It’s a great way to get a forecast of your monthly electricity bill, and learn what you can do to save.

Green Outlet
Green Outlet is just one of many apps to help you monitor your home energy use.

Leafully (iOS, free)

This free mobile app can be connected to collect data from more than a dozen regional utility companies, and provides you with weekly reports to let you know whether your energy usage was higher or lower than usual. It also helps you to measure and visualize your family’s environmental footprint, letting you know how many trees would need to be planted to offset your carbon emissions, and helping you to purchase carbon offsets.

Light Bulb Finder (iOS and Android, free)

Want to replace your conventional light bulbs with energy-saving equivalents, but not sure what to buy? This app helps you track size, wattage, and price for all kinds of energy-saving bulbs. You can even conveniently purchase your new bulbs directly through the app’s shopping interface, rather than trekking out to the hardware store.

Easy Battery Saver (Android, free)

While your smartphone is by no means the most power-hungry gadget in your home (link to Anna’s piece), if you find yourself needing to charge your phone frequently, it’s worth taking efforts to conserve electricity. This simple app can change the settings on your phone to preserve maximum battery life, enabling you to go longer between charges.

JouleBug (iOS and Android, free)

This app turns sustainable living into a game! Get access to tips (called “Pins”) on how to make your everyday actions more environmentally friendly, and gain points for completing each action. You can connect with your friends, and compete to see who’s completed the most Pins to discover who’s the greenest of them all. A “yearly impact” calculator helps you visualize the difference that you’re making in your life—and the world—with these simple actions.

 

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3 Simple Steps To Tame Your Power Hungry Home

3 Simple steps-that is all it takes to tame your power hungry home and save money. These days, there are a lot of electronic gadgets in our homes. From flipping on that coffee pot in the morning, to watching TV at night, we depend on electricity for everything we do. However, just a portion of your household appliances account for the majority of your electricity consumption. With some simple adjustments, you can save both money and energy by tackling these power-hungry categories.

These days, there are a lot of electronic gadgets in our homes. From flipping on that coffee pot in the morning, to watching TV at night, we depend on electricity for everything we do.

However, just a portion of your household appliances account for the majority of your electricity consumption. With some simple adjustments, you can save both money and energy by tackling these power-hungry categories.

1. Hot water heaters

Having access to instant hot water at the tap is one of modern life’s greatest conveniences. From steamy showers to the warm suds that clean our dishes and our clothes, our hot water heaters get a constant workout. The average home uses about 45 gallons of hot water each day, which adds up to hundreds of dollars a year on your power bill.

There are several ways to lower this cost. The most obvious one is to use less hot water, which can be accomplished through shorter showers and more efficient dishwashers and washing machines. You may also want to go to the source and replace your water heater with a more efficient model. Then, set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees or lower, which will provide water hot enough for most uses (and can prevent scalding burns as well).

 2. Cooling systems

We’ve talked about the hot stuff, now let’s talk about the cold stuff. Whether you have central air or window units, air conditioning systems use a lot of electricity. Running a 5,000 BTU window unit in one room 24 hours a day could be costing you nearly $600 per year. (Use this online calculator to determine the cost of your central air system.) During the summer months, cooling costs can make up 40% to 70% of your electric bill.

To bring those bills down, make sure your home is well insulated and that any cracks or gaps are sealed, especially around window units. For central systems, use a programmable thermostat and keep the filter clean. Also consider using window shades, screens, or films to keep the sun’s heat from entering your home. Finally, limit stovetop cooking and use an outdoor grill instead of your oven during hot months; heat from the kitchen will just make your AC system work harder.

3. Other household appliances

Did you know your hair dryer uses more power than your clothes washer or your refrigerator? Drawing up to 1,875 watts, a hair dryer used every day can really add up. But it’s not the only power hog that you plug into the wall. Dishwashers, clothes dryers, and vacuum cleaners all take a lot of energy to run. You can view the typical wattages of a variety of household appliances here.

While letting your hair air-dry and hanging your clothes on a clothesline to dry can save quite a few kilowatts, such options aren’t always practical, especially in winter. So what else can you do to save?

First off, when it’s time to buy a new appliance, be sure to check out Energy Star models. Products with the Energy Star label must meet certain energy efficiency requirements, and they include everything from phones to furnaces.

In addition, try to unplug items that aren’t in use, because televisions, microwaves and many other common appliances draw small amounts of stand-by power even when turned off.

And, of course, when possible, limit the use of electronic items. Being mindful of your daily habits will help keep costs down.

 

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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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5 Simple & Clever Ways to Minimize Your Energy Usage

When it comes to consuming energy, we Americans are pretty darn good at it. But, with a few simple tricks, you can minimize your energy usage and drop your electricity bill without feeling like you've even tried.

When it comes to consuming energy, we Americans are pretty darn good at it. But, with a few simple tricks, you can minimize your energy usage and drop your electricity bill without feeling like you’ve even tried. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so if you can remember to consistently follow a couple of these easy methods, you will be golden.

1. Go Out…

Anywhere besides your house. Using someone else’s energy (or none at all) is more enjoyable, anyways. Try to go outside where most of the activities are free, or go to the local library to get work done. Enjoy an evening walk with your family instead of vegging out in front of the TV. Go grab a bite to eat. Go to the gym after work instead of coming home to binge-watch Netflix (guilty). Better yet, here are some awesome activities in New England that are coming up with most of them being at little to no cost. The less time you are in your house doing things like watching movies, cooking, showering, or playing video games, the smaller of a number you will see on your monthly electric bill. Limit time spent doing these activities – or simply go some place else to do them!

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2. Cover Up

If you find yourself getting cold (which is quite possible now that the chilly New England weather has arrived), don’t reach for the thermostat. Instead, do as mom always told you and grab a sweatshirt, socks, or blanket. These will get you warm quick so you won’t be as inclined to touch the thermostat!

pURGR

3. Turn ‘Em Off

This is a no-brainer, but it’s so easy to forget in the midst of our busy days. But, we need to remember to turn lights off when we leave the room. Often times I will be in a rush to get to work on time and forget to shut off my bedroom lights. Not just one light, but three: the overhead light, closet light, and bureau lamp. What happens now? They stay on – ALL day. Simply put, it’s a waste of money and energy to keep lights on when you’re not using the room. By making this a habit, you’ll minimize your energy usage and also put more dollars back into your pocket.

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4. Use the Microwave

If you’re only cooking for a couple people, heating up yesterday’s leftovers, or making a side dish, consider using the microwave instead of the stove or oven. Did you know that microwaves use 30-80% less energy than regular ovens do? That’s pretty impressive, and definitely worth the savings when you’re cooking small portions. Since microwaves use high-frequency waves, it also takes way less time to cook things. It’s a win-win! You get to eat faster (thus being more productive) AND save money on your electricity bill at the same time!

Don’t believe me that you can make delicious meals in the microwave? Or just need some inspiration to get you started? Here are some recipes that you can use throughout the whole day. Some them look so good that I might even try one out for myself tonight!

microwave

5. Cook Consciously

Whenever you’re cooking on the stove, remember to put a lid on it! Did you know that without a cover on your pot/pan, it uses about 60% more energy than if it was covered? So, next time you’re boiling potatoes or simmering you’re favorite side dish, think of that fact.

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*Photo by Steve A. Johnson / CC BY

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Mainers Can Save Money with Energy Efficient Investments

Mainers, on the whole, are frugal people—just ask the thousands of Uncle Henry’s subscribers out there. So, when it comes to investing in new energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems, it’s always a bonus when you’re able to score a great deal.

Mainers, on the whole, seek out value—just ask the thousands of Uncle Henry’s subscribers out there. So, when it comes to investing in new energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems, it’s always a bonus when you’re able to score a great deal.

While you’ll save substantially on your energy bills over the long-term by making the switch to energy-efficient appliances and systems, Maine also offers a number of rebates and incentive programs to make the thought of changing your equipment even more appealing.

Efficiency Maine, a Maine state government initiative, provides a wealth of material about rebate and incentive programs on its website. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

Under the Home Energy Savings Program, which has a total cap of $1,500 in incentives for residential buildings of up to four units, you can choose from:

Up to $400 for air sealing:

 If you use weatherstripping or caulking to seal your home against air leaks, and then get an assessment done by a BPI-certified professional, you could get up to $400 in rebates.

Up to $1,000 rebate for home insulation:

If you insulate your home’s walls, attic, or basement, you’re eligible for a rebate of up to $500 for each insulation measure, or $1,000 for multiple insulations with a minimum $3,000 total cost.

Up to $750 for supplemental heating system installation:

You can receive a $250 rebate for purchasing an EPA-approved wood stove or pellet stove. If you purchase a ductless heat pump (typically around $3,500 for equipment and installation), you could receive a rebate of $500.

Up to $500 for a high-efficiency central heating system:

When you make the move to an Energy Star-rated furnace or boiler, or install an air source heat pump, you’ll be eligible for an incentive of $500, provided you’ve spent at least $1,500 on the project.

You are also eligible for a $5,000 rebate for choosing one of two energy efficient heating system options:

  • A geothermal heat pump
    This type of home heating and cooling system naturally draws heat or cools the air in your house using an underground loop system. The system cost and installation typically costs approximately $40,000, but is eligible for a 30% federal tax rebate in addition to the $5,000 state rebate, bringing the total cost down to $23,000. Based on anticipated savings, the system will lead to nearly $50,000 in savings over a 20-year period.

Visit Efficiency Maine to find out about applying for state-run incentives and rebates to make your home more energy-efficient and save money on your power bill for years to come.

 

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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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Here’s What Millennials are Doing to Shape the Future of Energy Efficiency

Millennials are the generation of the future, and they are slowly starting to reshape the nation with values that are most important to them.

The Millennial Generation, or those of us who were born between 1982 and 2003, are quickly gaining recognition and turning heads all over America. Millennials will make up as much as 75 percent of the workforce by 2025…whoa!

Millennials are the generation of the future, and they are slowly starting to reshape the nation with values that are most important to them. These values, as outlined in a Brookings case study titled, How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America, are reforming the definition of “success” and bringing the world together as a more collective whole. What do these shifting values have to do with energy efficiency, you ask? Read on to find out.

The essence of the Brookings study was based on what values they found to be most important to Millennials. I hate to break it to you, but money and power were not high on that list. Instead, the researchers noticed some values and priorities that are a little different from our predecessors, Generation X and the Baby Boomers. Here is roughly what they found:

Preservation of the environment and experiences are more important than material, unnecessary “things”

If Millennials were faced with the choice (and affordability) of purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle over one that requires gas, which one do you think they would choose? What if they could choose whether they got their electricity from renewable or non-renewable sources? My point is, Millennials generally feel the need to be more “green.” In the future, this could greatly influence how we produce energy, especially if non-renewable sources get too sparse.

Over the past few years, going green has become more popular and it doesn’t look like that is changing anytime soon. In order to have experiences and create memories, Millennials know that they need to first protect our precious Mother Earth. It’s not just strictly about saving the environment, rather, more about having this idea incorporated into allpolicymaking”—from healthcare right down to shopping habits.

Technology is essential

Millennials have grown up on the cusp of the technology era. We remember what it was like without a computer or cell phone, but we are still pretty technological savvy. Millennials realize the future of technology, and according to this article, they are looking for it in their homes. “Smart homes” are quickly on the rise here in America.

Millennials are constantly looking at ways to make their lives more efficient while still making sound decisions. Often times, this means staying up-to-date with the newest technology (like this cool SmartThings device) so they can monitor energy consumption and save on costs such as the electricity bill.

They value conservation and helping others as much as possible

So if the key to energy savings is to consume less, Millennials know how to do it best. With their drive to make their homes more efficient, paired with the want to protect the environment, they know that the big contributor to saving money on energy is to conserve it. For more information on why it’s important to conserve energy for our future, visit the Conserve Energy Future site.

Trust and Corporate Social Responsibility are far more important than the bottom line

Millennials tend to distrust big companies. Which is why they will most likely switch to an outside, local electricity supplier rather than sticking with the big company. As outlined in the study, Millennials would much prefer to pay a little more if the company was aligning with their values of corporate social responsibility.

Because of the high priority of these values, Millennials have the power (no pun intended) to raise awareness about not only important worldwide issues, but about energy efficiency and consumption as well. If we do not start making changes about how we produce energy, our country could be in danger of running out of non-renewable resources. The balance between conserving and just being aware about energy is important. Not just for Millennials, but for everyone who cares about energy efficiency. Together, we can make a difference in the world we live in.

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