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  • Your fridge is likely using outdated and inefficient technology.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.

 

Brought to you by

Quick & Easy Fix For Those With Recessed Lighting & Looking for LED options

Do you have recessed lighting and are looking for LED lighting options? Here is a quick, easy, and inexpensive retrofit kit.

Do you have recessed lighting in your home and looking transition to LED lighting?  Here is a quick, easy  and affordable  option for you.

Brought to you by

What’s New in Energy-Efficient Homes? Check Out 10 Hot Innovations Here.

Having an energy-efficient home is becoming more and more popular every day. We are constantly finding ways to conserve - here are some new devices to help with that!

The largest trade show in history, the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show, recently took place in Las Vegas. Known as the “Global Stage for Innovation,” the event showcased more than more than 3,600 exhibitors in 2.2 million net square feet of exhibit space.

And while you might think of “consumer electronics” as being items like TVs, iDevices and the like, the show actually features innovations in far-reaching categories that include automotive electronics, personalized healthcare solutions, 3D printers, gaming, unmanned vehicles and much more. But every year there is a major emphasis on our favorite category — energy-efficient advances for the home.

Here are 10 energy-efficient upgrades that caught our eye.

  1. Delta Smart Green House: Built for the 2014 Solar Decathlon Europe competition, this cool model features a host of energy-efficient developments for the home of the future. We especially liked the Delta Breez Signature Series, which increases a bathroom’s ventilation by combining a virtually silent and energy-efficient brushless fan motor, LED light, adjustable humidity sensor and built-in motion sensor for automatic operation.
  2. DigitalStrom: This smart-home hub interacts with a Nest thermometer for its cues – for example, if Nest is trying to cool down the house, DigitalStrom will lower automated window shades to block out sunlight.
  3. NuBryte: This smart-lighting device from Lucis Technologies promises to learn your behavior, such as what time you tend to come home each day so it can welcome you with lights – without wasting electricity all day. Sensors can turn on the night light if you wake up to use the bathroom but switch on brighter lights during the day.
  4. Smart Vent: This device lets users remotely close heating and cooling vents in unused rooms, or rooms that tend to get excessively cool or hot to help save on your utility bill.
  5. SolPro: No outlet? No worries. This portable solar charger allows you to charge your smartphone and tablets out in the sun to earn a four-hour charge in 90 minutes.
  6. Technical Consumer Products LED smart home lighting systems: Color your world by combining Connected by TCP and ColorSpree with a smart device, to change the colors of your energy-efficient LED bulbs and sync them to music.
  7. Whirlpool® HybridCare™ Heat Pump Dryer: This smart dryer uses up to 73 percent less energy by regenerating energy during the drying cycle, using a refrigeration system to dry and recycle the same air.
  8. Honeywell wind turbine by Windtronics: Mount this turbine on your roof or a pole to start generating off-grid energy through wind power. Its optimum wind speed is 12 miles per hour to produce 15 percent of the energy your home needs.
  9. Ecobee Smart thermostat: Remotely control this thermostat with your smartphone or computer, and manage your heating or cooling by zone. It also integrates current weather information and offers detailed readouts on your energy use.
  10. The Wi-Fi-enabled Samsung A3050 wall-mounted air conditioner: The app allows you to monitor the temperature of rooms from anywhere, and monitors your unit’s energy usage including telling you when it’s time to clean the filter.

Brought to you by

How to Use Your Appliances Efficiently

Your appliance is only as energy efficient as the way you use it. Here are some simple tips to help you maximize your energy savings.

Have you recently purchased an EnergyStar appliance? Congratulations on doing your part to save energy —and money!  Last time we looked at the benefits of EnergyStar appliances and the value of spending a little more on your purchase to save money in the long run.

Your appliance is only as energy efficient as the way you use it. Here are some simple tips to help you maximize your energy savings:

  1. Stay full. Your washing machine or dishwasher uses the same amount of water and energy when you run it half-full as completely full, so run full loads for maximum efficiency. Your freezer and refrigerator do better when they’re full too. It might sound counterintuitive, but in the event of a power outage, a full freezer and fridge will keep your food at the safest temperature longer.
  1. Take your temperature. Almost 90 percent of the energy consumed by your washing machine is used to heat the water—dialing down from hot to warm can cut energy use in half, while effectively cleaning your clothes. Also, keep in mind that many of today’s laundry detergents are formulated for use in cold water, so they might do the job just as well. Saving energy can also help save your clothes—washing them in cold water can help keep colors bright and avoid setting stains, as can air drying them rather than using your dryer.
  1. Cook smart. Did you know your microwave uses 30 to 80 percent less energy than a regular oven does? And, if microwaving isn’t the ideal method for cooking your food, consider using a toaster oven—its smaller size will use less energy too, and a crockpot is even better! Here’s another crazy fact: a pot without a lid uses 60 percent more energy on the stove. They say there’s a lid for every pot – so find the right size for yours!
  1. Make your oven a multitasker. Got your oven heated up anyway? Take advantage of the energy used to heat up the oven in the first place, and do as much baking as you can. Go ahead and throw in an extra chicken breast to bake for soup tomorrow, or mix up some banana bread. Ditto the dryer—drying multiple loads one after the other lets you make use of the residual heat.
  1. Maintain your machines. Keep your appliances clean for maximum efficiency. That means cleaning out the lint trap as well as hoses in your dryer; checking the trap and spray arm in your dishwasher for food particles; and vacuuming the coils of your fridge.
  1. Make the most of modern machinery (usually). Worried that these “energy-saving devices” are wasting energy while you’re saving yours? Don’t! Hand washing dishes actually wastes both water – up to 5,000 gallons compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher – and uses twice as much energy as a dishwasher. And it would be impossible to fathom how much less energy a washing machine uses than the ol’ fill-up-the-tub-and-slosh-them-around method. The one appliance where you should go easy? The dryer—air dry whenever possible!

Don’t waste the energy-efficient properties of your appliances by using them improperly. A little forethought and planning will ensure that you are getting the maximum value from your hard-working household helpers.

Brought to you by

Before The Power Outage. A Shopping List.

Remember Christmas of 2013? At one time or another more than 300,000 New Englanders were without power. So before the storm hits head out and collect a few things. We've got your pre-storm-pre power outage shopping list.

Do you remember what happened around Christmas of 2013? More than 200,000 of us lost power at one time or another. We don’t want to talk about the ice storm of 1998. Lets face it, across New England we see our share of power outages.

A couple of days we can handle, but going much longer can, well, be stressful. To ease the pain of a power outage, we’ve put together a pre-storm shopping list for you.

Brought to you by

Power Outages & Food Storage. What you need to Know.

When it comes to storing food, we’re all pretty good at it. We know the basics. When something starts to smell, throw it away. It’s common sense, right? But what about when there is a power outage for extensive periods of time…what do we do then?

When it comes to storing food, we’re all pretty good at it. We know the basics. When something starts to smell, throw it away. It’s common sense, right? But what about when there is a power outage for extensive periods of time…what do we do then? Although most power outages occur in the winter, they can really happen at any time of the year, so it’s best to be prepared. How do we keep nutritious foods such as produce and meat fresh so they don’t go to waste? Never fear – we’ve got you covered! Just follow this handy food safety guide for when the power goes out.

What Do You Need?

Coolers

Make sure to have plenty of them around the house in case the power outage is prolonged. Even the inexpensive Styrofoam ones will do the trick!

storing food in a cooler

Non-Perishable Food Items

I’m sure you want to still be able to eat during a power outage, right? Keep canned foods on stock so you can have those. These can even be consumed cold or heated on the grill. Want homemade canned goods or don’t have the time or “know how” to prepare them on your own? Try a Winter’s Farmer’s Market to support local growers and farms even in the winter.  Usually they have a delicious selection of fresh, homemade canned items.

iStock_000018900837_Small

 

Bags of Ice

Of course, with coolers you’ll want ice to put in them to keep the perishable food cold.

Isolated shot of bag of ice

Snow

When worst comes to worst and you find that the power will not be coming back any time, use your resources! Grab a snow bank and drop your frozen food and refrigerator food in that for a while. It will be kept cold (or frozen, depending on temperatures and how you place it) and you can get outside to enjoy the fresh air!

iStock_000000207479_Small

What Should You Do?

Refrigerator/Freezer

Keep refrigerator and freezer closed, especially if it’s only half full. Food in the fridge can stay good at a temperature of 40 degrees of below, so the less we open it the longer food will stay cool. Freezer items can also stay frozen for a day or two, depending on how full it is and how frequently it’s opened.

Put Ice around items in fridge if outage is prolonged

If the outage lasts a while and you don’t feel like storing food elsewhere (ahem, outside), those bags of ice will come in handy. Place ice around the food so it stays colder longer.

Store the cooler and other foods outside

If you’re using a cooler with ice to keep food fresh and you live in New England, just stick the whole thing outside! Temperatures in the Northeast are usually below 40 degrees in the winter when most power outages occur.

When In Doubt and Faced with Little Resources….

Build a snow cooler! Dig out a slot in the snow bank for food so it stays cold. Be careful, though…if temps drop considerably during the night, refrigerator food could freeze!

When power finally returns, be sure to check refrigerator for any spoiled foods and dispose of them as soon as possible. Finally, when the storm is over and you’re ready to go outside again, go to the store and buy more fresh food so you don’t have to live off of canned goods anymore! For more helpful tips, check out this video from the FDA. As they say… “when in doubt, throw it out!”

Brought to you by

Capitalists with Heart

6 Eco-Friendly Hotels in Massachusetts

You focus on keeping your home as eco-friendly as possible—so when you travel why not stay at hotels or B&B's that share those values? Headed to the Boston area? Here are some great choices for you and your family.

You focus on keeping your home as eco-friendly as possible—so when you travel, it’s a priority to find accommodations that are as concerned about the earth as you are.

Amidst a growing awareness about the environmental impact of travel, many hotels now strive to reduce their environmental footprint through water and energy conservation, recycling and more. Here’s a look at several Massachusetts hotels large and small that are using eco-friendly practices.

  1. The Lenox Hotel in Boston: The Lenox launched the nation’s first linen re-use program and Boston’s first commercial electric vehicle charging station. The Copley Square hotel features low-flow toilets, showerheads and aerators and in-room and lobby recycling bins. It also uses hybrid vehicles for its car service and housekeeping uniforms made from recycled plastic fiber.
  2. Topia Inn in Adams: Nestled in the Berkshires, this intimate, 9-room organic inn serves  guests non-GMO, USDA-certified organic meals with fair trade coffee and tea. Rooms are equipped with LED lights and dual flush toilets to conserve water and energy, while furnishings are made with organic, rapidly renewable and fair trade materials. The innkeepers also plan to add solar hot water in the coming year.
  3. NineZero in Boston: Located near Boston Commons, NineZero’s sustainable practices include in-room recycling bins, low-flow toilets, showers and faucets, energy-efficient lighting fixtures and a towel and linen re-use program. NineZero also donates unused and partially used bath amenities (also eco-friendly) to community programs and makes eco-friendly dry cleaning services available to guests.
  4. Irving House in Cambridge: Irving House is a bed and breakfast in Harvard Square and dispenses eco-friendly toiletries from built-in units to avoid the waste of individual bottles. It also composts food waste and uses household items such as cups, rugs and picture frames made from recycled materials. The B&B was awarded EPA’s Energy Star in 2006.
  5. Provincetown Hotel in Provincetown: This historic Cape Cod hotel hosts educational workshops on wildlife tracking and birding; offers American-made bath amenities that are not tested on animals; and recycles materials including cans, metals, glass and paper. Guests use water-saving shower and faucet heads and enjoy breakfast served in a garden courtyard patio. The Inn also distributes literature about preserving the Ross Sea in Antarctica.
  6. The Colonnade Hotel in Boston: The Colonnade Hotel uses a non-toxic, chemical-free cleaning system to reduce chemical waste and exposure to toxins. Other sustainable initiatives include composting food waste, recycling of paper, plastics, metals and other materials. The Colonnade was also the first hotel to join a soap recycling program, according to its website.

Brought to you by

Shopping for Energy-Efficient Appliances? We Have 5 Questions You Should Ask.

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to save money? It might sound counter intuitive but sometimes you have to spend to save – and that is the case with energy-efficient appliances.

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to save money? In the first of a two part series on home appliances we look at Energy Star appliances  and the idea of having to spend money to save money.

Homeowners hoping to take advantage of first of the year sales can often find good buys on appliances at home improvement stores.  While we favor buying local over national big box stores-consumers have a myriad of choices. And while you’re looking for the quietest dishwasher or the roomiest fridge, make sure to look for something else—the most energy efficient one.

The #1 thing to look for? The ENERGY STAR® certification.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if every appliance purchased in the U.S. was rated to ENERGY STAR® certifications, we would prevent annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 420,000 vehicles and save 25 billion gallons of water and $580 million in energy costs.

Of course, replacing an appliance in good working condition is never a smart choice. But if it’s time to upgrade your kitchen or laundry room appliances, consider an ENERGY STAR® choice.

Besides looking for the ENERGY STAR® designation, here are five other questions to ask yourself before you purchase an appliance:

  1. What size do I need? Buying a refrigerator or washer with a larger capacity than you need will end up using more energy in the long run. Carefully measure the space you have available, and then make sure you are purchasing the right size for your household needs: For example, a couple needs a smaller-capacity washer than a large family.
  1. How much does it cost to run? Each appliance will have an “Energy Guide” label that allows you to compare the typical annual energy consumption of the model you are considering with others. (Note that the Energy Guide itself doesn’t indicate the energy efficiency of a particular appliance. By law, each appliance must carry one.) Bear in mind that the overall energy cost—not just the purchase price—is an important factor in making a cost-effective choice that will allow you to save money for years to come.
  1.  Is it the most energy-efficient “type”? This is where things can get confusing. The ENERGY STAR® designation is awarded to the best-performing appliance in its class, but it only rates refrigerators that are similar makes. So for example, a top-rated side-by-side refrigerator/freezer with an ice dispenser will still use more energy than one with a top-mount freezer that might not qualify for an ENERGY STAR® designation. The issue is the same with washing machines: A front loader will only be rated against another front loader, not against a top loader.
  1.  Do I qualify for a rebate? Enter your zip code here to find out what programs you might be eligible for. Don’t forget to save your receipt and other paperwork to make redemption hassle-free.
  2.  How will I dispose of my old appliance? Many stores will offer to recycle your old appliance for you—be sure to take them up on the offer! They know how and where to dispose of it in the safest way. Having old appliances around your house is not only unsightly, but can be dangerous, as children may climb into an unused fridge or dryer and get inadvertently trapped. For more information on recycling an appliance, check here.

Predictions call for a cold winter, so when you combine that with rising electricity prices, we end up with the “not-so-perfect storm.” So while you’re cleaning up at the store on an appliance sale, remember that you’ll also be cleaning up your household’s bottom line, not to mention our environment as a whole when you make an energy-efficient choice.

 

Brought to you by