Green Living Energy Savings

LED 101: Everything You Need to Know When Shopping for LED Lights

The term “LED” has been getting more and more buzz as we try to move towards a lifestyle of conserving and saving energy. We hear people telling us they’re important to use, but are hesitant to actually buy them because of the price, type, and all of the terminology that comes with it.

Ahh, the Light-Emitting Diode…otherwise commonly known as the LED. We’ve all heard of them, but do we actually know how LED light bulbs are different from other bulbs (such as the traditional incandescent light bulb)?  The term “LED” has been getting more and more buzz as we try to move towards a lifestyle of conserving and saving energy. We hear people telling us they’re important to use, but are hesitant to actually buy them because of the price, type, and all of the terminology that comes with it.

Have you seen our cool videos (links are in the next sentence)? We have already debunked the myths and given you some visual comparisons about the LED bulbs.   As I’m sure you’re aware of, there are still many technical terms about them that would be helpful to know when shopping around. These can be hard to understand, but without knowing them, it can make it hard for the common consumer to choose the perfect light for the home. Let’s explore!

The Light-Emitting Diode

First thing’s first: the Light-Emitting Diode – Simply put, like any other light, the LED is a semiconductor device that emits light when an energy current passes through it. Unlike traditional lighting, the LED does not require the heating of a filament to light up. Instead, they use chemical compounds to produce more efficient light. Naturally, the LED is not a white light source, which is why they are they are commonly used for things like street lights, colored holiday lights and digital billboards. To make the light white so we can have normal looking lights on our homes, they use two methods. One is phosphorous conversion, where phosphorous is put onto the diode to it can make white light. The other, known as RGB conversion, is when red, green and blue light is mixed, resulting in white light. LED lights are far more sophisticated than incandescent bulbs, as different types can let off a different shade or color or white light. They can be dimmed and the big benefit is that they produce the same amount of power as the incandescent blubs but use much less energy to do so. It’s a win-win if you know what you’re looking for when you’re at the store.

Color Temperature

Color Temperature is the shade of color that characterizes the how the white light looks. For instance, if the light gives more of a blue color, it would have a “cool” temperature, and if it’s more yellow looking, it would be “warm” in temperature. So, depending on which part of your house you want to put the lights in, paying attention to temperature is helpful. This is mostly visual, so if you have a particular temperature in mind for your home, you should refer to the package to find out exactly what the Kelvin color temperature is.

Kelvin Color Temperature

But, how do we know which kind of light certain Kelvins will put off to choose? Kelvin Color Temperature is the measure of the color of a light source relative to a black body at a particular temperature, which is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). Incandescent lights have a low color temperature (about 2800K) and have a red-yellow tone. Daylight lighting, such as fluorescent lights, has a high color temperature (about 6000K) and looks bluish to the eye. White light is somewhere in between 5000-6000K, LEDs can but LEDs can be found in all of these shades, too. You just have to know a little about Kelvins and you’ll be all set when choosing which light you want! All of that information can be found on the packaging of the product.

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Lumens & Watts in LEDs

Lumens

A lumen is the measurement of light that is relevant to humans. The lumen scale indicates the amount of light (brightness) that our eyes can perceive. Simply put, lumens measure the amount of light produced by that particular bulb in which we can see, and is what most people look at when shopping for LED lights. It is important to remember, however, that lumens do not describe the quality of light generated – that would be referred to as color temperature, explained above.

Watts

A watt is a measurement of electric power. Watts refer to the power consumption of that specific product. The higher number the wattage is, the more energy it takes to power that product – whether it’s a light fixture, light bulb, or flashlight – they all require watts to power them. The benefit of higher wattage, though, is that the higher the number, the more light it will produce. If we think of this using a real-world example,

In my opinion, knowing about lumens and watts when choosing which type of light to buy is the most important thing to remember. For example, the average 60-watt incandescent bulb produces 800 lumens, whereas it only takes 4.5 watts to produce 800 lumens using a LED bulb (give or take, depending on the brand and make-up of the bulb). As you can tell, it takes much less energy to power a LED blub, but still has the same brightness that we’re used to seeing with traditional bulbs. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to pay the price for LEDs – they will pay themselves back (and more) over the longer life span of the bulb.


For some reason, LEDs have this notion around them that they are different, do not produce as pretty light as incandescent, and all they do is cost the consumer more. None of those points are true, though. By understanding these common terms, you will now be able to confidently pick out LED bulbs that are sufficient for each area of your home, depending on how you want the color and how much light you want the specific light to let off. At the end of the day, your investment on replacing bulbs now will pay off in the long run, as LED bulbs last much longer than incandescent ones and use less energy, which will save you tons on your electricity bill!

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Could a Ductless Heat Pump Be Right for You?

Want to save money and increase the comfort in your home? A ductless heat pump might be the answer.

Want to save money and increase the comfort in your home? A ductless heat pump (DHP) might be the answer. With the reduction in oil prices, some may question the timing of this type of investment. However, as history has shown us, energy costs can change quickly—trends don’t always suggest a multi-year decline in oil prices.

What is a ductless heat pump?

A DHP is a zonal heating and cooling system that does not require “air ducts,” making it ideal for homeowners who want to replace their current heating system, but don’t want the expense or inconvenience of ductwork. Typically, the system includes an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units that are linked by a refrigerant line. It operates a bit like a space heater or window air conditioner—you can control the indoor units where and when you need extra heat or cooling—but it is far more efficient and safer. They are flexible, and come in different sizes to suit your home’s configuration. Originally recommended for milder climates, current models are equally suited for colder climates as well.

What are the benefits?

Homeowners have found that a DHP provides even, comfortable heat, where and when they need it. This increased comfort comes with a lower utility bill – the increased efficiency means that ENERGY STAR-rated units typically use 25 to 50 percent less energy than other types of heat.  (Check out this  handy calculator from Efficiency Maine to compare savings among heat sources.)

They also offer better indoor air quality benefits, and finally, they are aesthetically pleasing in a home: they can be suspended from a ceiling, mounted flush into a drop ceiling, or hung on a wall. Many have remote controls for ease of use.

What type of home are they best for?

Ductless systems can be used in all types of homes: remodels, additions, new construction, existing homes and even manufactured homes. Use them to replace inefficient systems such as an electric baseboard, wall or ceiling units and even woodstoves. They are an excellent alternative to “ducted systems,” which are more expensive and sometimes not possible because of a home’s configuration.

Is this a new technology?

DHPs have been used in Japan since the 1970s and are a dominant technology in Europe as well. As their benefits become better known, they are gaining popularity across the United States. According to Navigant Research, by 2020, ductless systems will account for nearly 30 percent of all energy-efficient HVAC systems revenue.

What are the costs?

Installation varies, based on the size of your house and the system you choose, but typically costs between $3,000 and $5,000. Tax rebates and incentives may be available from your local installer and utility provider.  In addition, homeowners can expect to save monthly for years to come in the form of lower utility bills—every single month! The ongoing maintenance typically includes an easy regimen of ensuring the filters and coils are clean.

DHPs are an excellent alternative for homeowners looking to increase the efficiency and comfort of their home.

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5 Easy Ways Your Small Business Can Save Money

As any entrepreneur knows, Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And with the right energy-efficiency strategies, your small business can save hundreds—or even thousands—on utilities this winter. That’s no small change.

As any entrepreneur knows, Benjamin Franklin was right when he said that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” And with the right energy-efficiency strategies, your small business can save hundreds—or even thousands—on utilities this winter. That’s no small change.

Here are five quick fixes:

  1. Change your light bulbs. If you haven’t already, look into one of the exceedingly energy-efficient alternatives to old-school “bulbs.” Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use about one-fourth the energy and lasts ten times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent bulb; and light emitting diodes (LEDs)(check out one of our videos about LED lights) use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace.
  2. Install motion sensors. Your mother always told you to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but somehow it’s easy to forget. Rather than constantly reminding employees, make it easy on them and install motion sensors in indoor and outdoor areas. Outdoors motion sensors provide an extra layer of security around the perimeter of your building without requiring you to leave lights on all night. And indoors, they are ideal for places that are infrequently used, such as rest rooms or store rooms.
  3. Turn down the heat. Office temperatures typically make you feel like you live in “Opposite World”—freezing in the summer when you’re dressing light and boiling in the winter when you break out your turtlenecks. You want your office to be a respite from the elements, but there’s no need to go overboard. Set your thermostat right around 68 degrees for a comfortable, not tropical, temperature and leave it there—or better yet, invest in a programmable one. Don’t let all those new holiday sweaters go to waste!
  4. Invest in a dishwasher. That unsightly jumble of lunch dishes and coffee cups could be costing you money! In addition to being a conduit for germs during the cold and flu season, hand washing dishes actually wastes both water – up to 5,000 gallons compared to an ENERGY STAR dishwasher – and uses twice as much energy, both the kind you pay for and the kind you expend. Your utility bill – and your employees – will thank you.
  5. Defang the vampire. Also known as “phantom load,” “vampire energy” is the electricity that PCs, chargers and office machines use when they are plugged in even when they are off. The easiest way to avoid having electricity (and money!) leak all night is to plug machines into a power strip that you turn off every evening.

All small business owners know that wasting energy on the wrong goals is a recipe for disaster—wasting energy on your utility bill is too, but these quick fixes can help! Simply making these small, inexpensive changes will make it so your small business can save money this year.

 

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LED Lighting. Saving Money With A Twist of the Bulb.

Recently we addressed some of the questions that people have concerning LED lighting. Is this a fad (like CFL's)? Isn't LED lighting expensive to install? Will the bulbs work in my fixtures? Once again we visited with our friends from The House Of Lights in Scarborough, Maine...this time we try some LED light bulbs in common fixtures around you home. With a simple twist of the bulb, you can conserve energy and save

Recently we addressed some of the questions that people have concerning LED lighting.   Is this a fad (like CFL’s)?  Isn’t LED lighting expensive to install?  Will the bulbs work in my fixtures?

Once again we visited with our friends from The House Of Lights in Scarborough, Maine…this time we try some LED light bulbs in common fixtures around you home.   With a simple twist of the bulb, you can conserve energy and save money.

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Windows Are Responsible for 50% of heat loss.

Seeping around your windows is responsible for 50% of a homes heat loss. There are some things you can do to mitigate this problem.

The U.S. Department of Energy research suggests older homes lose as much as 50% of their heat loss (energy costs) due to seepage around windows.    This isn’t a result of poor construction, instead due to settling of older homes on their foundation and contraction/expansion during weather changes.

While there are many financial benefits to changing out our windows, the costs can still be prohibitive.  Fortunately-we do have options.  Some can actually be quite stylish!

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Seacoast United: Healthy Living and Youth Sports

Seacoast United has remained true to its mission—to advance the physical and social well-being of children and young adults through youth sports. Through their foundation, Seacoast United also make sure that any athlete, regardless of financial situation is able to participate.

Physical activity is important in the healthy development of children. Most of us know this, but children are less active now than ever before. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education notes that only one in three children are physically active every day.

Increased physical activity delivers physiological, psychological and social benefits. This is especially important during the developmental years, and it carries forward into adulthood. This latter factor is borne out by organizations like the American Heart Association, which indicates that increased physical activity leads to increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, along with other health benefits.

Seacoast United, founded in 1992 by Paul Willis, began with a simple mission—to advance the physical and social well-being of youth and young adults through sports like soccer. For the past 22 years, this organization has been true to that mission, one that has been getting young people up and off the couch and onto athletic fields in New Hampshire (and now, Maine). They’ve recently expanded into other sports, also.

According to James Peterson, director of sales and marketing for Seacoast United, Willer’s vision was for Seacoast to be both an exclusive soccer training program, but also an inclusive one. What this means is that while there are a myriad of opportunities for highly-skilled players to play at the upper echelons of competition, Seacoast will never turn anyone away from their programs due to economics or if they aren’t an elite skill-level player, which is unique for a program like this one.


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“Seacoast started with just two youth teams, and now, we have more than 5,000 athletes enrolled in our various programs,” said Peterson. “We’ve also branched out from soccer and are now offering team sports like baseball, softball, field hockey, and lacrosse.”

Peterson mentioned that while the focus is always on getting kids introduced to soccer (and other sports), the sports programming has continued growing and evolving.

“We now have select, elite, and professional level teams,” Peterson said. “Our summer college league (minor league) team is a nationally-recognized program. Last year, they won their league, which is part of the Premier Development League (PDL),” he said.

Peterson mentioned that Seacoast affiliates itself with outstanding coaches.

“50 percent of our staff has international experience,” Peterson added.

Peterson himself came to Seacoast after a stint with Oxford United, a premiere club program in Great Britain.

He talked about the important life lessons that sports offers those who choose to participate, like the “three P’s.”

“Sports is a great tool for young people to learn about teamwork, discipline, dealing with adversity—all things that are important for success in life.”

According to Peterson, Seacoast also has a significant number of players progressing up through their ranks.

“We had a case study done that indicated that 60 percent of our junior academy players went to our premiere and select division teams,” said Peterson.

Seacoast isn’t just a New Hampshire-based program any longer. While they have a state-of-the-art 70,000-square-foot indoor facility in Hampton and a four-field outdoor complex in Epping, they’ve expanded their soccer and baseball programming into southern Maine, as well as now having Seacoast affiliates in Portland, Topsham, and Bangor.

The Seacoast Foundation holds fundraising and charity events to support the overall goals and programming of Seacoast United. Much of the funding generated each year provides scholarships for athletes who may not be able to afford to participate with town club teams, or go on to elite level competitions. This includes traveling to national and international tournaments.

Peterson mentioned that they hold two major fundraisers each year.

“We have our annual soccer-a-thon, which takes place over a 24-hour period in April. We start games at 4:00 pm on Friday and these go continuously through Saturday at 4:00,” said Peterson. “These take place at our indoor facility in Hampton and the fields in Epping. We raised $70,000 in 2014,” he said.

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Peterson added that Seacoast included participants from the Special Olympics in this year’s soccer-a-thon.

“They has such a great time and it was gratifying to have them participating with us.”

Another fundraiser Peterson mentioned was their Annual Gala held at the beautiful and historic Wentworth-by-the-Sea, in New Castle, New Hampshire. This is hosted by Ocean Properties, a business sponsor for Seacoast.

“All the proceeds from this go to our scholarship fund,” said Peterson.

All three Provider Power company’s , support Seacoast United’s Foundation through our Power To Help Initiative.  When enrolling with ENH Power, Electricity Maine or Provider Power Mass  customers select from a list of non-profit partners and we make a contribution to that organization.  

To learn more click on the link from the state you live in:

Maine

New Hampshire

Mass

 

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Energy Audits – what are they and should you get one?

An energy audit, sometimes called an energy assessment can help to find out where heating dollars are going. An energy audit shows how a home uses energy, including where it’s being wasted, so homeowners can make targeted upgrades. Should you have an audit done, we have some tips to help you decide.

When I was little, cold weather meant sledding parties, hot cocoa, and days off from school. I still love cocoa, but after we bought an old farmhouse, winter also meant icy drafts, rattling windows, and painfully high heating costs.

A friend recommended we get an energy audit, sometimes called an energy assessment, to find out where our heating dollars were going. An energy audit shows how a home uses energy, including where it’s being wasted, so homeowners can make targeted upgrades. For instance, we learned that our walls are well insulated, but our attic wasn’t.

Signs you might need an energy audit:

  • Your house is more than 50 years old
  • You’re breaking the bank to buy firewood, pellets, or heating oil
  • Drafts blow in around your windows and doors, or through chinks in the walls
  • Your windows or doors rattle in their frames
  • No matter how much the stove or furnace runs, your house feels chilly

Still not certain? You can run a quick Do-It-Yourself assessment, with some help from the federal government. You’ll need to know your past 12 months of utility usage, which is probably on your electricity bill or heating oil statement.

Some nonprofits offer free or low-cost energy audits, which usually consist of feeling for drafts, checking for rattling windows, and looking for visible signs of leaks, such as condensation on windows or loose ductwork.

A professional energy audit will cost $200 to $500 – the price varies depending on the size of your home and how many auditors in your area are competing for business – but will use some very interesting tools to give you a detailed look at your home’s trouble spots. (Tax subsidies can offset some or all of the cost.)

My favorite instrument was the thermographic scanner, which showed in vivid color exactly how heat was escaping my house – and even let me peek inside walls to see where the lath-and-plaster construction gave way to better-insulated studs with fiberfill. Most professional audits also include a blower door test, which can reveal all the leaks that New England’s older homes are famous for.

Afterward, you will get a detailed report outlining exactly where and how your home is losing energy, plus the measures that you can use to make your home more energy efficient – and even tell you how cost-effective each will be.

For instance, our energy auditor explained that if we added a foot of insulation to our attic, it would cost about $800 up front but would save us about $150 per year in heating costs, so it would pay for itself in six years. Replacing our rattling windows, by contrast, would cost $200 to $400 per window, and doing all 20 windows in the house would save only about $100 per year, so might never pay for itself. Caulking up gaps between old wooden beams costs only a few dollars per tube of caulk, but can make a huge difference in comfort and heating costs. And so forth.

Not only will you learn the best way to spend your winterizing dollars, getting an energy audit can qualify you to get tax credits for your energy efficiency upgrades.

After our energy audit, we decided to insulate our basement and attic, apply caulk liberally, and make a few other changes. The result is that not only does our house feel warmer, our heating costs also dropped enormously — we buy less wood, less heating oil, and our electric bill for the winter months dropped by about half.

For most homeowners, making the upgrades identified in a home energy audit can save you 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill, according to the US Department of Energy.

If you’re ready to shrink your heating bills, get rid of spine-chilling drafts, and find cost-effective steps to a warmer home, an energy audit could be your next step.

 

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Energy-Efficient Resolutions for the New Year

This is one set of resolutions you won't have any trouble keeping. Saving money and making your home more energy efficient are likely high on your resolution list. Here are some tips and hints to keep on top of mind.

‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions, and while most people focus on resolutions related to work or personal growth, we’d like to suggest you add in a new category this year. While you’re working on improving your own personal world, why not work on improving the world around you?

To that end, we’re offering four energy-saving New Year’s Resolutions that will make the world a healthier place, and save money to boot! (I bet that’s on your list too!)

This year, resolve to:

  1. Get a professional home energy audit. An energy audit is the first step in energy savings.  A professional will visit and assess your home from top-to-bottom, using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, which is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. Often they’ll do a “blower door test” and thermographic imaging to pinpoint exactly where energy is escaping. As part of the assessment, they’ll give you suggestions on which upgrades you should consider for the most benefit.
  2.   Make one energy-efficiency investment a month. Even though energy-efficient upgrades pay for themselves over time, there is typically an upfront cost. That’s why you might want to consider spreading out your investments. You can start small: why not get new power strips to help stop the ‘energy vampires’ in your home? Next, check into energy-efficient lighting, then a programmable thermostat. Every change you make will add up to significant savings over the not-so-long run.
  3.   Use less. This philosophy is so simple, yet so constructive. Using less encompasses using less electricity by turning off the lights when you leave a room; using less water by turning off the tap when you brush your teeth; using less energy by washing your clothes in cold water, rather than hot – the possibilities are endless. Several mobile apps can help you track your energy and water consumption.
  4. Champion energy savings among your family. It’s vital to get the whole family on board, but it will be more effective if you make it fun, rather than nagging them.  Monitor your progress together, and use your savings for a fun family outing. Keep a chart of small changes every family member can make – whether it’s unplugging their chargers at night, or putting on a sweater instead of cranking the heat. Make sure they know they are a crucial part of the success of this endeavor and show them how their changes – big and small – make a difference.

They say that a new behavior becomes a habit after two or three months. Stick with your new energy-saving regime – and your other New Year’s resolutions – and see how far you have come as spring starts to appear!

 

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