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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As we strive to live more sustainably, our choice of home makes a huge impact on our environmental footprint in terms of energy use and the environmental impact of the home’s materials. Fortunately, sustainable design is becoming increasingly mainstream, offering a growing number of options that seamlessly incorporate form and function.
Here’s a look at several Boston-area architecture firms with expertise in this arena.
- Amacher & Associates Architects: Led by Franziska Amacher, LEEP AP and graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, this Cambridge-based firm offers architecture, space planning and sustainable development. Past projects include commercial and residential buildings including a zero-energy building, a renovation of a Beacon Hill brownstone, a green farmhouse in Maine and a solar two-family house.
- Architerra: With all of its full-time professional staff LEED-accredited, Architerra has completed projects including the Massport cruise terminal in Boston, a new science and art center at Cambridge School of Weston and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center. The firm has received awards including the Boston Society of Architects Award for Sustainable Design and a AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project.
- Studio G Architects: Studio G Architects’ portfolio includes sustainable design projects including the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance Offices (using recycled building materials and components), Eco-Tourist Resort in Israel (featuring graywater and rainwater recycling and passive ventilation systems) and the Green Roof at Boston Latin School. The firm also has a tradition of preserving historic structures and, in some cases, adapting them for new uses.
- Reverse Architecture: Somerville-based Reverse Architecture has designed homes and commercial spaces as well home additions with features such as a “geothermal” ground source heat pump and LED lighting. One notable project, Condensation House in Twentynine Palms, California, is designed to extract and design water vapor from every potential source. The firm’s founder, Carl Solander, LEED AP also lectures at MIT.
- ZeroEnergy Design: Based on Boston’s Milk Street, ZeroEnergy Design (or ZED for short) offers green architecture and mechanical design services, working on new home construction and renovations. ZED helps residential clients achieve energy performance targets such as net zero energy (using on-site energy production such as solar photovoltaic to match energy consumption), passive house standard (using 70-90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a conventional structure) and deep energy retrofit (improving energy performance by at least 50 percent). It also has LEED-accredited professionals and LEED for Homes Green Rater on staff.
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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.
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.
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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New Hampshire lawmakers are undertaking an effort to make electric bills easier to understand and bring increased clarity and transparency. SB 170 would require the PUC to redesign the billing format for residential electric bills and the PUC website. As outlined in a recent article in the New Hampshire Union Leader, proposed changes include but are not limited to:
*Include the term and expiration date of the rate
*include the term and expiration date of the rate
*the cancellation fee, if one applies
*People buying a variable rate from a competitive supplier would have to be notified on their bill of the fact that they purchased a variable rate
*The same bill would have to inform the consumer of the default service rate offered by the regulated utility
At ENH Powwer we are still reviewing some of the specifics of the proposed legislation, including long term impact especially in the areas of technology.
As far as rate transparency and educating about energy choice, ENH Power built its customer base of nearly 47,000 customers by exceeding industry norms and expectations. We encourage any review of legislation that makes it clear what is expected of supply companies, utilities and consumers.
In other states in which we do business, including Maine as Electricity Maine and Massachusetts as Provider Power Mass, where we have a combined 150,000 additional customers, we have been vocal about our support for rule changes that balances the rights of consumers with the ability of reputable electricity supply companies to be competitive.
To learn more about the Provider Power family of companies and our company history and commitment to New England, please visit www.providerpower.com
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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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Do you have recessed lighting in your home and looking transition to LED lighting? Here is a quick, easy and affordable option for you.
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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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.