Do You Need a Home Energy Management System?

Are you thinking about installing a solar power array? Want to maximize energy efficiency? Then you may be interested in a home energy management system (HEMS). 

A home energy management system is designed to improve household energy use, but these systems aren’t cheap. Before you make an investment in a home energy management system take a few minutes to learn more about what a HEMS can do and how you could benefit from using one. 


The Basics About Home Energy Management Systems

The home energy management system global market is growing rapidly. It was a $2.1 billion industry in 2021 but is expected to reach $6.8 billion by 2027. It’s a clear sign that as energy prices increase, more people are looking for ways to curb consumption.

The primary objective of a home energy management system is to better manage energy use to improve efficiency. The HEMS does this by gathering information then using that information to:

  • Analyze how energy is used in the home. 
  • Measure the energy requirements of appliances and systems. 
  • Measure the energy consumption of appliances and devices.
  • Coordinate the operation of electrical components including solar panels and appliances.
  • Optimize energy consumption by automating systems.
  • Sync and manage smart devices.
  • Manage home batteries and backup power supplies.
  • Analyze local utility data to adjust use based on current energy demand.

If you have solar panels you can do even more with a home energy management system. One big advantage is being able to balance out and distribute solar power throughout the day. It helps overcome the issue of inconsistent energy production. And when you produce energy with your solar panels the HEMS can determine whether it should be used, stored or redistributed to the electrical grid. 

Installing a home energy management system can reduce energy use by 5-10%. You’ll also have peace of mind knowing that you’re using energy in a more sustainable way that helps decrease demand that is getting harder to meet. Plus, reducing energy use can help extend the life of your appliances, saving you even more money in the long run. 

How a Home Energy Management System Improves Efficiency

A home energy management system is a sophisticated setup that can accomplish some pretty amazing things. But how does a HEMS do it?

HEMS Software – The Brains of the System

A home energy management system is powered by innovative software. Without the software nothing is possible. The software’s algorithms are able to analyze massive amounts of data in real time. It then converts the data into reports that can be easily read and used to make energy efficiency updates. The software can even identify trends in the data and make predictions about future energy consumption. 

A home energy management system is analyzing more than just your energy use. To make the best predictions and adjustments HEMS software also measures:

  • Weather Conditions – The weather is going to have a big influence on energy use and needs. That’s why a HEMS constantly monitors current weather conditions. It’s the best way to balance comfort and efficiency.  
  • Availability of Electricity and Demand – If the grid gets strained a home energy management system can help ease the load. By measuring demand and the availability of electricity a HEMS can adjust energy use and tap into stored power if the home has solar panels. 
  • Current Energy Rates – A home energy management system can also take energy rates into consideration to determine the best way to automate systems. If you have a time-of-use or variable rate plan this feature can help you reduce energy costs even if you don’t use less energy. 

The Parts of a Home Energy Management System

The software is the brains of the HEMS operation, but it can’t do everything on its own. Other components are needed to make the system operable so that it can provide you with actionable information. The two other key components of a home energy management system are:

The Hub – The Heart of the System

The software connects to a hub in order to gather all of the data it analyzes. The hub is a device that is installed at the electric panel. It’s like a middle man that relays data from the panel to the software.

Internet-Connected Device – The Interface of the System

The software and hub gather data, but the information doesn’t do much good if you can’t read it. That’s where an internet-connected device comes into play. A device is needed to interact with the software so that the data can be read. Using a corresponding app you can get energy data reports, see changes in energy use and receive suggestions on how to reduce energy consumption. 

Provider Power customers can receive data on energy use even if they don’t have a home energy management system. Each month we’ll provide you with valuable information on how you consume energy so that you can reduce use and lower monthly costs.

Check to see which Provider Power energy plans are available in your area

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Gas Appliances vs Electric Appliances: Which Are Better for Your Energy Bills?

Are you buying a new home? Maybe you have an appliance that’s on its last leg? Or you want to upgrade your appliances for greener models? 

No matter what has you shopping around for appliances, there’s probably one big question on your mind. Are gas appliances or electric appliances better for my energy bills? 

That’s a good question and a pretty significant one. Some people don’t have the option and can only use electric appliances. But for those of you who can choose between gas and electric appliances, keep reading to get a better idea of which one is going to cost less to operate every month. 

Energy Rates: Electric Appliances vs Gas Appliances

The first thing most people think about when they’re deciding between electric and gas appliances is the cost of the energy source. Given that a lot of electricity is generated using natural gas, it’s understandable that gas prices would be cheaper than electricity prices. Generally speaking, electricity is more expensive than gas.

Of course, that isn’t always the case, especially in the northeast. You may remember how natural gas more than doubled in price over the last two years. 

When you compare costs, the timing makes a difference. At certain times of year, natural gas is going to cost more per therm in the northeast due to demand for heating fuels. If it’s a particularly cold winter season it can really increase the cost of natural gas. That will close the gap between gas prices and electricity prices. 

But to know for sure, you’ll have to research the average gas prices and electricity prices for your area. Rates are going to vary from one market to the next, even within the same state. 

Of course, if you own or plan to own a solar power system, then electric appliances will likely be the most cost-effective option since you’d be using electricity you generate from the sun for free. 

Winner

Gas Appliances – In almost all instances, despite rising natural gas prices, gas will be cheaper than electricity. 

Energy Efficiency: Electric Appliances vs Gas Appliances

But what about efficiency? What you end up paying on your utility bills isn’t just a matter of how much an energy resource costs. How much energy is used to power appliances is also a big factor. For that reason, you have to also consider the energy efficiency of gas and electric appliances.

Experts agree that gas appliances tend to be more energy efficient than their electric counterparts. Part of the reason gas appliances are more energy efficient is because gas generates heat more quickly than electricity.

However, it does depend on the appliance. For example, gas dryers are 30% more energy efficient than electric dryers. BUT – gas washing machines no longer exist. They have been replaced by a more efficient option – high-efficiency electric washers. 

All new appliances should provide information on energy requirements, meaning how much energy is needed for operation. You can use this information paired with the average energy rates in your area to get a good estimate of how much the appliance will cost to operate either monthly or annually. 

Winner: Gas Appliances – Once again natural gas comes out on top as the most energy efficient option for many appliances, although some types of electric appliances use less energy.

What to Know if You’re Switching 

Something to consider is the cost of switching from electric to gas or vice versa. Your home may not be set up for both types of appliances, which means you’ll need to do some converting. The cost could be just a couple hundred dollars or it could be a few thousand. 

If you are converting to gas, then gas lines may need to be installed. Conservative estimates put the cost somewhere between $250 and $700. And if you are converting to all-electric, then gas lines may need to be capped off and new wiring put in. Installing electric lines costs around $350 per line. 

There could be an upfront cost, but you may find that the monthly savings after switching is worth it in the long run. Something else you’ll want to keep in mind is that gas appliances tend to last longer than electric appliances since they have few parts. If you plan to be in your home for years to come, appliance longevity matters.

No matter what type of appliances you have, you can count on Provider Power as your energy supplier. We have service areas across the northeast – use your zip code to find electricity plans in Massachusetts, Maine energy plans and New Hampshire power plans for homes and businesses.

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5 Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill in New Hampshire This Fall

This time of year in New Hampshire we’re starting to feel a reprieve from the warmer temperatures, but the winter cold isn’t right around the corner yet. It’s the perfect balance between the summer and winter seasons, which means it’s the ideal time for saving electricity. Let’s take a look at what New Hampshire residents can do in the fall to lower their electricity now and in the months ahead.  

Open the Windows to Let Fresh Air Flow Through

One of the simplest, easiest and most affordable ways to save electricity is to turn off the AC and open the windows up when it’s cool out early in the morning and later in the afternoon or evening. Not only will it help the house cool down naturally, it will also circulate in fresh air for improved air quality.

In New Hampshire during early fall the temperatures drop to 50-60 degrees at the coolest parts of the day. If you open things up strategically you might be able to completely forgo the AC and furnace during the whole season and significantly lower your electric bill.

Get the Furnace Serviced

Now is a great time to get your furnace serviced for the winter season since you may be tempted to turn on the heat at night when temperatures drop below 60 degrees. Professional servicing helps extend the life of the furnace and can improve energy efficiency. Beyond cleaning and replacing worn parts, you’ll want to check the insulation around the furnace ductwork. Adequate insulation will ensure heat isn’t lost in the unlivable cavities of the home.

Weatherize Over a Weekend

Energy efficiency experts recommend weatherizing a home once a year, and early fall is also the ideal time for this type of home maintenance. It helps to get your home prepared for the winter so you aren’t faced with easy-to-fix problems that make your home less comfortable, increase energy use and raise your electric bill.

Fortunately, weatherizing is fairly easy even for a novice DIYer. Here’s a quick checklist of what to do to weatherize your home:

  • Replace worn weather stripping around the exterior doors.
  • Install or replace worn weather stripping around the door to the garage and/or basement.
  • Caulk around the exterior doors and windows.
  • Caulk any gaps in the foundation and exterior seams of the home.
  • Add insulation to exterior pipes going into the home.
  • Inside the home add caulk to fill gaps around outlets and baseboards.

Take a look at our Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit Checklist for even more ways to weatherize and improve energy efficiency.

Limit Hot Water Use

When people are trying to conserve electricity to lower their energy bill, water use isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, the hot water heater is a pretty big energy consumer. And if you have an electric water heater every drop of hot water adds to the electricity bill.

  • Start by checking the temperature setting on your hot water heater. Set it to 120 degrees or lower. For every 10 degrees that it’s lowered energy use goes down by 5%.
  • Always turn on the cold water, not the hot water when using small amounts of water. If you use the hot water setting it will likely cause the water heater to start up, but the hot water won’t make it all the way out of the faucet by the time you’re done. It essentially starts up the hot water heater for nothing. 
  • Try to limit showers to no more than 10 minutes. Make the water use really count by washing your face, brushing your teeth, etc. while you’re in the shower.
  • Opt for showers rather than baths. A hot shower uses about a third of the water needed to fill a standard bathtub.

Look Into the Electric Assistance Program

New Hampshire has a number of energy assistance programs, one of which helps residents save on their electric bill. The Electric Assistance Program (EAP) is a state program that provides financial help for those who are having a hard time paying their electric bill. Eligibility for the program is based on income. Families and individuals that qualify can get a discount of up to 76% on their electric bill.

At Provider Power we’re proud to offer fixed-rate energy plans that make electric bills more predictable. You can lock in the kWh rate for 12 months or more so that you have more assurance and control over your energy costs. Check to see which New Hampshire energy plans are currently available in your area.

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Energy Savings Programs in New Hampshire

Most people already know that energy costs are going up in New Hampshire, particularly electric rates. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission has already announced that they estimate residential customers served by the utility companies Liberty and Eversource will end up paying $70 more a month for electricity. Customers served by the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative will likely pay $40 more a month on average.

What you may not know is there are state energy savings programs that can help lower costs for many NH consumers. And with the huge increase in electricity rates, more New Hampshire residents may qualify for a program.

Energy Efficiency Incentive Programs

Saving energy is a great first step in lowering utility costs. There are lifestyle changes you can make to save energy and there are also changes you can make to your home. New Hampshire residents that make energy efficiency improvements can get assistance and special incentives to offset the costs of lowering consumption.

It’s an effort on the state’s part to reduce energy consumption and make energy costs more manageable for more people. Since 2003 the state has offered programs to encourage residents and businesses to invest in energy efficiency improvements that lower demand. One way they do that is through incentive and rebates that lower the cost of energy efficiency improvements. These programs are offered through the state government, public utilities and local organizations.

You don’t have to install a solar panel system to get energy efficiency rebates in New Hampshire – although there are state programs for that. There’s a wide range of energy efficiency programs in New Hampshire that help with improvements large and small.

If there’s only one resource that you use to search for energy efficiency programs in New Hampshire it should be NHSaves. NHSaves publishes an updated list of energy efficiency rebates that are offered in the state as well as programs from the utilities.

Natural Gas Efficiency Programs

In New Hampshire, natural gas that’s needed to heat homes is usually in more demand than the electricity needed to cool homes. So it makes sense that the state utilities have energy efficiency programs for making improvements to reduce gas use.

Energy Audit Programs

If you want to know which energy efficiency improvements need to be made you can conduct a home energy audit. Some programs in New Hampshire will help residents with reimbursements or discounts for home energy audits.

Weatherization Assistance Programs

You can get assistance covering the costs of weatherizing your home through a few programs. If you’re served by Unitil or Liberty utility companies you could get kickbacks for energy audits and weatherization in addition to purchasing energy efficient equipment for the home. Some community action agencies also offer incentives for weatherizing a home.

Electric Assistance Programs

You may not be the one who sets electricity prices, but if you’re a residential customer that needs help covering the cost of your electric bill the New Hampshire Electric Assistance Program (EAP) is a valuable resource. Those who qualify can get a discount of 8-76% on their electric bill. How big the discount is depends on household income and size. The Electric Assistance Program is a 12-month program so recipients will need to reapply each year.

Gas and Fuel Assistance Programs

In the winter time in New Hampshire, natural gas and other heating fuels can really escalate in price. Unfortunately, natural gas and other fuels are absolutely necessary for keeping a home safely livable. That’s why the state and utilities offer a few different programs specifically for heating-related costs.

Gas Assistance Program

Liberty Utilities and Unitil-Gas customers can get the delivery portion of their natural gas discounted by 60% if they qualify for the Gas Assistance Program. Qualifying for the Gas Assistance Program depends on whether you qualify for other state assistance programs such as the Fuel Assistance Program.

Fuel Assistance Program

If you heat your home with natural gas or another type of fuel you may still qualify for financial assistance to offset heating costs through the Fuel Assistance Program (FAP). FAP is part of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In addition to getting $158 to $1,575 off fuel costs, the program helps provide emergency fuel delivery and can delay a shut-off.

Qualifying for FAP is a little more involved than other programs. In addition to household size and gross income, eligibility depends on housing type, energy costs and how many heating degree days there are for your area. If you need to replace or repair a tank for storing heating oil you may be able to get help covering the cost through the SAFETANK Financial Assistance Program.

Community Action Agencies

If you need help figuring out if you’re eligible for any of these programs, then contact your local community action agency. There are six community action agencies in New Hampshire that provide assistance to low-income families in an effort to combat poverty and uplift low-income communities. The agencies have their own energy assistance initiatives that are aimed at helping reduce heating and electric costs for those in need. They can also help residents learn about federal and state financial assistance programs.

Provider Power can help customers determine if they qualify for energy saving assistance programs on top of signing up for competitively priced fixed rate energy plans. Check to see which Provider Power New Hampshire energy plans are available in your area.

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Green Living Energy Savings

5 Steps to Making Your Old Home More Energy Efficient

We New Englanders love our squeaky old farm houses, Capes and captain’s houses. Making them energy efficient and reducing energy costs will make them all the more enjoyable.
front of large yellow home
Originally built in 1880's this home has undergone a number of renovations. Many windows still need replacing as well as upgrading the insulation.

We New Englanders love our squeaky old farm houses, Capes and captain’s houses, and taking care of our historic homes is nothing short of a labor of love. But it’s not just about the hard work. While the carbon footprint of maintaining and inhabiting an old home is less than building a new one, the expense of heating, cooling and lighting these beloved structures can be nothing short of menacing.

There is also our own, personal energy use to consider. All residential buildings in the US use more energy than all commercial buildings combined. While we love our drafty fireplaces and single pane windows, none of us are looking to guzzle up the resources often required to make a New England winter manageable. That said, building a new and tightly sealed home can emit up to ten times more C02e (carbon dioxide equivalent) during construction than rehabbing an old one. So, while cutting household emissions can clearly make an impact, if your goal is to be the best global citizen you can be, older is better.

Enter home performance. An energy efficient home isn’t just for new construction. There are many ways to keep the charm and originality of your historic home while also saving a little fuel, a little electricity and potentially a lot of money.

Historic Homes are Different

There are considerations to make before moving forward with creating new efficiencies in your old house. It is important to remember that your 1800s home was constructed using different techniques than what contractors practice today. For example, if your home is a pre-1850s structure, its bones are likely post and beam instead of the more modern balloon framing. This will be important to consider when updating your insulation.

Another major consideration is temperature regulation and moisture levels. Historic homes were not built with the same static, comfortable temperature expectation as today. If you were cold, you put on a sweater. If you were hot, you opened a window. Thicker walls provided some insulation, keeping the home warmer at night and cooler during the day, but in general, air was allowed to move more freely throughout the structure. Adding insulation to your old home without considering the house as a system can cause moisture to accumulate and mold and rot to form.

Thanks to south-west facing windows-the sun provides some warmth and added natural light.
Thanks to south-west facing windows-the sun provides some warmth and added natural light.

The best thing to understand about owning an old home is that you live in a structure that has served well for 100, 150 or even 200 years. The charm of your home is not only an aesthetic consideration, but also an environmental one.

Now, to improve your historic home’s energy efficiency

It is important to be considerate of your surroundings as you move towards retrofitting your home. Old homes were designed to utilize their natural surroundings for temperature control. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this project. Here are some first steps to having an energy efficient historic home:

  1. Get an energy audit. This is the first step to identifying leaks in your home. While many states offer free energy audits, it may be worth the expense of going to a professional when dealing with a 100 to 200 year old home. They will go beyond some of the more obvious energy upgrades and provide a complete roadmap for moving forward.
  2. Air seal. But not too tight! This is a one-step to significantly improving your home’s energy efficiency. Identifying and sealing the holes and cracks in your home’s exterior, doors, windows and even attic floor will make a huge difference. Sealing up these cracks can often be a DIY project. Energy Star offers a comprehensive DIY guide to get you through. During this project, keep the house-as-a-system approach in mind and work to strike a balance. The house still has to breath to avoid mold and rot.
  3. Keep it simple. Cut down on drafts by closing curtains, plasticing your windows in the winter, closing your fireplace damper and using door snakes. These methods may be simple, but they are cheap and surprisingly effective.
  4. Establish climate zones. Old homes are often comprised of many rooms. As winter approaches, identify which rooms you aren’t using regularly and consider shutting them down for the season. If you have an air-conditioned home, consider the same in the summer. Placing these rooms on separate thermostats will allow you to further control the climate.
  5. Consider a programmable thermostat. There are many options of varying cost out there, but the overall goal here is to decide what temperature your house should be at certain times during the day, and stick with it. The Nest thermostat seems to be getting the best reviews lately, but there are several options.

These are some basic, first steps you can take towards improving your historic home’s energy efficiency. Should you choose to get a professional energy audit, they will go deeper into your house’s needs and its possibilities, addressing big-ticket items like your furnace, windows, basement and attic, and even the possibility of purchasing renewable energy to power your home. There are a multitude of resources out there for homeowners with regard to sourcing contractors, DIY projects and even tax credits.

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Efficient and Economic Living In Tiny Houses

Oversize homes, oversize mortgages and oversize energy bills have been replaced by tiny homes. Living the high life and moving on up to the top while living in a tiny home.
Tiny Wooden House on Wheels
Tiny houses use less building material [...] which takes less energy to produce.

After the housing crisis of 2008, many homeowners grew disillusioned with the McMansions that had gotten them deep into debt. Aside from their super-sized mortgage, large homes typically also carry a large utility bill to heat, cool and light jumbo spaces. So, as Americans adopt a more minimalist lifestyle, it makes perfect sense that they’d also embrace tiny homes, with some as small as 196 square feet! We’re so fascinated with tiny homes that there are now reality TV shows like Tiny House Nation and Tiny House Hunters, blogs that discuss the ins and outs of tiny living and even a Tiny House Magazine.

On first glance, one might assume that tiny homes make sense for single people without much stuff. That’s one demographic that inhabits tiny homes, but believe it or not, families with children and dogs also share tiny homes. Some homeowners even use a tiny home as an in-law suite or guest cottage built on their land rather than building an addition to their home.

Tiny house interior
On first glance, one might assume that tiny homes make sense for single people without much stuff.

And while creative storage solutions and a willingness to pare down your belongings is essential, here’s a look at a few benefits offered by tiny homes:

  • Less environmental impact: Tiny houses use less building material (and oftentimes use recycled or repurposed material), which takes less energy to produce. Heating, cooling and lighting a tiny house also takes less of an environmental toll. Some tiny homes operate off the grid using a composting toilet and solar power or wind turbines. Others are connected to a water and electrical supply, but still wouldn’t draw as much water and electricity as a full-sized home.
  • Less space to clean: Dusting, vacuuming and otherwise cleaning a full-sized home can feel like a never-ending chore. But when you live in less than 200 square feet, there are fewer surfaces to keep clean and more time for other activities.
  • Less temptation to accumulate stuff: Some tiny homeowners have extra storage at a friend or relative’s place and rotate items seasonally. But without huge closets and a basement or attic right at their fingertips, most tiny homeowners don’t feel the need to buy tchotkes or other extra stuff they don’t need. Many people find it freeing when they reduce their possessions to just those items they love and use on a regular basis.
  • Less expensive to acquire and maintain: You can sometimes get a bank loan or manufacturer financing for a tiny home. However, many owners pay for a tiny home out of their own savings (often less than $100,000), which means there’s no ongoing mortgage (although they might need to pay rental fees on or purchase the land). With less money devoted to housing costs, tiny homeowners are able to prioritize other goals like paying for travel and experiences, paying down student debt or working less and spending more time with family.

Looking for a more information about tiny houses in New England?  Check out www.tinyhousenortheast.com. They have tiny homes for sale, designs/plans and tons more info about tiny living in New England.

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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.

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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.

 

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