Get the most out of your Energy Bill Savings

Reducing electricity use in your home can be pretty simple when you break it down by category. The main categories in your home are lights, electronics, water, and climate control.

Get the most out of your Energy Bill Savings

Lighting

It’s always a good practice to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but if your home has a tendency to leave them on, occupancy sensors can shut the lights off for you. If the sensor doesn’t detect any movement for a set period of time, from a few seconds to a few minutes, it will shut off the lights. Installing more efficient lighting like LED bulbs will also reduce your energy usage. LEDs and CFLS are about 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs.

 

Electronics

The only way to stop electronics from consuming electricity is to unplug them entirely. So long as the power cord is connected, appliances and electronics are draining energy. You can use a power strip to shut off the electricity to several devices at once, like in entertainment centers. If you do need to leave them plugged in, powering down the device will definitely save more energy than a sleep mode.

 

Water

Set your water heater to 120°F to save energy for heating the water. and insulate your hot water pipes. This reduces energy waste by getting warmer water to the faucets. Using aerators and low-flow shower heads, you can reduce the amount of water, and subsequently energy, being used in your home. When washing dishes or clothes, only run full loads and use colder water settings more often.

Climate Control

Programmable thermostats let you set periods of time throughout the day for your heating or cooling to run. This allows you to keep the thermostat off while you are at work or asleep, thus reducing the time you’re AC or heat runs. And since climate control is about half of your energy bill, you’re sure to notice a savings!

Go Green on your Tax Return

It’s just about tax season once again. Most people aren’t particularly thrilled about filing taxes especially with the potential to owe money. However, if you’ve made some green investments last year, you may be able to receive some breaks. The federal government offers different incentives for tax credits related to energy efficiency.

If you have constructed or renovated a building to use half the amount of energy a building built to the standard model codes, you could be getting some money back from Uncle Sam. Other incentives include purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle and on-site renewable energy systems like geothermal heat pumps and solar panels.Go Green on your Tax Return

Even if you aren’t able to renovate a whole building, other measures to increase energy efficiency can provide you with tax credits. Installing insulation, replacing windows, skylights, and doors, green roofs, and sealing a building’s shell all count toward energy efficiency and tax credits. In order to qualify for the credit, any renovations you make must conform to the 2009 IECC specifications. You may then fill out IRS form 5695 to get credits ranging from $200 to $500. If you would like more information on how to meet the IECC specifications, the Tax Incentives Assistance Project can help you get started.

Renters can also save on their electricity bill

Renters can also save on their electricity billIf you are renting an apartment, condo, or loft; energy efficiency can seem out of your hands. Just because you cannot make fixtures the place you are renting does not mean you limit you from being energy efficient in it.

Here are some ways renters can save on their energy costs:

  1. Using CFL bulbs or LED bulbs save about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. You can get yourself from the local hardware store and replace the bulbs in your home.
  2. Make sure that the maintenance department of the place you are renting replaces the air filter in your air cooling system, or central air system.  If you live in an apartment, a simple maintenance request can check your air filter, or if you are renting a home ask your landlord about how the air filter can get checked. A dirty air filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder. A clean air filter can save you up to $180 per year on energy costs.
  3. If your water heater is at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit it can save huge on energy costs, and your water bill of course.
  4. Adjust the refrigerator to about 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit so your fridge is not overworking itself – this will save towards your electric bill each month.
  5. Caulk window corners that have leaks with weather stripping caulking glue from your local hardware store. The cool air and warm air will not leak through during the summer and winter.
  6. Close curtains and shades at night.
  7. Add window shades during the warmer months to keep cool air in. Ask your local hardware store about shades for your windows. An alternative is to add aluminum foil to your windows during the summer. This budget friendly method will also reflect heat away from your windows.
  8. Unplug any appliances and electronics when not in use, or use a power strip to power  them all off at once.
  9. Make sure the exhaust fans in the bathroom, kitchen stove, are off within 20 minutes after cooking or showering.
  10. Ask your landlord or apartment complex if your thermostat is programmable. Programmable thermostats will auto turn off while you are away from your apartment/home.

The best way to make these energy saving tips go the extra mile for those who are renting, is a low electricity rate. If you have control over who is your electricity company, then take advantage of that. Switch electric providers is the most energy efficient method and will put extra savings in your pocket. You can sign up for a month to month plan, or however for a plan for the length of your lease. Stop overpaying on your electricity costs today!

Snow and solar panels

Green living starts at home.  There are plenty of things that one can do to save energy and lower the electricity bills.  One of the natural ways to get electricity is solar panels.  These panels can still generate electricity under light snow fall, but when snow blocks sunshine completely, it becomes a problem for the panels to generate electricity.  Generally if the snow melts quickly then there is no worry, but if there is lot of snow it can cause problem.  There are ways to combat the said issue.Snow and solar panels

 

To avoid the snow to remain in the panel, the panels should be arranged in slanting or steep position, which would let the snow fall down or melt more easily and they can deal with harsh climate easily.  Snow can be swept off the panels using a garden rake. Snow on the ground reflects and can create more electricity.  Solar panels allow snow to melt faster because of the reflection caused.  If there is light dusting of the snow, the solar panels lets it melt faster and generates electricity in the normal way.

 

Snow and solar panel can go along together without any problems or issues, if proper care and regular cleaning of the solar panels is done during the winter season.

Electricity Myths Answered

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Have you ever heard the quote “It’s not the volts that kill you, it’s the amps”? It’s very possible you’ve heard this somewhere before and on the surface, it’s true. However, there’s a lot more to it than that, because low voltage and amperage can still be lethal, depending on how it’s applied. We’ll address this and some other electricity myths here.

 

  • Downed Power Lines
    Just because a power line is down, doesn’t mean it’s inactive. Treat EVERY downed power line as if it were live. These lines carry enough energy to kill without warning.
  • Rubber
    Don’t think for a second that because you’re wearing rubber boots and gloves that you can handle something like a downed power line. Common boots and gloves are not effective enough to resist the massive current running through the lines. Same thing applies to car tires. They may resist some levels of electricity, but not all.
  • “If I don’t touch it, I’m safe”
    Electricity doesn’t need a solid object to travel through. Electricity arcs can occur, again without warning, and leap from one conductive surface to another, such as a truck to a metal ladder. The minimum safe distance for electricity workers is 3 feet from a conductive object while servicing a 240 volt line. Untrained people should remain at least 12 feet from conductive objects when operating on a 240 volt line and even further when in the vicinity of transmission lines.
  • “It’s not the volts that kill you, it’s the amps”
    This line from the 1986 movie Running Scared is misleading in the sense that regardless of how high the voltage is, if the amps are low enough, you’ll be fine. While that’s true to an extent, the reality is that as voltage increases, so too do the amps. In addition, as voltage increases, your body’s natural electrical resistance decreases. When you receive a static shock, you’re getting hit with a brief discharge of a couple thousand volts and about 8 amps, but those amps become basically 0 after a millisecond. But a sustained exposure from a constant source of energy like a capacitor or power line feed a constant supply of volts and amps which will burn and damage your body. Remember, your body is about 70% water, and water is highly conductive. In general, less than 30 volts will be an annoying tingle, 30-50 volts could cause damage, and more than 50 volts have the potential to kill. An exception to this is tasers, which have resistors installed in them to reduce the amperage coursing through the line. However, they can still kill.
  • “It’s just a shallow hole, I won’t hit any lines”
    Any time you plan to dig in your yard, whether it’s to install a pool or fence, make certain you are not digging where power lines could be present. Underground lines are increasingly common, and hitting one at best knocks out power to your house and at worse knocks you out. Contact your utility or Dig Safe to get a detailed location guide for any lines under your property, electrical, gas, or otherwise.
  • The Third Prong
    Some people remove the third prong from power cords when they don’t fit into a socket, but doing so makes the appliance less safe. That prong helps ground the electrical current in the event of a surge so it doesn’t overload the appliance or give you a nasty shock. Additionally, you should replace any cords or cables that have wiring exposed.

Teaching Children about Saving Energy

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Saving energy is important because it reduces the amount of carbon that is expelled into the atmosphere. These carbon emissions have been linked to changes in weather and global temperatures. On a more immediate and personal level, wasted electricity costs you extra money every month. Teaching children early on that saving electricity and energy is important will help reinforce the act of conserving energy. Children learn more by doing that being told, so making a game or activity of saving energy can help teach them while holding their interest.

The website Kids Energy Zone has some games that will teach your child to save energy. In the Lights Out! game, your child guides Charlie the CFL bulb around a home in a quest to cut electricity use from lights and electronics. Charlie has to grab a CFL bulb from the basement and replace all of the incandescent bulbs in the house, then shut them off. A tally on the left side of the screen shows how much electricity has been consumed and the rate it’s being consumed. Try to get a lower total electricity to be an energy saving hero!

Try activity books like energy related coloring books to teach energy conservation while encouraging your child’s creativity. Energy Star has a section dedicated to children and they can learn about saving energy and protecting the environment alongside classic Dr. Seuss characters Horton and the Lorax. Kids Activities Blog also has a do it yourself project for kids to build a solar oven and make s’mores. The solar oven is built by using an empty pizza box and wrapping the inside and outside with aluminum foil. Cut a flap two inches from the front, left, and right edges and prop it open with a ruler. Place some marshmallows on a paper plate inside the opening, using the foil wrapped flap to reflect sunlight onto the plate. Depending on the heat and time of day, the marshmallows could take up to an hour to become soft and gooey. This project saves energy by not using any electricity, but the energy it uses is clean solar energy. You’ll also be repurposing the old pizza box, which contributes to recycling.

Finally, you could bring your children on an energy scavenger hunt. Print out this worksheet from EnergyHog.org and scour the house to rack up points for good energy practices. The higher the score, the better your home is for saving energy. This makes a good friendly competition between multiple children, and at the end you can explain ways to help reduce the energy, and after reducing it, have the kids try again to get the high score.

Knowing your Options when it comes to Light Bulbs

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Cheap-Electricity

There are several options to consider when lighting your home. Incandescent bulbs are on their way out, with the federal ban on them beginning in 2007 and the full phase out scheduled for this year. There are also compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) which have a distinct curly or multi tubed shapes. There are also light emitting diode (LED) bulbs that use several small diodes to light the whole bulb. Both CFLs and LEDs are more efficient than incandescents, so they use about 80-85% less electricity. That energy savings adds up to a lot of cash, too, considering that lighting can account for up to 25% of your electricity bill.

The incandescent light bulbs we know today were a culmination of several inventors. The first was invented in 1802 by Humphry Davy using a platinum filament. Incandescence is heating a wire filament to the point where it glows. Many early incandescent bulbs contained carbonized bamboo filaments. Several other patents were issued and Thomas Edison help streamline the commercialization of the light bulbs in the late 1800s. However, it was the Hungarian and Croatian team of Sandor Just and Franjo Hanaman that invented the tungsten filament incandescent bulb in 1904 that we use today. The downside to incandescent lights is that 90% the energy consumed is given off as heat. The remaining 10% of energy is the light that we see. These bulbs are terribly inefficient, requiring a lot of energy for very little light. These bulbs also only last about 1200 hours, or about 2 years worth of use at a rate of 3 hours per day.

Compact fluorescent lamps use between 75-80% less electricity than incandescent bulbs to give off the same amount of light. Instead of heating a wire filament, a CFL bulb is filled with argon gas and a small amount of mercury vapor. They can last about 10,000 hours or 9 years based on 3 hours of use per day. With the energy they save, they pay for themselves in about 9 months, but some people are leery of their use because of their mercury content. They only contain about 4 milligrams of mercury. For comparison, a mercury based household thermometer contains about 500 milligrams of mercury. Some bulbs contain as little as 1 milligram of mercury per bulb. CFLs also can take some time to reach full brightness, and they are not good with constant cycling (turning on and off).

Light emitting diodes are made from semiconductors that are attached to electric leads, and when the juice starts flowing, the diode emits a brilliant light. LEDs are 80-90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and can last up to 100,000 hours. Their lifespan is about 25 years with 3 hours of use per day. These bulbs, with their long lifespan, low cost to use, and low energy consumption, they are the ideal source of light for our homes. The biggest downside to LEDs is the cost per bulb is relatively high.

Besides switching to energy efficient bulbs, you can lower your monthly bills by switching to a Houston electricity company that offers cheap electricity. You have the power to choose your energy provider. Shop Houston Electricity can help you sort through plans by provider, price, and options like renewable energy. The cheapest electric rates are at your fingertips!