All you need to know about Window Air Conditioners

Looking to get a windowed air conditioner to keep your house or apartment cool? There are a few things to consider when looking to get a window AC unit. You need to select one that is appropriately sized for the room you’re cooling. Window units are not designed to cool an entire house; rather they are only for cooling one room.

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For a room up to 350 square feet, you need a unit with 5,000 to 8,000 BTUs of cooling. A room up to 550 sq ft needs up to 12,000 BTUs, up to 1050 sq ft needs up to 18,500 BTUs, and up to 1600 sq ft needs up to 25,000 BTUs. In addition, you need to take into account the normal conditions of the room being cooled. Is that part of the house shaded or is it generally much hotter? Do you have the capacity to install a large unit in the room in question?

You also want to look for a unit that is efficient. On the specifications for the AC unit, there should be a listing for EER, or Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher this number is, the more efficient the air conditioner is. This means that you will cool more air for less electricity.

When installing the AC, make sure you have someone to help you. Window units are very heavy and can be unwieldy to hold and maneuver. If possible, install the unit on a north facing window; this side is most shaded during the course of the day and it will allow your AC to work more efficiently.

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!

Low Cost, High Electricity Quality

Prior to the 2002 bill that deregulated the Texas energy market, cheap electricity wasn’t really a possibility. Utilities determined the rate you paid for electricity, and if you didn’t like the rate, you couldn’t change to another utility unless you moved to another part of the state. However, once deregulated, the market was opened up for competition between different energy providers. This significantly decreased the prices paid by the consumers. Some people believe that the electricity from a company offering cheap electricity is inferior to one charging a higher rate. Fortunately, the saying of “you get what you pay for” doesn’t really apply to the Texas electricity market.

Utilities are still very much a part of the energy network. However, they only maintain the power lines that deliver your electricity. Retail Energy Providers (REPs) purchase shares of electricity from generation facilities like nuclear plants, wind farms, and coal plants. They then sell this electricity to you, the consumer. Regardless of who your REP is, the electricity is being transmitted over the same lines, so there is no difference in the quality of electricity. Each REP may have varying levels of customer service, but higher priced REPs are not always better and lower priced REPs are not always bad.

Besides being able to choose your provider, you also have the power to choose the plan you want for your electric service. Some plans vary based on contract length, with longer contracts having a lower rate that gets locked in and won’t change even if retail rates go up, other plans offer renewable energy. If you are interested in having your home powered by renewable energy, check the Electricity Facts Label (EFL) for the plans offered by a REP. The EFL will tell you exactly how much of the electricity is generated from renewable sources. Some REPs exclusively offer renewable plans, so every plan will be 100% renewable energy.

When it comes to contract lengths, it’s best to consider your current situation and energy needs. If you’ve just moved to the state and are still looking for an energy provider, find one with a variable rate monthly plan. The rate for these plans will go up or down based on market conditions, but there is no penalty if you decide to switch providers. If you’re ready to settle in for the long term, contracts vary in length between 3 months and 36 months. When you choose a fixed rate plan with a contract, your rate will remain the same, despite any changes in market conditions, whether good or bad. You could also be penalized if you back out of the contract before it ends.

Just remember that no matter whom your provider is, your electricity quality will always be high quality. And whenever you switch providers, your service will not be interrupted. On your switch date, billing will be transferred from your old provider to your new one, but your power will continue to flow for the whole transfer. Houstonians, compare and shop electric rates from providers with Shop Houston Electricity.

Motion Sensors Save Electricity

A light left on is a big waste of energy. Sometimes we forget to turn them off when we get distracted by something and leave a room, sometimes we don’t realize they’re on, like if the room is already well lit. Children have a tendency to not turn off the lights when they leave their room, bathroom, or playroom, and you may find that there are lights on all around the house because of this. Some parents become frustrated seeing all these lights left on because they know that it’s like throwing money away. Instead of scurrying all over the house turning off lights all day, investing in motion sensor switches will eliminate the hassle altogether.

Motion sensor switches are easy to install, and are relatively cheap. Each switch will cost between $20 and $40 and can be found online through sites like Amazon or at local hardware stores. There are two different types of switches: Occupancy and Vacancy. Occupancy switches turn themselves on as soon as they detect movement. These are ideal for bathrooms and laundry rooms. Vacancy switches do not turn themselves on when they detect movement; you must turn them on like any other standard light switch. The switches are good for children’s bedrooms, as they won’t automatically turn on should you need to check on your child at night and don’t want to wake them. They are also ideal for rooms where pets frequently enter, so they don’t constantly trigger the lights.

Both of these switches will turn themselves off after a set amount of time has passed with no movement. The timeout duration can be set to between 1 minute and 30 minutes, typically. In playrooms, a short timeout time is best, bathrooms could be set to 10 minutes, and bedrooms could be set to 15 minutes. Even if a light is neglected and not turned off, the automatic shutoff will save a lot of energy versus the light staying on for several hours at a time. Installing LED light bulbs in conjunction with these motion switches will further decrease your energy use.

Decreasing energy use is a surefire way to save money on your electricity bills, but switching to a new energy provider can also help. Shop Houston Electricity will help you compare the rates of several energy companies so you can get cheap electricity. You have the power to choose your own Texas electricity provider, so switch now and save!

Home is where the Energy Efficiency is

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Working from home is a great way to cut back on energy use from driving your vehicle and running the AC, computer, lights, and other devices in your office. However, some of that unused energy can get reallocated to your home by keeping your AC on and using your home electronics. Investing in energy efficient Energy Star rated equipment can reduce your energy by 20% to 30% per appliance. Some products are up to 90% more efficient. This will help you keep your home energy bills lower, despite days of heavy electricity usage.

When you are not using a piece of equipment, make sure to turn it off. Unplugging it is also advised, as electronics continually draw electricity even when they are off. Modern computers do not last longer if they remain on constantly, unlike computers from decades past.  If using an electronic device like a computer for a long period of time, set it to a low power mode. This will not only use less electricity, but it will also prolong the life of the device. Constant use builds up heat that can eventually damage your equipment. This heat also contributes to warming your home which causes your AC to run longer. Be sure to keep the lights off in rooms that you aren’t using to also cut back on unwanted electricity use and heat build-up. Using task lighting like desk lamps will further cut back on electricity use as well.

Use rechargeable batteries for electronics like wireless keyboards and mice or powered headphones. You will save a lot of waste by using rechargeable over disposable alkaline batteries. If you are able, use a laptop over a desktop computer as laptops consume less power. You can also unplug a laptop when it is fully charged and use it without drawing power from an electrical socket. Screensavers only prevent burn-in on your monitor screen; they do not reduce electricity usage. Instead of setting a screensaver, set your computer to shut off the monitor after a period of inactivity, and/or have it transition to a low-power sleep mode.

Another way to keep your energy bills low is to switch to a new electricity provider that offers cheap electricity rates in Houston. Shop Houston Electricity gives you the power to choose a new energy provider by helping you sort through all the providers and plans available to you. You can search by cheapest rates, renewable energy programs, and other criteria. The summer months bring increased rates, so switch now to save big in the coming months!

How the NEST Clearly Saves on Electric Bills

With all of the lights, appliances, and electronics in our home, it may come as a surprise to some that the little thermostat on your wall controls about half of our home’s energy use; more than the aforementioned categories combined. Using thermostats that aren’t programmed to your daily schedule could be costing you about $173 each year. Programmable thermostats allow you to schedule when your heating and air conditioning run. By doing this, they can remain off overnight or while you are at work. The Nest thermostat takes this a few steps further.

Nest thermostats are programmed by you “teaching” them when you want the temperature to be set to your preferred level. It learns your schedule based on your habits and will set itself to the appropriate temperatures throughout the day, without any need for personal input. The thermostat also has an “Auto-Away” setting that shuts the system off when you leave your house. This feature works in about 90% of homes, even if you don’t pass by the Nest panel on your way out the door.

The thermostat also has a few tricks up its metaphorical sleeve to help you save even more energy. The Leaf icon appears on your thermostat when your temperature is set to an energy saving temperature. Just a single degree can affect energy usage by 1-5%. The Airwave setting decreases your AC’s running time when the humidity is low. Your home will remain cool, but you’ll also save energy. An auto-tune setting helps you save energy by automatically adjusting the timing of cooling and heating during high use times.

The Nest thermostat is designed to work with several different heating and cooling systems. Most systems are forced air, but the Nest works with radiant and heat pump systems as well. The True Radiant setting keeps your home temperature even, so you’re not raising and lowering the heat trying to stay comfortable. The Heat Pump Balance setting optimizes auxiliary heat systems and allows you to tune them for comfort or savings. Finally, the Nest will alert you when it’s time to change the filters. Clogged filters reduce airflow, which makes the system work harder. Cleaning these filters can improve your energy efficiency by about 5%.

In addition to a Nest thermostat, you can save money on electricity by switching to a new Houston electricity provider. Shop Houston Electricity gives you the power to choose an energy provider that will meet their needs. You can search through plans for the lowest rate, renewable energy usage, and some special perks like e-billing discounts. Saving energy while getting cheap electricity is a great way to keep you feeling comfortable in your home.

Summer Energy Efficiency

Summertime brings with it high energy bills due to the need to keep our homes cool in the intense heat. One of the best ways to keep your energy bills low is to choose a Houston electricity provider with cheap electricity rates. There are also ways to reduce your Houston electricity usage, which will allow you to keep cool while saving energy and money. Most of these methods require no extra cost, just simple, easy to implement actions.

 

  • Thermostats — Keep the thermostat set as high as you can tolerate. Every degree above your preferred temp can save you 1-3% on your AC energy use. Shut the thermostat off at night and open your windows to let in natural, cool air. This will keep your AC from running all night. Consider installing a programmable thermostat to help regulate the temperature of your house year-round. The programmable thermostat will run the AC or heat only when you set it to, so it can remain off overnight or while you are at work.
  • Fans — Ceiling fans can help you feel cool while using less electricity than an AC unit. Using fans in conjunction with the AC will allow you to set the temperature even higher and still remain comfortable.
  • Landscaping — Strategic placement of trees and shrubs can shade your home in the summer, keeping your home’s temperature lower. These plants can also serve as windbreaks, which can reduce the energy use in the winter by 20-40%.
  • Windows — Install windows with an argon gas filling to reduce solar gain and heat loss for the summer and winter, respectively. You can also coat windows with a low-e film to help with this. Also consider installing removable or retractable awnings on southern-facing sides of your home. The shade will reduce the amount of solar gain and provide a shaded area to sit outside. Remove or retract the awnings for the winter to gain the benefit of solar gain.
  • Roof — Reflective roofs can reduce the roof’s temperature by up to 60°F, which will keep your attic space much cooler and reduce your energy needs. A green roof can also be used to reduce roof temperatures while providing a green space where you can plant flowers or foods despite limited property space.
  • Maintenance — Maintain your AC system by cleaning or replacing the filter every 1-3 months and getting a tune-up every 6-12 months. Keep your AC running efficiently to ensure the airflow is high and energy use is low.

 

You can beat the heat and keep greener in your wallet by using these tips and signing up with a Houston electricity company that will provide you with cheap electricity. Shop Houston Electricity helps you find the best deal from competing energy providers and gives you the power to choose the provider and the plan that’s right for you.

Saving on your Electricity Bill

Choosing an electricity provider that offers cheap electricity is a great way to save on your energy bill, but there are a lot of other ways to save. Using less energy and making your home more efficient will net you huge savings that can benefit you year round. Most of these tips are easy to implement and won’t cost you anything. Some of them require replacing inefficient parts of your home. While these will cost you extra money and time, they will often pay for themselves in energy savings.

 

Refrigerators

Keep your refrigerator set between 37° and 40°F and your freezer between 0° and 5°F to maximize efficiency. Keep the fridge as full as possible, but don’t stuff it. There needs to be some gaps for the cooled air to get around. If you have a lot of empty space in your fridge, fill it with gallon jugs of water. Vacuum the condenser coils every three months to keep them working efficiently. Allow foods to cool before storing them in the fridge, and remove all ingredients at once before cooking, to keep the door from being open too long. If your fridge is more than 12 years old, consider upgrading to an energy efficient Energy Star certified model.

 

Cooking

Use the smallest appliance for the job. Microwaves and crock pots use a lot less electricity than ovens and stove tops. When using the oven, remember to keep the door shut. Every time you open it, you can lose up to 50°F of heat. Avoid using the self cleaning function unless you really need it.

 

Cleaning

Scrape off food bits before washing your plates in a dishwasher. Soak or prewash only if the plates really need it. Wash only full loads of dishes or clothes in their respective washers. The machines use the same amount of energy, whether it’s a full load or quarter load. Use only recommended amounts of cleaning agents. Too much can decrease the efficiency of your machine. Clean lint filters after every wash, and let clothes air dry whenever possible.

 

Water Heaters

Water heaters are set to 140°F by default, but lowering that setting to 120°F can save you up to 10% on your energy bill. Insulate the hot water pipes leading from your water heater. Uninsulated pipes lose their heat pretty fast, meaning you get less hot water in your home and waste energy. Every year, drain a few gallons of water out of the water heater to get rid of sediment buildup. This sediment can keep the water from heating efficiently, making the heater work harder.

 

Lights

Clean the dust out of light fixtures. This is primarily a safety precaution to prevent fires, but clean fixtures can prevent overheating of the bulbs which can cause them to break sooner. Use small desk lamps or lighting fixtures for desks and workbenches. This saves you from needing to light an entire room for a small task. When leaving a room, be sure to shut the lights off. Finally, switching to energy efficient CFLs or LEDs will save energy, and these bulbs last much longer than old incandescent bulbs.

 

Heating and Cooling

Set your thermostat a few degrees above (summer) or below (winter) your preferred temperature to save energy. Each degree can amount to 1-3% of savings. Use a humidifier in the winter when it’s dry. This helps you feel warmer than the temperature setting itself. In the summer, use fans in conjunction with the AC. Fans create a wind chill when you are under them, making you feel cooler.

 

Electronics

Laptops use less electricity than desktops, so use those whenever possible. Don’t leave computers running when not in use. This draws a lot of electricity and can also wear out the computer faster. Put them into a sleep mode or turn them off if you won’t be using them for a while. Unplug the electronics in entertainment centers as even though they are off, they still draw electricity. Plugging all of the electronics into a power strip can save you a lot of hassle, as you can just unplug the power strip to shut everything off completely.

 

All in all, just be conscious of the energy you use daily. Take steps to reduce the amount of energy wasted and you will see your savings increase. If you are looking to replace any appliances or electronics, consider purchasing Energy Star certified products, as they are 20-30% more efficient than their counterparts. Remember that in addition to these tips, you have the power to choose your Houston electricity provider. Shop Houston Energy can help you find a provider that offers cheap electricity, giving you even more ways to save.

Digging Deep into Electricity Deregulation

Deregulation is just a fancy term for giving consumers the power to choose their own electricity plan. For over a decade, Texas electricity rates have dropped thanks to this deregulated market. No longer could utilities monopolize the energy market, charging whatever they felt, because consumers couldn’t switch providers. Now, utilities have split into three categories: TDSPs, REPs, and Power Generators. Transmission and Distribution Service Providers (TDSPs) are what remains of the original utility. They are sometimes called the “wires company” or “utility,” but they no longer solely determine the price of electricity.

 

Power Generators

Power generating facilities, like wind and solar farms, coal power plants, nuclear power plants, or natural gas power plants all generate electricity and feed it to the local grid, which is maintained by the TDSP. Aside from when new laws affect the regulations governing electricity generation, such as new environmental restrictions, power generators don’t really directly affect your electricity cost, if you have a locked in rate.

 

TDSP

 The TDSP maintains the power lines that bring electricity to your home, read your meter, and restore power if it is lost. Part of your electricity bill reflects a charge for the service of delivering electricity to you over these lines, but like the power generators, they don’t have much direct effect over your bill.

 

REP

REPs are the newest part of the deregulated market. Retail Electricity Providers directly sell you electricity, based on market conditions. These market conditions affect the cost of your electricity. If trade routes or supply becomes stringent, new or variable rate customers will see higher rates for their month to month bill. When you have a fixed rate plan, your rate won’t go up or down until your contract is up for renewal. Contracts can last between 3 and 36 months, usually. Fixed rate plans give you security against sudden rate hikes due to weather, conflict, or supply disruptions, but should market conditions become more favorable, you are still locked into the higher rate.

 

Plans

Most plans between REPs are the same. Variable rate plans allow you to change at any time, but the rates are generally higher and are directly affected by market conditions. Fixed rate plans are locked in for the duration of your contract, barring any change in policies enacted by the government. Plans can also include energy from renewable sources like solar or wind, and the plan’s Electricity Facts Label (EFL) will tell you what percentage of the electricity comes from renewable sources.
If you’re looking for the cheapest electricity rates in Houston, Shop Houston Electricity will help you in your search. Whether you’re looking for variable rate plans, fixed plans, renewable plans, or just cheap electricity, Shop Houston will scour the competing REPs to find you the best deal, giving you the power to choose the electricity that’s right for you.

Energy Star products lower electric bills

Energy efficiency saw a major upturn beginning in 1992 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started the Energy Star program. The program was designed to take new and existing products and improve their overall energy efficiency. This was to help combat the growing effects seen by pollution and mining for fossil fuels and gas. Energy is a voluntary program, meaning that people have to willingly participate by purchasing Energy Star certified products, but how exactly does a product become Energy Star Certified?

The Energy Star logo may be commonplace to some. You can often find it adorning the box of an appliance or electronic device, but that little logo represents a big improvement. To get this badge of honor, a product needs to be at least 20% more efficient than the minimum energy efficiency standard for that product class. High efficiency Energy Star products are typically 30% more efficient. In addition to the energy efficiency, the products still need to fulfill their intended purpose without losing quality. That is to say, for example, a refrigerator can’t just be 20-30% more efficient, it still has to keep contents cool to the temperature set by the user. The products cannot sacrifice quality for efficiency.

Energy Star rated products often cost more than their uncertified brethren. In this case, the Energy Star version must be able to recoup the cost difference in energy savings within a reasonable amount of time. The Energy Star label also needs to show the energy use difference between the qualified product and other models. This gives consumers the power to choose a product that will most benefit their needs. The methods for improving efficiency do not need to come from a single manufacturer (i.e. the product manufacturer) but can come from third party manufacturers using nonproprietary technology.

There are certain factors that can affect the standards necessary for a product to be Energy Star certified. If the Federal minimum efficiency standard increases, so too will the minimum requirement for certification. As technology improves, Energy Star may set higher goals for already efficient products to be even more efficient. Once products reach efficiency levels over 50%, Energy Star tends to reevaluate them and look for ways to further improve on their efficiency. Product availability, performance, and quality can affect the requirements for certification. This includes incidents where consumers are not seeing the promised energy savings promised by the label.

Coupled with cheap electricity rates in Houston, Energy Star rated products can really save you a bundle on your home energy costs. Shop Houston Electricity will help you sort through Houston electricity companies, finding one with a low rate or one that provides renewable energy for your home.