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Free Energy Saving Tips from The Green Detective

Save Energy While You Drink Tea

If you use your stove-top to boil water for tea (or coffee), you are using more energy than you need. All the moreso if you are making just one cup at a time. I’m not a big one for pushing a particular product by a particular manufacturer, but when there’s one that’s good, well… In this case, what I refer to is the Sunbeam Hot Shot. Ours has lasted a couple of years now, and still going, but that said, it is a bit on the flimsy, made-in-china side of things. On the other hand, it is inexpensive ($14 at time of writing), and more to the point, it is the most energy efficient way to boil a cup of water (short of using a woodstove that is burning anyway). The Hot Shot can boil up to about 14 ounces at a time. It takes only a little over 1-1/2 minutes for a full 14 ounces, and in that time (according my trusty watts meter) uses only about 40 watts of electricity. That meshes with the label which states 1450 Watts per hour, which at 1.5 minutes, is equal to about 36 Watts. Compare this to an electric stove-top, which uses about 1250 Watts on high, for a 6″ element, for the five to six minutes that it takes the element to heat up and boil the water. That would be about 125 Watts. Over three times the energy use! If you boil water, say, 4 times a day, and your electricity rate is $0.12 per KWh, this would equate to an annual savings of $15. In other words,...

3 easy ways to lower your electricity bill

Heating and Cooling are the biggest energy draws on a typical home. But do you know how much energy your home consumes when you’re not heating or cooling it? It’s still probably a lot, and this is the place you can have the biggest effect on your utility bills with the least effort, and with little or no compromise on your quality of life. The average American home uses about half of its total energy use for heating and cooling. The other half is called baseload energy, and it is the energy to power your fridge, water heater, lights, TV, computer, range, and whatever else you use more or less every day throughout the year. Many homes I’ve inspected have baseloads much higher than 50% of their total energy use. Yours might, too, especially if you have one or more older fridges, and a water heater that hasn’t had it’s efficiency maximized. There’s a few ways you can find out. The easiest, but least accurate, is to just check your utility bill during a month when neither heating nor cooling are being used – usually that means somewhere in the fall or spring. Another way is to use my Energy Checkup Tool. You can check it out at www.enerchek.com/analyze-your-utility-bill/ Anyway, here are a few tips that will start saving you pretty good, right away… (1) If you have more than one fridge running, consider getting rid of the second fridge. Most houses I’ve inspected that have a second fridge, use for that purpose an old inefficient fridge – often the one that was replaced by the newer fridge in...

Save Money With Your Air Conditioner

So, here in SW Virginia, we’re just starting our first really warm week. Summer has perhaps finally arrived. And with that comes that heavy energy load we lovingly call Air Conditioners. Now if you live in a very dry part of the country, what I’m going to say here doesn’t really apply to you. For you I say only, get rid of that AC and go for an Evaporative Cooler. Does the job at a tiny fraction of the cost of an AC. For all the rest of you who live in areas that get hot and moderately or very humid, this information can be very helpful. The fact is that the real benefit of an air conditioner isn’t so much to cool the air but to dehumidify your home. Knowing this could save you loads of money this summer. The dehumidifying function that your Air Conditioner performs is what really makes you feel nice, and for that, you don’t need to set your thermostat anywhere near as low as you might think. I’ve been into so many homes where they insist that 74 degrees is what they need to stay nice and cool, and hey, if that’s your truth, then power to you (and high utility bills, too!). But the truth is, that same home with a thermostat set to, maybe, 78 degrees would be just as comfortable. It depends on where you live and what the outside humidity is, so you might have to play with it some, but if you give it a try, I’ll bet you won’t regret it – especially when your utility bills...

Do I really need to change my furnace filter?

The short answer is YES, do it. Every month is good, or at least whenever it starts to get clogged up with dirt and pet hair. Studies have shown that changing your filter does not improve the efficiency of your furnace (although that still seems wrong to me). What changing your filter does definitely do is to relieve the strain on your furnace from struggling to push air through a clogged filter. That strain will eventually lead to the untimely death of your furnace as the blower motor pushes against a pressure it wasn’t designed to deal with. That’s why you change your furnace filter. And yes, it does help to keep the air in your home a little more dust-free, but really that is only a secondary effect. Now that you realize how important it is – and did I mention how easy it is, too? – to change that furnace filter, maybe now you’re wondering where it is? Well, it might take a little searching but it’s almost certainly in one of two possible places. The most likely is behind the return grill, which is a large metal grill in a wall or ceiling (maybe your floor). Sizes vary but roughly in the range of 2 foot by 2 foot. You might have more than one return grill in your home, so check them all. If it’s not there, it’ll be at your furnace. Look for a little slot at the return plenum. That’s where your cooled air returns to be recirculated. It should feel cooler to the touch than the supply side, where the newly heated...

How low is too low to setback my thermostat?

If you don’t know, a programmable thermostat allows you to ‘setback’ your home’s temperature for the nighttime while everyone is in bed, or during the day while everyone is away at work or school. So how low is too low? That all depends on what kind of furnace you have. If you have a combustion furnace – which means it uses natural gas, propane, kerosene or fuel oil – then studies show that there is no setting that is too low, so long as it’s not so low that your pipes freeze. Really it’s more a question of how long does it take your home to heat back up to where you want it? You can let your home get, say, down to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, while everyone is out of the house. Then just make sure that you set it to heat back up with enough time so that when you turn that front door key, you walk into a nice comfortable home. However, if you heat your home with a heat pump, the same is not necessarily true. Setbacks for a heat pump shouldn’t usually be more than 3 or 4 degrees. That’s because of two things. One is that the heat produced from a heat pump is much cooler than that produced by a combustion furnace, so it’ll take much longer for your home to warm back up. The other is that most heat pumps use a secondary heat source for when the heat pump just can’t produce enough heat fast enough to satisfy the thermostat setting. That secondary heat is usually an electric strip (just...

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