3 Top Energy-Saving Cities in the US…And What They’re Doing

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Now this list isn’t about just some very good energy-saving cities and how they’re becoming greener. These cities were actually scored by City Scorecard – a total of 34 cities across the nation.

In Texas, we actually faired quite well. Austin ranks #6, Houston #13, Dallas #14, San Antonio #16, El Paso #23, and Fort Worth #26.

Here’s some of the top cities and how they’re pushing energy efficiency to new heights:

  1. Boston

Boston was the top-scoring city in the nation. What this city’s doing is absolutely amazing. They’re doing so many things we can’t list them all here.

But here are some cool things they’re got going:

  • Renew Boston actually sends an energy adviser to your home to perform a Home Energy Assessment – at absolutely no cost to you (you can also qualify for free high-efficiency light bulbs, water saving devices and even get discounts for installing insulation)
  • Mayor Thomas M. Menino made a 2009 order that set energy savings goals for the city
  • All large buildings are required to rate and report their energy use to city officials
  1. Portland

City Scorecard ranked Portland #2.

It’s always nice to see your leadership doing themselves what they’re telling you to do. Portland, for example, holds itself accountable (namely the city and county government) to reduce carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 50% by 2030.

They’re also working hard on reducing energy used by city vehicles. The most energy efficient vehicle must be purchased for the job. 20% of the fleet will be electric vehicles by 2030. All vehicles currently have GPS to make driving the most efficient. There’s also a specific city idle reduction policy that outlines exactly how and when city employees and officials should leave vehicles running on idle.

Now that’s taking energy savings seriously!

  1. Austin

So let’s see what we’re doing right here in Texas. This is a pretty aggressive goal Austin has: reaching zero waste by 2040. That means cutting trash sent to landfills by 90%.

Currently, Austin’s going to start funding more waste-elimination and prevention efforts, use clean production options, and it’s going to encourage retailers to educate consumers and take more products back. The city also offers its employees free bus passes. And it has 33 charging stations available for city staff who drive 33 Toyota Prius vehicles.

So that’s what some of the leading cities in the US are doing to take their energy savings to new heights.

What did you learn from them that you could implement into your own life?

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Top 6 Energy Efficiency Technologies to Be Thankful For

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We were thinking – how could you tie energy savings to Thanksgiving? Usually, you don’t think of this holiday as one where you talk about saving energy.

But keeping in line with the idea of being thankful, here are some energy efficiency technologies you should be thankful for:

  1. LED/CFL Lights

LEDs are coming down in price. And for some, they’re affordable. CFLs, however, are affordable now. CFLs live about 6 times as long as incandescents and cost 80% less to operate each year. LEDs are exponentially better – they live 41x longer than incandescents and cost 90% less to run for the year.

Wow, now that’s some nice savings there!

  1. Programmable Thermostats

Remember the “set it and forget it” old ones? Now you don’t waste AC or heat all day long. Wish we had actual numbers to crunch here, but undoubtedly they help you save a lot.

  1. All Major Appliances and Systems

Every one of these has increased in efficiency significantly over the years. Whenever you get a new system or appliance, they’re amazingly energy efficient.

Here they are, ranked in order of which uses the most energy first:

  • Heating system
  • Air conditioning
  • Hot water heater
  • Dehumidifier
  • Refrigerator

So if you need some serious savings, see which of those you own that’s also the oldest, and replace it first.

  1. Low-Flow Showerheads

Some showerheads reduce your water bill by up to $250 per year! You have to carefully research them, though, because not all reduce your water usage by the same amount.

  1. Learning Thermostats

Even though you can get programmable thermostats, learning ones are the next step. These thermostats have computers that learn your heating and cooling schedule. Then they program themselves to adjust to your lifestyle. Nest makes one and claims it pays for itself in 5 years (conservatively), and that you can see a reduction of 20% in your heating and cooling bills.

You can even program Nest’s learning thermostat with your smartphone, so you can manage your heating and cooling system from across the country if you want.

  1. Windows

Again, we wish we had numbers comparing the energy efficiency of windows of today, and 10, 20, and 30 years ago. That would give a precise indication of how much money you save with them now versus then.

But, any reasonable person would say you’re saving a pretty nice amount of money when you install them in your home.

Those Are Our Thoughts…What are Yours?

Energy efficiency changes so fast, and there’s so many new developments that maybe you’ve stumbled on something we haven’t talked about today.

Did we miss something?

What energy efficiency improvements are you grateful for?

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Don’t Fall for Energy Saving Marketing Hype

American business – sometimes it does great things for consumers. And then others, well, some not so good things happen.

Marketers know you love to save money, and unfortunately some of them will tell you anything to get it.

What is some of the great marketing hype in recent years that you shouldn’t trust?

Here are a few things:

  1. The Toyota Prius Saves Energy

Now if you factor in just the use of this car itself, it does save energy. But some reports, and even the company, noted the plant Toyota uses to make this car used more total energy than it saves over its lifetime.

Whenever you have to buy something new, keep in mind it took some energy to make it too.

  1. New Windows

Windows do leak and cost you energy throughout the year. However, they don’t cause the biggest leaks. And if you install new windows, you won’t experience huge energy savings.

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In fact, it takes 20-70 years for your new windows to pay for themselves. Use insulation, weather stripping, or repair them instead.

  1. Installing Solar Panels to Produce Energy for Your Home

Now just like new windows, solar panels do save energy for your home. But the payoff from a financial perspective can be long down the road.

Plus, contractors can be tricky with their pricing. And again with these, there’s questions about whether they actually save energy, as they take a lot of it to produce.

Don’t run out the door and get them now. But do keep watching them in the future. Manufacturers are finding more ways to produce them efficiently.

  1. Newer Homes are More Energy Efficient than Older Ones

Some are and some are not. It really depends on how they’re designed. If you’re thinking about buying a new home, don’t assume it’s more efficient than your current one.

Ask the realtor about efficiency. Do some research on what you should find and inspect the new home yourself.

Don’t take whatever you hear at face value.

  1. Getting a New HVAC System Makes You More Efficient

Again, you may or may not realize energy savings. You will get some savings right away. But one problem is that many systems are installed improperly, leading to up to 33% wasted energy.

Make sure you know the installing contractor well so you guarantee yourself full energy savings.

Stay Safe Out There!

If you pay attention to these big things, you’ll realize the best savings. Make sure you do your research, and only work with contractors you trust with your life.

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The Spooktacular Halloween Energy Savings Guide

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Don’t let your energy bill give you a scare this year!!

It’s okay to have fun and use a little extra energy. But don’t drive yourself into financial difficulty while doing it!

Instead, follow these energy saving tips:

  1. Exorcise All Energy Vampires

Did you know your home is loaded with phantoms and vampires year round? No, not the kind you’re thinking of right now.

But, “Energy Vampires” are appliances and electronic that drain energy even when turned off or not in use. They cost you around $200 each year!

Unplug toasters, coffee makers, chargers, and televisions. Or, you can also get smart power strips that turn them off automatically.

  1. Use Candles Instead…But With Caution

You’re guaranteed your lights won’t cause fires, but candles can. Plus, they’re a little more authentic to the idea of Halloween. Blow them out at night.

Is that much work or does it make you worry? Use LED lights instead.

  1. Close Your Chimney Flue When Not in Use

Who knows? Witches, bats, or gargoyles could get in! Worse yet, they’ll bring with them lots of cold air.

Instead of letting all that come in and running up your energy bills, close your chimney flue when not in use.

And speaking of the chimney, you can also save yourself some energy by using a wood fire to heat your home from time to time.

  1. Use Outdoor Solar Lighting

Dracula hates the light! Keep him at bay with solar lighting. Oh, and if you go the solar route, you only use the sun’s energy to keep this lighting working too.

You can use it to light your pathways, hallways, or for security purposes, or on freestanding lamp posts.

  1. Install Low-Flow Water Fixtures

Some legends say water protects you from ghosts and witches. Don’t you remember how the Wicked Witch of the West met the end of her days when Dorothy splashed her?

Make sure you use your water as efficiently as possible by auditing all your spigots and faucets for efficient flow. The average home gets around 25-60% savings with low-flow fixtures.

  1. Keep Your Kids Safe

Many myths of old believe demons love to steal little children. Empower them – and show them how to stay safe with shakable flashlights.

No need to buy batteries anymore! And if you’re really obsessed with energy savings, get them shakable LED flashlights.

Have Fun this Halloween!

Above all, have an enjoyable (and safe) time with your family this Halloween. And teach them a little about energy savings at the same time!

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2014’s Greatest Furnace Buyer’s Guide: Part 2

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How much will a new furnace cost you, including installation?

That really depends on your unique circumstances. Furnaces are often sold through contractors and prices normally don’t include installation, so it’s hard to easily get accurate quotes.

However, you can try this online service. You can also contact local contractors and ask for bids.

If you can connect your furnace to your existing ductwork, costs run around $3,000 – $4,500 or so. If that won’t work, expect to pay more.

Here’s some of the top furnaces, as rated and reviewed by TopTenReviews.com:

  1. Amana AMVC95/ACVC9

This one has a 95 AFUE rating, make it one of the highest efficiency furnaces you can get. It has a patented dual-heat exchanger that draws the most heat out of the least gas. And the heat exchanger, the most critical part of your furnace, has a lifetime warranty.

Think of it this way: you stay warm without paying incredibly high energy bills!

  1. Bryant 315AAV

The benefit of this furnace is that it’s very small and works well for homes and condos around 1200 square feet. It also has a variable speed motor which uses less electricity (saving you more) and avoids huge temperature swings larger units may cause.

For milder winters and smaller homes, it’s the perfect match. It has an AFUE of 80% and saves you around $250 each year.

  1. Coleman MG9S100C20MP

Few furnaces are as compact and efficient at heating large spaces as the Coleman MG9S100C20MP. With an AFUE of 95.5, it’s hard to find any furnace that saves you more money.

It works well for heating homes 2000 square feet and larger. The Coleman moves air quickly throughout your home, which is what makes it so efficient. This also avoids large temperature swings.

It’s designed for natural gas, but easily converts to propane.

  1. Rheem Super Quiet 80

Shhh!

As its name suggests, the Rheem Super Quiet is designed to run in almost total silence. The case comes equipped with additional soundproofing to make life a little easier for you.

The top plate also has a more solid sound barrier for added silence. You also get a 5-year warranty on all parts and a 12-year warranty on the heat exchanger. It even has a control board that shows the source of system problems, making it easier and less costly for contractors to repair for you.

Enjoy Your More Energy Efficient (And Maybe Quieter) Winter!

Those are some of the top choices for furnaces. There’s plenty more available too, so don’t feel limited if you think none of these are a good fit.

For more tips to save money on heating and electricity, visit http://paylesspower.com. Offering cheap energy plans to suit both personal and business needs, Payless Power is a company committed to providing people not only with some of the best cheap electricity rates in Texas, but also with helpful customer service. Visit the website to learn more about how to save electricity at home, or connect with the online community on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Pinterest.

Contact Us and Start Saving!

We would love to hear from you! Contact our customer care center at (866) 963-9353 or fill out this form and we will get in touch with you shortly.
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2014’s Greatest Furnace Buyer’s Guide: Part 1

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Replacing your furnace isn’t something you want to think about, but you have to do it. It’s costly, although the long-term energy savings cancel out much of the cost in the long run.

Let’s start with a simple question: how do you know when it’s time to replace your furnace?

There’s no specific answer to your question. You should get 20-30 years out of most of today’s models. Once you hit the 15-year mark, that’s at least time to start thinking about replacing your furnace.

The EPA says the average new Energy Star gas furnace saves $94 in energy costs each year, while an oil furnace saves around $66. If you have extra money and love to be efficient, that’s another time to consider replacing your furnace.

Other key signs, according to home improvement expert Bob Vila:

  • Rooms in your home heat unevenly
  • You have humidity problems when you didn’t before
  • Your furnace rattles or makes other obnoxious noises
  • If you notice obvious rust around your furnace
  • If your energy bills increase even though usage stays the same

What Size Do You Need? 

Get a furnace that’s too large, and it wastes energy heating your home. If it’s too small, your home doesn’t heat up on those dreadfully cold days.

It’s really up to a professional to pick the right size for your home. Manufacturers make them in increments of 40,000, 50,000, 60,000, 80,000, and 100,000 – BTU capacities (and more).

Make sure your contractor uses the Air Conditioning Contractors of America Manual to properly size your furnace.

Electric Furnaces Versus Heat Pumps

Now electric furnaces can be greatly efficient. The thing is electricity is much more expensive than any fossil fuel, so you’ll end up paying more for energy anyway.

If you simply have to use electric, get a heat pump instead.

How is Efficiency Measured? 

For furnaces, the key metric is the AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating. All new furnaces must post this rating, and you usually see it on a big yellow label on the side of the furnace.

AFUE ratings range from 80 – 98.5%. The percentage is the ratio of the fuel available that’s converted to heat.

You should get a furnace with an energy efficiency rating of 90% or more – called a “high-efficiency” furnace. In Texas, where our winter isn’t brutally cold like it is in the Northern states, don’t worry about spending big dollars on the highest efficiency furnaces. If you do live in Northern States, the higher efficiencies of 95-98.2% make more sense.

Well, that’s it for now – stay tuned for part 2, where we cover some other tips and top brands!

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How to Reduce Moisture and Humidity in Your Home

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Yes, higher humidity does decrease your energy efficiency. It makes the air inside your home warmer, and your HVAC is going to have to cool it down.

Now, moisture can be very tricky. If a certain room in your home has a specific spot that’s moist, you’re probably dealing with a leak. Those are tough to find because water can hang to joists and pipes and run a long ways from the true source of the leak.

But if it’s a whole room that’s affected, or even just an entire wall, then you’re most likely looking at a humidity problem.

For leaks, you’re probably best off having a professional take care of the repair.

But you can reduce humidity on your own.

How to Combat Indoor Humidity

When moisture sneaks its way into your home, that causes a rise in humidity levels.

So, the first step is to make sure you take every measure possible to prevent moisture from entering your home.

  1. Prevention Steps

If you have a crawl space with a dirt floor, cover it with a polyethylene ground cover. Make sure you have dry soil and no standing water in the area. Use fans, if you need to, to help you dry out the area.

Make sure your dryer duct vents directly outside. If it doesn’t do that, you actually have a dangerous situation that can cause a fire and also causes high humidity.

  1. Run Exhaust Fans

The kitchen and bathroom fans are there for a reason – to help let out obnoxious odors and excess humidity.

Did you know if left in a room for 24-48 hours, humidity levels above 55% can cause mold and bacteria to grow? That’s just another reason to keep it in check.

Run your exhaust fans whenever you have to cook or take a shower to keep that excess moisture out.

  1. Use a Dehumidifier 

If your indoor humidity levels like to hover at 65% or more, then it’s time to buy a dehumidifier. A portable one will do the job, but you can buy a whole-home dehumidifier if you have the budget available.

  1. Grow Plants that Absorb Air Moisture

Some plants, like Boston ferns, remove moisture from the air. Not only are you reducing your humidity levels and energy consumption, but you’re helping the environment by removing more carbon dioxide and adding more oxygen too!

  1. Don’t Boil Water on Especially Humid Days

Some of that boiled water turns into steam, which then gets absorbed into the rest of your home’s air. If it’s really humid outside, some of that will get into your home no matter how hard you try. Don’t increase your humidity levels even further by boiling water!

Reducing humidity is probably one of the lesser-known energy efficiency tips. But your energy bills, and maybe your health, will thank you for it.

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How to Prep Your Home for Winter Energy Savings

Is it really time to start thinking about winter again? It is!

And the earlier you get prepared, the more you’ll save.

You only have a limited amount of time though, so here are some of the top things you should do:

  1. Get a Tight Air Envelope

Energy Impact Illinois says you can lose up to 35% of your air outside if you do nothing at all. The good news is it’s actually pretty easy to find leaks.

All you do is light a candle. As you move it around areas of your home where seals are made, you’ll notice it flickering. That means you have a breeze in those areas.

Make sure you check places like your window and door frames, dryer vents, baseboards, any areas around window AC units, and seal them off.

  1. Insulate Your Attic

If you have an older home, this could be your most significant cost and energy savings source. What you need is enough insulation to reach up to the top of the joists in your attic. It costs between $500 – $1000 for the typical home.

  1. When Was the Last Time You Checked Your Ductwork?

If your ductwork is old, the seals around it may have deteriorated to the point where they leak. Energy Star says you can lose up to 20% of your heat because of this.

You’ll have to hire a pro to check the ductwork in your walls. But you can look at the ductwork that’s exposed. To guarantee leaking doesn’t happen:

  • Buy HVAC foil tape (not duct tape – it doesn’t seal as well), and wrap it around all joints you can see
  • Patch holes with a fiberglass weave, and seal those with a mastic air duct sealant
  1. Close Off that Attic

If you have pull-down stairs, you can buy an “attic tent.” It does cost at least $200 or so though. You could also go the cheaper route, which involves buying foam installation pads ($7), attaching them to the back of the hatch, and then applying weather stripping tape ($3) along the edges of your attic panel.

  1. Have a Professional HVAC Inspection

You should do this before winter and summer. HVAC pros can not only get you fine-tuned for energy efficiency, but they can perform preventative maintenance that saves you on future repairs too. It’s well worth the minimal investment you pay.

Good Luck This Winter!

Hopefully it’s not too rough for you – but at least you know these tips will help make your energy bills more affordable.

For more tips on saving money and electricity, visit http://paylesspower.com. Offering cheap energy plans to suit both personal and business needs, Payless Power is a company committed to providing people not only with some of the best cheap electricity rates in Texas, but also with helpful customer service. Visit the website to learn more about how to save electricity at home, or connect with the online community on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Pinterest.

Contact Us and Start Saving!

We would love to hear from you! Contact our customer care center at (866) 963-9353 or fill out this form and we will get in touch with you shortly.
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Save Energy with These School Supplies

It’s not all about your home when it comes to saving energy. The best way to save energy long-term is to teach the current generation the value of it and how to do it.

So check out this list of cool supplies that make saving energy a blast for the younger people in your life:

  1. Bedol’s Water-Powered Alarm Clock

It doesn’t use one bit of electricity. All that’s used is water – and that’s it. It’s cheap (just $19). All you have to do is fill the tank with water, and then it keeps the time with incredible accuracy for 8-12 weeks.

There’s even a built-in memory chip, so that when you change the water, your time will still be spot-on.

  1. Laptop Lunch Bento Boxes

Do you like to use plastic or paper bags for your lunch? Not only is disposing of them all the time damaging to the environment, but it’s costly for your budget too.

These particular lunch boxes are made from recyclable materials. And if you have a business-oriented mind, they pay for themselves in under 3 weeks.

These lunchboxes don’t let all your food heap together – they have separate compartments to keep everything apart.

  1. The Eco Staple-Free Stapler

Can a stapler really be staple-free? It can now with this stapler. Rather than using metal staples which end up in our nation’s landfills, it cuts a thin paper strip that it uses to stitch paper together. It can handle up to four pages. You and your children also won’t get injured if you accidentally “staple” your fingers.

  1. Vampire Proof Chargers

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Remember how vampire energy loss is when you have a fully charged device, or it’s disconnected from the charger – but the charger keeps using energy? This charger completely eliminates that. Now you don’t have to remember to plug into a power strip and turn the whole thing off.

  1. Array Solar Backpacks

What could you possibly need with a solar backpack? Set it in the sun for a few hours and you can use the energy to charge your smartphone, tablet PC, or laptop.

Who’d Have Thought Saving Energy Could be So Fun?

All of these tips are a blast to implement in your (or your child’s) life. Consider how you can teach your children to save energy with them, and make sure you browse the internet for more fun and novel ideas.

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If Everyone Saved Energy This Way…

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You know all those little things you do to save energy, like turning the lights off when you’re not going to be in the room for the rest of the day?

Not all people do that. But if they did, our nation as a whole would save billions of dollars and reduce its carbon footprint. And we’d all still be able to live comfortable lives, without having to make ourselves miserable just to save energy.

In fact, a report by McKinsey & Company says we could reduce our energy consumption by 23% and eliminate $130 billion in wasted funds by 2020 just by taking some simple, practical steps.

To put it in perspective, $130 billion would rank as the 37th largest corporation in America, just a couple spots ahead of AT&T. So that’s a pretty significant amount of waste we’re talking about here.

What are some of the easy ways to save energy that everyone, maybe even you, should be doing to make a difference?

Here are a few:

  • Residential landlords could install newer air conditioners for their tenants
  • New homeowners don’t ask about the R-value of the home’s insulation
  • Many people won’t pay new money for a washer or dryer because the savings are long-term, not immediate
  • Consumers should check their tires every 3 months to ensure they are properly inflated
  • HVAC air filters should be replaced regularly
  • Clothes should be washed in cold water whenever possible
  • Use public transportation whenever possible, or carpool and find other ways of limiting your drive time
  • Recycle all your plastic and aluminum waste
  • Avoid driving your vehicle roughly – braking fast, accelerating hard, making quick lane changes, not using cruise control
  • Your clothes dryer most likely wastes energy because energy efficiency standards for it have not been updated for more than 30 years

Why Don’t More People Make These Changes?

The McKinsey report adds that efficiency is fragmented millions and billions of different, small ways. To realize energy savings, people in most cases would have to make a financial investment that pays itself back slowly over time. And the savings any one individual realizes for themselves generally aren’t that significant.

So, to make the change happen, you really have to think beyond yourself and of the world at large.

Regardless of how you choose to save energy, it will come back to you in some way, shape, or form. But more importantly, you’ll be doing your part to reduce our nation’s problem with wasting energy.

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