Have You Ever Had a Professional Home Energy Audit?

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You can catch the easy energy savings mistakes on your own. But there’s some big ones only pros can find. Learn more in this post from Payless Power.

What do you get when you talk to most HVAC contractors?

They want to sell you a new AC system, a furnace, or a maintenance plan for the ones you already have.

There’s nothing wrong with doing that.

But they might be missing out on some other important areas of efficiency in your home that need to be checked.

That’s where a professional home energy audit comes in.

You see, you can be doing everything else right – turning down the AC when you’re not home, using a programmable thermostat, having energy-efficient appliances – but still be quite inefficient.

What a Good Home Energy Audit Checks

Not every home energy audit is the same.

But whoever you do use should check for things like:

  • The quality of the insulation (if any) in your attic
  • The number of air returns throughout your home
  • Whether the AC/furnace you have is the right size for your home
  • How well your attic/home’s air envelope is sealed

So rather than just sell you a new AC unit, which may improve your efficiency a little, they check for all of these other factors that could affect your home’s energy efficiency. And they make a huge difference in your energy – sometimes 20%, 30%, or even much more than that!

And you should have this done even if you own a brand new home. In many cases, contractors cut corners on how they build new homes to increase their profit margins. Even homes that are supposed to be the “model of efficiency” can in reality be highly inefficient!

For whatever reason, home energy audits don’t get marketed heavily and aren’t as well known in the general public.

But as you can see, they can make quite a difference for many homes. They also often pay back for themselves within the year (but no guarantees here).

In some cases, they’re totally free too, so you’ve got nothing to lose by having one performed.

We don’t have professional relationships with other organizations that offer these, so we can’t advise who you should use to do this task.

However, you can visit the Texas Home Energy Rating Organization website (or call them at 512.445.5538) to find contractors local to your area who perform these audits.

For more ways to save money and energy, sign up for Payless Power at http://paylesspower.com.

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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Test Your Knowledge with this Energy Savings Quiz

535316933 Do you know the best ways to save energy? Find out in this post from Payless Power.

All right, smarty pants.

Here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is.

Let’s get right to the energy savings quiz:

1. How much energy that you use in your home gets used by heating and cooling?

  1. 1/3
  2. ½
  3. 2/3
  4. All

2. Which of these uses about half of our nation’s energy? 

  1. Cars and trucks
  2. Commercial buildings
  3. Personal electronic devices
  4. Smartphones

3. How has energy consumption changed in America since the 1970s? 

  1. 50% increase
  2. 25% increase
  3. It’s about the same
  4. 25% less
  5. 50% less

4. If you turn down the thermostat by 5-10 degrees at night when you’re not home, how much can you cut your energy costs?

  1. Less than 10%
  2. 10-20%
  3. 21-30%
  4. More than 30%

5. How much electricity do wind farms provide to the US? 

  1. .5%
  2. 1%
  3. 5%
  4. 10%

6. Which region requires the best fuel efficiency for vehicles? 

  1. European Union
  2. United States
  3. Canada
  4. China

7. True or false: wind turbines kill more birds than domestic cats.

  1. True
  2. False

8. How much money can you save per year by switching out 5 incandescent bulbs for 5 CFLs? 

  1. $10
  2. $25
  3. $45
  4. $75

9. What’s the earliest year a building must be built to be certified Energy-Star energy-efficient? 

  1. 1999
  2. 2005
  3. 2010
  4. It doesn’t matter

10. What should you do to drive so that you conserve fuel the best? 

  1. Properly inflate your car’s tires
  2. Never let your car idle for too long
  3. Always drive around the speed limit
  4. Use fuel additives and gas-saving devices to reduce fuel use

The Answers

  1. B – about ½
  2. B – Commercial and industrial buildings
  3. C – It’s roughly the same
  4. B – 10-20%
  5. B – 1%, but it’s expected to grow in the future
  6. A – European Union, which requires fuel economy of 40 mpg. China requires 35 mpg, while the US is at 26 mpg.
  7. B – It’s false. In Britain, domestic cats kill 55 million birds per year. In Denmark, the country generates 9% of its electricity from wind turbines and estimates 30,000 bird deaths annually.
  8. C – $45 – CFLs cost less and last longer.
  9. D – It doesn’t matter. The Cambridge Savings Bank in Cambridge, Massachusetts is Energy Star certified and was built in 1820.
  10. C – Always drive the speed limit. Police let you get away with 10 mph over the limit, but that uses the most gas.

How’d you Do? Score Yourself

Let’s take a look at how you did. Score yourself one point for each answer you get right:

  • 9-10 right – Wow, maybe you should have written this quiz
  • 7-8 right – You’ll be doing a nice job at saving energy this year
  • 5-6 right – Study up on energy savings a little, you could make some significant savings with just a few changes
  • 0-4 right – Well, the only way to go from here is up!
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News Flash: Payless Power Customers Consume 27% Less Energy

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Because of their ability to monitor their electricity usage daily, Payless Power customers use 27% less electricity than average residential Texas consumer.

The headline is true – the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has found Texas customers use 1,168 kWh of electricity per month during 2012. Here’s a link to their Excel spreadsheet that shows this statistic, as well as average usage for all 50 states.

However, the average Payless Power customer uses 852 kWh of electricity per month. To be precise, it comes out to 27.05% less energy used. So that’s a 27% lower electric bill annually!

Now, let’s compute that to how much money our average customer saves:

  • Going back to the EIA table, the average Texas customer pays 10.98 cents per kWh
  • Multiply .1098 by the average monthly electric usage (1168) to get the average monthly Texas electric bill of $128.25
  • That’s $1539 annually
  • Payless Power customers use 27% less energy than the average consumer through better technology and daily notifications. At the average cost of 10.98¢, a Payless Power customer could save as much as $415.53 annually.
  • And divide $415.53 by 12 to get a monthly savings of $34.63 for the typical Payless Power customer

When we talked to customers, they said the same thing over and over again. That statement being that they were able to monitor their usage on a daily basis, which helped them to control their costs.

One of our customers, Allan of Fort Worth, TX sums it up well when he says, “I love the daily text messages!  It makes it so easy to be sure that my family is being energy conscious.”

Surveying Prepaid Electric Savings Around the Nation

Another prepaid electric provider, which we won’t name, claims prepaid electric customers are enjoying energy savings of 5-14%.

There’s also a movement in Arizona called the Salt River Project. Its goal is to help low-income customers reduce energy usage and stay current on their bills through prepaid electricity. However, their results were a little mixed, and may have ended up actually costing their customers slightly more money.

MJM, a prepaid electric provider in Illinois, claims customers around the nation experience a 10-12% reduction in their electric bills.

So at the end of the day, it looks like a 27% savings on your monthly electric bill is well above the national average.

Are you ready to be Payless Power’s next customer and save big?

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Save a Few Hamiltons with This President’s Day Energy Efficiency Guide

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How would past Presidents have saved energy in this day and age? Find out what they might have done in this post from Payless Power.

Remember the good old days when government operated on balanced budgets and did everything in its power to promote fairness and justice for average American citizens?

Neither do we!

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had great leaders. Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt all are among the greatest presidents in American history.

And while they never had access to all the technological conveniences and sources of energy we do, they probably would have operated as efficiently as possible.

We don’t know what they would do in our day and age, but here’s some things that might have crossed their minds:

1. Turn off the DVR When Not in Use

There are many forms of “vampire energy” out there – appliances that continue to use power when you don’t actually use them. DVRs are one of many culprits, and you can bet our wise leaders would have turned these off when not using them.

2. Save an Andrew Jackson ($20) Annually by Turning Off Your…

Computers and printer when you won’t be using them in the next 2 hours. This energy savings seems so small, but it really adds up by the end of the year.

3. Use Gas the Same Way You Did When it Was Expensive

It’s so tempting to do a lot more driving because gas prices have fallen to about 80% of what they were 6 months ago. But any of these prudent presidents would surely have advised that you continue to use gas just as wisely as you always did.

4. Think about Using Solar Heat

Although it’s outside the range of affordability for many Americans, it’s quickly coming down in price to install. What forward-thinking President wouldn’t use this? You can use it as a supplement to, and possibly a replacement of, your current heating source.

5. What about a Reflective Coating on Your Roof? 

Not only does it reflect heat away from your home so it doesn’t get too hot during the upcoming warmer months, but it also prevents the typical expansion and contraction that damages roofs.

6. Don’t Close Heat Registers in Unused Rooms

At first, this seems to make sense, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t the heat then flow to all the other rooms in your home?

Unfortunately, your forced-air furnace isn’t that intelligent. It keeps working at the same pace because it can’t sense you closed your register. Plus, the cold air in your other rooms escapes into the rest of your house anyway.

That’s not a decision any of these Presidents would have made!

We can only guess that they might have used these methods for saving energy. With their vision and wisdom, who knows what they might have done in this day and age?

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The Valentine’s Day Guide to Energy Savings

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Can you really mix romance and energy savings without killing the mood this Valentine’s Day? You can. Find out how in this post from Payless Power.

You’d think it would take all your creative juices to come up with a way to combine Valentine’s Day with energy savings…and you’d be right!

But we’ve managed to pull it off because energy savings and efficiency are our mental obsession 365 ¼ days per year…

With that in mind, here’s what you should think with energy savings when Valentine’s Day comes around each year:

  1. Ladies – Watch your Blow Dryers!

If you don’t already have one, buy a low wattage blow dryer. Or if you like to be super-economical, skip it entirely. Let your true beauty shine through as your hair air-dries.

  1. Gents – How about a Candlelight Dinner?

What puts women in a better mood than pleasing aromas? Not too many things. And a candlelight dinner is much more energy-efficient than using gas to drive your car around for a night out on the town. Plus, you don’t have to turn your lights on.

  1. Hug Your Water Pipes with Insulation

This is a great tip, but it doesn’t have anything with how you should treat your spouse or partner on Valentine’s Day. If you think it will, there’s a good chance you’ll be striking out fellas.

As you wrap your pipes, make sure you do the same for your water heater (the biggest energy-user of all appliances in your home).

  1. Enjoy an Evening in Front of the Fireplace

Forget the hot tub! Turn off your lights and television and sit and watch the fire with your loved one. Not only do you save some energy, but you get to reconnect you’re your significant other and enjoy some genuine quality time, which is much harder to come by these days.

  1. Try These Energy-Efficient Gift Ideas

As nice as smartphones are, the one downside is they use an awful lot of battery power. Why not get your sweetie a solar smartphone charger? Or how about a soft fleece blanket that keeps her warm while you turn the thermostat down a few degrees?

  1. If You Make Her Dinner, Do This

It’s a simple trick. If she, and maybe you too, don’t finish supper, don’t pop it in the fridge right away. But don’t let it sit out all night either so you don’t get on her bad side!

Do let your food cool thoroughly before you put it in the fridge, so your fridge doesn’t waste energy.

Men, remember that whatever you choose to do this Valentine’s Day, always put her first. You might be able to save $3 on energy efficiency, but it’s much more worth it to have your spouse know you love her.

 

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The 2015 Furnace Filter Buyer’s Guide

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Having the right filter for your furnace is key to maximizing your heating efficiency. Learn the ins and outs of buying filters in this post.

For furnace filters, the first thing you have to understand is MERV. It’s short for “Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.” In plain English, it tells you how effective your furnace’s air filter is.

With MERV, ratings range from 1-16, and the higher the rating, the less contaminants that pass through. The types of dust include things like pollen, carpet fibers, mold spores, pet dander, and bacteria.

Does a Higher MERV Mean the Filter’s Better?

Not necessarily. If it did, there’d be no sense in rating MERV from 1-16 because then you’d just get the #16 filter wouldn’t you?

A higher MERV has smaller pores for letting dust and other contaminants flow through. But, that also means lesser air gets through. If you have too much for your furnace, you can actually cut the air flow excessively and reduce air quality.

Some furnace manufacturers include the right MERV in your furnace’s manual, so you know which one to use for your furnace. Others don’t – ask an HVAC professional for a recommendation if that’s the case for you.

Whatever you do, the higher the MERV, the more often you need to change your filter. 3 months should be the minimum. And if it’s really cold out, you might want to do this every month.

Other Tips about Buying Filters with the Right MERV: 

  • A filter with a MERV of 7-8 generally gives you a good balance between cost and efficiency.
  • Filters with a MERV of 4-12 are best for residential use
  • If you have family members with weak immune systems or who suffer from allergy problems, shoot for a filter with a MERV of 11 or more
  • Never ever switch from fiberglass filters to high-efficiency filters without speaking with an HVAC pro first. To get the maximum benefit from a high-efficiency filter, you must run your furnace’s fan more (which also costs you more). They’ll boost the fan’s speed to make up for the fan’s lower airflow.
  • Always be very diligent about replacing your filter. A clogged one burns out your blower’s motor, while damaging your heat exchanger and wasting a lot of your money on unnecessarily used energy.

Those are the ins and outs of using the right furnace filter, and that’ll help you save hundreds on energy throughout the year!

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2015’s Most Energy-Efficient Appliances & Devices

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Need to save money for the long-term? Then you’ll want to buy these energy-efficient appliances and devices. Learn what they are in this post.

When you go out to buy any new appliance or electronic device, you have about a million choices available to you. Fortunately, Energy Star has identified some of the most efficient appliances and devices available to you here in 2015.

These are some of their top choices:

Large Clothes Washers

Got a large family? No problem. Energy Star has identified this large clothes washer as one of the most efficient for 2015:

Kenmore 417.4112

  • Cost: $899
  • Capacity: 3.7 cubic ft.
  • Annual kWh energy use: 96

This Kenmore model has a Vibration Guard that keeps the unit especially quiet, making it perfect for use on the 2nd floor of your home. It also has a slick Stain Boost feature, which adds more soak time to help you remove tough stains like blood, mud, and grass stains.

Medium, Large, & Extra-Large Refrigerators

The winner in this category is the Bosch B11CB50SSS/01.

It weighs in at a nice 13.0 cubic feet, making it the perfect size for an average family of 4. Besides being super energy-efficient, it also has:

  • A hidden hinge and reversible doors that allow it to be mounted almost completely flush with your walls
  • Energy-saving interior LED lighting
  • A unique HydroFresh drawer the prolongs the time fruits and vegetables stay fresh

           3. Heat Pump

The winner here is the Fujitsu Halcyon Model RLFCC, which comes in up to a 24 SEER rating.

It’s also nice and quiet, as it operates with a sound level of around 48 dB. The indoor model AUU9RLF is the most efficient – 44% savings over the Federally required minimum. Model AUU12RLF gives you a 39% energy savings.

          4. Windows

They’re one of the largest sources of energy loss in your home, so you want to make sure you have energy-efficient ones. If you like vertical sliding windows, the American Exteriors Diplomat Triple, Alside A501, and EnergyQuest-MAX product lines are some of the most efficient windows available.

If you like windows that slide horizontally, Champion Window’s Comfort 365 Extreme Energy, the EnergyWall 7030 and 8030 sliders, and Ideal Window Manufacturing’s UltraTite, PerfectFit, Majestic, and Lifescapes product lines are all a good purchase.

      5. Television – 35 – 50”

Now you can watch TV and not feel guilty about your energy use! The Vizio E390-B1 costs just $6 to operate annually…wow!

And these models are available too:

  • LG 42LB5800: $6 annual operating cost
  • Samsung UN48H4203AF: $7 annual operating cost
  • SONY KDL-50W800B: $8 operating cost

You really can’t go wrong with any of these TVs as far as energy efficiency. Just make sure they have the functionality you want.

If you want to save energy on appliances and electronic devices in 2015 and beyond, now you have an awesome selection to choose from. Here’s to bigger and better energy savings for you and your family!

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How Long will Gas Prices Stay Low?

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They’re the lowest since 2009. Will they keep going lower, stay low, or should you expect a rise? Find out in this post from Payless Power.

If you’re an energy-saving lover, then you’ve surely noticed the amazingly lower prices at the pump. In the last 6 months, the average price of gas in Texas has dropped from $3.47 to $1.96, according to this chart.

Why are Gas Prices Dropping So Much? 

Nobody saw this coming. It’s happening for many reasons, and you could write a series of blog posts on why.

But, in a nutshell, here are a few reasons why:

  • America’s oil production has skyrocketed since 2008 because of our ability to efficiently harvest oil from shale. We are now the globe’s top producer of natural gas because of this.
  • Saudi Arabia is flooding the world’s markets with oil
  • Demand for oil across the globe is falling, but the supply of oil is increasing

What Should You Expect in the Future? 

As with anything related to the economy, no one really knows exactly what gas prices will continue to do in the future.

This expert thought prices may have bottomed out at around $3.12 per gallon.

One opinion is that they won’t stay below this level of $2.00 per gallon for too much longer. Eventually, the surplus of oil the US produces because of its ability to access oil in shale will get used up. At that time, prices will rise and stabilize.

The big exporters of oil, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela need oil to be at $90 per barrel or more so their economies and societies remain stable (at $2.00 per gallon, oil is around $50 per barrel now). That author continues to note that OPEC is flooding the market with oil to drive US companies out of business or to cut their shale drilling operations, and that it will succeed to some degree. He notes that natural gas was driven to $2 per mcf and that it took the US 2 years to recover from the shock – when prices rose back above $4.

But the good news is, comparatively low prices may last some time yet. For example, price tracking service GasBuddy.com predicts $2.64 as the average price per gallon for 2015. That’s still $1.25 or lower than what were used to.

Enjoy Your Energy Savings!

However you’ve chosen to increase your fuel efficiency in the past, it’s going to continue to pay off for you into the future. For now, enjoy the lower gas prices, and don’t get tempted to get back to using gas inefficiently. Prices will eventually rise again – it’s just a matter of when.

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4 Tips to Keep Your Energy Bills Low During Cold Spells

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A wave of cold weather drives your energy bills up quite a bit. Learn how to keep them low when nasty weather comes in this post from Payless Power.

“I’ve got to go away, but baby, it’s cold outside…” How appropriate this 1950s American classic is at times!

In Texas, you never know whether it’s going to be 75…or 25.

So that makes it pretty tough to manage your energy bills too. It also gets difficult to find the time and the right things to do to minimize your energy bills.

We’d love to save you some time, so here are some simple things you can do to keep them down when those shockwaves of cold come:

     1. Turn the Thermostat Down

Just a few button presses is all this one takes. It’s simple, and yet one of the most obvious things to do.

But you need to know what guidelines to follow. For every degree below 68 you go, you save about 3% on your heating bill.

So if you can handle temperatures around 60, you save around 24% on your monthly heating bill.

…Nothing to sneeze at!

     2. Use the Sun to Your Advantage

Yes, we know you value your privacy and want to keep your blinds closed all day long. But only do that if you feel it’s absolutely necessary.

The sun helps heat your home. So if you pull your blinds open, that puts less stress on your furnace to keep your home the right temperature.

     3. Keep Your Trips Inside & Outside to a Minimum

One of the most basic laws of thermodynamics is that air wants to move from hot to cold. So the minute you open your doors to go outside, there’s a huge rush for your warm air to escape.

You probably won’t want to go outside when it’s cold anyway. But when you do, make sure you open and close your doors fast. Teach everyone in your family the importance of doing it too. And if you have kids, ask them what kind of reward they’d like for following this rule.

     4. Seal Your Home’s Air Envelope

This can be a quick fix, or a very long one, depending on how well you’ve already done this at your home.

Some things to check for:

  • Using weatherstripping around all doors
  • Light a candle and move it around your windows to see if the flame flickers (that indicates air flowing through), and caulk any areas where you find cracks
  • Look for areas where pipes enter or leave your home and use expandable foam to seal those leaks
  • Tape clear plastic film (you can get cheap kits at your local department store) over your windows to prevent drafts

If you do all those things, you’ll notice much lower heating bills during cold spells.

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2015 New Year’s Resolutions: 7 Energy Savings Tips That Really Work

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Some energy savings tips work, while others are myths. Learn ones you can put to use right now in this post from Payless Power.

Hands down, almost every New Year’s Resolution slips the mind of the average person by mid-January. Maybe that’s because it’s easier to make them when everyone else does…while few only intend to actually keep them!

You can only make change if you commit to taking action toward it a little bit each day.

By the end of the year, you can save a few hundred dollars if you put all your energy savings tactics to work!

Speaking of which, here are some easy ones you could implement in your life right now:

 1. Set Your Water Heater to 120°

Of all the appliances you own, your water heater consumes the most energy. Set its temperature to this setting to keep your energy expenses down.

Easy one to keep, right? You only have to do it once and then you can forget about it.

2. Only Wash Your Laundry in Cool Water

Capitalizing on that first tip…don’t use hot water to do your laundry unless you really have to. That way, your water heater never needs to kick in.

3. Get a Home Energy Audit 

Some cities, and some HVAC contractors, do these for free. It’s hard to improve, unless you know where you’re at, and where you want to get to in the future, right?

4. Check Your Attic’s Insulation

In Texas, poor or old insulation is one of the state’s biggest causes of energy inefficiency. You should have yours inspected every few years or so. And generally, adding about 7 inches in your attic noticeably helps your energy savings.

5. Install Blackout Window Shades and Blinds

And to make sure you get maximum energy savings, use lighter colors that absorb less sunlight. These shades and blinds can block out up to 99% of the sun’s light. And if you buy online, you can get them at a relatively affordable cost.

6. Install Low-Flow Devices 

You can get these for anything in your home that uses water – toilets, sink faucets, showerheads, and bathtub spouts. Once you have a low-flow device on all of them, watch the savings rise!

7. Use Ceiling Fans in Occupied Rooms Only 

Just running them may or may not cool your home. Think of it this way: fans are designed to cool people, not furniture.

Only turn them on when you’re present in the room.

Make some or all of those tips part of your New Year’s resolutions, and let the savings roll in!

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