The 2015 Earth Day Energy Savings Guide

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Thank goodness for Earth Day! Energy savings was an afterthought before its invention. Learn more about Earth Day and how you can save energy.

Did you know Earth Day was founded on April 22, 1970? How fitting that it came at the peak of the hippie and flower-child culture.

The timing was perfect. Americans at that time guzzled gas in sedans with massive V8 engines. Industry recklessly polluted the environment without any fear of legal consequences or public humiliation. And air pollution? No one even thought about it.

Times have changed, haven’t they?

45 years later, you have technology that allows you to be more efficient than any human in history.

To help Earth out, here’s some small and simple ways you can save energy this Earth Day:

  1. Empty Your Car

Bet you never thought of this one. But think of how often you carry around summer necessities in your vehicle. You drag kid’s sports equipment, chairs and blankets, and camping gear.

Hauling that extra 100 pounds costs you 1% off your fuel economy.

  1. Your Car’s Oil

Changing your oil and filter per your manufacturer’s recommendations maximizes your fuel economy. Ask your servicer if they recycle oil. If they don’t, find one that does. Ask them if they have recycled oil your car can use.

  1. Optimize Your TV’s Energy Savings

Today’s TVs eat up so much less energy, but they’re still not perfect. You can do two simple things to take their energy savings even further:

  • Change the “vivid” or “retail” screen brightness to “home” or “standard” and save 20% more
  • Disable “quick start” because that consumes power even when you don’t watch your TV
  1. Enjoy Earth And Take a Hike!

Aren’t your children deficient in vitamin D from staying inside all the time anyways? Why not haul everyone in your home outside for a hike on a sunny day?

Not only that, but you save energy versus other types of vacations/get-togethers.

  1. Download the Earth Day Energy Saving Web App

You can learn more about the app here. This app makes it simple for you to track, manage, and reduce your personal energy use. You just have to answer a few questions to start – and then you’re off to the energy savings races.

Hopefully you get a sunny Earth Day this year – and enjoy your energy savings!

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11 Energy Savings Jokes to Brighten Your Day

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Energy savings doesn’t all need to be sacrifice and hard work. Check out some funny jokes (safe for work) to lighten your load.

Scrimp, save, analyze, and change your habits. Saving energy is hard work when you really think about it!

You have to constantly sacrifice to get to a better place. And sometimes you need to take a break from that to keep your sanity.

Isn’t it exhausting timing your showers and getting out before you actually want to?

So, check out these safe-for-work energy savings jokes and enjoy your day:

  1. Q: How many consultants do you need to change a light bulb?

A: You’ll get an estimate a week from Monday.

  1. Q: How many students does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. They use CFLs!

 

  1. Q: Did you hear what the foolish gardener did?

A: The guy planted a light bulb and though he’d get a power plant.

 

  1. Q: How many museum curators does it take to change a light bulb?

A: 6. 1 changes it and the other 5 preserve, display, and celebrate the old model.

 

  1. Q: How many software engineers do you need to change a light bulb?

A: None – it’s a hardware problem.

 

  1. Q: How many LEED accredited professionals does it take to change a light bulb?

A: 4:

 

  1. 1 tells you how to earn LEED points when you change it
  2. 1 changes the bulb
  3. 1 documents the change
  4. The last one delivers the check to the US Green Building Council to certify the change

 

  1. Q: How many tenants does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None. Instead, they curse the light bulb, electrician, landlord, and architect.

 

  1. Q: How much energy performance data does it take to change a light bulb?

A: We’re not sure – we’re still waiting for more information from the engineer.

 

  1. Q: How many life-cycle assessment experts do you need to change a light bulb?

A: 2. One changes it. The other changes it back once more data’s been analyzed.

 

  1. Q: How many State of California regulations do you need to change a light bulb?

A: 3. One requires you to change your light bulb. One warns you it causes cancer. The last bans disposal of your light bulb.

 

  1. Q: How many LEED AP exam takers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Well, let’s see…EA Credit 3, EA Credit 7, MR Credit 2 if you want to recycle it, and maybe SS credit 9, depending on your location. Sorry…what was the question?

Special thanks to BuildingGreen and Solartwin for the jokes.

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12 Quick & Cheap Spring Energy Savings Tips

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Anyone can use these tips to save more energy this Spring. Learn what you can do in this post from Payless Power.

These tips are for the not-so-handy husband – the one who’d rather spend time with family or hobbies.

Nothing wrong with that!

The experienced handyman could use them too.

Let’s stop wasting your time, and get right to them:

1. Close Your Blinds on the Sunny Side 

The sun warms up your home – keep it out by simply closing your blinds.

2. Run Your Ceiling Fan the Right Way

Your ceiling fan should be spinning in reverse during summer. This improves airflow by pulling the cooler air upward.

3. Install Weatherstripping

If you don’t have it already, add it for your exterior doors. It takes just a few minutes to clean your doorframe and attach the weatherstripping. And it doesn’t cost much to buy weatherstripping either.

4. Dress So Your Body Releases Heat

You don’t have to be too obsessive about this one. But every little bit helps. Find cool, comfortable clothing to wear so your body doesn’t hold in too much heat.

5. Use Your Kitchen Exhaust to Remove Warm Air after Cooking 

Yes, it still costs money to run this fan. But, it costs less than running your A/C.

6. If You’re Buying New Appliances…

Get ones with the ENERGY STAR label. You can easily save 20-50% more energy than standard appliances without this label.

7. Drink Plenty of Cold Water

Not only is this good for your health, but it’s good for keeping your energy costs down too. Cool water keeps your body cool.

8. Do Heat-Producing Tasks When It’s Cooler Out

Have to wash dishes, bake, or do laundry? Do them in the early evening or morning.

9. Open Your Windows

Use nature to cool your home instead of your air conditioner when it’s reasonably cool out.

10. Keep Your A/C Free of Obstructions

Weeds can grow up at any time. When you do cut them down, use a mechanical shears or pull them out by the roots. If you use a gas or electric weed-whip, that shoots debris into your A/C, which causes damage.

11. Dust Off Electronics, Bulbs, & Vents

Dust doesn’t allow all these things to run at max capacity. Clean it off this Spring.

12. Vacuum Refrigerator Coils

Not only do you save energy when you do this, but you also prolong the life of your refrigerator.

Those 12 tips are nice and easy for anyone to do. Enjoy – and enlist your teenagers to give you a hand!

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Warning: Gas Additives Don’t Work

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You hear about gas additives that you simply pour in your gas tank, and then you instantly have better gas mileage. Learn the truth about them.

Gas prices are historically low – did yours drop below $2 per gallon? When was the last time you can remember seeing that?

Fuel efficiency may not be your biggest concern right now, but eventually you will see those gas prices back up to normal. In the meantime, as an efficiency expert, you might be thinking of gas additives.

Why are Gas Additives Mostly Ineffective? 

The truth is modern automakers have already optimized your car’s computer and its ability to make your fuel usage efficient. By changing the chemistry of your gasoline with a fuel additive, you can actually decrease your miles per gallon. And if these additives actually worked, wouldn’t you expect big brand names in the gasoline industry to sell them?

Why Do Some People Claim Gas Additives Work?

It’s most likely a combination of them observing their miles per gallon for the first time, and driving more carefully so they can justify the expense. You will see glowing testimonials from people who claim gas additives work, and those two things are most likely what they experience. And you should also avoid any of the DIY fuel additives that use acetone, as they can damage your vehicle’s seals and gaskets.

There is One Fuel Additive That Sometimes Works…

And no, this isn’t an advertisement. Cleaning your fuel injection cleaners can sometimes improve your mpg. But, that’s an “if,” and not a guarantee.

How Do You Reduce Gasoline Costs? 

The best way is to do things the old-fashioned way:

  • Use the right octane for your vehicle (only use premium if your manufacturer recommends it)
  • Use a phone app or website to find the lowest gas prices
  • Use a rewards credit card that gives you 3% back on your gas purchases
  • Drive defensively and around the speed limit – gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60
  • Keep as much weight as possible out of vehicle
  • Only turn on the A/C and heat when you actually need them
  • Pack items on top of your car only when you’re going on vacation – their wind resistance reduces fuel efficiency
  • Properly inflate your tires

If you do those things, you keep your fuel efficiency high. And they work regardless of what kind of vehicle you have.

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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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