4 Most Common Barriers to Energy Efficiency

Big business projects get all the energy efficiency attention. It’s true – businesses account for the vast majority of energy use today.

But, single family homes still use about 20% of our nation’s total energy. That’s still significant.

And with looming threats of global warming and all the chaos that could cause, it’s more important than ever to take a closer look at this.

So why don’t more homeowners maximize their energy savings?

Here’s why, and some possible solutions:

  1. The Upfront Cost is Too High

Middle and low-class families don’t have the access to the hundreds or thousands of dollars necessary to finance these projects.

You can get 0% down financing from contractors. But can you make the payments? You can also finance the projects with your home’s built-up equity.

Stop making those payments, though, and you could lose your home!

To counter this challenge, some utility companies let consumers spread the charges for energy efficiency improvements over the course of several bills. It’s called “on-bill financing,” and the goal is to quickly reach the point where the dollars saved exceed the dollars spent by the consumer.

  1. Too Long To Wait for a Return on Investment

Would you put new windows in your home to boost your energy efficiency? You bet you would, if it made sense.

But, it could take 10-15 years, or even longer, before you actually experience the savings. And by then, will there be new windows you’re supposed to purchase that save you even more energy?

For most homeowners, that’s simply not practical.

The government does offer tax credits. Those help.

  1. Personal Attitudes

The small things matter. Ever catch yourself thinking,”This won’t make a difference,” when you do something little like leaving the lights on while you go out for the evening?

Maybe you have another situation that’s more relevant to you. Now, multiply that by several million times, the number of other US citizens who likely think and do the same thing.

What seems little now looks large. You’ll never manage your own energy use perfectly. But you may know one to three ways you can do it a little better. So follow through on those steps.

  1. No Standard Method of Measuring a Home’s Energy Efficiency

Your furnace has an AFUE rating. The higher the rating, the more efficient it is. 100 is perfect efficiency, but that doesn’t exist. However, you can easily get 95 – 98.

So simple, isn’t it?

Well, with your home, no such standard scale exists. The builder might tell you. You might see some bills from the previous homeowner.

But you might use the electricity differently than them. The truth is you don’t know.

There’s no standard for measuring the energy use of a home. However, you can find some contractors who will test and analyze that for you. That at least gives you a ballpark idea.

So, it isn’t easy to be efficient at your home. However, with these tips, you can certainly improve your efficiency some.

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Top Energy Efficiency Innovations from the US Department of Energy

Window Glazing Diagram

Usually, you think of government as the opposite of efficiency and innovation. Instead of creating policies that lead to growth and forward movement, government invents bureaucracy, which stymies growth, creativity, and innovation.

However, the US Department of Energy is one part of government that bucks this trend. At least, in one way anyway. Together with private companies, they’ve helped our modern homes be far more efficient than those built as recently as 2000.

Here’s what they claim they’ve played a role in inventing. Do you have these innovations in your home? If not, you should consider adding them because they do boost your energy efficiency and save you money:

  1. Loose-Fill Fiberglass Insulation

This insulation actually used to be highly inefficient. In some cases, research found it used to lose up to 50% of the heat it was supposed to keep in. Through testing, the Department of Energy found ways to make this insulation more effective. And now it is a necessary method for keeping heat in your home that most homes in the United States use.

  1. Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters

ENERGY STAR helped to spark demand for more efficient water heaters. In 2009, the Department of Energy brought to market the first electric heat pump water heater, which uses 62% less energy than the conventional 50-gallon water heater. This could save the average homeowner around $300.

  1. Energy-Efficient Refrigerator Compressors

Due in part to help from the Department of Energy, today’s refrigerators use 25% less energy than they did in 1975. And today’s fridges are larger and have more features.

Not only have fridges gotten more efficient, but policy has helped encourage them to do so too. And in fact, new regulation goes into effect this year that requires refrigerators to be even more energy efficient.

  1. Low-E Window Technology

Today’s triple-pane windows can be just as effective at insulating your home as a highly insulated wall. Low-emissivity coatings, along with krypton and argon gas between the window panes, make this possible. It’s a huge barrier that reduces energy loss in homes and commercial buildings alike.

Let’s hope the Department of Energy can keep up the good work. These innovations have been key in energy savings in the US.

Who knows what they’ll come up with next?

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Use Energy-Saving Film on Your Windows and Save Energy and Money


You see tinted windows on cars.

They’re supposed to be there so you don’t notice who’s inside. But what better way to draw attention to yourself than by tinting the windows on your car?

Anyway, that’s not why we’re here today.

Instead, we’re here to talk about tinting your home’s windows, and the energy savings that can bring.

Have you ever seen a home with tinted windows?

Start Looking at Some Numbers to See How This Works

Your single-pane windows don’t reject the sun’s heat well. That makes them great for letting it in during the winter!

But during the summer, they only reject about 19% of the sun’s heat. So that means about 81% of it gets through.

Tinted windows boost that reduction to 35-45%. But energy-saving film can make that reduction up to 84%!

Why, Besides Energy Savings, Would You Buy Films to Keep the Sun’s Heat Out?

In addition to saving energy, you can also reduce hot and cold spots in your home. One of the causes of these is too much sun entering your home, leading to an imbalance in temperature. That also improves your personal comfort.

What Energy Savings Can You Expect to Get?

Up to 30%. Examine your energy bill and see what a 10%, 20%, or 30% cut in your energy costs could mean to you.

How Much Does Energy Saving Film Cost?

Let’s compare window film to getting replacement windows. Film takes just a few years to pay for itself. Replacement windows take about a decade, on average.

That’s a big advantage. But it’s not the most immediate one.

Installation for energy saving film costs about 10% of that of replacement windows. While film runs about $5 per foot, replacement windows cost $50 per foot.

That’s a huge difference!

Should You Use Energy-Saving Film on Your Windows?

That choice is going to have to be yours. You’ll have to make a decision that makes everyone in your family happy.

But from a financial perspective, you can’t argue with the savings window film offers!

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Save Big Money and Energy on Space Energy Consumption


Do you know what “space energy consumption” refers to?

It has nothing to do with the “space” beyond earth. Instead, it has everything to do with the “space” in your home.

For example, two homes of the exact same size and layout can consume vastly different amounts of energy. One perfectly retrofitted home can use 25% of the energy another one uses.

And this applies to brand new homes too. That’s because, unfortunately, homebuilders often cut corners during construction and build homes inefficiently to maximize their own profits.

No matter how new your home is, you’re not safe when it comes to efficiently heating and cooling your space!

Here’s some ways to do that:

  1. Analyze Your Insulation

Does your home have insulation? Does it have the right kind of insulation? Does it have enough insulation? How old is your insulation?

Go into your attic. Make sure you have insulation that comes up to the tops of your floor joists. You also have to make sure you have the right R-value for insulation in your home.

But that’s a long story as to how that works. Here’s a guide on calculating the right R-value for your home.

  1. Seal Your Air Envelope

This one’s hard to do. It refers to the idea of finding every possible way air could leak out of your home or enter into it. Then you have to seal all those off.

The simplest way to do it is to light a candle and pass it around the edges of your walls. Make sure you do this on a non-breezy day. Watch for the candle flame to flicker. That’s likely an area where you need to make a better seal.

  1. Make Sure You Have the Right Size HVAC System for Your Home

This is another common mistake – even in brand new homes. When it happens, your HVAC system may cycle off and on quicker than it should. That’s how money and energy get wasted.

For this one, you’ll either have to be super experienced in HVAC repair and installation, or you’ll have to hire a contractor. If you do, make sure they specialize in comfort and installing the right size HVAC system in your home.

Many simply want to sell you a new AC or furnace, when that’s not necessarily what you need to improve your efficiency. They may find other issues, like the afore-mentioned improper insulation.

So, that’s how you can save money by focusing on your space energy consumption. It’s a whole new way of approaching energy savings.

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How to Save Energy at Work


You’ve learned dozens of ways to save energy at home by now. But let’s talk about what to do at work.

You might be the owner of a small business. You could also have some authority, like being a supervisor or manager. But even if you’re an employee, you can still make a difference.

Here’s some things to look at:

  1. Light Bulbs, and How You Use Lighting

Does your company at least use CFLs for all lighting? If you have plenty of free capital, do you use LEDs? Do you turn the lights off in rooms where employees don’t work?

Don’t these strategies sound strikingly familiar to home energy use? Except you experience even more energy savings at your company because more people are involved.

  1. Watch the Temp on Your Heating and Air Conditioning

Again, just like at your home, set your thermostat to a fair setting that makes everyone comfortable. The savings will be more because of the larger spaces.

  1. Remind Employees to Shut Down their Computers at the End of the Day

The typical PC user can save around $35 by shutting down their computer when each day finishes. Don’t listen to talk about it “being harder on the electronics and taking more energy to turn the computer on and off.”

Those beliefs may have had some credibility in the earlier days of computers. But not so much anymore.

Also, make sure you set your computer to sleep after 5 minutes of inactivity. Let’s be honest – it’s hard to remember to manually put your computer on sleep during the hectic work day.

  1. Use Daylight Where You Can

Not only is daylight better for your mood and health, but you can use it to reduce your energy bills too. If it’s possible to use the sun to light rooms in your office, do it.

  1. Replace Water Coolers with Energy-Efficient Ones

It’s definitely much healthier to drink water than carbonated drinks. It’s good your company recognizes that. Now take what you do even one step further by replacing that standard water cooler with an energy-efficient one.

  1. Get Energy Star Appliances

Yes, your office probably doesn’t use appliances as much as you do at home. But it’s still an opportunity for energy savings. If it’s time to replace those appliances, get Energy Star approved ones for additional savings.

If you don’t have a position of power at work, be the inspiring example everyone else could follow. Whisper in your boss’s ear that you could save your company energy and money. And you could market to your customers how green you are.
Everyone wins when you save energy at work!

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Are You a No Net Impact Family?


Have you heard the term “no net impact?” It’s used to describe families that attempt to live in sustainable ways that have absolutely no impact on the environment.

Whew! Sounds like quite an order at first, doesn’t it?

Well, it is tough. And it may not actually be possible for your family to live in a 100% sustainable way.

However, you can certainly make small changes one day at a time. And before you know it, you could find yourself living in a highly sustainable way.

Here are some simple things to do that actually have a big positive impact on the environment:

  1. Avoid Drinking from Aluminum Cans

The humble aluminum can is actually one of the biggest causes of harm to our environment. It needs more than 60 types of raw and processed materials to make and creates 75 pollutants all by itself.

You may not save yourself a ton of energy by avoiding the use of aluminum cans. But you can do the earth, the environment, and other humans a big favor.

Plus, when you think of what comes in aluminum cans, it’s usually unhealthy. So you’ll do yourself some good and avoid a few doctor trips at the same time too.

  1. Using Bikes or Public Transit

You may or may not be able to realistically use public transit or a bike in your typical daily life. The commute to work or school or the store may simply not be worth it. You may lose too much time.

But you have days and times where it is possible. Or, maybe you could have a little adventure with your family. Try to fit these in where you can to help the environment – and avoid using gas too.

  1. Learn to Fix Your Own Stuff

Every time you have to buy something – anything, there’s an environmental cost to that. You’re going to have to do buy some things in to make it in life.

But, avoid it as much as possible. Not only will you save yourself money and some energy, but you’ll have fun learning new things too.

And who knows, when you get good enough at fixing things, you might be able to do some of your own home energy improvements. That would save you even more money and energy.

Will You Ever Be a No-Net Impact Family?

Maybe, and maybe not. And if you’re not, that’s okay. Just do whatever little steps you can because they make a big difference.

And you’ll find yourself living in a more sustainable way that saves energy and cuts your utility costs.

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The 3 Biggest Causes of Big Carbon Footprints


Carbon dioxide release into our atmosphere amplifies the greenhouse effect. That means our atmosphere warms up.

There’s intense debate as to the extent of this effect. Is it causing global warming, eventually to the point where life on earth becomes uninhabitable for human beings? Or is it really just beginning – becoming measurable for the first time in human history?

Honestly, we can’t answer that question. But regardless of what you think is happening, it’s always a good idea to minimize your carbon footprint.

Why even put it up to chance when you have the ability to do something about the problem right now?

Here are the biggest causes of additional carbon release into the atmosphere. Consider how your personal habits fit into the big picture:

  1. The Biggest Cause of Carbon Emissions: Electricity

In this case, the responsibility only falls partially on you. About 37% of US carbon emissions come from the coal burned to produce electricity.

Around 20% of all electricity comes from nuclear power plants. While they cause images of nuclear explosions to come up in your mind, they do release substantially less carbon than coal plants – around 90% less.

What to learn: Consider your electricity usage. Cut back where you can to reduce the carbon released in earth’s atmosphere. And of course – you’ll notice lower energy bills too.

  1. Diesel and Gas Used for Transportation

This includes all forms of transportation – cars, buses, airplanes, boats, and trains. You have to remember that many of the people in this world do not own a car.

As other nations modernize, they’ll have older, inefficient vehicles contributing to this problem too. That makes your actions all that much more important.

What to learn: Use your bike for transportation where possible. Walk or run if you can too. When that’s not possible, plan your trips as efficiently as you can. You’ll save energy – and more money as gas prices rise once again.

  1. Industrial Processing

Finally, this one doesn’t fall under your responsibility. Producing minerals like cement, iron, steel, and making chemicals is the number three cause of carbon release.

What to learn: Not a whole lot you can do about those things. You could avoid buying and using chemicals of any kind as much as possible. Many times those chemicals get discarded and end up polluting our environment in some way too.

What Can You Do?

That’s what’s happening at the big picture level. So now it raises the question: what small things can you do in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint – and save some money at the same time?

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How Much Energy do Your Technological Gadgets Use?


Should you panic about the amount of energy each of your tech gadgets uses? Should you constantly monitor whether they’re off or in sleep mode, just so you never waste their battery and don’t have to charge it up again?

Find out the truth about each in this post:

  1. Smartphones

Is your Android-based smartphone an energy hog? Not a chance. It uses just 1 kWh of electricity yearly, costing about 12 cents or so annually, depending on the rate your power company charges.

What about iPhone? It’s a real energy suck compared to Android. It eats up a massive 2 kWh, and costs you about a quarter to run each year.

So you’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about with your smartphones.

  1. What about Tablet PCs?

iPads are nothing to worry about energy wise either. They consume about $1.36 in energy each year. So even if you’re a heavy iPad user, you’ve got absolutely nothing to be concerned with.

We don’t have specific data on Microsoft Surface. But you can safely assume it’s well within an acceptable range.

  1. What about Laptops?

They have far bigger screens than tablet PCs and smartphones. So their energy use will be much higher.

But even laptops don’t consume that much energy. It’ll cost you around $10 per year to run yours.

  1. And What about Other Devices?

Well, you’ve really got nothing to worry about there either. Xbox One and PS4 cost about $40 per year to run for the average gamer. Plasma TVs cost about the same to run.

And your cable box with DVR– that costs around $30.

Don’t Worry about Technology!

When it comes to tech gadgets, you clearly don’t even have to waste your time thinking about whether you should turn them off or on or plug them into charge or not. You’re likely paying $100 – $200 for all the gadgets in your household among all your family members.

You’re better off spending your time looking at the bigger consumers of energy. So that’s things like your HVAC system, water heater, and water usage. Or if you have an appliance that’s 10-15 years old – it might be a good time to replace it.

Those are your big wins. And for now, don’t worry about any of the technological devices you and your family own.

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The 3 Biggest Energy Savings Drains in Your Home


Today, we’re going to get away from a collection of techniques and get down to the most effective techniques you can use to save energy.

There’s three areas that use the most energy in your home, according to Energy.gov:

Together, these three functions account for nearly 75% of your home’s energy use. So rather than spend your time adding gaskets to electrical outlets and getting little energy savings from it, focus on these instead.

Let’s get to it:

  1. Space Heating

If you can avoid using a space heater at all, do it. They consume an amazing amount of energy for the heat they produce.

They work for an emergency situation where you need heat for a few days or hours. But that’s the only situation where you should consider using them.

If you insist on using one, make sure you get the right kind. A radiant heater uses infrared radiation to heat up whatever’s closest to the unit. It won’t heat a whole room. But it could heat a desk, bed, or recliner.

The best long-term solution is insulation. Make sure your walls and attic are properly insulated. It’s common even for brand new homes in Texas to not have the appropriate amount of insulation. You can also do small things like making sure your doors have weatherstripping and your windows are covered in plastic to keep heat in.

In the winter, make sure your ceiling fan blows up at a slow speed. This bounces the heat off the ceiling and back at you and throughout your home.

  1. Cooling

The easiest thing to do here is to run your AC less often. And you might also consider turning your temperature higher a degree or two. Run your ceiling fans – they cost about a penny per hour to run. And they make you feel 3 to 8 degrees cooler. So you can turn up your thermostat to compensate for that, and save energy and money as a result.

Your ceiling fan should be blowing down to help you feel cooler.

Another great idea is to use a bed fan. You can get bed fans that blow under your sheets and keep your body cool. Meanwhile, you can turn off the AC entirely because you’ll feel cool enough.

  1. Water Heating

Easy one here. Get a solar water heater. Yeah, it costs $5000 up front. But it pays for itself in 7 years. Get a loan if you can’t afford the cash price. After that, your hot water will basically be free.

Not planning on staying in your home? No worries. Any solar system improves your home’s resale value.

Otherwise, use a gas water heater if possible, wrap it in a blanket, and use as little hot water as possible in the first place.

That’s how you reduce the wasted energy and money caused by these three big energy drains.

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The Truth Behind Shutting Down Your Computer and Putting It in Sleep Mode


“You should shut down your computer at work and home overnight to save energy,” says one person.

“But shutting it down and starting it up again uses more energy than just shutting it down. Plus it’s hard on the machine, which causes problems,” says another.

You’ve had that argument with friends, family members, or maybe just yourself.

So what’s the truth?

The idea that your computer uses more energy when being powered off and on again is completely a myth. Turning it on and off again does cause damage. But you’d have to sit there and turn it on and off many times successively for hours on end.

So unless you’re planning on spending your time doing that, simply turning your computer

on and off like you usually do isn’t going to cause harm. If your computer has problems, it’s because of defective parts or bad manufacturing, not being turned off and on.

The Truth about Today’s Laptops and Desktops

Back when sleep mode first came out more than a decade ago, energy savings were minimal at best. But energy savings still happened.

And today, sleep mode saves a significant amount of energy. The typical laptop uses 15-60 watts of energy when in use – and just 2 in sleep mode. The typical desktop and monitor uses 80-320 watts when in use, but just 5-10 watts in sleep mode.

So, you don’t need to make shutting down your computer or putting it into sleep mode a big deal at the end of each day. Instead, make sure you’ve automatically set your computer to go to sleep after a certain period of inactivity.

Don’t bother with screensavers anymore either. When they initially came out, they prolonged the life of monitors. But today, newer screens are built with so much durability and energy efficiency that screensavers make absolutely no sense to use anymore. They actually cause you to use more energy when you have them on.

If you have several family members and many devices, you may want to consider unplugging them all to save energy. Costs can add up with a number of devices.

If You Remember to Unplug at Night…

You really just have to recognize you’re one of those who goes “above and beyond” the call of duty. Admire what a great job you’ve done.

But don’t feel obligated to shut down your computer at night. It’s just not a significant source of energy savings anymore.

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