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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Ho-Ho-Ho: ‘Tis the Season for Energy Savings: 8 Tips from Payless Power

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Save some energy – and maybe the whole holiday season too – with these Christmas energy savings tips from Payless Power. Learn more in this post.

Nobody likes a Scrooge! If money’s hard to come by this Christmas, save some with these tips. Then, take those savings and pay them forward to your family and friends with gifts.

How can you save energy this Christmas?

A few tips:

1. Christmas Lights

This one’s gotten much easier with the growing popularity of LED lights. If you can only afford a few strands, buy them. They cut your electricity usage by 80-90%. Also, if one goes out, the rest of the strand still stays lit.

Then you can slowly add them to the mix over the years.

Is that too much of an investment now? Get an automatic timer for all your lights – indoors and outside.

2. Use Fiber Optic Decorations Where Possible

Most often, just a single light bulb illuminates the entire unit!

3. Get Rid of the Lights…and Use Candles

Set them up on either side of the walk leading up to your front door. Use them inside too, but probably not on your Christmas tree.

Not only do you save energy, but they give your home a gorgeous glow lights simply can’t match.

4. Turn Down the Thermostat When You Have Guests

More bodies in your home means more heat radiates throughout. Knock your thermostat down 2-4 degrees when you have guests over for the day.

5. Use Your Oven Efficiently 

Of all the methods you can use to cook, an electric oven consumes the most energy. Use a toaster or microwave if possible.

Do you have one food item to cook at 400° and another at 350°? Cook them both at 375°!

6. Walk Instead of Using Your Car

Yeah there’s a lot of driving to do during the holidays. If you live close enough to some places you frequent, though, put on your snow boots and walk. Not only do you save energy, but you’ll improve your health a little bit too.

7. Buy Energy STAR Lights

Not only may these be LED lights, but you can often find many rebates on them as well. Plus, they have a nice bonus in their 3-year warranty.

8. Use Light Reflection to Your Advantage

Tinsel and metal ornaments can appear just as bright at night. If your neighbors love to go nuts with their lights, use this tip.

You can still spread holiday cheer while also saving energy…and these tips help make that possible!

We hope you put them to use and save some energy this Christmas.

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How to Treat One of Your Home’s Most Efficient Areas: The Attic

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Your attic could be the main reason for your home’s energy inefficiency. Read this guide to learn what to do to make it as efficient as possible.

Believe it or not, your attic – yes your attic, is one of your home’s greatest sources of energy inefficiency.

Honestly, how many attic energy efficiency guides do you come across on the internet?

This may be your first, but it’s absolutely indispensable if you’re planning on optimizing your energy efficiency.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Replacing Your Insulation 

You should have someone inspect it. If it’s been several years since you’ve blown some new insulation in, you’re probably due for some new insulation.

You can get two kinds:

  • Batt – It’s those large roles you cut and install
  • Blown – Millions of pieces get blown into your rafter bays

2. Think about Installing Some Fans

If your attic is already tightly sealed, install fans to push air out. This works especially well for older houses.

3. Seal Up Any Gaps You Can Find

Here’s a hint: most gaps to your attic come from wiring and pipes. Some come from poor craftsmanship. Others happen because your building’s foundation settles.

A little caulk and some good detective skills does the job. You can use the caulk to fill gaps up to 3/8” in size. Expandable foam, (which you can buy in a can), takes cares of holes any bigger – including several inches wide.

4. Leaky Ducts Running In & Out of Your Attic

Finding these is the real problem. Well, if you have ducts that have fallen apart, that’s not so difficult. But finding the smaller leaks is.

To find air leaking out, just use your hands to feel for drafts. Be careful not to cut yourself on the ductwork. To find air getting sucked in, use a tissue.

5. Use a Radiant (aka Thermal) Barrier

This reflects the sun’s heat back outside during the summer, keeping your home cooler. It also reflects heat back inside during the cooler months.

You can get what looks like a thin sheet with double-sided reflected finish. You can also get a kind that appears the same as bubble wrap.

Well, that’s about it for the attic. There’s less in terms of what you can do. But, some of the steps are fairly complicated. Hope you enjoy some awesome new energy savings!

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The Early Bird’s Guide to Saving Energy After Moving to Your New Home

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The Early Bird’s Guide to Saving Energy After Moving to Your New Home

Spring will be here in a few months, and usually the new house you move into isn’t 100% energy efficient. Find out what to look for in this post.

Are you thinking about buying a new house in a few months? Maybe you’re getting a jumpstart on all the other house hunters right now so you can get the house you want.

Nice idea – it’s hard to take action when no one else is moving!

But even though you’re thinking of a new house that’s new to you, that doesn’t mean it’s completely energy efficient. In fact, it could be much less energy efficient than the one you own right now.

What should you check for?

A few ideas

1. Upgrade CFLs to LEDs

Hopefully you don’t run into ancient incandescent bulbs. But, if you really want to get maximum energy savings, swap those CFLs out for LEDs. They’re becoming more affordable almost by the day.

2. What’s That Smell? 

So this new house you moved into – does it smell kind of weird? That smell could be mold, radon, or even carbon monoxide. The problem could be fixed by changing your furnace’s filter, or checking your home for proper ventilation. It won’t just fix the smell – you could improve your energy efficiency too.

3. Got a Damp Basement? Could be a Costly Water Leak!

This could come directly through your foundation, or even from cracks around doors and windows. It could also be from one of the many pipes servicing your plumbing system.

Hopefully you got it caught when doing your due diligence so it’s on the seller to pay for it, but repair those leaks right now yourself if you haven’t done so already!

4. Is It Humid Inside?

That could be water seeping through the dirt floor in your basement or beneath your house. Cover the dirt with plastic and you’ll notice it’s not so steamy inside of your home.

5. Make Sure You Truly Have One of the Best Contractors in the Area!

A report by McKinsey & Company, asserts that contractors install “90 percent” of energy efficiency upgrades “suboptimally.” This hikes heating and cooling costs by up to “30 percent!”

So if you do need to make a change in your home, research contractors extensively.

Unfortunately, moving to a new home doesn’t mean that everything’s in place and done perfectly for you. But if you follow these tips, you will keep your energy efficiency high and save good money over the long run!

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YSTAS Adopt a Family for Thanksgiving 2014!

 YSTA Services is a family business and at no time is the importance of family more evident than the holidays. Whether its immediate family, our YSTAS work family, or the extended family of our community, the holidays mark a time to strengthen relationships and personal bonds. It is also an opportunity to express our thanks by giving to those less fortunate.

In this spirit, YSTA Services recently adopted 2 families for Thanksgiving! These two families received a Holiday Basket full of all the traditional Thanksgiving harvest foods –and Pies!

Thanksgiving 2014 Hughes family b

Thanksgiving 2014 Hughes Family c

Thanksgiving 2014 Moreno Family a

Thanksgiving 2014 Moreno Family b

Thanksgiving 2014 Moreno Family c
The YSTA Services Family is very thankful for our blessings of the past year, and we could not be happier to extend this good fortune to these two families!

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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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