Are You a No Net Impact Family?

ThinkstockPhotos-455669235

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.

Posted in Life Style | Leave a comment

The 3 Biggest Causes of Big Carbon Footprints

ThinkstockPhotos-465971602

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?

Posted in Energy Conservation | Leave a comment

How Much Energy do Your Technological Gadgets Use?

ThinkstockPhotos-478536966

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.

Posted in Money Saving Tips | Leave a comment

The 3 Biggest Energy Savings Drains in Your Home

ThinkstockPhotos-493449809

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.

Posted in Energy Conservation, Money Saving Tips | Leave a comment

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

ThinkstockPhotos-470021744

“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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

5 Electricity Savings Tips So Senseless You Should Ignore Them

ThinkstockPhotos-462503147

Some electricity savings tips are just…well they’re just plain stupid. And you should totally ignore them.

Because they make your life really inconvenient. Or the time you spend making them happen far outweighs the money you save.

Check out these dumb tips we’ve heard to get an idea of what we mean:

  1. Wear Slippers and a Hat During Winter…When You’re Inside Your Home

Okay, so maybe slippers aren’t ridiculous. But one website we found, and we won’t mention their name, recommended wearing a hat inside all winter long. That’s because most of the heat in your body escapes through your head.

That’s true. But, could you imagine everyone in your family wearing stocking caps all winter long, and sitting around in the living room talking to one another? The only time they take theirs off would be to take a shower!

Come on! No one wants to do that. Can you imagine the complaining?

  1. Turn Down the Thermostat One Degree When Guests Come Over

So tell us, who’s thinking goes like that? “Uh-oh. Here come our guests. Let’s make sure to turn the thermostat down one single degree for two hours while they stay over.”

Seriously? You’ll save maybe 50 cents, if that. Some “energy savings opportunities” simply aren’t worth the hassle. Focus on having a good time with your guests instead.

  1. Fill Your Half-Empty Fridge or Freezer with Bottles of Water

Technically, you will save energy with this tip. But not nearly enough to justify the cost of buying the water from the store. You’re looking at pennies at best.

But even major utilities, like Wisconsin Public Service, tell you to do it. If you actually take this tip seriously, you belong on “Extreme Cheapskates.”

  1. Install Foam Gaskets Under Your Electrical Outlets

Again, you will save energy with this one. But they cost at least $1 a piece. It may take years before you recoup that dollar.

Ever heard the saying,”Can’t see the forest from the trees?” This one falls into that category. Don’t waste your short life doing it.

  1. Install Replacement Windows

Yes, windows do save energy. And sometimes a significant amount of energy. But it’s not a practical tip because it costs a lot of money to replace your windows.

So it’ll be years before you see any real financial savings, and possibly never. The only reasons you would install new windows are:

  • To make your spouse happy
  • You don’t like yours anymore
  • You really want to help the environment, even if it costs you money

Do whatever you want. We’re not here to judge you. But it’s important you know the reality of installing new windows.

Be Careful When You Read Energy Savings “Tips”

The internet lets anyone with a computer become an “expert.” So read those energy savings tips you find on the web carefully. And check them out from multiple sources to ensure they’ll give you a worthwhile benefit for your time.

Posted in Money Saving Tips | Leave a comment

6 Ways to Save Energy You Haven’t Heard Before

dv1693001

Wow, we’ve probably written thousands of energy-saving tips here on the Payless Power blog! If you followed most of them, you’ll definitely cut at least a few hundred bucks off your yearly energy bill.

Well, we’ve found a few more tips for you that we likely haven’t mentioned before. Give them a read and see if you’ve heard of them before:

  1. Paint Your Roof White

This one’s only for homeowners in sunny climates. So, Texas makes a pretty good fit. In fact, Berkeley University found that white roofs can cost up to 40% less to cool than black roofs. In a sunny climate, that amounts to $100 per year in savings.

Simply use paint rollers on an old paint roller flame, along with a long pole to save wear-and-tear on your back. And you only need to use a cheap white, elastomeric paint just about every hardware store carries.

  1. Buy a Halogen Oven

These ovens save an astonishing amount of electricity versus the standard electric oven: 75%. And they cook 50% faster too.

Roast a chicken in just 30 minutes.

  1. Forget the Water Heater Blanket– Install a Solar-Powered Water Heater

No joke here. You simply mount photovoltaic solar panel on your rooftop and watch the savings roll in. Some power companies offer financial incentives for doing this. Check with yours for additional savings before you actually do the installation.

  1. Keep Your Freezer Full

This seems the reverse of what you’d think. But, an empty freezer sucks more energy than a full one. So keep it full. And you’ll never have to worry about making a late run to the grocery store for supper.

  1. Grill Out When You Can

Your grilling days may be coming to an end here in December/January. But who knows? You can get the occasional warm day here and there. Buying propane or using charcoal costs less than using electric.

Keep this one especially in the forefront of your mind as spring rolls around so you don’t have to run the AC.

  1. Use Motion -Detecting Lights

Make these CFLs for sure, and LEDs if those fit your budget. Not only do they help you save serious energy, but you don’t even have to think about monitoring them for more energy savings.

So those are 6 ways to save energy that we likely haven’t discussed before.

Which will you put to use?

Posted in conserve energy, Energy Conservation, Money Saving Tips, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Do Your Own Home Energy Audit

ThinkstockPhotos-512250695

Some power companies and HVAC companies do home energy audits completely for free. But not all do. And you may not have access to a free home energy audit.

So here’s a simple way to do your own:

  1. Check Your Furnace’s AFUE Rating

It’s easy and fast – you can’t miss it. Look for a big yellow sticker with a number on it. Say the rating is 88. That means your furnace is 88% efficient.

You can get efficiencies as high as 97 and 98. But, you pay a lot more up front for that. You should have a furnace in the 92-95 range.

  1. Check Your AC’s SEER Rating

Sorry, this isn’t as straightforward as your furnace. SEER is a bit more confusing. For starters, the higher the number, the better the efficiency.

The minimum number a central AC Unit can have today is 13. For example, an AC with a SEER of 13 is 30% more efficient than one with a SEER of 10.

So, consider a more efficient central AC if yours is getting old (15-20 years), or if you’d like to buy a more efficient unit.

  1. Check Your Home For Drafts

This is one of your biggest, and most cost-effective, wins. You might know of some already. To find major leak sources, wait for a windy day, and close all your windows and turn off your gas furnace and water heater. Shut all your windows and your fireplace flue.

You can either wet your hand or light an incense stick. Pass your hand or the stick around baseboards and windows. If the smoke wavers or your hand feels cold, you’ve found a draft and an area to seal off.

  1. Water Use

You should have a low-flow shower head, low-flow toliet, and low-flow sink faucet aerators. That’s what you need for optimal efficiency anyway.

  1. Insulation

This one’s harder to check on your own because you don’t look at insulation every day and learn what’s good and what’s not. When you go up in your attic, you should notice insulation piled as high as the tops of your floor joists. If it’s fallen lower than that, then it’s settled. And it’s time to have some new stuff blown in.

If you notice your house feeling unusually hot during summer or strangely cold during the winter, that’s another sign you need insulation. If you’re one of the rare Texas homes with a basement, it should be heated. If it’s not, you should have insulation.

So those are some of the areas for the biggest wins. Give them a check, and see which fit your budget.

Posted in Money Saving Tips | Leave a comment

5 Tips for Saving Electricity with Your Kids This Year

ThinkstockPhotos-484026110

You can save energy and have fun with your kids too. And you can help them understand ways to save energy at the same time.

Here’s some ideas you can do:

  1. Use Rechargeable Batteries in Their Toys

It’s a small way you can save serious energy over buying batteries. And it’s a great way to teach your kids too. Plus, you won’t have to worry about buying batteries every time you go to the store.

And you can teach your kids basic handyman skills – like how to use a screwdriver and put the batteries in. Who’d have thought their toys could be such a great teaching tool?

  1. Turn Off the Videogames and Play Outside

PS4 and Xbox One are energy hogs – even when you’re not playing them. The electric costs do add up, but they’re nothing compared to the bonding you miss out on with your children.

Teach them how to have a good time outside during the winter. Maybe it’s hockey, snowshoeing, snowball fights, ice skating, or wrestling. And remind them how you save electricity by not playing all those videogames!

  1. Use LED Lights for Your Decorations

LEDs are so ridiculously efficient that they’re like using no electricity at all. By the time your kids grow up, hopefully they’ll have replaced CFLs.

Teach your kids about LEDs versus CFLs. Maybe talk about the “old days” and their advantages over incandescents. Buy your kids LED flashlights and play hide’n’seek, tell scary stories, or read their favorite books.

  1. Vampires Don’t Come Out Just on Halloween…

Sorry to say it, but energy vampires suck your energy 365 ¼ days per year. We’re referring to appliances you leave plugged. This could also be your laptop charger, smartphone charger, or maybe a charger for your kid’s toys. It’s a great teaching opportunity to show your children that even the small things count.

  1. Buy Energy-Star Devices

If you are getting your children some electronics, make sure they have the big Energy Star logo on the side. Explain to your children what that label means. There’s no guarantees as to the amount of energy you’ll save, but you will save significant energy compared to similar devices without the label.

Saving energy can be fun….without making your life irritating or miserable.

Posted in Money Saving Tips | Leave a comment

4 Winter Energy Savings Mistakes Not to Make

Festively decorated living room

“He’s making a list – and checking it twice! Santa Claus is coming…to town.”

But if you make these naughty winter energy savings mistakes, he might cross your name off the list and give you a nice sack of coal:

  1. Turning Your HVAC System Off

Think of how much money you’d save by not running your heating at all…

Wait a minute. Don’t do that – ever.

It actually puts a lot of stress on your HVAC system and costs you more in energy and wear on HVAC system than you get in savings.

Instead, change your thermostat based on activity levels in your home. If people are going to be in your house, and they’re going to be actively using it, use 68, or whatever your most comfortable setting is. If no one’s going to be around, or you’re all going to sleep, cut that to 60 (or 8 degrees lower than your comfortable setting).

Your energy bills – and your HVAC system – will thank you for it.

  1. Not Changing Your Filter Costs You 15% in Wasted Energy

It’s easy to forget about your filter, among all the other things you have to do in life. The recommendation home inspectors and realtors give is to check yours every time you pay your mortgage.

If it’s a high-usage month, like you need serious heat every day like you do in January or February (or nearly every day), change your filter monthly. If it’s one of those “tweener” months like October or November, you can usually safely change your filter every 2 months.

  1. Ignoring Obvious Problems

Umm…what was that noise you just heard? Or maybe your system cycles on and off constantly. Or maybe you don’t get nearly the heat you should.

Money gets low during the holidays. No doubt about it. But you can’t afford to ignore obvious HVAC system issues too long.

They only get worse and cost you more money. Try to get a no-interest financing plan if you can’t afford a large repair or replacement.

  1. Your Water Heater is the Ultimate Villain of Energy Savings

Poor guy…he’s all alone at the top by himself. That’s cause your water heater sucks about 13% of your home’s entire energy usage.

From a cost and energy-savings perspective, gas water heaters beat the stuffing out of electric ones. Gas water heaters cost about 50% less than electric ones to buy, and they cost about $1300 less to operate over a 13-year period.

If you’re stuck with an electric one, turn the temperature down to 120 degrees. That keeps the water comfortably warm. And you’ll save around $20 per month.

Avoid those winter energy-savings mistakes…and watch your bank account swell this holiday season.

Posted in Energy Conservation, Money Saving Tips | Leave a comment