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Energy Savers Blog

    • How Are You Celebrating Earth Day?

      Are you doing anything special this week, or this month, to save energy and money? If you're looking for ideas, check out the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Earth Day website for energy saving ideas, or read Elizabeth's Earth Day resolution post for inspiration.

      Tell us your Earth Day plans!

      You have the chance to share your thoughts on a question about energy efficiency or renewable energy for consumers. Please comment with your answers, and also feel free to respond to other comments.

    • Breaking a Cycle-Free Lifestyle for Earth Day

      Earth Day is just around the corner! And while it might not be a major day for most people, I still think it's kind of fun. I think every special day is an excuse to do something you normally wouldn't! (And, speaking of little somethings, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website is going to have a small page up to commemorate Earth Day this year. Look for that next week.)

      This Earth Day, I'm buying a new bicycle!

      Now, before I start, let me get this out of the way: Bikes and I have not historically gotten along. When I was a young girl, I was so thrilled to have learned to ride a bike that I invited my best friend over to watch. Then I ran her over. I biked to school when I was in high school, but I stopped after I ran over an innocent student and, a few weeks later, got hit by a car. In university, a friend lent me his bike. I was on it all of ten minutes before I ran over the first other person to show up on the walking path.

      I'm not really that careless, reckless, or dangerous, so I can't really figure out what it is with me and bikes. I decided pretty early on that I was probably cursed, because I'm not this ill-fated when I'm driving. (And thank goodness for that, huh?)

      But now it's time for things to change. I moved recently, and the new place is lovely. It's also incredibly close to a ton of really nice shops and stores. This is super cool! I've never lived in a place where a grocery store was within walking distance before. And because everything is in walking distance, it'd be kind of a waste to just drive around all...

    • To Generate, or Not to Generate?

      What could be more liberating than providing your own electricity, and not getting a bill each month? With a small renewable energy system, you can use alternative sources to create energy—maybe even enough to power your entire home.

      There are several options to choose from when considering a renewable energy system, such as solar electric systems, which can gather sun even from scattered areas. Solar electric systems can also be used as outdoor lighting. If this perks your interest, read considerations for installing a small solar electric system for a helpful list of questions to ask when selecting a qualified contractor to install one in your home.

      Another option is a wind electric system. Wind electric systems can be one of the cleanest options, and could provide as much as 90% of your electricity needs. To get an idea of the work and cost involved, check out our page on installing a small wind system for your home.

      If you have water flowing through your property, microhydropower can create enough electricity for a large home or a small resort, and "hybrid" systems that combine more than one energy source can provide electricity with no interruption to your service.

      As an added perk, those who connect their renewable energy system to the grid may be able to sell extra electricity to the local utility company. There are also several tax credits available for some systems, so check out our Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency Web page to see which systems make sense for your home.

      With so many options for creating your own electricity, you can soon be "off the grid" no matter where you live. Just be sure that you consult a professional before doing any work yourself

      Amanda McAlpin works for New West Technologies supporting the Vehicle Technologies Program...

  • Energy-Efficient…Parenting?!?

    When you hear the words "energy" and "parenting" in the same sentence, the first thing you may think of is parents' own energy—or lack thereof—after many sleepless nights with a baby. But energy also comes into play when you're thinking about the many…MANY…baby products you could potentially use. (Seriously, have you been to the baby section of any store lately? Overwhelming.)

    While some would argue that you really only need a few items for your baby, inevitably the nice to have stuff also seems to pile up. My husband and I welcomed our first baby eight months ago and we learned this firsthand. And a surprising amount of that "stuff" uses extra energy at home.

    While saving energy may not be your first worry when you have a new baby (if you're like me, it's how to get any extra sleep you possibly can), it's not difficult to take advantage of your nice new baby items while also saving as much energy as possible. Here are a few ideas for saving energy and money when you bring home a new baby:

    • If you use a swing for naps, turn if off once baby goes to sleep. Many parents find the swing to be indispensable, and we were among them. Our daughter took many naps in her swing. We have one that plugs into an outlet so we don't have to change batteries frequently, but it of course still uses electricity. We often found that once the swing lulled her to sleep, we could turn it off and our daughter would sleep better and longer.
    • Buy LED night lights. Especially in those first few months, new parents are up a lot at night. We strategically placed night lights around the house so we didn’t have to flip on the overhead lights and wake everyone...

    • Easy Efficiency Steps Pay Off

      Spring is officially here, and many parts of the country have been enjoying spring-like weather for a few weeks already. I, for one, was ready for it, especially after enduring many a cold winter night in our drafty old row house in northwest Washington, D.C. With the warmer weather, I expect to see the upward pressure on our energy costs ease, but I don't expect our energy bill to drop a whole lot, because we ran a pretty energy-efficient ship this winter.

      Back in January, my housemates and I got serious about improving the air seal of our house. We hung a plastic sheet across the archway between our kitchen and mudroom, which was where we were losing most of our heat downstairs. I also installed plastic window covers on the inside frames of the windows in the sun room off of my upstairs bedroom. That room is not well insulated and had been our biggest problem area on the upper level of the house. Reducing the draft in that room and keeping the door between the bedroom and the sunroom closed made a huge difference keeping in the heat. With those simple improvements, which cost less than twenty-five dollars, our home stayed considerably warmer, and we rarely, if ever, had to change our automated thermostat settings.

      Using a programmable thermostat was also key in reducing our energy waste over the winter. On the weekdays, our thermostat was set to turn the boiler on at 6 a.m., raising the temp from 60°F to 68°F in time for breakfast. The temp would drop back down at around 10 a.m. to 65°F, where it would remain throughout the day (when more solar energy passively heated the house). Then the thermostat would kick the heat back up to 68°F at around 6:30...

    • March Madness: Slam Dunk Energy Efficiency

      The month of March represents many activities to celebrate: St. Patrick's Day, the first day of spring, the beginning of Lent, Daylight Savings Time, the month Coca Cola was invented, and most importantly, NCAA brackets! Now, with the understanding that it is unfair to place a higher importance on any of these things as its relative to each individual's beliefs, the one concept many of us forget is that there is life beyond March Madness. In fact, there is so much life that we must act now to preserve the wonderful resource that's been given to us for this life: our energy environment.

      Much of this may not be new to you but now is an opportune time to revisit the ways we can get MAD about energy savings in MARCH.

      Many states along the east coast have experienced a significantly warmer winter than usual and quite an abrupt transition to sunny, springtime weather. That said, one way to keep the house cool (along with your energy bill) for those Friday night "game nights" is to plant some shade around the outside of your house, especially near windows. We've talked before about how a little shade can go a long way, but it's really important to remember just how much of an impact this can have. Trees can cool the surrounding air temperatures by as much as 9°F.

      On your way to a Game Five barbeque? Great—consider riding your bike there! While National Bike Month (or Bike-to-work day) is in May, there is never a better time, especially when it's warm, to keep your carbon footprint low by getting that foot in gear! Understanding the energy impact you are having is one way to get motivated.

      Some of us are lucky enough to have friends who will host every game at...

    • Energy Savings Tips on the Go: Check Out the New Energy Savers Mobile Site

      For years, many of you have found energy-saving tips about how to save money and energy at home, in your vehicle, and at work on our EnergySavers desktop site.

      This month, we launched a new Energy Savers mobile website—which provides homeowners these with tips conveniently through your mobile device. Whether you're on the road, at the store, or talking with your home improvement contractor, you can find ways to make your home more comfortable and easier to heat and cool—and save money at the same time.

      The mobile site shows you how easy it is to cut your energy use. The easy, practical solutions for saving energy include tips you can use today—from your roof and landscaping, to your appliances and lights. These solutions are good for your wallet and for the environment. Actions that you take also help reduce our national needs to produce or import more energy, thereby improving our energy security.

      Check out our new mobile site—and tell us what you think by commenting below.

      Chris Stewart is a senior communicator at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assists EERE in providing technical content for many of its websites.

    • Driving Green: Spring has Sprung, but don't 'Spring Ahead'

      With gas prices skyrocketing, it may be time to evaluate your driving habits. No, I'm not talking about "hypermiling" (going to extreme lengths to get the best fuel economy possible), which can involve some dangerous techniques. (There actually is a Hypermiling Safety Foundation, which advocates legal techniques to get the best mileage possible.) You can still "drive green" safely to help save fuel and operating costs. First, of course, you should keep your car well maintained, whatever its age – regular oil changes, tires properly inflated and aligned, engine tuned up and using the proper octane gas. That's the easy part.

      Now take a look at your driving habits. If you're already driving economically, that's great! If you're not, you can make some simple adjustments to improve your gas mileage. Here are just a few tips to get you started saving $$ at the pump.

      • Take your time—you get better gas mileage driving between 25 and 65 mph. Don't "spring ahead" (accelerate) or "fall back" (brake) rapidly. Pace yourself between stoplights so you can just cruise through them without stopping (on a green light of course). I get a kick out of seeing the guy (it's almost always a guy) who has raced past me a mile or so back be the car just in front of me at the next light.
      • Combine your trips where possible. I love gadgets, and my GPS, which I use almost all the time, though mostly to tell me when I'll get to my destination, will calculate the shortest or fastest route and can include one "via point." It's an older, basic model, and newer ones also have functions that can route you around traffic jams.
      • Remove extra weight from your trunk—and...

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