Friday, October 19, 2012

Raising Our Kids' Energy Awareness

Growing up, our energy education consisted of my parents asking if we lived in a barn every time we left the door open, and getting yelled at when we stared in the fridge too long.  There wasn't a purposeful effort to educate us about energy or conservation, but just a lot of common sense practices like turning the lights off when we leave a room.  Times are different.  Energy is a bigger, and growing, strain on the family budget and we're more aware of how our individual activities impact the environment.  The next generation of kids will grow up being energy-conscious out of both necessity and responsibility.

There are a couple basic reasons why energy is a bigger issue for families today:

Homes are bigger.  We were a family of 5 growing up in a 1,500 square foot house with one bathroom (gasp!).  Today, we all want bigger homes which require more energy to heat, cool and maintain.

Construction practices are different.  Cathedral ceilings and recessed lighting for example are very on-trend, but perform poorly from an energy efficiency standpoint.  Also, certain time periods (notably the 70s and 80s) were known to use incredibly inefficient practices and are prone to air leakage and thermal barrier issues.

We have more stuff.  We had one TV in the house when I was a kid, no cell phones, no DVD were we deprived!  In contrast, I'm friends with a couple that has two kids and 9 TVs in their house (plus all the other gadgetry).  All this stuff takes power and costs money.

We spend more time indoors.  So not only do we have more stuff in the house, but we spend more time indoors using all this stuff.

FEMP for Energy Action Month
The point is not to glorify the 'good old days' - no point in that.  But, we do need to think about today, and the future, because our world has changed.  One of our parental responsibilities now is to blend the common sense we learned from our parents with the new information we now have, to shape kids that are even smarter than us.  October is National Energy Action Month, and a perfect time to introduce energy awareness, in all its forms, to your family.  Check out our 'Be An Energy Star' family activity as a way to get started while having some fun.

Posted by: Kylene Golubski
Pro Energy Consultants

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

RED Light: Closing Your Vents to Save Energy

As part of Energy Action Month, we're sharing specific household DOs and DONT's to enhance your family's budget, health and Eco-consciousness.  We're using the classic childhood game, 'Red Light, Green Light' to make the information super easy to understand (we know how difficult and overwhelming all the information about lowering energy bills, energy audits, etc. can be!)


Pro Energy Consultants has performed thousands of energy audits across the country, so we've seen some pretty interesting things people do in their well meaning attempts to save energy. Let's just say that duct tape is not a suitable material for any energy-related home improvement!

A very common activity that seems to make sense on the surface is closing the vents in low-use areas or rooms of the home. People think, ''this will prevent wasted money on heating/cooling this space.' But this logic is wrong, and can wind up costing you.

First, when you close a vent, the air that was directed to it gets stuck. With nowhere to go, it applies backpressure on the unit's fan, causing it to work harder (burn more energy) to do its job. Overtime, this will also cause the fan to wear out quicker.

Second, your HVAC unit will produce the same amount of conditioned air, regardless of how many vents are open/closed (so you are not reducing energy consumption). When you close a vent, you are simply sending more conditioned air into spaces that don't need it - often times, this can even make other rooms UNcomfortable.

Lastly, restricting the flow of conditioned air increases the probability that it will be pushed out through the leaks in your duct work, decreasing your energy efficiency.

Bottom line, closing your vents gets the RED LIGHT this month, and can do way more harm than good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Top 3 Ways Homeowners Waste Money on Energy Saving Home Improvements

Which Energy Improvements Waste Your Money?
In honor of Energy Action Month, Pro Energy is running a campaign aimed to help families decide which energy saving actions are more important than others. In other words, which energy improvements or actions get the GREEN light, and which get a red light?? Today, let's take a look at the most typical improvements that earned our RED LIGHT; families should at least do some research before thinking these improvements will mean big savings.

  • Windows. Don't get me wrong, old windows can certainly be energy-draining culprits. HOWEVER, we typically see homeowners blaming windows for symptoms (like drafts or high energy bills) they actually aren't related to. Even worse, purchasing new windows for a home can cost thousands of dollars.
  • New AC or Furnace Equipment. So, you turn on your AC in the summer, and you feel like it never actually cools down your house. Or maybe just not the second floor of your home. That means you probably need a new, bigger air conditioner, right? WRONG! Again, self-diagnosing what seems to be a logical problem can mean continued high energy bills, comfort problems, and wasted money! And unfortunately, your HVAC dealer may not present the most unbiased opinion.
  • Energy-Saving Appliances. Again, we're not trying to say that a new EnergyStar refrigerator isn't more efficient than your 30-year-old pistachio-colored "icebox." Homeowners think investing in new large appliances will be the silver bullet and automatically drop their utility bills. Unfortunately, the savings isn't always as much as they'd hoped. Make sure you do your research on what features actually use less energy than others; just because it has an EnergyStar rating doesn't necessarily mean it is the most energy-efficient (Here's a good fridge article from Consumer Reports).

One more time, we are NOT saying that these aren't energy-saving improvements. We just want you to have the right expectations! We frequently see homeowners who have spent a lot of money in hopes of upgrading their homes, being more comfortable in extreme temperatures, and becoming more energy efficient, but their problems weren't solved after their investment. Just make sure you do your research before assuming the cause of your comfort or energy problems. 

So what are the improvements you should be focusing on? Stay tuned for our next blog post! If you can't wait until next week, you can discuss questions related to this blog post or any other energy-related questions with your local independent energy consultant.