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Energy Mythbusters

Here are some common misconceptions about energy efficiency in the home that we have tried to clear up:

1. Unplugging my appliances after turning them off doesn’t really save so much money or energy.

Well guess what? That’s absolutely not true. According to the NRDC, your set top DVR can drain 446 kilowatt-hours per year, your refrigerator 416, and your tv 275. That is just the tip of the iceberg, and that already costs (at a conservative assumption of 12 cents per kilowatt) $136 per year. While realistically you cannot unplug your refrigerator, you can unplug other items in your house to save a lot of money every single year. Practecol makes it easy to unplug appliances with its remote controlled surge strip, so you don’t have to bend over and unplug things- instead just use the remote control for big savings!

2. Air Filters for my HVAC only need to be cleaned when they get REALLY  dirty.

The air filters on your HVAC system guard every outlet of your air conditioner to take out all of the harmful dust in the air before it gets circulated throughout your house. Optimum efficiency for the air conditioner is at the first instant that there is a clean filter, when no dirt is obstructing the airflow. From there on out, the efficiency of the air conditioner trying to blow through all of the clogged dirt steadily decreases. The Department of Energy recommends checking and cleaning your air filter once a month, especially during heavy usage seasons like July or August.

In addition to making your air conditioner less efficient, clogged air filters also can damage your machine. Because they are forcing your machine to overproduce, the lifespan of your air conditioner is actually significantly shortened by not maintaining proper air filter cleanliness. And, the more often you clean it, the easier each cleaning will be. All the signs point to cleaning it early and often, so why not? There is a way to monitor specifically when to change the air filter using Practecol’s air filter whistle. It places a device on the air filter that senses when the air flow is obstructed on the filter itself, and emits a whistling noise so that you know it is time for a change. This is a simple way to avoid the issue of how often to change it objectively, and it simply tells you when your specific machine needs to be cleaned for maximum efficiency.

3. Fans cool down the room- therefore I should leave them on while I’m not in the room.

The short answer is “that’s not true and you shouldn’t.”

The long answer is a more scientific and technical one. The reason fans cool you off is because they create a wind chill effect, just like  wind on a cold day. Essentially the wind or fanned air makes it easier for the sweat on your body to evaporate and cool you off. But, that means that the air itself isn’t getting any colder, it only creates a façade of coolness that exists while you are in the room! In fact, the fan actually makes the room hotter, because the electricity used to power the fan converts into heat and fills the room. So despite making it feel 5 degrees colder while you are under the fan, the fan is technically making the room hotter. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to leave a fan on while you are out of the room, because it only serves to heat the room while you are gone.

4. Air leaking through air ducts and the attic are the only places you lose heat from in your house. (Also, insulating one area will cause more loss in other areas)

There are actually a lot of places in your house that lose heat. Although one of the big ones is through your roof, another large heat drain are the edges around windows and doors, and even through your windows themselves. You can save $15 a year and save 231lbs of CO2 annually by placing the Practecol Easy-Roll Film Kit over all of your windows to prevent heat escaping through the glass of your window panes. You can also save $13 a year on electric bills by using weather stripping to seal up those holes around your doors and windows. These are two other locations in your house that lose heat or cold air to your backyard besides your roof.

Additionally, sealing up these leaks in your house does not adversely affect other regions of your house that leak air. The pressure to lose heat does not increase in other locations, but rather by sealing up one area, you simply reduce leakage. It therefore just makes sense to seal up all locations that you can to maximize savings on electric bills.

Practecol- save and sustain, simply

Saving Money while on Vacation

Be it winter or summer, a vacation always hits the spot.  Intended to give you some piece of mind, it’s a nice break from reality. But how can you have peace of mind knowing that you are wasting money needlessly at home?

There are a couple things that you should do before you go on vacation in order to save money while you are gone. Two main things to focus on are your thermostat and your lights.

Thermostat: During the year, changing the temperature in your house even a single degree can save you about 3% off of your electric bill. Making sure that your temperature is set appropriately can therefore save you lots of money, if you strategize appropriately. While your in the house, you may only be able to stand it at 76 degrees, but your house doesn’t mind if it gets hotter while you are gone. You can go crazy, setting it at levels you personally would never survive. 82, 84, even 85 degrees! Raising the temperature this high can save you more than 25% on your electric bill while you are gone. It is a sure way to save some money and save some energy.

Lights: Obviously, making sure you don’t just leave lights on is a sure way to save some money on enegry costs, and also to maximize your bulb life so you wont have to replace it as soon. However, many would argue that some lights must be left on to dissuade burglars from robbing your house. There are ways around this, though- use timers. Using timers appropriately will leave one or two lights on at night so that it will appear as if you are home while still minimizing energy usage. And, there are even timers that will work purposefully anytime within a five minute radius of the time you set, that way no robber will be able to tell that the lights are on a timer (because every night the lights conveniently turn on and off at exactly 9:30pm). If you use the Practecol Motion Socket Switch which automatically turns lights on and off depending on a motion sensor, you wont have to worry about the stray closet bulb or basement light that can accidentally be overlooked, helping you save even more money.

Using these tricks can help you rest easy and well while you are on vacation.

Practecol- save and sustain, simply.

Energy Efficiency in the U.S.

In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a book abut the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. In it, Carson contended that pesticides would destroy wildlife, causing no birds to chirp during a Silent Spring. This book has been argued to be one of the starting points for the environmentalist movement. This movement took hold in the 1960’s and was a sizable political force. About eight days after Richard Nixon’s inauguration as President of the United States, there was a large oil spill on the west coast. This fueled (pun intended) political pressure on newly appointed President Nixon to act on behalf of the environment. In response, Nixon formed the Reorganization Plan No. 3 and sent it to Congress on July 9, 1970. Under the terms of this plan, a new agency would be formed called the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which would absorb the various unstructured departments scattered across the Department of the Interior, Health, Education and others which dealt with environmentally related issues.

Nixon defined the EPA’s role as establishing environmental protection standards, conducting research on the effects of pollution and how to control it, and recommending policy changes as such. Today, the EPA employs about 18,000 employees and is the governments sole branch dealing with all things environmental. Clean drinking water, proper waste disposal, dealing with radiation, air quality, and many other categories fall under the EPA’s jurisdiction.

In the 1992, the EPA started a program that specifically dealt with energy efficiency. Energy Star began as an effort to reduce energy consumption by consumers and by large factories, and became the international standard for energy efficiency. Its label started being added to computers and printers, but soon spread to essentially all household appliances, as well as buildings and other products. Its certification represents that the item being certified uses 20-30% less (!) than that which is federally required. It has begun to be used internationally, and claims to have helped save about $14 billion in 2006 alone.

The government has decided that it is important to become energy efficient. Why not you? Practecol sells simple products that help make your house more energy efficient. For example, we make weatherstripping that can split into any size and shape that you need, so that you can seal all of the small cracks and leaks around your doors and windows. This alone can save you $13 a year, just for 10 minutes of your time! Just a little bit of time and you can make your home more energy efficient- saving money and energy.

Practecol- Save & Sustain, Simply.

Turning off light bulbs

When I leave a room just for five minutes, is it worth it to turn the lights off and then back on again?

This is a more complicated issue with various factors at play, both the type of light bulb and the cost of your electricity. Every light bulb has a certain amount of operating hours that it remains working, and this is in fact related to and affected by the amount of times it is turned on and off. The more times you turn on and off the power of the light bulb, the shorter the lifespan. That being said, given the amount it actually effects the light bulb it could still be cost-effective to turn it on and off.

Regarding incandescent bulbs, they are fairly inexpensive to produce and also are very inefficient in that only 10% of the energy used by the bulbs are actually used to produce light, whereas the rest of the energy is simply given off as heat. Additionally, turning the light bulbs off in the summer will help keep your room cool. So, despite the shortening of the lifespan of the incandescent bulb, because it is so inexpensive to replace and because of the marginal effect of the flipping power, it actually is worth it to turn the light off even when you are just leaving the room for one minute.

Regarding fluorescent bulb it gets more complicated. Their operating life is more affected by frequent power changes, and a general rule of thumb as told by the Department of Energy is that you should only turn off the light if you will leave it off for 5-15 minutes. Here are the factors at play: the cost of replacing the lamp, and the cost of the extra initial rush of energy to get the fluorescent bulb started. The initial rush of energy only lasts about 1/120th of a second, and uses about as much energy as the bulb does normally in 3-5 seconds. Therefore, it is seemingly worth it to turn off your lightbulb even if you are only leaving the room for 5 seconds. However, because of the high cost of fluorescent bulbs and the greatly shortened life span of each lightbulb as a function of frequent switching on/off, the true economic cost of turning it on or off is about the cost of keeping the light on for 5-15 minutes.

With regards to incandescent bulbs it is always worth it to turn off the lights. However, with respect to fluorescent bulbs it depends more on how long you are going to be leaving the room for. If you are indeed gone for 5 minutes, definitely turn it off and then back on. Even if you are not leaving for a whole five minutes, though, from by a green point of view, it may cost more money for you to turn them off for less than 5 minutes, but you will be saving energy even if they are off for only 5 seconds.

Make sure to check out Practecol’s motion sensor light socket switch to save energy on those closet and basement lights! It will automatically shut off those hard to reach lights that get forgotten about, and therefore save you lots of energy and money.

Practecol- save and sustain, simply.