Spend Less This Summer: 4 Cheap Ways to Keep Cool

With temperatures rising, homeowners begin rethinking their budget to accommodate rising electric bills, as well. However, there are better things to do with your summer cash rather than worrying about sky-high rates. Although it might seem impossible at first, cutting your electric bill during the summer months cheaply is easier than you think.

Drapes

Adding drapes to your home is a great way to decrease the amount of heat entering the house and are fairly inexpensive if you know where to look. However, even if you can’t afford to put drapes on all the windows of your home, don’t worry! Adding drapes to the areas of your home that receive the most sunlight will still keep your home cooler than it would be without them.

When buying drapes or curtains, the heavier they are, the better they are for cooling down your home. Thicker fabric absorbs more heat from the outside while keeping the inside temperature from escaping outside.

·      Thrift Shops and Flea Markets

A lot of thrift stores and flea markets sell heavy drapes really cheaply. Although they might not match, particularly if you’re planning on having drapes throughout your home, the drapes available are usually serviceable and cheap.

·      Sales

If you have a particular store in mind for procuring your curtains from, keep an eye on their sale fliers. Most businesses will put drapes and curtains on sale before summer.

Also, dollar stores typically have sales on leftover curtains from last year’s stock for much cheaper than you can buy them at most furniture stores. Be sure to ask if they have discounted curtains somewhere in the store. This isn’t just a great way to get curtains, but rods, as well.

Closed Doors, Natural Lights

If you want to use your air conditioner during summer, keep in mind that a small area is easier to cool than a large one. By closing the adjoining doors to the main room, you can keep your house cooler while spending less electricity!

Another great tip for decreasing the amount of electricity is to use natural light during the daytime instead of artificial lighting. Electric light bulbs automatically create heat in the room they’re in and by keeping the lights off during the day; you’ll not only save energy but keep your home cooler during the summer.

Be a Fan of Fans

Ceiling and window fans are a great way to keep your home cool throughout the day. Window and box fans can be positioned for maximum effectiveness anywhere in the room while ceiling fans deliver a cool burst of air circulating around the entire room constantly. In addition to being effective, using fans costs less than using an air conditioner will be a good idea.

Grilling

Heat from cooking can be downright miserable during the summer and is one of the main reasons that people are using their air conditioner. However, there’s a great solution that is cost-effective; namely, grilling. Grilling outside is fun and cheap solution for keeping homes cool during the summer time.

 

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Daylight Savings And Saving Energy

Sunday, March 9 at 2:00 a.m. was the official time to spring forward for daylight savings time (DST). While not all countries or U.S. states observe DST, most North American and European residents set their clocks ahead one hour on Saturday night before going to bed, including their wall clocks, appliance clocks, alarm clocks, auto clocks, sprinkler and lighting timers, some ac thermostats, and many wristwatches.

 

The History of Daylight Savings Time

The idea of daylight savings time originated in the 1700s with Ben Franklin. He believed rising with the sun would enable people to be productive during the daylight hours and thus save resources. The idea didn’t become popular in the U.S. until World War I and later World War II, when saving fuel oil was critical to the war effort. During the Arab oil embargo of 1973, the U.S. again pushed daylight savings time. During that period, electricity consumption decreased by 1% but it may have been more to higher prices than anything else. In 2005, the federal government extended daylight savings time by a month under the Energy Policy Act. But does daylight savings time really decrease energy use? Surprisingly, the answer may be “no.”

 

Does DST Really Decrease Energy Use?

Daylight savings time was invented before the use of air conditioning became widespread. A Kansas study found thats daylight savings time can actually increase consumer energy use because people arrive home when it is hot and turn on their ACs. In so far as many consumers use energy-hogging AC units, this means energy consumption is higher than if the same people had stayed at the office. However, the opposite the opposite is also true. A California study found that electricity decreased because people remained outdoors longer. The bottom line seems to be that, while energy consumption nationwide decreases by 0.03%, actual savings depend on where you live. The South tends to use more, the North is a slight winner. Lighting has almost nothing to do with it; savings relate to cooling costs.

 

DST And Biorhythms And What To Do About It

While the energy savings associated with daylight savings times are negligible, the health costs are not. Studies have shown daylight savings time can disruption the body’s circadian rhythm, which is the basic biological clock that regulates hormone production, among other things. Many people never adjust their circadian rhythm after clocks are set back, resulting in chronic over tiredness and lack of concentration. More specifically, the presence of daylight interferes the production of melatonin by the pineal gland. Low melatonin production is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer as well as insomnia. And melatonin is just one of more than a dozen hormones disrupted by daylight savings time.

While melatonin supplementation is useful, it can only accomplish so much. But you can fight light with light. Researchers have found that the blue light spectrum of daylight is responsible for an out-of-whack circadian clock. So, turn off blue light – televisions, computers and other electronic devices – at least one hour before bedtime if you want a good night’s sleep. And add red spectrum light to your life during the early evening. Incandescent light bulbs emit red light, but are no longer as readily available. However, energy saving red-light bulbs are commercially available, and we sell them of course. Using the “warm color” light bulbs will not only save energy, they can help save your health.

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Using Less Energy To Feather Your Nest

Nest Labs was bought recently by Google, which also purchased Texas Wind Farms. Both companies are in the energy business. Nest manufactures Wi-Fi enabled smart thermostats and smoke alarms, while Texas Wind Farms produces clean, sustainable power.

Nest results mixed.

Nest claims it saves consumers about $175 a year in heating and cooling costs. In reality, these savings can be much lower because Nest aims to keep you comfortable, not keep energy use in check. Many people actually spend more using Nest than not using it, and Nest does not work at all with some oil pump heaters. Independent studies have found that programmable thermostats often result in higher energy consumption simply because people do not know how to use them properly. Nest does better than traditional programmable thermostats, but is not the magical device people expect it to be.

EnTouch for small business.

Large commercial office buildings have used energy-smart thermostats by Siemens and Howell for years, but their cost is prohibitive for small businesses. EnTouch aims to bridge the gap by offering a $5000 system that automates energy consumption by smaller facilities, such as restaurants. In most states, the largest non-industrial energy users are grocery chains; commercial freezers are notorious energy hogs. Equipment such as dish machines, commercial laundry machines, and ice machines all use significant amounts of energy. Replacing these systems and upgrading water-heating systems can produce energy savings without altering the way you do business.

Getting an energy audit.

Power companies are state regulated and most are under mandate to invest in energy programs such as solar power. In many states, residential and small business customers can have an energy audit done by the local power utility at a reasonable cost. Often there are rebates for the replacement of outmoded HVAC equipment, along with federal tax credits. Replacing a low energy efficient HVAC system is the first step in lowering energy costs. After that, consider adding insulation, replacing old windows and doors that are not air tight, repairing torn ducts, and painting a dark roof with a light, reflective coating. A thermostat would be toward the bottom of the list! A great thermostat system will save you money, but it can’t offset a low SEER system and its inefficiency.

Using alternative power.

If you install a solar or wind system, you can be eligible for federal and state tax credits. Often the cost to finance a solar system is about the same or less as your utility bill, so it in effect pays for itself if it provides more than 75% of your power needs. The break-even point is usually around 8 years, at which point your energy is basically free. While installing the panels on the south side of your roof will provide the most energy gain, installing on the western side will provide power during peak periods.

 

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Hot Tips For Reducing Winter Heating Bills

Projections are for a colder winter throughout the northern U.S. and we’re already seeing record lows. So how are Americans keeping their homes warm?

  • 54% of homes use natural gas; most are in Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest
  • 38% use electricity; most are in Southeast, Southwest, and California
  • 6% use oil; most are in New York and New England
  • Few use propane, wood or other energy sources

Heat rises and so does the price of heating

The cost of heating has risen since a year ago, making winter energy savings a hot topic. Expect rates to be higher by 2% (electricity) up to 13% (natural gas), while the cost of oil can spike depending upon demand.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates 90% of the 116 million homes in the U.S. will pay more for heating this winter (October 1, 2013-March 31, 2014) than last year:

  • Natural gas: $679 ($80 more than last year)
  • Electricity: $909 ($18 more than last year)
  • Propane: $1,666  ($120 more than last year)
  • Oil: $2,046 ($46 less than last year)

How can you save on heating costs in 2013?

Before we talk about specific ways to save on heating costs, remember that there are a lot of ways you can save on your overall energy costs. One of the easiest is to use ENERGY STAR certified appliances and fixtures, and to replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs.

In addition, make sure your heating equipment is in good condition so that it can operate efficiently. If you central air conditioning, a SEER 16 unit is a good choice for year-round savings on both heating and cooling. Otherwise, many of the tips that save money on heating will also save money on cooling your home.

Step 1: seal your home. 

Leaky homes let cold air in and warm air out. Make sure your home is tightly sealed. This is relatively inexpensive and can mean significant savings, especially in an older home. Some electric companies offer inexpensive energy audits, or you can hire a professional to conduct an energy loss assessment. In any event, do the following:

  • Caulk all windows
  • Weather strip all doors, including any doors to an attached garage or enclosed porch
  • Weather strip attic hatch or door
  • Seal small gaps around plumbing stacks or electric power supply lines in the attic and in the basement
  • Seal holes or gaps around chimney or furnace flues; keep damper closed or consider sealing the top of the chimney (the fireplace will become nonworking)
  • Make sure your AC ducts are properly sealed and repaired; about 20% of air is lost due to leaking or improperly connected ducts
  • Repair any cracks in mortar or exterior stucco
  • Repair settlement cracks especially if there are small gaps along the baseboard and the rim joist where the cement meets your home’s wood framing
  • Use winter storm windows and doors in northern climates
  • Remove AC window units and close windows during winter
  • Unroll area rugs on top of wooden floors, especially in older homes
  • Use inexpensive gaskets to seat electrical outlets when not in use

Step 2: insulate everything

Properly insulating the attic and walls can save up to 10% annually. Don’t forget the wall between an attached garage and your living space; attached garages and enclosed porches can be significant sources of energy loss. Also remember to use an insulated attic hatch or door. Insulating pipes and your water heater can save on hot water costs.

  • Insulation should be above the attic floor joists
  • Recommended insulation is R-38 at about 12-15 inches
  • In colder climates, R-49 insulation is preferred
  • Use insulation wraps and sheets around pipes, water heaters, and on attic hatch

Step 3: reset your thermostat and ceiling fans

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimate you can save about 3% on your natural gas bill for every degree that your turn your thermostat down during the winter. This means that in Michigan, you could save about $30 a month for a three-degree change.

  • Use a programmable thermostat and set “away” and “bedtime” temperatures to 62 degrees and “at-home” temperature to 68-70 degrees.
  • Heating your home with electricity costs two to three times more than cooling it (about $1.15 per hour in a 1700-square foot house based on 12 cents per kilowatt hour)
  • Do not close registers or air returns in unused rooms; it can damage your ducts and will make your system less efficient
  • Set reversible fans to blow air up; this will push hot at the top of room and distribute it throughout the room
  • Do not leave fans running in unused rooms; this can waste about $7 per month per fan
  • Space heaters are a major cause of fires and so we do not recommend them; instead use heated blankets or Snuggies to stay warm in a colder room

Step 4: control humidity

Controlling humidity is an important way to feel more comfortable year round. Humidity inside your home is related to exterior humidity. In warm climates, high interior humidity means that you will feel too cold. In cold climates, the opposite is true and humidity is usually too dry for comfort. In both cases, the real problem is that exterior air is finding its way into your home. In general, during the winter your interior humidity should be around 40-50% in most homes. In Florida, Louisiana, and other humid areas, it will be a little higher.

  • In general, indoor humidity around 50% is most comfortable; this will vary depending on where you live, how your home is built, and how you heat it
  • In cold climates, if interior humidity is too high ice  will form on the inside of windows and walls, causing damage and possible illness; this usually happens when people add humidifiers because the interior air is too dry for comfort
  • In cold climates, too little interior humidity can cause coughs and nosebleeds; low humidity is usually a problem in cold climates because cold air cannot contain much water and it occurs when too much exterior air is coming into the home
  • Sealing your home is usually the solution, no matter where you live

Step 5: layer like an Antarctic explorer

You don’t have to heat your whole home when you take the chill off by putting on a few layers. Many thin, warm layers will insulate you better against the cold than a few thick layers.

  • Science has debunked that we lose most of our body heat through our heads, but your head and face are more sensitive to cold, so wearing a knit cap will make you feel warmer.
  • Socks will make you feel more comfortable, especially if you have poor circulation. Both cotton and wool absorb and retain a lot more moisture than acrylic, so a good-quality acrylic or synthetic-blend sock will keep your feet drier. U.S.-made socks are usually of better quality than those made in China. Cotton especially retains moisture and will draw heat away from your body.
  • If you choose to wear long underwear, a “wicking” synthetic brand is lightweight and feels soft, but synthetic fibers can stain easily and odors may build up. Silk is luxurious and thin, but difficult to care for and expensive. Merino wool is non-itchy and stain resistant, but costly and can shrink in the dryer.
  • When you layer for warmth, wear a wicking layer (non-cotton) garment first as your base layer. This should be formfitting and long underwear is ideal. The next layer should be looser but not baggy to hold warmth in the air spaces. Consider a hoodie or bulky knit sweater. Common fabrics are synthetic fleece, polyester, and wool. Cotton is not very warm compared to other fabrics. Wear wicking socks and knit slippers, plus a cap and you are good to go. If you’ll be watching TV or reading, snuggle up with a heated throw.
  • Dress your bed, especially in cold climates. Begin with an electric mattress pad. Then add flannel, fleece, or knit polyester jersey sheets that wick moisture (cotton is out). If you don’t want to buy different sheets for summer and winter, buy good quality cotton-synthetic blend sheets. The next layer might be an acrylic blanket or lightweight cotton quilt. Then add a wool blanket. If it is really cold, top it all off with a comforter and duvet. While down comforters are warm, they are difficult to clean and many people are allergic to them. Down alternatives are pretty good performers, are usually machine washable, and are fine for allergy sufferers. The more layers you use on a bed, the warmer you’ll be – and sleeping partners who like it colder can flip back a few layers onto your side. Many people swear by electric blankets, but you can stay warm with the right layers without paying the utility company.
  • Take a tip from your great-grandmother and use a hot water bottle wrapped up in a towel (can leak, though) to warm the foot of your bed. Microwavable bags of rice stay warm, don’t slip around, don’t leak and you can make them easily. We recommend against sleeping with an electric heating pad due to the risk of burns.

What are your tips for keeping warm this winter?

 

 

 

 

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Restaurant Lighting and Light Fixtures

Photo Credit: Google

Photo Credit: Google

 

Photo Credit: Google

Photo Credit: Google

 

There is a recipe for appetizing restaurant lighting, and sometimes it can make or break a restaurant. LED bulbs, which come in a variety of shapes and colors, are an effective way to modulate mood. They are available in large sizes to create a big impact in focal features. Some are waterproof, so you can use them in waterfalls, water walls, and fountains to create the perfect splash. If you have an Italian restaurant, consider using red and green LED lights to make a statement.

Open show kitchens are popular in restaurants, but offer a unique lighting challenge. The kitchen must be a bright, clear-light work environment, which is fine with CFLs, but the food must be delicious looking as it is made and waits under heat lamps to be served, which pose a problem with CFLs. We offer energy-efficient light bulbs in a variety of colors to make your food look as good as it tastes. These include a combination of kitchen and over-the-table lighting to set the right mood in your restaurant. Did you know that people have a bigger appetite when the light is dim? It’s true. So even if you have a bright show kitchen, keep over the table lighting subdued. And put your grill front and center of your show kitchen. Guests like the drama and the orange-red of the flames as your chefs work helps take the chill off bluish CFL bulbs. We offer halogen lights that are ideal for kitchens and cast a clean, bright light with savings of up to 80% on energy costs.

Restaurants with big windows are fabulous during the daytime, when natural lighting (the ideal type of lighting made by Mother Nature herself) floods the space and food prep areas. Many restaurants are not so lucky, particularly those located in the interiors of shopping malls. To mimic the warm of natural sunlight, install large overhead fixtures with alabaster-colored shades and combine with wall scone floods and strategic LED lights. Newer restaurant lighting fixtures include honeycomb modules and chandeliers that use gorgeous LED modules with diffusers. Available in a range of colors. LED modules can create dramatic effects and are useful in restaurant seating areas. GE makes super-mini bulbs for low-watt fixtures that provide richness and accuracy of color. These bulbs retrofit with existing systems and can burn up to 15,000 hours.

Architectural LED power grids are a fast and simple way to install energy-efficient, bright LEDs in a variety of colors. These illuminated grids are up to 64% more efficient than fluorescent, have no lead, mercury, or glass and offer a 50,000 hour lifetime.The interlocking grids can be quickly constructed into backlighting such as behind a cocktail bar or on ceilings for an overall illumination… and they come in a wide variety of colors.

Hungry for more information? Just give us a call and talk to us about your restaurant lighting challenge.

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Sylvania Propoint LED Cobrahead

The LED Cobrahead luminaires are the new lights in town! Baltimore, Dallas and West Palm have thrown out their old HID lights and switched to LED street lights and basked in energy and maintenance savings. These lights have an average life 70,000 hours, almost 3 times longer, than their HID counterpart. They are designed to improve nighttime visibility and minimize glare.

Let’s say that there are 5 lights per side on a block, that means that each block has 20 lights. If they are on for 10 hours a day every day, at a rate of $0.11 p/kwH, you have an energy savings of about $360 per year! You will save around $15,000 on maintenance and replacement compared to the HID lights This light will eventually pay for itself all while you are helping the environment! Take a look at our collection of LED streetlights here.
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Las luminarias LED Cobrahead son las nuevas luces de la ciudad! Baltimore, Dallas y West Palm han votado sus luces viejos HID a la basura, reemplazándolos por LED, resultando así en ahorro de energía y costos por mantenimiento. Estas luces tienen un promedio de vida de 70.000 horas, casi 3 veces más que sus contrapartes HID. Están diseñados para mejorar la visibilidad nocturna y minimizar el deslumbramiento.

Digamos que hay 5 luces por lado en un bloque, lo que significa que cada bloque tiene 20 luces. Si están prendidas 10 horas al día todos los días, a un precio de $ 0,11 p / kWh, usted tiene un ahorro energético de alrededor de $ 360 por año! Usted ahorrará alrededor de $ 15.000 en mantenimiento y reposición en HID. Esta luminaria al final pagará por sí misma y tambien están ayudando al ambiente! Mire nuestra colección de luces de calle LED aquí.

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