Connect with us


5 Efficiency Fixes for Your Old, Drafty Home




Tired of treating your utility bills like live ammunition? If you live in an old, drafty home with outdated appliances and dowdy fixtures, you don’t have to.

All five of these cost-effective home energy efficiency fixes pay for themselves over time, and some actually boost your home’s resale value besides.

1. Seal Your Windows and Doors

Drafty windows and doors can wreak havoc on your home’s energy profile — and force your heating and cooling systems to work a lot harder. With a tube of silica caulk or a bundle of weatherstripping, you can dramatically increase the efficiency of your old windows and doors without spending thousands on entirely new fixtures. While you’re at it, look for smaller leaks around your home’s outside spigot, electrical outlets, cable inlets and other entry points.

2. Spring for a New Furnace or Boiler

Furnaces and boilers aren’t cheap, to be sure. Depending on the size of your house and the quality of the machine, a new furnace can easily set you back five grand or more. But furnaces and boilers are among the most energy-intensive appliances in your home. With an expected lifespan of 15 to 30 years, depending on type and make, most new furnaces and boilers pay for themselves well before they wear out.

If you can’t stomach the cost of a brand new furnace or boiler at the moment, consider a more cost-effective option, such as leasing. Rental costs generally run less than $90 per month, even for top-of-the-line equipment — well within most homeowners’ budgets, and a small price to pay for indoor comfort besides.

3. Switch to LED Lights

Incandescent lights are so 20th century. LEDs are the wave of the future. As homeowners across North America adopt LEDs, their per-unit costs are dropping like a rock. In bulk, they’re cost-competitive with CFLs, and nearly on par with incandescents. Of course, they’re much more efficient than both, and far more environmentally friendly than CFLs, which contain mercury.

4. Swap Your AC for a Swamp Cooler

Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, use the raw power of evaporating water to efficiently cool indoor spaces on hot, dry days. As a rule of thumb, central (ducted) evaporative cooling systems use about half the energy of central air conditioners, at about half the initial installation cost. Though they do require access to a main water line, they’re not water hogs — a day’s worth of evaporative cooling uses less water than a medium load of laundry.

Alas, evaporative coolers aren’t appropriate for every homeowner. To work properly, coolers need consistently low relative humidity — under 50%, and ideally under 30%. That means they’re really only appropriate in the western half of the United States and the southern reaches of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

5. Go Low Flow

What’s your GPF? No matter how nice your massive porcelain throne looks in your disco-era bathroom, it’s time to upgrade to a modern version that uses water a little more judiciously. Same goes for your showerheads and faucets. Thanks to advances in plumbing technology, low flow fixtures are no less powerful or effective than their inefficient predecessors.

Banish the Drafty Blues and Save Some Green

These five projects are just the tip of the energy efficiency iceberg. If you really want to get a handle on your home’s energy profile and build a logical list of cost-effective home efficiency improvement projects, consider a home energy audit or spring for a professional home energy assessment offered by your local government or utility. Many governments and utilities subsidize professional assessments, reducing or eliminating the out-of-pocket expense. And remember, you’re likely to earn back whatever you pay up front — and then some — if you act on the assessment’s findings.



Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

Continue Reading


7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

Continue Reading