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5 Efficiency Fixes for Your Old, Drafty Home

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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 If you live in an old, drafty home with outdated appliances and dowdy fixtures, you don’t have to.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.

 

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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