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7 Things to Keep in Mind as You Choose the Best Energy Provider



electricity pylon by Lydia via flickr

Does looking at your energy bill each month just make you want to scream? Fluctuating rates and increased service costs can quickly throw a wrench into anyone’s budget. The good news is that homeowners now have more power in their hands than ever before. Aside from making home improvements to increase the energy efficiency of a home, consumers now have the ability to choose who supplies their energy… which can save them a lot of money and frustration.

The Power to Choose

Did you know that switching energy suppliers is as simple as checking the internet for a site that provides price comparisons and information on service providers in your area? Deregulations within the energy industry have made it possible for consumers to compare rates of varying energy companies in their area. Through careful evaluation of service providers, many have been able to find better service that helps them to conserve energy and keep costs to a minimum.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you exercise your power to choose:

1. You don’t have to stick with your original energy supplier. If you’ve been dealing with the same service provider for years, you may be under the impression that they’re the only ones who can service your area. This is far from the truth, don’t be afraid to do research and ask those you know in the area about who they’re using as an energy provider, you may find that personal recommendations can help you narrow down your choices.

2. Switching is not as stressful as it may seem. In fact, consumers should consider comparing service providers on an annual basis as the market is always changing.

3. Your decision can help you save money. Think about it, if you can find a service provider that is willing to charge you even 4 cents less per kilowatt-hour, you’re looking at a savings of $100 or more a month on your energy bill.

4. Know your contract terms prior to shopping around. It is important to be an informed decision maker, and you can make the best decision without first knowing all the facts. Review your current energy contract to see what rates you’re charged. You’ll also want to find out from your current service provider when the contract expires, and whether you’re being charged fixed or variable rates.

5. Know ahead of time what works best for you as it pertains to rates. Energy companies will charge you on a fixed or variable rate. They both have their pros and cons. While a fixed rate would be easier for budgeting purposes, your rate will remain the same even if the overall cost of energy goes down. On the other hand, variable rates mean that your bill will fluctuate up and down as the market does. However, it does provide you with the opportunity to get energy at lower rates when available.

6. Compare at least three service providers. Whichever website you decide to use to compare energy suppliers in your area, be sure that you compare at least three service providers. Check the company’s website, and even contact them to find out more about their offers. The idea is to get the best overall service.

7. Read your contract entirely. It is important not to get blindsided by the quoted price for energy. You’ll need to review the contract before signing so that there are no surprises later on. Look to see what fees might be assessed such as termination, late fees, and charges for restoring services should they get interrupted.

The energy market is forever changing, and with those chances come the challenges of keeping up with the bills. Whether you’re tired of getting surprise bills in the mail, want to switch to a provider that offers renewable energy options, or just want to find better rates, now is certainly the time to capitalize on your power to choose. Keep each of these tips in mind as you shop for service providers so that you can make the most informed decision possible for your budget, home, and the environment.



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.

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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!

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