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Anatomy of an Energy Efficient Home



housing by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

There are dozens of simple little things you can start doing in your day-to-day life that, when done consistently over time, can mean a huge difference to the future of our environment … and there’s no better place to start than in your very own home. With just a few adjustments and additions, you can make your home much more energy-efficient. And while installing and implementing these changes may cost you a little extra up front, in the long run you’ll be saving hundreds on your energy bill.

Anatomy of an Energy Efficient Home

Anatomy of an Energy Efficient Home created by

You can begin your energy-efficient upgrades in the garage. There are lots of awesome energy-efficient cars on the market right now, like the Toyota Prius, the Nissan Leaf and the Honda Fit. Hybrid vehicles can reduce smog-forming pollutants by up to 90 percent and cut emissions of carbon dioxide in half, meaning every time you hit the road, you’re doing a huge favor for the environment. You will have to install a charging station, which will will cost you about $500, but it will be worth it in the long run. Driving an electric car won’t just cut down on carbon dioxide; it can also save you an average of $5,000 in gas money over five years of ownership.

Moving into your home, there are tons of changes you can start making, but the one thing that should be on your mind the entire time is “Energy Star.” Energy Star is an internationally used rating system that lets you know that the product or appliance you’ve got uses 20% to 30% less energy than required by federal standards. If you’re buying any new appliance, chances are you can get one with an Energy Star rating. In the kitchen, for instance, an Energy Star fridge runs 9% to 10% more efficiently than a standard model and can save you up to $300 over its lifetime. An Energy Star dishwasher will save 10,000 gallons of water over its lifespan, cutting $32 a year from your water bill.

Most electronics for work and entertainment can also be found with Energy Star ratings. Energy Star-rated Blu-ray players and televisions run 25% more efficiently than normal ones and can save you $200 over the lifespan of the product. An Energy Star-rated laptop also runs 25% more efficiently than normal ones and will save you $35 annually if you have the unfortunate tendency of keeping your laptop running all the time (which we really recommend against!). Heating and cooling your house can also be granted Energy Star upgrades with rated air conditioners and furnaces. An energy-efficient furnace uses one-third the electricity of a regular furnace and can save you 22%. Energy Star-certified air conditioners use 8% less energy than conventional models and can save you thousands over the lifespan of the product.

Another term that can save you money and energy all over the house is “low flow.” Low-flow faucets and showerheads can be installed in any sink or shower to cut down on the amount of water you use every day. They work by decreasing the amount of water that comes out of the faucet but increasing the amount of pressure applied to that water, so people don’t notice the overall loss in water volume. A standard showerhead uses about 3.33 gallons of water per minute, which means a typical 10-minute shower will use about 33 gallons of water. A low-flow showerhead only uses 2 gallons of water per minute, which means you’re saving about 13 gallons of water every shower. Depending on how many showers you take, that could save up to 6,500 gallons of water a year and trim 43% off your hot water bill. The same applies to sink faucets in your kitchen and bathrooms. Low-flow sink heads use 32% less water than normal ones and can save you up to $92 a year on your water bill. Low-flow toilets use 1 gallon of water per flush as opposed to a normal toilet’s 5 gallons per flush, which can also save you up to 40% on your water bill.

Finding new ways to regulate your home’s temperature can also lead to new ways to lower your energy bill. A programmable thermostat will adjust the temperature in your house for you and can save you 10% annually on your heating bill. Some of the best ones on the market include the Nest, the Ecobee 3 and the Honeywell Lyric. In addition, a tankless water heater uses 30% less energy than a normal one and can save you up to $100 a year on your water bill. But there are also some old-fashioned, low-tech additions that will increase your home’s energy efficiency. Weather-stripping your windows will keep heat from getting out and lower your heating bills 10% to 15% a year. A ceiling fan only uses 2% of the energy an air conditioner does and could save you hundreds on your bill annually. You can even make your bed more environmentally friendly with some energy-efficient bedding. A down comforter will keep you warmer on cold nights, meaning you don’t have to turn the heat way up. Plus it’s cozy!

These changes, while seemingly insignificant, will have you sucking up less energy and producing less waste. You may not win a Nobel Prize for it, but the environment will be thankful for your actions all the same. The little changes we make today can mean the difference between giving future generations a healthy planet and a diseased one on the brink of destruction. So next time you enter your home, take a look around; you’ll probably see a dozen different ways you can start saving the world right now.






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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