Expensive Home Appliances That Eat Up Your Electric Bill

A good number of Baby Boomers can recall conversations with their grandparents about a time before electricity, or when an “icebox” was literally a container that housed a block of ice that kept food inside cool. But my, how times have changed. We have gizmos and gadgets that didn’t even exist a decade ago, and we consume energy at an alarming rate. Between 1949 and 2010, domestic energy consumption has more than doubled to about 100 quadrillion BTUs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. During that same period, consumption of coal, petroleum, and natural gas have skyrocketed — yet energy use from renewable sources, such as the sun and wind, has remained
surprisingly flat.

Look around your own home, and you’ll find power guzzlers in both likely and unlikely places. But by making some fairly painless changes, you can see big savings: in energy, cash, and yes, saving the planet by shrinking your carbon footprint. Here’s a look at some of those power-hungry appliances, and what you can do to be more efficient and economical without backbreaking hassle.

List courtesy of

Old Refrigerators

They sure don’t build ’em like they used to, right? While older refrigerators may hold up better than their newer, more sleek-looking cousins, they also use up to three times more energy. Opting for a new EnergyStar-rated refrigerator can save you significant cash in the long run. The LG Electronics 25-Cu. Ft. French Door Refrigerator ($1,199.99 with $252.55 s&h or free pickup, a low by at least $17) is EnergyStar-certified and has a chic 3-French door design. Plus your savings don’t stop there! First, you’re eligible for EnergyStar tax credits for your purchase. And some electric utilities like ComEd in Illinois will pick up your obsolete appliances when you replace them — and give you cash to boot. Want to figure out your potential savings? The Environmental Protection Agency has this handy refrigerator retirement savings calculatorwhere you can see how the savings add up.

Old Freezers

Every time frozen dinners go on sale, I wax nostalgic for the chest freezer my parents had at their house. But those older freezers cost about $120 a year to operate, according to the California Energy Commission. Costs like that can easily wipe out any supermarket savings, and can even put you in the hole. If your freezer’s there for sentimental value, get rid of it — and consider replacing it with a more efficient EnergyStar model, or doing without one at all. Going the latter route will save you enough money in appliance and power costs that you can buy frozen dinners at full price and still come out ahead. (Of course, March being National Frozen Foods Month, you can stock up at a discount all the same.)

Clothes Dryers

While the whirring and chugging of your washer’s spin cycle might suggest it uses lots of energy, the dryer is the real power hog of the pair. Figures from the U.S. Department of Energy show that dryers consume between 1800 and 5000 watts of power. So 200 hour-long drying cycles could run you as much as $85. Not only does investing in a clothesline and clothespins cost you mere pennies, but avoiding the dryer will also preserve the life of your clothes, saving you money in other areas as well.

Space Heaters

Thank goodness we’re getting out of winter, as space heaters consume about as much power as a blow dryer (750 to 1500 watts), but stay on for much, much longer. One space heater might not consume a lot, but multiply that by three or four units, and you’ve got some real power guzzling going on. The obvious alternative — wearing thick sweaters or layers — really does work.

Televisions

It’s common to use the TV as a white noise machine when we’re not watching, but we might as well paper our walls with dollar bills. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates TV power consumption at between 110 and 170 watts, meaning that if you leave it on eight hours a day, you’re consuming close to 1 kilowatt of energy. Over the course of a year that could add up to $30 per TV set you leave on. Just as you would with lights, shut TVs off when they’re not in use. It’s also wise to invest in a newer television set like the Panasonic VIERA 42″ 120Hz 1080p LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD Television ($649.95 with $1.99 s&h, a low by $216), which will onlycost you $10 per year to operate (assuming it’s on for 5 hours a day).

Personal Computers and Monitors

While many consumers now favor laptops for home and on-the-go use, it’s not as if the tower computer with a separate monitor is a thing of the past. Taken together, a computer and its monitor eat up close to 300 watts of energy. Supposing you leave your computer on eight hours a day, you’re now looking at more than $60 in energy usage over the course of a year. When you computer’s not in use, power down. Put those extra savings toward some nifty software packages or a wireless mouse.

Swimming Pool Pumps

People who live in warmer climes might not think about their pool pumps, but the same device that circulates water also sucks wallets dry. Department of Energy statistics show that a typical pool pump costs $240 a year to operate. But in a study by the Center for Energy Conservation at Florida Atlantic University, pool owners saved as much as 75% when they used conservation measures such as downsizing their pump, or running it less.

When it comes to looking for power hogs around the house, you won’t exactly have luck listening for a piggy squeal. But here’s the next best thing: Consider age. Simply put, old appliances, especially the large ones, don’t run nearly as efficiently as newer ones from a power-consumption standpoint. Also as a general rule, know that any appliance that has a huge power draw (such as a space heater) is going to sock your electric bill if you forget to power it off. Put these bits of wisdom to work, and chances are you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year on your energy bills. Getting in the habit of shutting all your appliances and lights off when not in use is going to help that bottom line, too.

Source- Huffington Post

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The Commercial Tenant's Guide to Construction, Relocation & Facility Maintenance

by Brian Sahn, Esq., & Jared Newman, Contributing Columnists

As the costs of energy-efficient retrofits and green practices trend downward, they are becoming more common, and less of a novelty in commercial buildings. A “green lease” is an effective tool for allocating the costs and benefits of operating a green building between the landlord and tenant. Unlike a traditional lease, a green lease encourages the parties to work together through the construction and occupancy phases, and create opportunities for both parties to reduce operating expenses.

Provisions of a green lease will vary depending upon the scope of energy-efficient building systems and green practices in the building. At the most basic level, a building’s recycling program and government-mandated energy reporting should be addressed. On the other hand, a lease in an aspiring or existing LEED-certified building should be much more extensive, and allocate responsibility for the denial of or loss of certification…

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Germany: 80 Times More Peak Solar Power than U.S. Compared to Electricity Demand

I ran across this interesting statistic the other day and wanted to comment on it and some of the differences between German and U.S. solar energy policy. (This is the post I hinted at in my piece on the 2011 U.S. Solar Market Insight report yesterday.)

First of all, some more stats:

  • As of sometime in the first half of 2011, Germany has had over 20% of its electricity supply coming from renewable energy sources.
  • By 2011, its installed solar photovoltaics capacity was 25 GW.
  • In the U.S., cumulative PV capacity nearly hit 4 GW last year.
  • Solar power peaked at 40% of power demand in Germany last summer.
  • In the U.S., solar peaked at 0.5% of electricity demand last summer.
  • In other words, as stated in the title of this piece, compared to peak electricity demand, Germany has 80 times more solar PV on the grid.

So, basically, while the U.S. is now considered the most attractive country in the world for solar power, by far (by Ernst & Young, at least), and everyone in the industry has its eye on the U.S. and/or is trying to get a big foot in the door, taking a look at solar energy capacity compared to electricity demand should be humbling.

Now, the thing I noted yesterday, in that U.S. Solar Market Insight post, is that the majority of U.S. solar power growth has been in the utility-scale and commercial-scale solar categories. Additionally, that’s expected to continue, as a number of large CSP plants are in the pipeline and current trends in the PV sector are expected to continue along the same lines, as well.

On the other hand, “80 percent of the solar installed in Germany was on rooftops and built to a local scale (100 kilowatts or smaller – the roof of a church or a Home Depot store),” John noted several months ago.

Putting 2 and 2 together, Germany has put solar panels on a ton more of its houses than the U.S. That’s decentralized solar power than benefits citizens even more than centralized solar power. Imagine if the U.S. were more ambitious about decentralizing our electric grid and putting more solar panels on homes and small businesses…. Well, if you remember John’s post from October, we could power the entire U.S. with rooftop solar by 2026.

h/t Renewables International

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/17xut)

Types of Geothermal Loops

Closed Geothermal Ground Loops

The most typical geothermal installation utilizes a closed loop system.  In a closed loop system, a loop of piping is buried underground and filled with water or antifreeze that continuously circulates through the system.  There are four major types of closed loop geothermal systems:  horizontal loops, vertical loops, slinky coils and pond loops.

Horizontal Geothermal Ground Loops

If adequate soil or clay based land is available, horizontal geothermal ground loops are typically one of the more economical choices.  In horizontal geothermal ground loops, several hundred feet of five to six feet deep trenches are dug with a backhoe or chain trencher.  Piping is then laid in the trench and backfilled.  A typical horizontal ground loop will be 400 to 600 feet long for each ton of heating and cooling.  Because of the amount of trenching involved, horizontal ground loops are most commonly used for new construction.  Finally, because horizontal geothermal ground loops are relatively shallow, they are often not appropriate for areas with extreme climates such as the north or deep south.

source: U.S. Department of Energy

Vertical Geothermal Ground Loops

When extreme climates, limited space or rocky terrain is a concern, vertical geothermal ground loops are often the only viable option.  This makes them popular for use on small lots and in retrofits.  In vertical geothermal ground loops, a drilling rig is used to drill 150 to 300 foot deep holes in which hairpin shaped loops of pipe are dropped and then grouted.  A typical vertical ground loop requires 300 to 600 feet of piping per ton of heating and cooling.  Vertical loops are typically more expensive than horizontal loops, but are considerably less complicated than drilling for water.  Less piping is also required for vertical geothermal ground loops as opposed to horizontal loops as the earth’s temperature is more stable at depth.

Slinky Coil Geothermal Ground Loops

Slinky coil geothermal ground loops are gaining popularity, particularly in residential geothermal system installations. Slinky coil ground loops are essentially a more economic and space efficient version of a horizontal ground loop. Rather than using straight pipe, slinky coils, as you might expect, use overlapped loops of piping laid out horizontally along the bottom of a wide trench.  Depending on soil, climate and your heat pumps’ run fraction, slinky coil trenches can be anywhere from one third to two thirds shorter than traditional horizontal loop trenches.

Geothermal Pond Loops

If at least a ½ acre by 8 ft deep pond or lake is available on your property, a closed loop geothermal system can be installed by laying coils of pipe in the bottom of a body of water.   However, a horizontal trench will still be needed to bring the loop up to the home and close the loop.  Due to the inherent advantages of water to water heat transfer, this type of geothermal system is both highly economical and efficient.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Open Geothermal Ground Loops

With open geothermal ground loops, rather than continuously running the same supply of water or antifreeze through the system, fresh water from a well or pond is pumped into and back out of the geothermal unit.  Both an abundant source of clean water and an adequate runoff area are required for a successful open loop system.  While double well designs can be economical, use of open geothermal ground loops is generally discouraged and even prohibited in some jurisdictions.  Water quality is key to an open loop design as mineral content and acidity can quickly damage geothermal units.  Also, improper installation or runoff management of an open loop geothermal system can result in ground water contamination or depleted aquifers.

Source – Informed Building

Top 10 Solar Panel Companies in 2011

Lux Research has just released a report on the most productive solar panel (or solar module) manufacturers in 2011. The Solar Supply Tracker report notes that the top 10 solar panel manufacturers produced 12.5 GW of solar panels in 2011, 44% of the global market sector.

Japanese and South Korean solar panel companies rose in ranks in 2011, Lux Research also notes, with the two countries moving forward with strong solar power policies about as fast as any other country. “Expect to see a major rise in market share from Japanese and Korean suppliers, while European module manufacturers struggle with financial woes and reduced government incentives for solar in Europe,” Fatima Toor, the Lux Research Analyst who led the Solar Supply Tracker, added.

And, of course, crystalline silicon solar panel prices dropped considerably in 2011, benefiting companies that focus on that solar technology. “Crystalline silicon module prices continue to be at a record low with Tier 1 manufacturers selling around $0.9/W while Tier 2 and Tier 3 manufacturers sold at even lower rates to burn through their inventories and survive the current market conditions.”

But, now, the part you’re probably eager to see — here are the top 10 solar panel producers of 2011:

top solar panel companies

And, if you’re interested, here are some more details on the Solar Supply Tracker and what Lux Research includes in this analysis:

Available only from Lux Research, the Solar Supply Tracker provides a customizable platform for tracking the capacity and production of five key value chain segments in photovoltaics: polysilicon, ingot, wafer, cell and module. The cell and module segments track crystalline silicon (x-Si), thin-film silicon (TF-Si), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and organic photovoltaic (OPV) companies, while the polysilicon, ingot and wafer value chain segments are specific to x-Si. Lux Research tracks over 400 companies globally across all value chain segments.

Thoughts?

Source: Lux Research [PDF]

Geo-thermal – What is it ? What are the tax Credits?

Geo-Thermal

Geo-Thermal
Spend $30,000 now and SAVE $3,000 each year… ROI = 10%

Highlights

The ground temperate is a constant that you can use to heat and cool your house. Over the summer the deep ground temperature is warmer than the air and into he summer it is cooler. The ‘ground-source heat pump system’ uses underground water from a 1,000-foot deep well and pumps, that are basement heat exchangers to move the water.

The system uses no fossil fuels and provide comfort year-round, with zero CO2 emissions, for a fraction of the operating cost of conventional HVAC systems. Geothermal systems also have fewer moving parts than conventional systems, so they are more reliable and require less maintenance, so they last for decades. As a rule of thumb, complete systems run about $2500 to $3500 per 500 square feet of living space. So, a complete geo-thermal system for an average size 2,500 sq. ft. home would run between $12,500 and $17,500. Geo-thermal for larger homes could easily cost $25,000 to $30,000.

The ROI Calculation is based on spending $30,000 to save $250 per month in heating and cooling bills. Many states offer financial incentives to individuals and families looking to make their homes more energy efficient. These incentives range from low interest loans to comprehensive grants that cover all costs. To find if your state offers these programs, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE): Click Here. You can save even more if you consider buying a model that is eligible for a tax credit.

TAX CREDITS

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides you with a 30% Tax Credit for Geothermal Heat Pumps that are put into service by the end of 2016. This tax credit item is for existing homes or new construction. This does not have to be your primary residence, as vacations and rentals are eligible, and it includes the cost of materials and installation.

3 KEY POINTS –

  1. The tax credit cap is $1,500 on collective home improvement elements other than Geo-Thermal ‘Ground Source’ Heat Pumps, Solar Hot Water Heating, Solar Photovoltaic, and Fuel Cell systems – which each have no cap and are eligible through 2016.
  2. The tax credits for exterior ‘weatherization’ improvements like windows, doors and insulation do not include the cost of installation!
  3. If you reach the $1,500 cap in 2009, you are not eligible for additional tax credits in 2010.

Choose Geothermal Heat Pumps that meet these criteria to get the Tax Credit; and check products carefully, because in many cases an ENERGY STAR certification does not necessarily meet the tax credit requirements below:

geothermal loops

Geothermal Heat Pumps: All Energy Star models qualify.
Close Loop – A ground heat exchanger in which the heat transfer fluid is permanently contained in a closed system.

  • Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) must be at or above 14.1.
  • Coefficient of Performance must be at or above 3.3.

Open Loop – A ground heat exchanger in which the heat transfer fluid is part of a larger environment. The most common open loop systems use ground water or surface water as the heat transfer medium.

  • Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) must be at or above 16.2.
  • Coefficient of Performance must be at or above 3.6.

Direct Expansion – A geothermal heat pump system in which the refrigerant is circulated in pipes buried in the ground, rather than using a heat transfer fluid, such as water or antifreeze solution in a separate closed loop, and fluid to refrigerant heat exchanger. A DX system includes all of the equipment both inside and outside the house. DX systems may be single or multi-speed.

  • Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) must be at or above 15.
  • Coefficient of Performance must be at or above 3.5.

Look for Geothermal integration to combine a Furnace, Air Conditioner, and Boiler together in one system. You get forced air heating and cooling, plus the system generates hot water for radiant floors.

Source – Green and Save