Monthly Archives: August 2014

Three Quick Tips for TV Energy Efficiency

How many hours a day do you really watch TV?

1950s family watching TV

If you’re like us, your TV is probably on when you’re at home. In fact, the average American watches more than 5 hours of television each day. But we’re not always watching, are we? The TV is on in the background while we’re cooing meals, cleaning the house, and getting the kids ready for school.

Because we’re always thinking about home energy performance, here are three quick tips for TV energy efficiency. You can take advantage of these today and start enjoying your home entertainment without the high electricity bills.

Three quick tips for TV Energy Efficiency

  • Is bigger better? As televisions have become larger, it makes sense that they are consuming more power when they’re in use. But most new TVs – and nearly every other piece of electronics equipment in our homes – also draw power when they’re not in use. Standby mode is the culprit here. This is a “power saving” feature that draws just enough electrical current to let the TV jump to life at the touch of a button. But it only saves power relative to the TV being in use. According to the utility company Florida Power & Light, “a new 50-inch flat screen TV uses from $23-$54 of electricity a year, with LED TVs using the least and older plasma models using the most.” Wow!

    Skip the power save mode and turn the TV completely off. You can use an energy efficient power strip to manage your TV, set top box, DVD player, and home theatre system. Turning everything completely off when you leave the house not only saves wear and tear on your expensive electronics, it saves money on your electricity bill.

  • Energy Star logo

  • Buying new? See stars! Energy Star is a government program that helps consumers save money by saving energy with energy efficient electronics and appliances. Here’s what they have to say about Energy Star certified televisions:

    ENERGY STAR certified televisions are on average, over 25 percent more energy efficient than conventional models, saving energy in all usage modes: sleep, idle, and on. A home equipped with TVs, a Blu-Ray player, a compact audio system, and a home-theatre-in-a-box that have earned the ENERGY STAR, can save more than $200 over the life of the products.

    $200 more in our pockets sounds like a great deal! You can search the Energy Star website for certified televisions here.

  • Knowledge saves power! Understanding your TV’s energy usage is easy, and it can help you save money on your electricity bills each month. To find out how much electricity your TV draws, look for the manufacturer’s technical specifications in your user manual, on the rear or bottom panel of the TV, or on the manufacturer’s website. You’re looking for the number of watts the TV requires.

    The present Energy Star specifications for televisions require that an Energy Star certified television “consume no more than one (1.0) watt while in Standby-Passive Mode” and “On Mode power requirements vary according to screen area.” Bigger TVs will consume more electricity, so a smaller number is definitely better here.

    Alternatively, you can use an electricity usage meter such as a Kill A Watt to determine your TV’s exact electricity usage. Electricity usage meters simply count the watts your equipment and appliances use and display them to you on a built-in screen. This gives you an exact measurement of your electricity consumption.

With a little research and record keeping, you can understand and control the electricity your television, and all of your home entertainment system, is consuming. When you’re saving money on those bills, you can watch without worrying. Pass the popcorn!

Want more tips like this? Sign up for our home energy performance newsletter. You’ll also get discounts from our partners, and ideas to make your home less expensive to operate, more comfortable to live in, and healthier for you and your family. It’s free!




Behavioral energy efficiency: how you live affects how your home performs

Remember when Mom used to tell you to shut off the light when you left a room? Or when Dad told you to put on a sweater if you’re cold? It turns out they were ahead of their time! More and more home energy professionals recommend behavioral energy efficiency as an effective way to lower your home energy costs. Just like Mom and Dad. But what exactly are behavioral adjustments, and which ones are the most effective?

Pisgah Home, Highland Park Historic District

A “nudge” toward behavioral energy efficiency

In the past few years, we’ve heard a lot about behavioral “nudges.” These nudges are small changes in the way we work and live that have the power to help us make better decisions and improve our results. One of the most common examples is about saving money for retirement. It was presented in the book Nudge, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. The argument is that

many Americans are not saving enough for retirement… ‘in 2005 the personal savings rate for Americans was negative for the first time since 1932 and 1933 – the Great Depression years.’

To improve the savings rate, Thaler and Sunstein argue, we need to make a small change to the way retirement savings plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s work. Their solution? Make retirement savings plans opt-out instead of opt-in. “Nudge” folks to save money by making the savings effortless and easy to manage, and we should all begin to save more for retirement. No more worrying about balancing our portfolios, asset allocations, rates of return, or any of the details that can overwhelm us and stop us from taking action.

Behavioral energy efficiency nudges work in the same way.

If you want to save money on your home energy expenses, the first thing you need to know is where, exactly, is your money going? The average American family spends more than $2,500 each year on home energy. But that doesn’t all go to the light bulbs burning in empty rooms, or the teenager standing in front of an open refrigerator.

Know yourself, know your home energy costs

A house sitting on a stack of money

Go green and save some green!

Home heating and cooling, along with domestic hot water (DHW), account for the lion’s share of your home energy bills. That means that controlling home energy costs begins with understanding those costs. Our Heating Energy Assessment Tool uses home performance data from your utility bill to show you your exact heating, cooling, and DHW costs down to the penny. Now that you know these costs, you can nudge yourself and your family in the right direction.

Maybe a programmable thermostat is right for you, or you’d like to try replacing your 3 most frequently used incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs. Your utility company or state government might have weatherization incentives available, so that you can take advantage of professional air sealing and weather stripping work. A RESNET or BPI certified home performance contractor can work with you to complete a whole house energy audit and plan home improvement projects to maximize your savings and your comfort.

Because how you live affects how you use energy, it can be easy to start saving money today. There are tools, professionals, and incentive and rebate programs available to help you. And at the very least, we can remember Mom, and turn off the lights in an empty room.




What is Demand Response?

Demand response is a new way for utility companies and co-ops to deliver power to customers. It has the potential to significantly change the way customers and utilities work together. So what exactly is demand response? Pretty much what it sounds like!

Electricity meter with demand response caption

What you need to know about demand response

Demand response is a way for utility companies and co-ops to more efficiently deliver electricity to homeowners, based on how much electricity is in demand at any given time. Peak demand in the home is in the morning, when we’re all getting ready for work and school, and in the evening, when we all come home to fix dinner, do our household chores, watch TV, or have the neighbors over for a visit.

It’s common sense: when we’re at home we demand more electricity from our utility. When we’re not at home, that level of demand drops. We might only have the HVAC system on, and the usual appliances and electronics humming along in the background. Demand response helps utilities balance that peak demand in the morning and evening with the lower demand in the afternoon and late at night, when we’re out of the house or asleep.

How you can take advantage of demand response

A basic programmable thermostat from Honeywell

Demand response programs may be offered by your utility company or co-op. Check out those inserts in your next utility bill! You may be eligible for real savings every month, just by using your dishwasher and laundry machines in times of lower power demand. Your utility might also offer you “time-based rates,” which can be more or less expensive, per kilowatt-hour, based on the time of day and the demand on the utility’s power generation capabilities. Most time-based rates (they’re also called “peak pricing,” “variable pricing,” “real time pricing,” or similar names) follow the basic law of supply and demand. When demand is high, in the morning and evening, prices are a little bit higher. When demand is low, in the afternoons and late at night, prices will be a little bit lower.

Utilities offer demand based rates to encourage you to use your major appliances, like your dishwasher and laundry machines, at the low-demand times of the day. This can be a win-win situation. . Your utility wins, because they save wear and tear on their equipment. You win because you save money on your electricity costs by using your major appliances in those lower demand times of the day.

What’s next for demand response?

According to the Department of Energy,

The electric power industry considers demand response programs as an increasingly valuable resource option whose capabilities and potential impacts are expanded by grid modernization efforts. For example, sensors can perceive peak load problems and utilize automatic switching to divert or reduce power in strategic places, removing the chance of overload and the resulting power failure. Advanced metering infrastructure expands the range of time-based rate programs that can be offered to consumers and smart customer systems such as in-home displays or home-area-networks can make it easier for consumers to changes their behavior and reduce peak period consumption from information on their power consumption and costs.

Demand response programs are created and managed by utility companies and co-ops. But homeowners, renters, and landlords who choose to participate in utility programs will find real benefits, including saving money on their electricity bills every month.