Browsing the blog archives for August, 2008.


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    What are our heating options this winter?

    energy, heating options, Uncategorized

    It seems like summer just began, but alas, some children have already headed off in the yellow bus. This can mean only one thing, winter is on the way. With the cold weather, comes the cold reality of high heating bills.  My parents both live in the North East and each has oil heat. I have taken on the task of getting estimates to convert their homes to natural gas. I started with a phone call to our natural gas distributor who happens to be National Grid. They are running a special program right now to get new furnaces at a deep discount. They will even set up an appointment with a contractor for an estimate. I have met with the contractor sent to my father’s house and will meet with the contractor assigned to my mother’s house next week. I also plan to get two more estimates at each house. I will follow up on the results next time.

    My basic reason for looking into this oil to gas conversion is to save fuel, save energy and save money. Right now oil is far more expensive than gas but this is the first time in recent history that this has been the case. Ten years ago home heating oil was only 63¢/gallon a far cry to the $4.00/gallon we are facing this winter. The reality is that nobody seems to think the price of oil is going to go down significantly any time in the foreseeable future. The natural gas supply is not reliant on foreign countries, 99% of natural gas is from North America. A natural disaster can cause a sudden spike in price due to interruption of production, but it has never historically stayed high.

    Another option to fight high heating bills is stoves. Wood stoves have come a long way, they are now manufactured to provide a clean, efficient burn with virtually no dust or soot being emitted into the house and far less carbon into the atmosphere. A good stove can cost between $600 and $1500, not including pipe, blowers and installation. This is great if firewood is readily available in your area and you have a place to store the wood and you don’t mind hauling it in every day or so, even in bad weather. And of course if the power is out you still have heat, but this is not an option for my aging parents.

    For some, a better option may be a pellet stove.  These too have evolved into clean, efficient burning stoves. Unlike wood stoves they use pellets made of saw dust, wood chips or scrap wood from sawmills, the pellets are 100% recycled material and no trees are cut just to produce them. The pellets usually come in 40lb. bags that sell around $4 a bag depending on where you live. Stoves come with a hopper that automatically feeds the stove depending on how high the thermostat is set. They need to be filled every 10 to 40 hours depending on the stove and heat setting. This also means you have control of the heat output. Pellet stoves are also more expensive, between $1500 and $3500. The hopper also needs electricity to work so you need an optional battery backup if you have frequent power outages. There are also multi-fuel stoves that can use corn, pellets or some other fuels such as soy beans or pits. This link (http://www.pelletheat.org/3/residential/compareFuel.cfm) will explain more about pellet stoves and also has a calculator to compare heating with different fuels in your particular area.

    There are other options too. Wind power, solar power and geothermal look like great options in the foreseeable future. The problem is, for now, they are way too expensive for the average consumer even with the tax breaks and utility discounts offered. Most of these products range in the tens of thousands of dollars. I see a time in the near future where these renewable sources of energy, and many more, will be plentiful and affordable. This new energy market will bring about products that will save fuel, save energy, save money, help save the environment and probably help save the economy as well.

    In my next blog I hope to update you on the costs of converting to natural gas if my parents decide to go that direction. I also plan on introducing options for getting the most out of the furnace you already have in place without having to spend of fortune to save a little energy.

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    The little box that can save energy now!

    energy, Uncategorized

    I have been scouring the web trying to find the latest ideas to save energy. On a regular web search solar energy, geothermal energy and alternative fuels are the products that always come out on top. These are all great but… reality check. The reason most of us are trying to save energy is because fuel is so expensive we are strapped for cash and are looking for ways to save money, not spend it. So I have found some ideas that are, for the most part, inexpensive and will help you save energy and save money in real time.

     The first product I found after getting my electric bill for last month. July was a very hot and humid month and my air conditioner was running constantly. The dilemma is, the air conditioner is old but keeps my house comfortable; a new air conditioner would do the same job and save energy but I would not recoup the cost for several years. That is where the Plug Power Saver comes in. The Plug Power Saver is a simple box that gets plugged into your outlet and an appliance gets plugged into the Plug Power Saver. The Plug Power Saver has a microprocessor that immediately finds the perfect power draw for that appliance at any particular time. The benefits include:

    ·  Soft Start Acceleration

    ·  Saves Electric Energy

    ·  Reduces Peak Demand Charges

    ·  Reduces Motor Burnouts

    ·  Reduces Motor Noise

    ·  Reduces Maintenance Costs

    ·  Over Current Protection

    ·  Surge Protections

    ·  Increases Motor Life

    ·  Auto Reset protection

    ·  Burnout Protection

    ·  Sags protection

    ·  Solid State Design For Reliability

    The Plug Power Saver is Underwriters Laboratory tested and approved. The website is a little quirky but has a cute demonstration video that explains how easy and effective the Plug Power Saver is. Definitely worth taking a look for anybody who runs a refrigerator, air conditioner, pumps, etc. Who doesn’t? So visit them at http://www.sentienteci.com/index.htm .

    The next thing I found is a new free software product from Verdiem called Edison. This is a download that manages the energy consumption on your computer. You might have to change your firewall and spyware to allow Edison to work. But the download only takes a few minutes. Basically you tell Edison when you use your computer the most and how much energy you want to save and it will estimate how much energy you will save including your carbon footprint. Once you have input that information Edison manages your work power settings. You can use Edison at home on all your computers and you can take Edison to work to download on computers there. For free it is definitely worth a visit at http://edison.verdiem.net/ .

    That is all for now. Remember you eat an elephant one bite at a time. You save energy by taking small steps and letting them add up. Encourage your friends and family to save energy and we can save the planet for that elephant and our children.

     

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