Monday, February 28, 2011

Bye Bye Standby

Remote Control Outlet
Vampire power. Some people call it ghost power, phantom power, or standby power. Basically, they all mean the same thing - power that is consumed by devices even when they are supposedly turned off.

Last year I devoted an article to vampire power and what it can really be costing you. Some worst case scenarios may include home entertainment centers or computers with peripherals using 30 or 40 watts of power, even when "off"!

Now consider all of the devices in your house that are always plugged in - TVs, monitors, stereos, cell phone chargers, coffee maker, microwave, alarm clocks, etc.

In 10 years, 100 watts of 'vampire' power could cost you $650 (assuming devices should be off 14 hours a day, and a 12.5 cent per KwH electricity cost).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Special Report: Where Do Gasoline Prices Go From Here?

Where do gas prices go from here?

Up. Sorry to spoil the ending of this article, but that is a fact. The rapid raise of oil will translate to higher prices at the pump in the short term. And even after the immediate turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East passes, world production of oil is getting more costly, more dangerous, and more difficult to maintain.

The more interesting question is how high will gas prices spike in the short term, and what should we be watching to clue us in to when the rise will stop?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Does Solar Make Sense For Me?

Over the last several weeks we've taken a look at home solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.  We've talked about many of the components of those systems, how they work, and what options exist.  But how can you tell if solar makes sense for you and your home?

For something as important and expensive as solar, it is important that you spend some time reading and learning.  As we've discussed, a well designed solar system is more than a few panels on the roof.  The placement of the panels, inverters used, shading considerations, and how you intend to use the system all alter a design.

Most importantly, if you are considering solar, get three estimates and pick-apart and compare each design.  You'll likely see that some companies simply offer "cookie cutter" approaches that may not be as efficient, while others may offer more custom solutions for your specific environment.

Anyway, lets get started and determine if solar makes sense for you.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why You Need To Learn About ESL Light Bulbs

Vu1 ESL Light Bulb
Just when we're all getting used to CFLs, LEDs, hybrid halogen/CFL bulbs, and all of the other new lighting technologies, along comes ESL, full of potential to revolutionize lighting....again.

With all of the fanfare over the emergence and potential of LED bulbs, you might be asking how lighting can get better.  LEDs run cool, are more efficient than CFL in many applications, and support new form factors and instant on like the good old incandescent.  What's left for lighting and how can a new technology find it's niche?

Well, CFLs and LEDs have their shortcomings, and ESL promises to address many of the shortcomings while offering all of the benefits.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What About Solar Lease Programs?

At this point in my solar series, the extreme DIYers are likely thinking "wow, I could install a solar system myself".  Others might be thinking that solar is too complicated or too expensive to mess around with, even if someone else installs it.

For that latter group of people, you may want to consider a solar leasing program.  So today, I'm going to make a quick digression from my originally scheduled solar series to talk briefly about leasing options and pros and cons.

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Addition to the Home Power Saver Family

Yes, that's right - I'm expecting an addition to our family - due in early February.  We're excited, and as you might expect, I'll have less time to devote to writing about ways to save energy and reduce bills.

I've tried to write and schedule several posts in advance of our arrival, so you can expect to continue to see a regular weekly posting.  In fact, I think I have some excellent content upcoming, discussing more on solar, water reduction, more ways to insulate, time of use billing plans, and much more.

Basically, just expect the quantity of posts to be reduced from 2-3 per week to 1-2 per week for the next few months.

Thanks for reading and thanks for sticking with me! And please subscribe to my RSS feed to be notified whenever a new entry is posted!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How Does Residential Solar Work? Part II

In our first part of this series week we jumped in with both feet into the world of residential solar, discussing solar panels (monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous), inverters, grid-tied or off-grid, and a few additional topics.

This week we'll look at design considerations of home solar systems, including panel placement, shading, and lifespan of equipment.  We'll also look at how to get the most efficiency from a system.

And more importantly, we'll answer the question posed in part I - How do you make your power meter run backwards so that the power companies are paying you!?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Frigid Cold Weather in the USA Creates Opportunity to Save

Frigid cold air has taken hold over much of the USA, with below zero readings from New Mexico and Texas up to New England.  Even parts of the Phoenix, AZ metro dropped to 19 or 20 degrees this week.

For much of the USA, the snow and cold means you are cooped up in your house with no where to go.

My recommendation: take this weather and make it an opportunity to save!

Cold, windy days are the best time to find sources of air infiltration.  Take some time and check the following areas.  You can use your hand to check for leaks or a stick of burning incense (carefully).

  1. Around doors, especially the corners.
  2. Around electrical outlets on exterior walls
  3. Around light switches on exterior walls
  4. Around recessed light fixtures in ceilings and on exterior walls
  5. Around attic access points
  6. Around windows 
When you find a leak, make a list, and then attack it when you get the opportunity.

Here are a few articles to help you better insulate and seal your home:

Keep warm!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Special Report: How Unrest in Egypt Will Affect Gasoline Prices

Gulf Oil Rig
There has been a lot of speculation as to how the unrest in Egypt may impact gasoline prices here in the USA.

But is Egypt really that important to world oil supplies? The layman thinks of the middle east as one giant oil field, so it is easy to make hyperbolic statements about the immediate future for oil. However, the reality is that Egypt doesn’t produce much oil, and is a net importer.

Then why have oil prices spiked?  There are valid concerns, and the reasons may surprise you.