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The Power of Positive Energy

2014 October 20

By Kristinn Leonhart

Let me just start by saying, “I love my job!” It’s incredibly rewarding to come to work every day as a public servant, helping the Agency whose mission it is to protect public health and the environment. Occasionally, I even get to go out in the field like I did last week for our ENERGY STAR Change the World with Community Service Tour.

ENERGY STAR partners host fun educational events across the country all year long. Earlier this year, a colleague had a bright idea. Let’s ask our partners to work together to make a difference in people’s lives through energy efficiency and community service during the month of October, leading up to ENERGY STAR Day on October 28th. Several partners answered our invitation, and we are impressed by the events they put together for our first-ever Community Service Tour.

“Stop” number 3 was in Edgewood, Maryland at a Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County (BGCHC). ENERGY STAR partner BGE (the local utility company) joined with other partners, Samsung Electronics, The Home Depot, and BEMO Energy Solutions to bring new positive energy to the club and give the club an energy efficiency upgrade and makeover. BGCHC provides after school care to about 4,000 kids, ages 6 to 18 throughout the year, and membership costs only $20 per year so these upgrades will be making a huge impact on the students and community!  Matt Buecker from BGE told me that when he was calling to invite other local companies to join BGE in upgrading the facility, all he had to say was that he was working with ENERGY STAR, Samsung and The Home Depot, and they wanted to help. He said the power of having three big brands behind this project helped immensely. A local furniture store, Gardiner’s, donated furniture to the club. C&J Contractors donated their time installing the new energy-efficient lighting throughout the club. The new lighting is projected to save the club $5,000 this year in utility bills. Art with a Heart painted a splendid mural in one of the classrooms. The local grocery store donated food and dessert to the club for the family night unveiling of the project.

BGC before and after

The BGCHC basketball court before and after brighter, ENERGY STAR certified lighting was installed during the event. 

 

Volunteers painted the entire club. BGCHC staff asked the kids to help select new themes and colors for the rooms. The kids chose various superheroes for each of the rooms.  They couldn’t really see from one side of the gym to the other before the new lights were installed. Samsung donated three ENERGY STAR-certified TVs, a new refrigerator, and 10 new tablets to the club. The Home Depot helped with painting the club, as well as provided beautiful landscaping and painted benches outside the club.

Boys and Girls club

 

Talking to Ashira Quabili, a Development & Marketing Associate at BGCHC, helped me understand that after school care includes teaching children about potential career opportunities. Their motto is “Great futures start here,” and they’re not kidding. They have an amazing STEM program (science, technology, engineering, and math). The kids create and program underwater robots and send them on missions. The students just released the BGCHC’s first mobile app – a decision-making app designed to walk anyone through how to make good choices. The kids also shared a video of how much they like STEM– watch them in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aecIpiirznI. You will smile!

Matt thought it was the power of big brands that helped him make the event a success. I’d like to tell him that he, Ashira and the BGCHC staff, and everyone who volunteered in the weeks leading up to the energy-efficiency makeover of the club are the real superheroes. Those kids’ futures certainly will be brighter for years to come thanks to BGE, BGCHC staff, Samsung, The Home Depot, Gardiner’s, Art with a Heart, and C&J Contractors. That’s the power of positive energy.

Check out the other events on the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR Tour at: energystar.gov/changetheworldtour.

Kristinn Leonhart is the ENERGY STAR Brand Manager and a big fan of saving money and energy and keeping life simple. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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ENERGY STAR LED Bulbs: The “Bright” Choice

2014 October 7

By: Taylor Jantz-Sell

Just like early CFLs, LED technology has its challenges, in particular suffering from limitations affecting brightness and light distribution. The truth is, not all LED lighting is created equal. Bad design can lead to a wide range of problems, some immediately observable and some not. Poorly designed products often come with exaggerated claims, while failing to deliver on quality.

To earn the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR label, LED bulbs must overcome these challenges and demonstrate they can meet consumer expectations, delivering on must-haves like brightness, color quality and the ability to produce light in all directions.

So what does it take for an LED bulb to earn the ENERGY STAR?

  • Light Distribution - If you are looking for an LED bulb to replace a traditional incandescent bulb, for example a 60W, be sure to look for an ENERGY STAR certified “A” type 60W replacement. ENERGY STAR certification on these LED bulbs means they put out the same amount of light (about 800 lumens) and shine light in all directions, just like an incandescent bulb. A non-certified LED ”A” bulb or a “non-standard” type LED bulb may look like your old bulbs but only shine light in a limited range.

LED directionalThe LED bulb on the left shines light directly up, which would make it hard to read a book. The ENERGY STAR LED bulb on the right shines light in every direction, which is what most consumers expect. 

  • Color Quality - ENERGY STAR certified LED lighting products have to meet strict color performance measures, proving they can deliver high-quality, consistent color up front and over time. They meet six different color requirements, covering everything from color consistency and uniformity to color fidelity and even a requirement to make sure skin tones and reds appear natural. You can find ENERGY STAR certified lighting in a variety of light colors that meet the mood or look for your space.

LED color

  • Brightness - ENERGY STAR minimum light output requirements ensure you will get the right amount of light for the replacement claim. Light output is measured in lumens, so a bulb needs to produce a minimum of 800 lumens to make a 60W replacement claim. LED lighting products that earn the ENERGY STAR must pass tests to prove they will provide the right amount of light up front and over time. Poorly made LED products won’t provide enough light, and their light output can quickly degrade with time and heat.

And remember, only ENERGY STAR LED bulbs are certified by independent, third parties against a long list of rigorous performance requirements. For more information on ENERGY STAR LED lighting, visit www.energystar.gov/led.

About the author: As lighting program manager for the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, Ms. Jantz-Sell works with leading manufacturers, retailers and efficiency programs to promote and advance the adoption of ENERGY STAR certified lighting products. Ms. Jantz-Sell leads the development of voluntary performance requirements for energy efficient lighting products and develops education materials and tools to aid consumers in understanding energy efficient lighting.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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ENERGY STAR Takes Computer Energy Efficiency to a Whole New Level

2014 September 30

By: RJ Meyers

Starting this fall, computer lovers have a new way to get their hands on the most innovative products on the market—while saving energy, saving money and protecting the climate. In August, EPA’s ENERGY STAR program expanded its coverage of computer products and now labels slate and tablet devices, two-in-one computers, and portable all-in-ones. ENERGY STAR slates and tablets are independently certified, meet international standards limiting hazardous material content, and are designed to be easily recycled. It’s a win-win for those keeping up with the latest tech and for the environment.

The new devices earning the ENERGY STAR label include some of the most popular computer products on the market, offering the latest in innovation, along with the benefit of energy savings. Those devices include:

  • Slates and tablets: These products have been very popular in recent years and are increasingly used in both homes and offices.
  • Two-in-one computers: Portable computers that have detachable touchscreens, allowing them to function as both notebooks and slate/tablets.
  • Portable all-in-ones (pAIOs): These devices have a combination of features found in integrated desktops and slate/tablets. They have large screens and are meant primarily for desktop use, coming with a stand or physical mount plus a keyboard. However, they have a touchscreen and a small battery pack, allowing them to be picked up and used as large mobile devices for limited amounts of time.

The computer market has transformed significantly since the introduction of the first consumer-facing tablets in 2009 and 2010. Many of the personal and business functions that have long been conducted on desktop and laptop computers are now performed on smaller, more mobile devices. People clearly appreciate the convenience and mobility of these products, but may not realize that these devices also typically consume much less energy than larger computers. If you look for one that has the ENERGY STAR, you will be getting the most energy-efficient products on the market.

All of the above devices can consume much less energy than traditional desktops or notebooks and still provide many of the features and applications that users need.  While you probably shouldn’t recycle your desktop or notebook, you can use them less.  And, with the exception of pAIOs, most of these new products are lighter than a typical notebook and can be taken with you on the go.  You can enjoy your music, movies, and books, plus get work done anywhere—and use less energy to do it all.

RJ Meyers joined ENERGY STAR in late 2010 and has since developed energy efficiency specifications for a range of IT equipment.  RJ has a background in physics, electrical engineering, and sustainable energy and is told constantly by his family and friends that he is a huge nerd.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Energy Efficiency, Climate Hope & Our Kids

2014 September 22

By: Guest Blogger, Harriet Shugarman

We all wear so many “hats” and labels in our lives. I have been called: economist, ski instructor, policy analyst, orchard worker, educator, blogger, reporter, daughter, sister, wife and mother. The last one, however – mother – is the one that I feel best identifies me; it is all encompassing, and surpasses everything else. For the last 8 years, after training with the Climate Reality Project, I have been working full time on climate change education and advocacy, something that is uniquely and forever tied to being a mother as it directly impacts my hopes, fears, dreams and wants for my children.

My Mantra: Tell the Truth, Actions Speak Louder than Words, and Don’t be Afraid. None of these things are easy when it comes to climate change, but all are equally important and are important life lessons to teach our children.

  1. Tell the truth: The science is clear – climate change is real, here and now, and we humans are THE major drivers of our climate crisis. We mustn’t get bogged down in debating the facts, but instead we must get busy working on solutions and creating climate hope.
  2. Actions speak louder than words: EPA’s ENERGY STAR offers a great starting place to turn our hopes into actions—and it can do the same for the kids in our lives. If we start in our own homes to be more efficient, and thoughtful with our energy use, we can make big strides quickly that can be replicated in our friend’s homes, our children’s schools, our houses of worship and our businesses. “If you tell two friends, and so on and so on!” The great thing about ENERGY STAR is that it makes saving energy simple—and oftentimes low cost and easy to do.
  3. Don’t be Afraid: Climate change seems so big and hard to get our arms around. But we need to take it in bite size pieces. A great first step is to check out EPA’s My ENERGY STAR. It is a hub of energy saving tips, expert advice and tools that will help you make a difference in fighting climate change with your everyday activities. You can even create your own dashboard to help you keep track of your energy saving accomplishments and future to dos. As a busy woman with more “hats” than I can count, it’s great to have a little help in doing something that is so pivotal to the protection of our environment. Check it out and let me know what you think.

harrietHS11

About the Author: Harriet Shugarman is the Founder and Executive Director of ClimateMama, and mother to Elliot and Alana who are her inspiration. To learn more about her work in fighting back against climate change, check out her website.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Celebrate National Ceiling Fan Day, and Save Money, Energy, and Protect the Climate! (NCFD)

2014 September 18

Ceiling Fan

By: Alexander Ostrovsky, Esq

Happy Ceiling Fan Day! Never heard of it? Well, last year the ceiling fan company I work for partnered withceiling fan manufacturers from across the country, the American Lighting Association (ALA), ENERGY STAR, and several leading energy conservation groups to celebrate the first ever National Ceiling Fan Day. The purpose was to educate people about the energy and money saving qualities of fans—and it was a great success. This year we are celebrating again, to show people across the nation how using fans properly could save millions of kilowatts of energy. Are you ready to join in? Below are a few ‘fan facts’ to consider while celebrating NCFD:

  • Swap your existing fans with newer more efficient models: With the advent of Direct Current (DC) motors (which use up to 70% less electricity) and LED light kits, ceiling fans have become much more efficient than in years past. It may be time to retire your brass artifact for a newer more efficient model. Look at ENERGY STAR’s website for more information.
  • Fans are inexpensive to operate: If used properly, fans can cost as little as $12.00 – $20.00 a year to operate. The average home air-conditioning system costs up to $1,200 per year to operate. Help protect the climate while protecting your pocket book.
  • Use fans only when someone is in a room: Remember when your parents told you to turn off the lights when you leave a room? Get in the habit of turning off ceiling fans when you leave a room. Fans have no effect on the actual temperature in the room; they only have a cooling effect on your skin.
  • Use your fans in conjunction with your air conditioner: When you’ve come in from a hot day outdoors, it’s tempting to turn down your air conditioning (A/C) several degrees to cool off. Instead, try turning on your fan and in a few minutes, your body temperature will cool down. When you cool down, then change your A/C setting and still feel comfortable.
  • Fans can be used year round: Did you know that you can lower your heating bill if you use your fan in the winter? If you simply have fans on as they are in the summer, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. Check your ceiling fans for a reverse switch to run your fan clockwise, saving you money in the winter.

About the Author: Alexander Ostrovsky, Esq. works in Business Development at Fanimation, a ceiling fan manufacturer. He works on issues related to sales, marketing, and legal affairs. Alexander is passionate about advocating for the ceiling fan industry and the energy efficiency of fans.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Dishing Up Energy Savings

2014 September 12

 

Una Song

Una Song

By: Una Song

Before I became ENERGY STAR’s commercial food service program manager, I simply looked at a restaurant’s menu and its online reviews to make my decision on where to dine. I hadn’t a clue on how much energy a typical commercial kitchen consumes— roughly 5 to 7 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings! But now, not only have I joined the growing number of consumers who are taking an interest in a restaurant’s sustainability efforts, but I get to work with restaurants that are interested in saving energy, saving money, and fighting climate change.

To help restaurants curb their intensive energy use, ENERGY STAR offers a range of certified commercial kitchen appliances, including dishwashers, fryers, refrigerators and freezers, steamers, hot food holding cabinets, ice makers and ovens. Convection ovens that have earned the ENERGY STAR are approximately 20 percent more energy efficient than standard models, while certified combination ovens (combis) are about 30 percent more energy efficient. ENERGY STAR certified commercial ovens deliver these energy savings by deploying innovative components like direct-fired gas burners, infrared burners, improved insulation and improved gaskets.

By incorporating these energy-saving technologies in certified ovens, manufacturers ensure that their ovens not only use less energy, but that they also provide additional benefits such as higher production capacity, improved air circulation, and faster and more uniform cooking processes.

And, by saving energy, kitchen managers can also help reduce their restaurant’s impact on the environment and improve their profitability. In fact, by choosing an ENERGY STAR certified oven, operators may save between $1,100 and $1,600 per year. Saving energy and money never tasted so delicious!

About the Author: Una Song works for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program and focuses on consumer electronics marketing.  When she’s not surfing the internet, she’s playing with her two cats.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Improving Ducts: Duct Sealing and Insulation

2014 August 20
Ducts #1

Ducts before improvement (arrows show common leaks)

Ducts after improvement (arrows show proper air flow)

Ducts after improvement (arrows show proper air flow)

In the second installment of our seal and insulate series, ENERGY STAR Product Manager Doug Anderson gave advice on how to choose a contractor in order to seal air leaks and add insulation to your attic during the warm summer months. Today’s post goes one step further—giving expert advice on sealing ducts and adding duct insulation. Leaky ducts can reduce heating and cooling system efficiency by as much as 20 percent. Sealing and insulating ducts increases efficiency, lowers your energy bills, and can often pay for itself in energy savings.

By: Doug Anderson

In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about the benefits of air sealing and insulating your attic. In this post, we’ll address some topics that you may be less familiar with: sealing ducts and adding duct insulation.

In homes with forced-air central cooling, a system of ducts is used to deliver the cooled air to the rooms and other living spaces of the home. Unfortunately, in typical homes, the duct system can lose about 20-30% of the air that moves through due to leaks, holes, and poorly sealed connections. Addressing these issues by hiring a heating and cooling contractor or other residential energy efficiency professional can increase summer comfort, as well as save energy and money.

There are two types of ducts in most homes: supply ducts that deliver the cool air through registers or vents in each room, and return ducts that bring air back to your air conditioner. If your supply ducts are leaky, cool air from your air conditioner is wasted on its way into the living space; and leaky return ducts can result in dusty, humid, or moldy air being pulled into the system, which can aggravate allergies and other health issues.

Identify Problem Areas

The ducts that run through spaces like attics, crawlspaces, basements, and garages typically waste the most energy. You or your contractor can identify areas for improvement in your home by inspecting ducts in these areas for the following types of problems:

-          Duct tape that is dried-out, loose, or has fallen away from duct joints

-          Ducts that have been torn or crumpled

-          Poorly hung ducts with bends and kinks that restrict air flow

-          Ducts that are partially (or completely) disconnected

Next Steps

Mastic sealant is an effective way to stop leaks at duct joints

Mastic sealant is an effective way to stop leaks at duct joints

Metal tape can also be used to seal duct leaks

Metal tape can also be used to seal duct leaks

If you find these types of duct problems in your home, EPA recommends calling a professional to help you address them. A contractor will also be able to test air flow after the job is completed to make sure that your system is performing correctly.

In many areas, you can also find pre-screened, trained, and certified contractors through a locally-sponsored Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. These programs are a great place to start looking for contractors to help you with your project. To find out if a program exists in your area, visit our website.

For some homeowners, sealing and insulating ducts can be a do-it-yourself project. If you choose to make these improvements on your own, be sure to have your heating and cooling contractor assess the system’s air flow when you are done to make sure any air sealing has not caused any air flow problems – and perform a combustion safety test to confirm there is no backdrafting of gas or oil burning appliances. To learn more about improving your home’s ducts, check out www.energystar.gov/ducts.

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy-efficient residential windows.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Getting the Seal and Insulate Job Done – Hiring a Contractor

2014 July 31

In our last seal and insulate blog post, ENERGY STAR Product Manager Doug Anderson gave advice on how to identify problems that may be keeping your home from achieving energy efficient comfort during the hot days of summer. Now that those issues have been identified, today’s post shows you how to select a contractor to fix any problems.

Adding ‘blown’ attic insulation – it’s a hot, messy job in the summer

Adding ‘blown’ attic insulation – it’s a hot, messy job in the summer

By: Doug Anderson

Unless you enjoy working in hot, cramped attics, it’s best to just pour yourself a cool drink and call a contractor to properly seal air leaks and add insulation to your attic during the summer.  Insulation contractors have all the equipment and experience to do the job right and do it much quicker than you can. Let them do the hard work. Your job is to find a good contractor.

Shop Around – Selecting a Contractor

As with any home improvement project, you want to make sure you’re getting a good price and that the work will be done right:

-          Check with your electric utility or state energy office to see if they offer incentives for improvements or have pre-screened program contractors. (See www.dsireusa.org or www.energystar.gov/dime for lists of incentives)

-          Get several estimates from contractors (know the square footage of your attic).

-          Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured in your state.

-          Ask if the crew chief is certified to do insulation work.

-          Ask how the contractor will keep your house clean during the work.

-          Make sure the contractor understands you want attic holes and gaps sealed before any insulation is added. If they do not agree to “seal before insulating,” call another contractor.

Some locations in the U.S. have pre-screened, trained and certified contractors available through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.  These programs are run by local utilities or State Energy Offices and are a great place to start looking for contractors to help you with your project.  To find out if a program exists in your area, click here.

Make Sure the Job’s Done Right – What to Look For

When hiring a contractor, make sure that you clearly understand the work they’ll be doing. Don’t hesitate to ask questions before the contractor starts, and stay involved throughout the process. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

-          Contractors should seal air leaks in the attic floor before adding insulation. It’s much easier to seal first to ensure you get the full performance out of your insulation.

-          If you have air ducts in the attic, make sure contractors do not step on or damage them.

-          Burying any ducts on the floor in insulation is OK to do – it can even improve efficiency. Just make sure the ducts are well sealed first.

-          Unless your old insulation is wet, moldy, smelly, or contains animal waste, contractors can just add new insulation on top. It is usually not necessary to remove existing insulation.

-          Most contractors use blown-in, loose fill insulation for attic floors, which is quick and easy to install with the right equipment. Typical materials include fiberglass or cellulose – both contain some recycled content (glass or ground up paper) and are inexpensive and safe. If traditional insulation rolls are used for the attic floor instead, be sure that it is “unfaced” (no foil or paper backing needed) so moisture does not get trapped.

-          Any project estimate should also include installing insulation baffles (rafter vents). This ensures that as you add insulation, soffit vents (which allow outside air to enter the attic) are not blocked and your attic has proper air flow.

Seal and Insulate- Installing a Baffle

Installing a Baffle (or Rafter Vent)

-          If you have older recessed light fixtures (can lights) that stick up into the attic floor, the contractor should cover and seal them before installing insulation using specially designed covers that are available at most home improvement stores.

-          Contractors should also seal the chase (hole) in the attic around the plumbing vent pipe.

-          It’s also important to weather strip and insulate the attic hatch or door. There are several off-the-shelf products available for standard-sized openings.

-          EPA recommends having a professional contractor conduct combustion safety testing before and after any air sealing, as this may affect the drafting of any combustion (oil or gas) appliances in the house.

Finally, tell the contractor that you expect documentation at the end of the job to show how much insulation has been added and what the new insulation R-value is for your attic. When it’s done, take a picture and compare it to the pictures you took earlier to see the improvement. Then, you can sit back and enjoy the rest of your summer knowing your home is more comfortable and efficient.

If you would like more information, including details on doing this work yourself, ENERGY STAR has expertise you need.  Check out our website for details.

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy efficient residential windows.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

What are Television Makers Doing to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of their Products?

2014 July 29

tv

By: Verena Radulovic

ENERGY STAR certified TVs are more efficient than ever due to advances in technology and innovations in product design. The energy savings that have resulted play an important role in the fight against climate change. But even with this success, there’s still more work to do to reduce the significant climate impacts associated with manufacturing TVs as well as computer displays and tablets. The issue is the release of potent fluorinated greenhouse gasses, known as F-GHGs, used to create the LCD panels that go into these products. For example, SF6, which has 23,000 times more heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide, is widely used in LCD manufacturing.

Last year, EPA’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership began highlighting steps the world’s major LCD panel suppliers are taking to reduce these gasses by posting company-specific profiles that cover current mitigation measures, future reduction goals, and public disclosure efforts.

This year’s update to these supplier profiles, which feature twelve suppliers that represent 99% of all panels produced globally, shows some encouraging signs. Some suppliers have outfitted their newer manufacturing facilities- those that make the largest LCD panels for products like 50-inch and larger TVs– with equipment that captures and destroys F-GHGs. Overall, reported annual emissions are continuing to decrease, both on a per meter of glass produced basis, and in some cases, across an entire facility or facilities. But there continues to be room for improvement. Some LCD suppliers still need to implement key reduction measures at their newer facilities. Many have yet to outfit older facilities with these climate-benefitting measures. And a few suppliers have not publicly reported any control efforts.

FGAS

One really exciting development is the growing recognition among many big name brands that this is an issue their customers are likely to care about. Leading companies Dell, Lenovo, HP, Wal-Mart and Best Buy have banded together to collectively call on suppliers to set new targets for reducing F-GHGs in the manufacturing of LCD products, and demonstrate results within just a few years. To learn more about the electronics sector’s efforts to reduce F-GHG emissions, visit our website.

Verena Radulovic, EPA

Verena Radulovic, EPA

About the Author: Verena Radulovic develops and manages various product specifications for the ENERGY STAR program, including televisions, displays and audio/video products.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Summer Savings with Seal and Insulate – Don’t Sweat it!

2014 July 23

Insulation

By: Doug Anderson

Happy summer! While the season brings trips to the beach, vacation, and barbeques, summer also brings the heat and humidity. Now is the perfect time to make sure your house is well-prepared for the summer weather, so you can leave the sweating where it belongs– outdoors.

To start, get your air conditioning (AC) unit or heat pump system checked and tuned to make sure it’s running efficiently – it needs regular maintenance just like your car. If your AC is working well but your house still has warm walls, hot ceilings, or uncomfortable humidity, your home may have air leaks and low levels of insulation.   Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation can improve home comfort by keeping the cool air in and preventing pollen, dust and pests from entering.

Getting Started – Identify Problem Areas

In most homes, air leaks and low levels of attic insulation are one of the biggest sources of energy waste and summer time discomfort. While it’s important to check your home’s attic insulation levels, be aware that any attic in the summer is usually extremely hot and uncomfortable.

Tips on Checking Insulation levels:

-          The best time to do a quick check your attic during the summer is in the morning when it’s cooler. If you start to feel overheated at any point, get out of the attic right away.

-          Take a yardstick or tape measure, pen and paper, a flashlight, and a digital camera or cell phone with you to measure your insulation and take pictures.

Ruler- Insulation

-          Measure the depth of the insulation in a few spots with your tape measure or yardstick and jot the levels down. You should have about 13 inches of typical insulation (fiberglass or cellulose) if you live in the southern United States and about 17 inches if you live in the central or northern United States. If you don’t have those levels, you are paying for it with higher energy bills.

-          A good rule of thumb is that if the insulation level is just up to the top of the attic floor joists, you have only about half the insulation you should (see illustration).

-          While you are looking around, take pictures of the insulation level, different corners of your attic, and of any ducts or air conditioning units you see. The pictures are a good record for future reference and to show to a contractor.

Next Step – Call a Contractor

If you found you have low levels of attic insulation – what’s next? EPA recommends calling a contractor or planning a Do-it-yourself project for the fall when it’s not so hot. Unless you have some experience doing this type of work, a contractor is your best bet. They are trained, have all the right tools, and will work quickly to get the job done. In our next post, we’ll talk about how to select and work with a contractor.

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy efficient residential windows.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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