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Top 5 Ways to Chill out this Summer with ENERGY STAR

2014 June 19

By: Brittney Gordon

Even when the temperature goes up, your utility bills can still stay low. With help from ENERGY STAR you can keep your cool, tame those bills, and help fight climate change. The secret is to keep your cooling system from working too hard. Discover these Top 5 Ways to Chill Out with ENERGY STAR, so that you and your cooling system can both enjoy the summer!

1. Keep the heat out

Insulation_graphic (1)

Take advantage of shades, blinds, curtains, awnings and even trees to  keep the sun out during the day, especially on the south and west side of your house. If you are upgrading your windows, consider ENERGY STAR certified windows, which will keep even more heat out. Find and seal leaks (the biggest ones are in your attic and basement) – this will also help reduce humidity and keep out pests and pollen.  Consider adding attic insulation so less heat radiates down into your house from your hot attic.  Sealing air leaks and improving your home’s insulation could save you up to $200 a year in cooling/heating costs (or about 10 percent of your annual energy bill).  Finally, if you’re replacing your roof, you can reduce the effects of the hot sun by installing ENERGY STAR certified roof products.

2. Keep the cool in

Seal and Insulate 2

You’re paying for your AC’s cool air, so don’t let it leak out of your ducts before it gets to the vent and the rooms you want to cool. That’s YOUR air!  In most homes, 25 percent of air that flows through air conditioning ducts leaks out before it gets to you. So get a contractor to test your ducts, seal them, and insulate them so you’re not paying for cool air you don’t get to use. You could reduce your cooling energy bill by about 20 percent.

3. Maintain Your Cooling System

Thermostat

A simple tune up of your HVAC equipment can do wonders.  Make sure you also change your air filter regularly – EPA recommends every three months at a minimum.   And, if you do not have a programmable thermostat – install one and program it around your family’s summer schedule. Setting the thermostat up by seven degrees when you’re away from home and up by four degrees when you’re asleep can save more than $180 a year.

4. Be a fan of fans

ceiling fan

If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan instead, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Use bedroom fans on those cooler summer nights when you might be able to turn off your central air conditioning and naturally cool your home for a lot less. Plus, don’t forget to use your ENERGY STAR certified vent fans to get rid of that unwanted humid air in your bathroom after a shower.

5. Look for the ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR Logo

If your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR certified model could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent. In the market for a new room air conditioner? Find one that has earned the ENERGY STAR and use about 15 percent less energy. ENERGY STAR certified dehumidifiers also use 15 percent less energy than a conventional unit.  One last easy tip is to change out those old, hot, incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified CFL and LED bulbs–they produce 75% less heat!

Looking for more great tips? Head to www.energystar.gov/cooling.

About the Author: Brittney Gordon-Williams works on the ENERGY STAR communication’s team. Her summer cooling project will involve trying out ENERGY STAR certified LEDs in her new home.

 

 

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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Making copies the Energy Efficient Way

2014 June 12

Imaging

By: Chris Kent

Pop quiz: Does your home/office imaging equipment (printer, copier, scanner, etc.) have the ENERGY STAR label? If it does, consider yourself a very smart shopper. On average, imaging equipment that is ENERGY STAR certified is 40 – 55 percent more efficient than a standard model. From copiers and printers, to fax machines and scanners, imaging equipment accounts for some of the first products to ever earn the ENERGY STAR label. As these products grow in use in homes and offices across the country, EPA’s ENERGY STAR program continues to make strides in making them more energy efficient.

Through the years, EPA has strengthened the energy efficiency requirements so that models meeting the latest requirements will be more energy efficient than ever. Now, by meeting requirements to enter low-power “sleep” modes when inactive, and using efficient power supplies, an ENERGY STAR certified copier saves energy when it is in use AND when it is not.

Looking for ways to cut down your imaging costs even more? Consider purchasing an all-in-one device the next time you are in the market. An all-in-one device (or multifunction device) that meets ENERGY STAR requirements can result in significant energy and paper savings for businesses.  The multifunction device typically performs two or more functions (scan, copy, print, fax) housed within one unit.  By comparison, with single-function devices every piece of networked equipment uses electricity, even when it is not in use.  But by combining these functions into one device, you can save on electricity costs by reducing the number of devices into one integrated unit.  Also, these multifunction devices are where industry is incorporating innovative energy saving technologies, so despite having multiple functions, a multifunction device may actually use less energy than a comparable single function unit.

If your printer/copier/multifunction device is older than 5 years, it is likely that your printer’s energy consumption is about 50% higher than a new machine.  Industry continues to make great strides in improving the energy performance of imaging equipment and ENERGY STAR continues to revise its requirements to recognize these top performers.

Some features that save on energy, paper and ink costs include:

  • Sleep mode and automatic shut off: ENERGY STAR products are required to automatically go into a reduced power state after a specified period of inactivity.  This provides great energy savings.
  • Automatic double-sided printing/duplexing: Automatically setting a printer or multifunction device to print double sided saves up to 50% of your paper usage.  Printer and multifunction devices that can produce images on both sides of the paper by automatically flipping the paper make it easier to produce a double-sided page, which cuts down on paper use.  Paper is the largest energy impact associated with printing, and in most cases, making this change does not cost anything additional.
  • Various quality settings: Many units have more than one quality setting and using a lower quality or draft mode when printing draft or internal documents can save ink.
  • Color vs Monochromatic: Printing in color generally does not use any additional energy than printing in monochromatic. But you can spend more on ink depending on the machine you choose. Units that use one cartridge for all colors tend to waste more ink than units with individual color cartridges. This is because colors are used at different rates, but the cartridge must be replaced once any one color has run out.

When looking to buy a new printer or multifunction device, go the ENERGY STAR Imaging Equipment product finder to find the right product for your needs.   And remember, think before printing.

Chris Kent

About the Author: Chris Kent has worked at EPA for 25 years and for the last 7 years has been the product lead for the ENERGY STAR imaging product development. 

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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How Does Your Home Compare to Your Neighbor’s?

2014 May 12

Yardstick

By: Brian Ng

It’s springtime! Now that the dark, cold days of winter are gone, it’s time to do things to tidy up the outside of your home. After all, who wants to be the “messy” house in the neighborhood? Now is also the perfect time to tidy up your home’s energy efficiency, especially compared to your neighbors’ homes. After all, who wants to have the highest utility bill in the neighborhood? Plus, reducing our energy consumption at home helps fight climate change since using energy means having to produce energy, which typically involves the burning of fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gases and cause climate change.

But short of knocking on their door, how do you find out how your home’s energy use compares to your neighbor’s home? The ENERGY STAR program offers a free, online tool called the Home Energy Yardstick, available here. It allows you to compare your home’s energy use to similar homes across the country. By entering your home’s annual energy use, the number of occupants, conditioned square footage, and its ZIP code, the Yardstick computes a score between 0 and 10, indicating the relative energy consumption of your home compared to a nationally representative sample of single family homes.  On the Yardstick scale, 0 is the most energy-consuming household and 10 is the least energy-consuming household. An “average” home scores a 5 on the Yardstick. So the higher the Yardstick score, the better! You can even print a certificate and brag to your neighbors if your score warrants bragging rights.

To use the Yardstick, you’ll need the last 12 months of utility bills for your home.  Typically you can find a 12-month usage summary on your most recent bill or through the utility’s web site.  It only takes about five minutes to enter the information and get a score.  Some utilities provide customers with the ability to download a “Green Button” file that provides detailed information about energy usage for their home.  If your utility participates in Green Button, you can simply upload your home’s utility data directly into the Yardstick. To find out if your utility offers Green Button, visit:  www.greenbuttondata.org. For those whose Yardstick score is less than brag-worthy, fret not. ENERGY STAR’s Home Energy Advisor provides recommendations for energy-saving improvements for typical homes in your area.

Although these tools provide good insight into your energy consumption and how to reduce it, they are not meant to replace a professional’s help. So if you need an expert opinion on how to improve the efficiency and comfort of your home, a good place to start is with a local Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers a whole-house approach to improving the efficiency and comfort of your home. A participating Home Performance contractor will evaluate your home using state-of-the-art equipment, recommend comprehensive improvements to yield the best results, and help you get the work done.

So while you’re doing your spring cleaning this year, take a moment and begin cleaning up your home’s energy use as well.

About the Author: Brian manages communications activities for the ENERGY STAR Residential Branch, which forms voluntary partnerships to promote greater energy efficiency in new and existing homes. He enjoys trying to improve the energy efficiency of his own home when he’s not busy keeping up with his two kids.

 

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 Earth Day with ENERGY STAR!

2014 April 22

Earth Day graphic

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Earth Day is here and people across the country are taking a few minutes out of their day to do something good for planet earth. What are your plans? We may be a bit biased, but here at ENERGY STAR we would love for you to make protecting the environment from climate change part of your Earth Day resolutions. Preventing climate change may sound like a tall order, but we’re here to show you how easy it can be to make a difference. And did we mention that it will also help you save money?  I think we now have your full attention. Check out our list of no-cost to low cost ways to save energy at home and at work this Earth Day!

ENERGY STAR’s Earth Day and Beyond Checklist

1.)    ENERGY STAR Lighting- Purchase an ENERGY STAR certified LED! This is one of the easiest ways to make your home more energy efficient. ENERGY STAR certified LEDs use 70-90% less energy and last 25x longer than your old incandescent bulbs. With the prices dropping fast, this is the perfect time to try out the light bulb of the future! Need help picking one out? Check out this video.

2.)    Computer Power Management- Are you reading this on your computer? Have you programmed that computer to go into sleep mode when you are away? Enabling your ENERGY STAR certified computer/monitor’s power management features can save you up to $90 a year.

3.)    HVAC Maintenance- Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy.

4.)    Build Your Team- You can also “Bring Your Green” to work! Create a Green Team with your co-workers, help build support for energy efficiency in your workplace, and reduce office waste. Set a goal to certify your building as ENERGY STAR.

5.)    Inspire Your Friends- The only thing better than saving energy yourself is inspiring your friends to do it with you. Share this infographic in social media and encourage your friends to get with the energy-saving program!

EarthDay_infographic_Twitter

It’s pretty amazing that simple changes like these can make a big difference in reducing carbon pollution in our environment, helping to stop further climate change. Need some assistance on your energy-saving journey? Take the ENERGY STAR Pledge and let EPA show you how simple it can be to save energy, save money and protect the environment. Try it out today and make this Earth Day the best one yet.

About the Author: Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the communications team at EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. This Earth Day she plans on purchasing an ENERGY STAR certified LED bulb.  

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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EPA Unveils the Winner of the National Building Competition!

2014 April 16

Battle of the Buildings2

By: Andrea Schnitzer

Have you ever seen the NBC show, The Biggest Loser? It brings together a group of motivated people, who all have one goal in common—a desire to get healthy and lose unneeded weight.  Today, EPA is announcing the winners of the fourth annual EPA ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings, a competition that is inspired by the hit NBC show. But instead of individuals working to lose excess weight, this year-long competition brings together commercial buildings from across the country to see who can reduce the most energy use. Today we are excited to announce this year’s winners and open registration for an exciting new competition year.

The Results are in!

Claiborne Elementary School

Claiborne Elementary School

This year, Claiborne Elementary School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, won the competition by cutting its energy use nearly in half!  But this impressive accomplishment only tells part of the story about the more than 3,000 competitors who threw their hats in the ring this year. The top 15 finishers reduced their energy waste by more than 29 percent, and nearly 50 buildings in the competition achieved at least a 20 percent reduction in energy use. In the end, the competitors saved a combined total of more than 130,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and $20 million on utility bills. To see a list of the competitors and their energy savings, go to www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings.

Many were winners. Only one was the biggest loser.

Claiborne Elementary School emerged victorious by cutting its energy use by a whopping 46.9 percent in one year. And they did this largely through low and no-cost efforts, like educating students and teachers about the actions they can take every day to save energy. This included adjusting thermostats, keeping doors and windows closed when the heat or air conditioning is on, turning off lights, and making sure electronic devices are turned off at the end of each day.  The school also fine-tuned automated controls of the HVAC and lighting systems, making sure that lights were turned off in unoccupied areas and that the heating and cooling systems were optimized to run only when necessary.

Small changes make a big difference.  

The results aren’t all that different than what we often see on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Buildings across the nation compete to work off their energy waste with help from ENERGY STAR. At the end, the building that cuts its energy use the most is declared the winner.

And just like on the TV show, there are ups and downs for every building. Sometimes, drastic measures are needed, but often it just takes small changes every day that add up to big savings. Just like it’s not always necessary to take extreme measures to lose weight, buildings don’t always need to implement expensive technology upgrades to start cutting energy use. Likewise, adopting small lifestyle changes like eating healthier and exercising can make all the difference. Changing behaviors, whether it’s by turning off lights that aren’t being used, not heating or cooling empty spaces, and unplugging energy-wasting equipment, can make a huge impact when it’s done regularly and becomes a lifestyle.

Step on the scale. Repeat.

Of course, one of the most important steps in an energy waste-loss program is stepping on the scale. For buildings, that means entering monthly energy data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, EPA’s energy and water measurement and tracking tool. By continuing to monitor and track the ups and downs of energy and water use, building owners and managers can find out where they stand…and where they need to go.

Join us for the 2014 competition. Register by May 16!

So who really won this year? The short answer: we all did. When buildings use less energy, the plants that power them emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in a cleaner, healthier environment for all of us.

Want to be a part of the solution? Ask your management to enter your building in the 2014 competition. This year, compete to win EPA recognition for energy and water savings, or join as part of a team competing against other groups to become the next biggest energy or water saver.

Learn more and register at www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings

About the Author: Andrea Schnitzer is a National Program Manager with the ENERGY STAR program for Commercial Buildings and Industrial Plants.

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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The Amazing LED

2014 April 9

Danny Orlando LED

Danny Orlando LED 2

By: Danny Orlando

It’s amazing how many light fixtures we have in our homes.  According to a December 2012 Residential End-Use Consumption Study by the Department of Energy, U. S. homes range from 50-80 light fixtures.  Changing all of those lights to LED technology is a daunting and expensive undertaking, but it is a worthwhile effort.  Here is why:

LED lighting prices are coming down and are now usually between $10 and $25 dollars each.   And, in some locations there are utility incentives that drive down the price even lower.  Switching over to ENERGY STAR certified LEDs is best achieved one lamp at a time.  One tactic is to buy one light per month and before you know it, you’ve achieved your goal!

You should look for ENERGY STAR certified LED lights because these have been tested by a third-party to assure they meet a range of quality criteria.  Also, pay close attention to the color temperature of the light that you are choosing.  The color temperature is listed on the ‘nutrition’ label on the package.  If you want the familiar glow of an incandescent, look for a color temperature at or below 3000 K. The good news is that everything you need to know is right on the package.

I’m an avowed energy nerd, so I’ve actually counted the light fixtures in my home. My home has 37 light fixtures and seven track light fixtures.  Since I work in the field of energy efficiency, I am an early adopter and have changed 83 percent of the fixtures to LED lights.  I have been able to find LEDs for every variety of fixtures.  One interesting usage is in my stove hood which uses a Par20 lamp.  Usually, this would be a poor location for LEDs because of the hot stove surface as heat is the enemy of LEDs.   But, so far, the LED lamps have lasted for years.

Track light fixtures that use four 50-watt lights (MR-16) are not an energy efficient choice for lighting, but mine are rarely used, and the ones that are used more frequently are controlled by occupancy sensors.  There is one track, however, that is on eight hours each day.  On a recent trip to the home improvement store, I found LED replacement lamps for this fixture, but they were $30 each.  To retrofit this fixture would cost more than the fixture itself, so I returned home empty handed.  But, then I decided to perform the calculations and see if purchasing the LED replacement lamps would make sense.  The results were astounding.  Because of the amount of hours this fixture is on, the payback was about two years and I would save 550 kilowatt-hours each year!  To state that another way, four LED lights eliminated my November electricity bill – forever.  Needless to say, I returned to the store and made the purchase.   I have a few more steps to take to be completely LED, but I only have four fluorescents left to replace.  Although utility costs in my area have increased 60 percent in the last 20 years, my costs have increased only one percent because of consistent energy efficient choices!

It’s amazing to realize we are at a time when our children won’t know what changing a light bulb means.  My kids asked me, “How long do LEDs last?”   And I answered, “I’ll put them in my will for you”.  Now, if you move to a new home, not only will you take your furniture, refrigerator, and clothes, but you’ll also pack up your amazing LED lights.

About the Author: Danny Orlando is the Regional Energy Star Program manager in EPA’s Atlanta office and has been promoting and implementing Energy Star both at work and at home for 21 years.

 

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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Join EPA, BGCA, and Spider-Man in Celebrating Earth Hour this Saturday, March 29th

2014 March 28

Earth Hour

By: Jill Vohr

This Saturday, March 29th, is the 8th annual Earth Hour, a global movement that brings together millions of people across the world to switch off their lights for one hour as a symbol of their commitment to the planet. Are you up for the challenge? As a member of the team at ENERGY STAR, I am excited to participate for pretty obvious reasons.  Turning off lights is a great and easy way to save energy and prevent climate change.  Plus, using ENERGY STAR certified lighting saves energy even when our lights are on.

This year, Earth Hour has partnered with the new Sony Pictures movie The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to make Earth Hour that much more thrilling to people across the globe.  Check out this video to see how the movie stars are playing a part in protecting the environment this Earth Hour.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), a dedicated ENERGY STAR partner, is also working with the makers of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. BGCA uses the movie’s energy theme to help young people learn about saving energy. The movie villain is called Electro and he attacks by shooting bolts of electricity!

The connection between the movie and the work of the BGCA is a great one, and one that I think works for young people across the country. What better way to get your kids to use less energy than by telling them to “Be Your Own Amazing” by joining Spider-Man to stop Electro and save energy, right?  Even without the movie connection, Earth Hour is its own amazing.  It is a way for individuals across the globe to come together to make a difference for the planet through local activities.  And that speaks to us at ENERGY STAR, because we are passionate about using energy efficiently.

Did you know that the average home spends about 12% of its electricity bill on lighting? Lighting accounts for more of the energy that you use than your laundry equipment, refrigerator and dishwasher combined. That fact alone should be a good reason to switch off the lights (non-essential ones) and give Earth Hour a try this weekend. We know that our kids want to be heroes like the Amazing Spider-Man.  So by turning off the lights this weekend, we adults can certainly be our own amazing, too.

Earth Hour will take place on Saturday, March 29th between 8:30pm and 9:30pm in your local time zone.

About the Author: Jill Vohr is the Director of Marketing for the ENERGY STAR Labeling Branch.  When she is not pursuing strategies that encourage individuals to use less energy – she is using up a lot of her own energy with her 7-year old daughter, Ingrid, who thinks spiders are icky.

 

 

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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The ENERGY STAR LED Bulb Challenge

2014 March 13

LED bulb challenge

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Did you know that nearly 70 percent of sockets in the U.S. still contain an inefficient light bulb? It may be hard to believe, but that stat proves that for the majority of consumers across the country, the message about using energy efficient lighting has yet to sink in. The upside is that there is a huge potential for energy savings that has yet to be tapped. The U.S. EPA is working to tap that potential and is hopeful that ENERGY STAR certified LEDs will be the centerpiece of a dramatic change in the lighting market.

Last Earth Day, EPA issued a bold challenge to its partners: Sell 20 million ENERGY STAR certified LEDs by Earth Day 2014, and help show your customers how to save energy, save money and prevent climate change with their lighting choices. Retailers from across the country joined in, including Ace Hardware, Best Buy, Costco, Lowe’s and The Home Depot.

They took the charge and have made educating their customers about the benefits of ENERGY STAR certified LEDs a priority in their stores across the nation. And these retailers are stocking and promoting ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs for a reason–only bulbs with the ENERGY STAR are independently certified, undergoing extensive testing to assure they perform as promised, overcoming the traditional challenges associated with LED lighting.

The combination of high quality and rapidly declining prices (as low as $5 a bulb in some stores) has led to over 10 million bulbs being sold so far in the challenge, and momentum is gaining as we approach the Earth Day 2014 culmination.

So, have you tried an ENERGY STAR certified LED in your home yet? Here are the top seven reasons now is the time.

1.)    Energy Savings: ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs use 70-90% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb.

2.)    Money Savings: A single ENERGY STAR certified LED can save more than $135 in electricity costs over its lifetime.

3.)    Affordability: The prices for ENERGY STAR certified LEDs are dropping big time—as low as $5 per bulb with in-store rebates.

4.)    Long Lasting: ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs now look and light more like traditional bulbs, but can last 25 times longer—over 20 years total with typical use.

5.)    Quality and Performance: An ENERGY STAR certified bulb will give you the best LED experience. Only bulbs with the ENERGY STAR are independently certified, undergoing extensive testing to assure that they perform as promised.  To earn the ENERGY STAR, these bulbs must demonstrate that they will meet consumer expectations by delivering on brightness and producing light in all directions.

6.)    Peace of Mind: ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs carry a three-year warranty.

7.)    Environmental Protection: By replacing 20 million traditional incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified LEDs, this country would save more than $118 million each year in energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of more than 150,000 vehicles.

Believe it or not, most people spend more to light their home than to operate their refrigerator, dishwasher, and laundry equipment combined! That little fact should make it pretty clear why your lighting choices matter. Try an ENERGY STAR certified LED today, and tell us about your experience on our website. We will showcase your stories on ENERGY STAR’s Facebook and Twitter pages this spring.

Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the ENERGY STAR communications team. 

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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Save Money and the Environment this Tax Season

2014 March 6

Tax Time

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

As W2s and end-of-year statements pop up in everything from your mailbox to your inbox, it becomes quite clear that we have reached that time of year—tax time. But, there could be a bright spot as you approach filing your taxes this year. If you made certain energy efficient home improvements /purchases in 2013, this may be your year to reap the benefits of saving with ENERGY STAR.

What is Eligible?

ENERGY STAR products in the following categories are eligible for 10% of the product’s cost up to $500, or a specific amount from $50-$300. Products must have been purchased for an existing home that you use as your primary residence. These purchases must have been made by December 31, 2013.

• Air source heat pumps
• Central air conditioners
• Boilers
• Furnaces
• Insulation
• Roofs
• Non-solar water heaters
• Windows and doors

ENERGY STAR certified geothermal heat pumps are eligible for 30% of the product’s cost with no upper limit. Products must have been purchased for new or existing homes, and both primary and secondary residences may apply. This tax credit expires December 31, 2016.

If you made any of the above improvements last year, you will need to file the 2013 version of IRS form 5695, and submit it with your 2013 taxes by April 15, 2014. You should save your receipts and the manufacturer’s certification statement for your records. Check out energystar.gov/taxcredits for more details on filing for your credit.

There are still many ways to save energy, save money and protect the climate after tax season is over. Check out www.energystar.gov for simple ways to keep your energy bills low all year long.

Brittney Gordon is a member of the communications team for the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

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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How Does Data Center Energy Efficiency Affect Me?

2014 February 12

Data center pic

 

By: RJ Meyers

Before I started working  with EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, I honestly had very little idea how much internet connected devices like laptops, smart phones, tablets, and smart TVs used data centers.  Most web services, such as banking, online gaming, movie streaming, corporate websites, and social networking, are hosted in data centers that range in size from a small side room/closet to sprawling multi-million square foot complexes.  These facilities all contain varying amounts and types of IT equipment, as well as the power and cooling infrastructure needed to keep it all running.  They form a sort of “behind-the-scenes” infrastructure for your computer, performing work at some remote location in response to what you’re doing at home, in the office, or on your phone.

When combined, the electricity consumption of all the data centers in the U.S. amounts to somewhere between 2 and 3% of the total grid.  While that may sound small, it helps to remember that the U.S. grid is huge and 2 or 3% of a huge number is still very large—this works out to nearly 300 kWh of energy per person per year, or approximately six times the annual energy consumption of the average laptop1.

Inefficient data centers cost more in their day-to-day operations, since they are consuming and paying for extra energy to perform their services.  Less efficient equipment will also tend to run hotter and require more energy from cooling systems to keep from overheating.   Inefficient data centers also require more physical space between components to keep temperatures down.  All of these extra operating costs may be passed on to clients and ultimately on to everyone who uses their services (i.e., you and me!).

Higher efficiency simply means that you get more for less.  And “less” doesn’t just involve money.  Since the U.S. electrical grid depends heavily on fossil fuels, it also means fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants such as mercury.  Power plant emissions lower air and water quality and can affect your health; plus they contribute to the acceleration of climate change.  Reducing emissions through efficiency measures will lead to cleaner air and water, better health, and reduce future damage from climate change.

Please note that while data centers consume lots of energy without your knowledge, they can also be used to avoid other even more consumptive and inefficient activities.  Holding a video conference at work or talking to someone across the country through an internet video chat service consumes far less energy and far fewer pollutants are emitted than flying there to meet in person.  It’s also more efficient to bank online than to drive to the bank in person, or to download a computer game or stream a movie than to go buy/rent a physical copy at the store.

There have been some great strides in IT energy efficiency in recent years, much of it pushed by increasing demand for services and the need to put more and more computing power into smaller and smaller spaces.  ENERGY STAR is proud to recognize and promote high efficiency IT products for data centers and to provide accurate information to data center operators as they look for ways to keep cooling and electricity costs to a minimum.  Doing so helps everyone reduce the impact of their IT infrastructure while improving the online services that we’ve all come to appreciate.

If you would like to learn more about ENERGY STAR certified Data Centers, please head to our website for more information.

About the Author:  RJ joined ENERGY STAR in late 2010 and immediately began work on 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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