Energy Efficiency


Energy efficiency can go a long way toward reducing energy costs for members, promoting a healthy environment, and increasing energy security.

Using less energy while retaining the same service can be easy and affordable. There are many energy efficiency programs and resources that can help guide you through the best options available.

Energy Tips

Energy Efficiency Resources: Information and Opportunities

Alaska Energy Efficiency Partnership

This website is the collaborative effort of the Alaska Energy Efficiency Partnership, a partnership of over 20 entities, including state and federal government programs, utilities, state legislative offices, local non-profits, university programs, private businesses and tribal organizations. Energy Efficiency and Conservation (EE&C) play a vital role in the stability of Alaska’s energy future. With that in mind, and recognizing that the sheer volume of information available about EE&C can often be overwhelming, this site has been built to provide Alaskans with a simple, single point of entry into the broad EE&C universe. Use this website to find the tools and resources available to make EE&C improvements. Those improvements will save kilowatts, and every kilowatt saved is money in your pocket. (Click here to go to this website)

Renewable Energy Alaska Project

Renewable Energy Alaska Project is a coalition of energy stakeholders working to facilitate the development of renewable energy in Alaska through collaboration, education, training, and advocacy. The REAP website provides an extensive list of State and Federal energy efficiency programs for residential and commercial buildings. (Click here to go to this website)

Alaska Housing Finance Corporation

Alaska Housing Finance Corporation helps Alaskans buy a home and bring down their energy costs through energy rebates, weatherization grants, assistance applying for federal tax credits, special loans for weatherization and heating assistance programs for renters. Along with financial support, AHFC provides energy efficiency education through their Research Information Center, workshops and presentations from energy experts across the globe. (Click here to go to this website)

U.S. Department of Energy

  • Energy Efficiency: Every year, much of the energy the U.S. consumes is wasted through transmission, heat loss and inefficient technology — costing American families and businesses money, and leading to increased carbon pollution. (Click here to go to this website)
  • Savings: Government agencies, utilities and others offer a variety of tax credits, rebates and other incentives to support energy efficiency, encourage the use of renewable energy sources, and support efforts to conserve energy and lessen pollution. Nationally available rebates are listed below. Find savings that may be available to you or your business in Alaska. (Click here to go to this website)

International Energy Agency

The International Energy Agency promotes energy efficiency policy and technology in buildings, appliances, transport and industry, as well as end-use applications such as lighting. IEA analysis has led to the development of energy efficiency recommendations which identify best-practice, highlighting the opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and policy approaches in each sector to realize the full potential of energy efficiency for member countries. (Click here to go to this website)

Small Business Association

The Small Business Association provides information on federal tax credits available to small businesses for making energy efficiency upgrades. (Click here to go to this website)

Hot Topics in Energy Efficiency

Home Appliance Energy Use: breakdown and calculate by device

The average U.S. home energy use breaks down like this:

47.7% Heating/air conditioning

Almost half of the energy used in an average home goes to heating and cooling. Take these steps to increase the efficiency of your heating system:

  • Change your air filter regularly. 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. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system — leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.
  • Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating system can improve efficiency and comfort.
  • Install a programmable thermostat, ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $150 every year in energy costs.
  • Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more. Focus on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap the ducts in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, seal ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house.
  • If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable, you should have it looked at by a professional contractor. If it is not performing efficiently or needs upgrading, consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency heating units can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs. Address the big air leaks in your house and the duct system. Sometimes, these are the real sources of problems rather than your HVAC equipment.
  • The proper size and a quality installation is essential to getting the most from your new equipment. When replacing HVAC equipment, bigger doesn’t always mean better. If the unit is too large for your home, you will be less comfortable and might actually have higher utility bills. Oversized equipment will operate in short run cycles, not allowing the unit to reach efficient operation.
  • Turning down the thermostat 6 degrees can save up to 20 percent of your heating bill
  • Moving furniture away from warm air registers gives a more even room temperature
  • Open drapes on sunny days to allow warmth from the sun and close them at sundown
  • Use lined or insulated drapes on windows

34.6% Appliances, electronics and lighting

Clothes washer and dryer

  • Select a washer large enough to handle big loads
  • Use cold water to wash most clothes in
  • Use the soak cycle on heavily soiled clothes to prevent double washings
  • Clean lint filters often
  • Place your dryer where it gets plenty of ventilation (non-humid air)
  • Be sure and vent your dryer to the outside air
  • Match temperature setting to fabric

Refrigerator

  • Check gaskets occasionally on both refrigerators and freezers
  • Do not open refrigerator or freezer more than necessary
  • If buying a freezer, select one that is ENERGY STAR rated
  • Place foods to be refrigerated or frozen in small, shallow containers, 3 inches tall or less, and cover them completely
  • Buy multi-door units on refrigerators

Dishwasher

  • Use dishwashers for full loads only
  • Stop the dishwasher before the dry cycle begins and air dry the dishes (modern dishwashers should have an energy saving cool dry)

Oven and Ranges

  • Turn off ranges immediately after use
  • Don’t open the oven door unnecessarily
  • Thaw frozen food ahead of time
  • Use the self-cleaning feature of your oven while the oven is still warm
  • Use high heat only to start the cooking process

Electronics

  • In the average home, 40% of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Across the U.S., this equals the annual output of 17 power plants.
  • Unplug all electronics/appliances or drop cords that are seldom used

Lighting

  • Turn off the lights when not in use
  • Keep light bulbs and fixtures clean
  • Use one 100-watt bulb instead of two 60-watt bulbs
  • Use a timer or motion-sensor for outdoor lighting

17.7% Water heating

  • Keep water heater temperature at the lowest recommended setting (120-140 degrees)
  • Correct leaking faucets
  • Use cold water whenever possible
  • Don’t leave faucets running

Source: Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2009, U.S. Department of Energy.

Check out this website to learn how to calculate the amount of energy a device uses in operation.


ENERGY STAR

MEA promotes ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that is helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. The ENERGY STAR website contains many valuable resources, including:

  • A list of ENERGY STAR Home Builders and Developers in Alaska.
  • The ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick compares your home’s energy efficiency to similar homes across the country and gives recommendations for energy-saving home improvements from ENERGY STAR. You will need to enter some basic information about your home (such as zip code, age, square footage, and number of occupants). TIP: The bottom left-hand corner of  your MEA bill contains a 12-month history of your electricity consumption.
Stealth Energy Hogs

Home-Energy-Hogs-Turned-Off
Stealth Energy Hogs, also known as Vampire Loads, are appliances or devices in your home that continue to draw electricity if left plugged into the outlet after being turned off. An average U.S. home has forty stealth energy hogs constantly drawing power, which amount to almost 10% of residential electricity use. Here are a few recommendations from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory:

  • If you aren’t frequently using a device, unplug it. (This works fine for that extra TV in the guest bedroom.)
  • Use a switchable power strip for clusters of computer or video products. That way you can switch everything to zero with one action.
  • When shopping, search for low standby products. ENERGY STAR products have lower standby.
  • Buy a low-cost watt-meter, measure the devices in your home and take targeted action. You will certainly be surprised at what you discover and this exercise might even pay back the cost of the meter in savings.

The following graphic displays the average watts used by different appliances when left plugged in after powered off.

L.E.D. Lighting

Image used from snakeriveralliance.org under Creative Commons.

Are they worth the cost? Do they save money? Here are some facts:

The light emitting diode (LED) are a type of solid-state lighting — semiconductors that convert electricity into light. Although once known mainly for indicator and traffic lights, LEDs in white light, general illumination applications are one of today’s most energy-efficient and rapidly-developing technologies. ENERGY STAR-qualified LEDs use only 20%–25% of the energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. LEDs use 25%–30% of the energy and last 8 to 25 times longer than halogen incandescents.

LED bulbs are currently available in many products such as replacements for 40W, 60W, and 75W traditional incandescents, reflector bulbs often used in recessed fixtures, and small track lights. While LEDs are more expensive up front, they can save money in the long run due to lower energy use. As with other electronics, prices should come down as more products enter the market.

L.E.D. Holiday lights

Photo used under creative commons from 'Q-branch' http://www.instructables.com/file/FV00U508ZPEP27TMES/

LEDs consume far less electricity than incandescent bulbs, and decorative LED light strings such as Christmas tree lights are no different. Not only do LED holiday lights consume less electricity, they also have the following advantages:

  • Safer: LEDs are much cooler than incandescent lights, reducing the risk of combustion or burnt fingers.
  • Sturdier: LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, and are much more resistant to breakage.
  • Longer lasting: The same LED string could still be in use many holiday seasons from now.
  • Easier to install: Up to 25 strings of LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket.

Estimated cost of electricity to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days:

Incandescent C-9 lights $10.00
LED C-9 lights $0.27
Incandescent Mini-lights $2.74
LED Mini-lights $0.82

Estimated cost* of buying and operating lights for 10 holiday seasons:

Incandescent C-9 lights $122.19
LED C-9 lights $17.99
Incandescent Mini-lights $55.62
LED Mini-lights $33.29

*Assumes 50 C-9 bulbs and 200 mini-lights per tree, with electricity at $0.119 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) (AEO 2012 Residential Average). Prices of lights based on quoted prices for low volume purchases from major home improvement retailers. All costs have been discounted at an annual rate of 5.6%. Life span assumed to be three seasons (1,500 hours) for non-LED lights.

From the U.S. Department of Energy.