Save Energy While Cleaning this Spring

shutterstock_76578388Ahhh – spring is finally here! With it, comes the need for spring cleaning – and not just for the benefit of having a clean home. This spring, try to think outside the box, and tackle the things that you might not normally clean. Why? Because you can you can save energy and money!

Cleaning to save energy

Rid your dryer of lint. Not only is lint a fire hazard, it can cause your clothes dryer to work harder and run longer. Make sure that you’re taking the screen out and cleaning it with each load of laundry that you do throughout the year. Then, once or twice a year, vacuum out the trap, as well as the duct to keep everything running smoothly and efficiently!

Clean or replace your furnace filter. Much like your clothes dryer, your furnace’s efficiency can decrease significantly when its filter is dirty. By changing or cleaning your furnace filter every three months you’re ensuring that your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain your home’s temperature. Not only does this save energy and keep your home more comfortable, it helps ensure that your home’s furnace lasts longer.

Maintain your fridge by cleaning its coils. This is one of those things that almost everyone forgets to clean on a regular basis. And let’s face it – do you even know where to find them? Normally, the coils can be found on the front of your refrigerator behind the kick plate, right under the door. You can clean them by pulling off the grill that protects them, and gently cleaning them off with your vacuum cleaner. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning your fridge’s coils ever six months, but you may want to clean them more frequently if you have pets.

Prep your air conditioner for summer. Summer is quickly approaching, and you’re going to want to kick on your A/C before you know it! Before you do though, do some annual maintenance to keep it running in tip-top shape. If you have a split system, clean all of the leaves and other debris from the compressor and condenser that may have taken up residence there over the winter. Clean off the evaporator coils and use a fin comb to straighten your unit’s coil fins. If it seems like a big task, or if your unit needs more than basic maintenance, consider bringing in a professional. Proper maintenance will help you save energy, and keep your unit running smoothly.

Other tips and tricks

Forgo the clothes dryer. Did you know that your clothes dryer uses the most energy out of all of the appliances in your house? The days are getting longer, and it’s getting warmer. Try drying your clothes outside instead of using the dryer!

Use the ants. Have you noticed any ants getting into your home? Yes, that’s a bad thing, but you can also watch them to figure out how they’re getting inside. Then, you can buy the supplies to seal the gaps, making your home more energy efficient.

Spring cleaning can seem like a daunting task, but use these tips as motivation to save time and energy. If you’re looking for more great ideas, visit our tutorials page!

The Most Energy Efficient Way to Stream Netflix – and other home energy efficiency findings from using a Home Energy Use Monitor

Did you know that you can check out various tools from the library that can help you monitor your home energy use? Knowing this, the Lose-A-Watt team wanted to see what we could learn about the amount of energy our appliances used. Our mission: find the most energy efficient way to stream Netflix. It’s something most of us do, but we many not consider the impact that streaming Netflix for hours on end might have on our energy bill, or consider the most energy efficient way to do it.

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First step: We checked out the device from our local Poudre River Library District branch. You can find all the locations here. There are two devices you can check out: the first is a Home Energy Monitor from the Peak Partners program. This device provides real-time tracking of your household electricity use in kilowatts, kilowatt hours, dollars and cents. The other device you can check out is a Power Check Meter, which allows you to track the energy usage of particular appliances. For our purposes, we elected to try out the Power Check Meter this time around. Check our blog for future updates on how to use the Home Energy Monitor.

The Power Check Meters are located on the second floor of the Downtown library. You can check them out from the information desk using your library card, and you can keep them for up to 4 weeks.

When we got the power check meter home, we found the meter, a USB cable, and a small ‘How To’ booklet. To test an appliance, we plugged the meter into a wall outlet, and then plugged our appliance into the meter. We could see how much energy draw there was when we turned the appliance on, what modes used more energy and experimented with leaving it on for various amounts of time.

A quick explanation of watts versus watt hours: Watts are the amount of energy the device is drawing at that moment in time, watt hours is how much it would draw over the course of an hour. When you look at your energy bill, you’re charged per kilowatt hours (one kilowatt hour is equivalent to 1,000 watt hours).

We experimented with a few different devices to see how much energy we’re using on a daily basis to watch TV shows and movies. I first tried plugging in my Amazon Fire TV Stick, which used a pretty minimal 2 watts per hour while streaming the TV show Parks and Rec. The 55” ENERGY STAR®-certified TV it played through uses a whopping 946 watts per hour though, probably due to the large screen size.

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Check out the table below to see which Netflix streaming method came out as the most energy efficient. We even calculated out about how much you would pay for a binge watching marathon (there is a lot of debate about what constitutes binge watching – for our purposes, we decided eight hours). Rates tend to fluctuate based on the season and Fort Collins Utilities bills per kWh in tiers. For our purposes (and based on past billing history) we’re assuming a constant rate of $0.08 per kWh. All televisions tested were ENERGY STAR®-certified.

Device Watts (when turned on) Watt Hours Total Energy Consumed Total Cost of an 8 Hour Binge
Xbox + 32" TV 154 66 528 Wh $0.04
Fire TV Stick + 55" TV 284 947 7576 Wh $0.60
Laptop (MacBook) 32 34 272 Wh $0.02
Android Phone 7.5 0.3 2.4 Wh Less than 1/100th of a cent
Windows Phone* 12 24 192 Wh $0.02

*Designed to charge in less than two hours, so it has a more significant draw than other devices

Results

The good news is that using Netflix, especially with smaller devices, is a small piece of our overall energy consumption. Where you might see really large spikes in your energy bill are on days where you turn up the heat, or on weekends where you’re running large appliances like dryers and washing machines for extended periods of time. Consider finding ways to reduce your use by by switching to a laptop, tablet or phone to watch your favorite shows or movies. To help Fort Collins win the Lose-A-Watt competition, every little bit counts.