The Electric Vehicle Summer Road Trip

Few things are more American than loading up the family and hitting the open road, soaking up sights and picnicking at roadside rest stops with a somewhat loose destination in mind. As gas prices fluctuate unpredictably, more and more families are turning to electric vehicles. Electric vehicle options like the Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf serve day to day commuters well, but the true litmus test of a vehicle is the road trip – can an electric vehicle match the range and performance of an internal combustion engine on US interstates? We built two road trips using two of the most common electric vehicles: the Nissan Leaf (starts at $29,010 MSRP) and the Tesla Model S (starts at $70,000 MSRP).

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Road Trip #1 – ‘Leaf’ It All Behind

The Nissan Leaf is a pretty standard hatchback with a 5 seat capacity and various engine and battery options to increase driving range. The SV model, starting at $34,200, sports a 30 kWh battery with a 107 mile range and enough tech to help even the most directionally-challenged driver take the right exit. The major challenge of taking a Colorado road trip in the Leaf is the somewhat limited charger network – it is supplemented with residential Plugshare spots along various highways, but the coverage is a little thin, especially northward into Wyoming and east into Nebraska. For our road trip in the Leaf, we chose Moab, UT as the destination. [See our route with charging stations here.] South on I-25 and west on I-70 provides plenty of opportunity for catching a charge at 100 mile intervals in Denver, Breckenridge, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction.

Using the PlugShare site, we were able to plan the trip and locate a number of available charging stations, a network of public stations, high power or ‘Supercharger’ stations, and even residential chargers that made it possible to make the entire trip with just 5 charging stops. With a conservative approach, we calculated that the longest you’d have to drive between charges on the seven and a half hour drive would be 98 miles. But the main question is how long does it take to charge back to full after driving all that distance? According to the Nissan Leaf Q&A site, where real live Leaf owners answer questions, one owner reported that the direct current chargers, or ‘super chargers’ can deliver a full charge in less than 30 minutes, while other owners reported that the typical home charger takes 4-5 hours to reach a full charge. In larger metro areas like Denver, super chargers are easily accessible, but they become less frequent as you head west on I-70. We determined that even if you stopped at every opportunity to charge, you’d have to wait a minimum of 15-30 minutes while the car charged. Which is ideal if you’re in a picture-taking mood, and who wouldn’t be in western Colorado?

 

Road Trip #2 – Your Road Trip, It’s Electric

For the Tesla Model S, we planned a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, perfect for the art-lover or southwestern foodie. With a range of 199 to 267 miles (depending on the model), the Model S makes an out-of-state road trip much more feasible. We calculated that you’d only have to stop to charge twice – once in Colorado Springs, and once in Trinidad, CO. Tesla is extremely proud of the fact that their Tesla Superchargers provide an additional 170 miles after only a 30-minute charge, and the company strategically places Superchargers along well traveled highways and in city centers. Almost all of the charging stations are located near restaurants, shopping centers and WiFi hotspots, and the Tesla app notifies you when your vehicle is charged. Our road trip route (seen here) pushes the range a little bit on the stretch between Trinidad and Santa Fe, but a Supercharger station in Las Vegas, NM, could supplement the final push into the city.

 

A road trip in an electric vehicle, while not impossible, takes a fair amount of planning. Just in researching two theoretical road trips, we utilized two different apps, four websites (PlugShare, Tesla’s Supercharger site, EZ-Charge, and of course Google Maps to calculate distances between charging stations), not to mention various resources on how to achieve optimal mileage, which can vary based on air temperature, speed, car load (how much mountain biking gear you have crammed into the back of your Leaf), driving style and topography. All this aside, as electric vehicle charging infrastructure becomes more built out and battery technology improves, the American road trip in an electric vehicle could very well become effortless, as you unplug and hit the open road.

The unknown impact of charging

One anticipated challenge of mainstream electric vehicle usage is the increased pressure it could place on energy infrastructure. Peak energy patterns indicate that residences tend to use the most energy between 7am and 9am in the morning, and then 5pm and 8pm in the evening If you followed the FortZED RDSI project, you know that the City of Fort Collins is focused on addressing peak energy challenges to maximize the efficiency of our current energy infrastructure. The challenge is that if everyone is driving electric cars, then coming home and plugging them in at 5pm on the dot, peak energy usage could skyrocket, putting a strain on existing power plants even while reducing emissions. To find out more about this particular problem, the City of Fort Collins and FortZED have partnered with Colorado State University and Innosphere to host Innovate Fort Collins - The EV Charging Challenge. This competition is calling for submissions, asking businesses to submit proposals for gathering more usage data related to electric vehicle charging and propose innovative, problem-solving technologies. To submit a proposal, you can visit innovatefortcollins.com and apply to be one of the companies that will present their idea at the Energy Transition Symposium on September 28-29.

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Smart Homes: How technology is making energy efficiency more accessible

 

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When you run out of milk, your fridge adds it to your synced shopping list on your phone. After you fill up the dishwasher and set it to run, the dishwasher automatically programs itself to run when peak energy demand has subsided. When you get to the office, you realize you forgot to turn off the bathroom light and turn down the air conditioning, but you pull out your phone and set your home to ‘away,’ so it turns off the lights and turns the AC down. You’re moving through your day with efficiency, minimizing your energy footprint using a host of networked technologies that minimize your home energy usage, and your utility bill.

This futuristic sounding functionality is within grasp – with wireless thermostats becoming commonplace, and integrated security systems making it possible to lock and unlock homes remotely, our homes are becoming ever more wired and integrated. Just outside of Sacramento, on the University of California Davis campus, one family of four is living in an experimental home built by Honda, the Japanese automotive manufacturer. The home has an integrated heating and cooling system using a ground-source heat pump, which is a central temperature control system that transfers heat to or from the ground, using the earth as a heat reservoir. LED lights come on bright white in the morning, and dim to warmer temperatures in the evening to conserve energy and mimic the natural fluctuation in color temperature from the sun. Thanks to the low energy usage of the house, the solar panels on the roof make the home net zero, meaning it produces the same amount of energy it consumes over the course of a year. The goal of the home is two-fold: Honda gave the household a fully electric Honda Fit, to test the car’s viability as a commuter vehicle, and Honda also wanted to see if a truly net-zero home could meet a family’s needs while maintaining comfort and standard of living.

The Honda pilot home is incredibly innovative, but automated energy management systems are  still experimental and some of the technology that makes the house so efficient is still in development. More locally, the City of Fort Collins Climate Action Plan has identified the increased efficiency of existing buildings as one of the key strategies to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This means that large gains can be made in retrofitting existing homes and buildings with innovative energy conservation technologies. This can be done using technologies like Wi-Fi enabled programmable thermostats and using smart home hubs like this starter kits.

A local example of this type of sustainable design in Fort Collins is the Revive subdivision between College Ave. and Shields St., just south of Willox St. Go to revivefc.com to learn more.

To read more about Honda’s net zero home and the technology that makes is possible, visit the Smithsonian article here.

To find out about how to acquire a free, Wi-Fi enabled thermostat, visit the Peak Partners website and learn more about joining the program.

6 Tips to efficiently cool your home

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Ah – summer in Fort Collins! It’s time to get outdoors and see all that Fort Collins and Northern Colorado has to offer. But, when you’re home during the hot days, it can be hard to stay cool. With this in mind, we wanted to give you some tips and tricks to efficiently cool your home, while maximizing comfort for you and your family.

Tip #1: Window coverings are for more than keeping the light out while you’re trying to sleep or decoration. Good honeycomb or cellular blinds, or even heavier curtains, can help reflect the sunlight and heat that can make your home unbearably hot. Keep ‘em closed during the day, and your home will stay noticeably cooler!

Tip #2: Use the bathroom fan for 20 minutes after you shower. It’ll get rid of the hot, humid air that causes your air conditioning to work harder. And, it’ll help ensure that the moisture left in the air after a shower doesn’t turn into mold in your walls.

Tip #3: Open your home’s windows in the evening when it starts to cool down, and leave them open throughout the night. Close them in the morning when the outside temperature starts to rise. Doing this will help keep your home cooler longer into the day, and reduce the amount of time that your air conditioner runs.

Tip #4: Ceiling and oscillating fans are much more energy efficient than window A/C or central air units. Cool your home with fans as long as possible to save energy. And, fans used in tandem with your air conditioning unit will help make the work your air conditioning unit does more effective.

Tip #5: Using your oven or stove top to cook on hot summer days will only make your house warmer. Instead, consider grilling outdoors to keep the heat outside. And, who doesn’t love some good barbeque? If you don’t have an outdoor grill, using a microwave to cook as many of your meals as possible will also ensure that your house stays cooler when compared to using an oven/stove top.

Tip #6: Programmable thermostats can help save a lot of energy in your home. By installing a programmable thermostat, you can set your A/C to a higher temperature when no one is home during the day, and at night when outdoor temperatures are lower. What should you set it to? Some thermostats have an easy to select Energy Star setting, or you can program to these temperatures to help maximize efficiency:

While home: set temperature to 78°F+

While away: set temperature to 85°F+

While sleeping: 82°F+

Because 48% of your home’s energy can be attributed to the efforts that go into cooling it, try these methods to help keep your home as cool as possible, without using a lot of energy. Need more tips and tricks to save energy at home? Check out lose-a-watt.com for other simple tips and tricks!

Energy Efficiency on a Budget

Change bulbs to LEDs

What comes to mind when you think of energy efficiency projects for your home? Do you think of replacing your windows with those that have a higher energy performance rating? Or, about replacing your insulation to better regulate how your home maintains its temperature? While these bigger, higher-priced projects may come to mind first, there are actually several smaller projects you can tackle to help save energy and money at home.

Let’s say you have $100 (give or take a few dollars) to spend on energy efficiency upgrades for your home. What are some of the things that you can do?

  • Light ‘em up…with LEDs. Suppose your home has 30 light bulbs. A $100 spend would help you replace 25 of those light bulbs with $4 LED light bulbs from a home improvement store.
  • Treat your furnace to new filters. If you change your furnace filter every three months, and you go with the cheap filters that cost $1 or less, you could turn that $100 into filters for your furnace for the next 25 years! Don’t want to send all that waste to the landfill? Consider purchasing a washable filter that usually costs around $20. Or, purchase two so you’ve got a backup while you’re cleaning one of them. Even then, you’ve still got $60 left to make other efficiency improvements!
  • Put some shade on your house. Consider planting trees in areas that could help shade your home from the hot summer sun. You can purchase shade trees from a nursery, and with some of them costing less than $10 each, you could get as many as 10 of them for your yard. Okay – it’s not instant gratification, but if you spend money on trees that can grow and one day shade your home, it’s worth it. You can find a list of recommended trees for our area at fcgov.com.
  • Seal the gaps. One of the areas where your home loses the most energy is around your windows and doors, and the best way to remedy that is by caulking around all of them. A 10 oz. container of caulk can cover roughly 55 linear feet, and would cover roughly three and a half 3’x5’ windows in your home. If you had nine windows on the exterior of your home, you’d need no more than five containers to do your entire home. That, plus a caulking gun would cost you roughly $15.

If you don’t have $100 to throw at energy efficiency projects, no worries! There are plenty of other things you can do that won’t cost you a penny.

  • Not using it? Unplug it! Even when you’re not using an appliance or electronic device, it can still be pulling electricity to maintain its standby light or tell you what time it is. If it’s not something that you use on a regular basis, unplug it.
  • Cool off after dark. Now that it’s summer, the days can be almost unbearably hot. If you want to reduce the amount of energy your A/C system uses, open your windows at night and leave them open until it starts to warm up outside the next morning. Your house will stay cooler longer, reducing the need to use A/C.
  • Spread the love. Fans use significantly less energy than an air conditioner or central air. Rather than turning down the temperature on your A/C even further, use any existing fans in your home to maximize the effect and spread the cool air that your air conditioner puts out.

Making a home more energy efficient isn’t always as expensive or time-consuming as it seems. Compare notes with your neighbors, watch for deals on products like LED light bulbs, and take on some of the smaller projects yourself. You’ll be amazed with the amount of energy and money that you save in the long run!

What are some no- or low-cost things that you do at home to save energy? Let us know in the comments!

5 Quick and Easy Energy Efficiency Tips

Caulking to Save Energy

When it comes to saving energy, people often think of the big projects that require extensive resources. While those bigger projects are great to take on if you’ve got the time and money, for some they’re just not feasible. With that in mind, we wanted to share a few small things that can add up to make a big difference!

You likely know the easy ones – turning off the lights when you leave a room and keeping doors closed to stop energy from escaping – so we wanted to take it to the next level. Check out these five tips:

  1. Drop it like it’s hot. Water heaters are the second largest energy expense in the home, and most people have the temperature set too high on theirs. Lower your water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy and reduce its impact on your wallet. It’s a simple, yet effective way to save!
  2. Line ‘em up. The temperatures are getting warmer outside, so what does that mean? It means you can use a clothesline or drying rack to dry your clothes, rather than your dryer. On average, a clothes dryer accounts for 39% of the energy used at home, so by cutting down on the amount you use it, you’ll save big money. Not only that, your favorite pair of jeans will last longer, too.
  3. Sun Block. No, we’re not talking about wearing sunscreen – we’re suggesting that you close your blinds or other window coverings to help keep you home cooler. The less your air conditioning unit runs, the more you save! And, when fall comes and it starts to cool down outside, you can open those window coverings. In the fall/winter the heat from the sun can help keep your home warmer.
  4. Quittin’ time. Are you one of those people that leaves their computer turned on all the time? We don’t want to sound like your parents, but … STOP IT! Not only will it help reduce the amount of energy that your system uses, it’ll help your electronics last longer too.
  5. Weathertight. If you can see any daylight or feel air coming through any of your doors or windows, you’re wasting energy. Use materials like weather stripping, draft guards, and caulking to seal the cracks and keep the outside air from coming in. Who knows? You might even stop a bug or two from finding their way in, too! Quick tip: If you close a dollar bill in a door or window and it slides out easily, it’s not sealed well enough.

Take our advice – the five tips listed above are worth the time and resources that you’ll put toward them. And, if you’re hungry for more, we’ve got more where these came from! Visit Lose-A-Watt online for more simple ways to save energy and conserve in your home. You could even use the Lose-A-Watt app which is where we grabbed these tips from. With the app, you’ll be able to record your actions and compete against your friends and neighbors.

Water and Energy Conservation in Your Yard

Landscaping for water and energy conservation

Happy landscaping season! Spring is the best time to start your landscaping projects, and to get your plants in the ground. While we encourage you to personalize and beautify your home’s yard, we also wanted to put in a plug about approaching the project with your conservation hat on. Check out these great tips to get your landscape to help save water and energy.

If you’re re-landscaping:

Did you know that on average, a well-designed landscape can save enough energy and water to pay for itself within eight years? It can help lower maintenance costs, reduce water use, decrease noise and air pollution, and cut heating and cooling costs. Here are a few things to consider:

Energy Conservation

  • Use solar power as much as possible. You could use solar powered walkway lights to illuminate your sidewalks after dark, instead of using a porchlight. You might also consider switching your outdoor light fixtures to some that are completely solar powered.
  • LED lightbulbs are the most efficient type of lightbulb. For the amount of use that 42 incandescent lightbulbs and $352 gives you, one LED bulb can get the same amount of use at a total cost of $86. The City of Fort Collins has been working with residents to switch out the lightbulbs on their porches to LED – if they haven’t hit your neighborhood yet, they’re bound to soon!
  • Motion sensor lights can help save energy by only turning on when people approach your home. Consider switching your outdoor lights over to motion sensors to help save energy and money.
  • Consider planting deciduous trees near your home. They’ll shade it from the sun and reduce your energy costs in the summer, and will let the sunlight in during the winter.

Water Conservation

  • Improve the soil in your yard. By adding two to three cubic yards of organic matter for every 1,000 square feet of landscape area, your soil can better absorb and retain water.
  • Hand water you plants. Doing this will lessen your changes of overwatering your plants, gives you less equipment to maintain, helps you cater to each of the different plants in your yard, and even reduces the chance of fungal disease.
  • Consider switching to high-efficiency nozzles and switching to drip irrigation for any areas of your yard that doesn’t have grass. That way, you’re not using more water than you need.
  • Choose sprinklers and irrigation systems that are appropriate for each type of plant that you’re using. This will ensure that each type of plant (tree, shrub, flower, and ground cover) are getting the right amount of water without overwatering.
  • Limit the amount of grass in your yard. If you’ve got grass in your yard that you struggle to keep alive each year, or if it’s in area that’s hard to irrigate without causing runoff, consider removing it. Turf is great for some purposes – but only keep it where you need it.
  • Choose plants that require less water, and put plants that require similar amounts of sunlight and water together in the same area.
  • Add two to four inches of mulch to areas where you’re adding plants. Not only will it help conserve the moisture in the soil, it’ll help control those pesky weeds and add interest to your landscaping.

If you’re not planning to make any landscaping changes to your yard, don’t worry! There are still some things you can do to help conserve:

  • Raise the height of your mower’s blade. Keeping the grass a bit longer helps to shade the ground, the surrounding grass, and retain more water.
  • Water your grass and plants after sundown when there is less wind, the temperature is cooler and evaporation rates are lower.
  • Turn on your exterior lights only when needed to help conserve energy. If you’ve got some extra money in your budget, it would also a great idea to switch out the bulbs in those lights to CFL or LED.
  • Get a free sprinkler system audit for your yard – it’ll help you save water by using your system more effectively. You’ll get an evaluation of your system, a watering schedule, insight into finding leaks in your system, and will even learn how to keep the vegetation in your yard healthy all summer. This audit is free for Fort Collins Utilities water customers, go here to sign up now.

Summer is almost here, so get out there and enjoy your yard! Get more energy saving tips online via Lose-A-Watt and FortZED, and leave us a comment to let us know what your favorite energy or water saving technique is for your yard.

Renewables and Your Home

For those interested in reducing their carbon footprint and making their homes greener, renewables can be one option. After acting on cost effective energy efficiency and conservation opportunities, there are a few ways to introduce a renewable element to your utilities mix.

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  1. Purchase renewable energy from your utility provider

The City of Fort Collins allows businesses and residents to purchase clean, renewable energy for an additional 2.54 cents per kilowatt-hour. It’s so that customers who are willing to pay a little more for their electricity can be confident in the knowledge it comes from the cleanest sources available. The green energy from Fort Collins Utilities comes from wind farms located in Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Kansas. For every unit of renewable energy electricity generated, the equivalent of renewable energy certificates is produced, which helps build a market for renewable electricity while helping reducing global climate change.

 

  1. Generate On-site Electricity

Generating your own electricity on your property, or ‘parallel generation’ can be a cost effective way to reduce utility bills. Using on-site renewable sources to generate electricity, like solar panels can mean a lower carbon footprint for your home and lifestyle overall. The time and monetary investment can be significant – for example, installing a solar photo voltaic ( “PV” ) system, your home must meet parallel generation requirements and you’ll need a building permit. It can be involved, but according to one source, the return on a solar system in Colorado can be $24,575 over 20 years. In Fort Collins, the savings can be much more immediate courtesy of Fort Collins Utilities’ solar rebates program.

Some people are also curious about off-grid residential wind power. Installing a practical wind turbine on your property within city limits is not permitted in Fort Collins due to municipal regulations, but there are options for more rural home owners (the US Department of Energy recommends you live on an acre or more) where turbines don’t conflict with HOA charters and county regulations.

 

  1. Buy into Community Solar

For those interested in the benefit of solar ownership without the maintenance of a stand-alone system, the Fort Collins Community Solar project has partnered with Clean Energy Collective (CEC). Panels are available for purchase on the solar farm in Fort Collins near Riverside Ave, allowing customers to lower their utility bills and take advantage of the same solar rebates available to homeowners that do full installs. You can find out more at www.FortCollinsCommunitySolar.com.  While shares in this project are currently on a waitlist basis, other shared solar projects are planned in the next several years.

 

The path to renewable energy sources can seem daunting, but we’re fortunate to live in a city that places an emphasis on generating clean, renewable energy. There are organizations like FortZED dedicated to helping residents, local companies, and City personnel to catalyzing novel technologies and pilot projects that continue to explore how we can generate and consume energy in a manner that is clean and sustainable.

To learn more about solar programs and support from City of Fort Collins Utilities, download the Solar Handout here.

Kid-Friendly Ways to Conserve Energy

Energy conservation – McGraw Kindergarten Student Kim Krenning

When it comes to energy conservation, we’re all in it together. From adjusting your thermostat to switching to LED lightbulbs, all of the small things you do add up to bigger energy savings.

It’s not just up to adults to save energy. Teaching kids from a young age to be conscious of their energy use and taking steps to reduce it help move us towards a better and more sustainable future.

What are some easy things the kids in your life can do to save energy? Start with these five actions to empower the next generation of energy savers:

  1. Turn off the lights. To adults it’s a habit, but to kids, turning off the lights is just something their parents ask them to do. Sit down with your kids, explain to them why it’s important to turn off the lights, and remind them to switch off lights to help them develop energy saving habits.
  2. Close the doors. Open doors are the perfect “escape routes” for energy. Remind kids to close doors completely when they leave or come into the house. If they’re interested in learning more, go through the house with them and see if you can find and fix any spaces around doors or windows that are letting outside air in.
  3. Turn off electronics and remind adults to unplug. Kids often move between activities at lightning speed. Teach them that turning off electronic devices when they’re finished is an important final step and ask them to remind you to unplug things like the TV when they aren’t being used. Yes, it can be a hassle to wait a few extra seconds for the computer to start up, or to have to plug in a device before you can use it. However, the extra energy that is saved by turning off or unplugging things adds up.
  4. Help plant a tree to shade the house during the summer. It may take a few years to grow big enough to shield the house from the hot summer sun, but once it’s big enough, your tree can help keep your home cool during the summer months. And, it’s an activity that you and the kids can reminisce about for years to come!
  5. Train them to remind others about energy-saving habits. Encourage kids to remind you when you forget to turn off a light or close the refrigerator door. Consider making it a “job” to make sure that all lights are turned off and everything is unplugged before you leave the house.

Teaching kids to conserve energy

Did you know that Fort Collins Utilities has a variety of hands-on, curriculum-based school classes that can teach kids to save energy? Check it out:

  • Agent Energywise – This hands-on lab for 4th grade students encourages investigation into the different “disguises,” or forms, of energy we interact with every day, and the ways that we can save energy with simple actions.
  • 6th and 8th Grade Energy Labs – Students investigate energy transformations and the different ways we interact with energy in our lives using laser thermometers, watt meters, and more!
  • 6th and 8th Grade Wind Labs – Students explore the different sources of energy we rely on in Fort Collins and put their engineering skills to the test as they design the most efficient wind turbine with our mini wind-turbine kits.
  • Voltbusters – This month-long program for K-5 students engages students in a friendly competition to see who can complete the most energy-saving actions in their classroom.
  • Assemblies – Students of all ages enjoy these short presentations on how we can conserve energy in our daily lives, and why it is important for each of us to do our part.
  • Coming Soon – Early Childhood Education! Join the Utilities Education Team in scientific explorations, art projects, and more that teach about energy in our world.

Energy conservation today makes a difference for society in the future. For more tips to save energy in your home, visit Lose-A-Watt online. Learn more information about energy saving programs for kids by contacting Alyssa Stephens at (970) 416-2248 or [email protected].

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.