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It doesn’t matter if you live in a home with a modern kitchen that has all the fancy upgrades, or one that just has a single overhead light in the center of the room. If you’re not using the latest generation of energy-efficient bulbs, it’s time for a lighting upgrade.
“Kitchen lighting has made great strides in the past couple of years, not just from a design standpoint, but with regards to energy efficiency. So upgrades are definitely worth looking into,” says Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the American Lighting Association (ALA) and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design. He travels the country tracking trends, and one he’s noticed lately is the focus on energy conservation.
“Lighting manufacturers are spending a considerable amount of time, and dedicating a lot of resources to developing fixtures capable of using more energy-efficient light sources than the standard incandescent,” Rey-Barreau says. “And it’s no coincidence that this trend is growing in popularity at a time when energy costs are on the rise,” he says.
As recently as two years ago, the only fixtures available for the kitchen that used the most energy-efficient light sources available today – fluorescents and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) – were not aesthetically pleasing. In today’s marketplace, however, decorative energy-efficient fixtures are available in every product category, whether you’re looking for something traditional, modern or artsy.
“We know consumers want to capitalize on the fact that compact fluorescent bulbs are approximately three to four times more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and LEDs can be three to 10 times more efficient, so we’ve dedicated a lot of resources to developing new fixtures that utilize the technology,” says Scott Roos, vice president of product design for Juno Lighting Group. “We’ll be introducing an LED under-cabinet unit in the fall that requires just eight watts of energy to provide the same illumination as an 80-watt halogen light source. Our new LED down light will be 40 percent more energy efficient than a compact fluorescent and 75 percent more energy efficient than an incandescent.”
Holtkoetter International, Inc., a manufacturer of residential lighting fixtures based in St. Paul, Minn., plans to release several models of fixtures that use LEDs early next year. But energy-saving products are nothing new for Holtkoetter. “We’ve been offering fixtures that take halogen IRC bulbs, capable of improving energy efficiency by 50 percent, for the last five years,” says company president Paul Eusterbrock.
Infra Red Coating (IRC) bulbs are designed in such a way that the heat they generate can be recycled and turned into light.
Hubbardton Forge, a lighting manufacturer out of Chandler, Vt., meantime has concentrated its efforts on developing decorative fixtures that take compact fluorescents. “We have offerings in every category for decorative fixtures that really enhance what you get out of a compact fluorescent,” says George Chandler, president of Hubbardton Forge.
No matter which of the new technologies you choose to go with, when shopping for energy-efficient fixtures, Rey-Barreau says it is important to look for the Energy Star label. In order to qualify for the Energy Star designation, the product must meet specific performance criteria for energy-efficient performance set by the U.S. Department of Energy.
As for concerns people may have about the quality of light given off by compact fluorescents and LEDs, Rey-Barreau says that “while in the past color rendering may have been a concern, it is no longer a problem. Consumers can rest assured the quality closely matches that of incandescents.”
Today’s advancements are quite impressive, but what does the future hold? Rey-Barreau expects the lighting industry to work hard at getting more products on the shelves that use the most energy-efficient technology developed to date – LEDs. “Right now LEDs are still kind of expensive, but once they become more readily available, the cost will come down significantly,” he says.
In these days of high energy costs many people recognize the importance of improving the energy efficiency of their homes, especially since heating and cooling can account for up to half of a homes total energy usage. While energy efficient replacement windows will save money on heating and cooling bills, they also have many other benefits such as adding beauty and value to your home, and making your living space more pleasant!
There are many obvious reasons to replace old windows that are rough and worn. Creating a new look for your home from the inside out is possible simply by replacing old windows with new ones. With the many styles of windows that you can choose from, and the variety of colors available, replacing your windows could be the home improvement step that dramatically changes the way your home looks and feels. Whether your new windows let in more light, blend into the background, stand out with a bold exterior contrast of color, or serve as a focal point within your rooms, a new window can defiantly bring excitement into your home.
Besides the pleasing esthetic benefits of replacing your windows, there are many more practical reasons to replace them as well. Over time wood windows may begin to rot and can also warp or become infested with termites. Casement windows may have cranks that stop working or counter weight cords that have broken. Paint or even vinyl on windows can peel with age. Correcting these types of problems is important for the upkeep of your home. With todays more advanced window technology window manufacturers have figured out new ways to make sure that your windows will not only be energy efficient but also incredibly durable. Recent improvements include coatings that may help reduce heat transfer in your home and protect interiors from potentially damaging sunlight that can fade pictures, furniture and carpets.
A not-to-be-overlooked factor that makes replacement windows both important and eminently sensible, is the amount of energy that can be saved when replacing old, drafty or single pane windows with new highly energy efficient multi-pane windows. High efficiency replacement windows will help make your home more energy efficient, and a highly efficient home uses less power for both heating and cooling, which in turn helps you save money. Simply switching single-pane windows to double-pane windows will help decrease high energy bills in the cold winter months by blocking out more of the cold winter air and keeping in more of the warm air heated by your furnace. Likewise the same is true of the cool air generated by your air conditioning unit during the hot summer months.
When determining what replacement windows to use it is wise to follow the recommendations of the Energy Star national energy performance rating system. Replacement windows with an Energy Star label meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy.
ENERGY STAR is a government program under the management of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy designed to help everyone save money and protect the environment by identifying and utilizing energy efficient products and practices. The use of Energy Star approved windows and other household products can save about a third on the average home energy bill without sacrificing style, features or comfort.
How energy efficient is the various types of cooktops? This is a question that everyone wants the answer to when they are shopping for cooktops. While most of the newer models of induction, electric and gas cooktops have acquired the Energy Star rating, some are still more eco-friendly than others. The key is to find the balance between your needs and those of the environment when shopping for cooktops. An appliance is not truly efficient if your productivity is decreased.
Induction cooktops are some of the very energy efficient types of cooktops on the market today. Because induction cooktops use the transfer of electromagnetic energy to heat the cookware rather than the cooktop, there is virtually no loss of energy. Approximately 90 percent of the energy produced is used. This means that induction cooktops may help you to save money on your electric bill each month as they offer some great energy saving benefits. Your kitchen will also stay cooler using these cooktops, thus reducing your monthly utility bills even more. If your primary concern is reducing your carbon footprint, then induction cooktops are probably the best choice for you.
Electric cooktops are another type of cooktops that help with energy efficiency. Today’s electric cooktops boast a number of features to reduce the loss of energy. Many models have duel size burners, reducing energy wasted from pans sitting on heating elements that are too big. Some electric cooktops also have an automatic shut-off feature if you accidentally leave the burner on. Many do not require as high of a voltage of electricity as induction cooktops, making the monthly operating costs slightly lower in some cases. If the green in your wallet is just as important as the green in the environment, electric cooktops may be the correct answer for you.
Gas cooktops are preferred by many as it offers a different cooking style. They are still a favorite among professional chefs and cooking enthusiasts. Gas cooktops may give you more control over the heat than induction cooktops or electric cooktops and, as a result, cook food more evenly. If cooking with gas is important to you, you can slightly increase the energy efficiency of gas cooktops by choosing a model with a lower BTU. Gas cooktops may cost less to operate each month depending on your rates for natural gas. With the cost of electricity on the rise, gas cooktops are definitely the gourmet, budget friendly choice for those looking for energy saving cooktops.
Once you decide whether induction cooktops, electric cooktops or gas cooktops best fit your needs, you should consider some of the durability factors of the various models within that category. Is the appliance insulated? Is it vented? The answer to these questions will help you to pick the cooktops that will work best for you and your situation.
A new national survey notes an interesting return to aesthetics being more important than energy efficiency in the consumers decision making process with regards to vinyl replacement windows. I believe there are two reasons for the shift. First, there may be some level of expectation that most products provide enhanced levels of energy efficiency because of the governments stimulus tax credit. Many manufacturers, because of the stringency of the requirements, scampered to find products that qualified. The other reason for the change is that the higher end consumer, who previously considered vinyl a lesser quality product and would only look at high cost wood and clad windows, now, because of the economic realities, are ready to look at vinyl as a lower cost, more energy efficient, alternative. Aesthetics have always been a driving force in that customers decision-making process.
Vinyl windows have been around for over thirty years, realizing more and more acceptance from consumers for various reasons. Many focus group studies have been undertaken by various manufacturers and one of the most interesting things that has been learned is that the one main thing that consumers that have otherwise loved their vinyl windows didnt like was the fact that they had to give up glass viewing area. Unfortunately, most manufacturers dont talk about that issue with the customer because of structural decisions that have required their vinyl extrusions to be big and boxy, leaving the customer to notice it only AFTER their windows are installed and too late to make a change. One of the reasons that so many products have big, bulky extrusions has to do with the increased necessity of energy efficient mainframes to meet Energy Star guidelines. Some manufacturers have made the investment in products that, in essence, allow you to have your cake and eat it too.
One of the interesting things about vinyl is that it shares a couple of properties of steel. One of the properties is that every 90 bend in vinyl increases its structural integrity. Many of the bulky, boxy mainframes available use many 90 bends for structural strength, but this increases the overall bulk of the product. The aesthetics conscious consumer is looking for a product that combines looks structure and energy efficiency.
One rarely discussed difference in products is the variations in the white color. Most customers that have white trim have painters white. Many manufacturers, including some that have some of the lowest advertised prices, still use the original white vinyl color, which has a blue or black tint to it. Again, this typically is not discussed at the time of purchase and is only discovered after the products are installed, too late to make a change. Make sure the home improvement consultant matches their white to your white.
With the 2012 Ontario Building Code deadline calling for homes to be 35% more energy efficient than homes that are built today, new home builders could be faced with the additional cost of installing higher end heating and cooling systems. And new home buyers may be looking at more sophisticated heating and cooling systems that require a higher level of expertise in maintenance and repairs. A practical alternative for both builders and new homebuyers is a bundled rental package that includes a water heater, along with a furnace, air conditioner, air handler or drain water heat recovery system. Since 2003, Reliance Home Comfort has offered bundled rental packages (rental furnaces, air conditioners, water heater and air handler combo systems, indoor air quality products and more) to the existing residential market, and the option has caught on with a growing number of homebuilders. In 2009, over 4,500 homeowners chose to rent their furnace, air conditioner, or system from Reliance. And for the past two years, Reliance Home Comfort has been offering its Comfort Value Bundle Program to the new homes market as well. Builders can choose from three set packages or they can have one that is custom, with any combination of heating and cooling products. One of the more popular bundles is a water heater and air handler rental. Other possible combinations include a water heater with air conditioner, or with air handler.
Reliance provides rental customers with complete peace of mind. We take the risk out of products and services that are essential to our customers lives. And we make it easy and affordable for families to stay comfortable all year long, says Neil Martin, marketing manager for Reliance Home Comfort.
Typically new homebuyers expect the furnace to come with their home and the idea of renting your furnace is a fairly new option. Our Comfort Value Bundle program is becoming a popular choice with customers who value the ability to heat and cool a home for maximum comfort and energy efficiency at the lowest cost.
Currently, 96% of Ontario homeowners rent their water heaters. The Comfort Value Bundle Program
is a natural extension of this approach and Reliance Home Comfort is working to raise awareness
about this option amongst GTA homebuilders.
Builders save on capital costs and, depending on the energy efficiency of home comfort products, homeowners can save up to $35 per month on their energy bills.
Rental rates for a high-efficiency gas furnace and an Energy Star water heater is approximately $50 per month probably less than your cable bill, says Larry Brydon, senior account executive for Reliance Home Comfort.
We take the worry out of replacing heating and cooling equipment by paying the capital cost and by providing guaranteed service 24/7/365. And if you sell your home, the equipment is carried on to the
next homeowner, who assumes the rental agreement.
Reliance Home Comforts large network of licensed service technicians are trained to maintain and
repair a variety of products including GSW water heaters, Rinnai tankless water heaters, Venmar heat
recovery ventilators, Goodman furnaces and air conditioners and Power-Pipe drain water heat recovery
systems. Homeowners have live phone support in the event of a breakdown, as well as 100% coverage
on all parts and labour. One of such licensed contractors of Reliance is ACfurnaceGTA.ca (division of Air Efficiency Corp.) doing the quality installation of all Reliance HVAC equipment.
Were seeing a lot of interest now, especially since the Energy Star and LEED programs in the new homes market, Brydon says. Energy Star for New Homes is a proven program aimed at building homes that consume less energy, on average about 25% less than a home built to minimum Ontario Building Code standards.
The LEED Canada for Homes program goes beyond Energy Star for New Homes by pushing energy efficiency even further, and offering higher standards for clean air and less water use.
There is a big uptake on products offered as part of Reliances Comfort Value Bundle Program with first-time purchasers who are young and eco savvy, as well as retirees, who are socially responsible and are concerned about ongoing operating costs, says Brydon.
You have your home all snugly tight with the right amount of insulation in all the right places and you turn on the heat and the room heats up, but… the kitchen is still cold; you need a central heating system of some kind.
The central heating systems are some of the most efficient systems because they generate the heat and then pump it all over the house in the same proportions that you select. That way, the rooms that are being used gets the most heat and the rooms that are not being used gets quite a bit less or none at all depending on their usage.
The central heating system’s boiler or heating unit is contained in the garage or basement and the ducts are run under the house or through the ceiling to come out in each room and you can even add a humidifier or dehumidifier to the entire system to allow those important functions as well. That makes a very good investment in your home and may increase the sales price, if and when necessary, all that much more.
When you are looking for a central heating system for your home, you need to ask yourself some questions that will help the contractor position the correct unit in there that will be big enough but not too big. Those questions would be:
1.Are you in an area that is normally fairly cold or fairly hot?
2.Is your home on a cement pad or is there enough room under it to install the ducting that is needed?
3.Do you want floor vents or wall venting to inject the heating into your individual rooms?
4.Do you need to have ceiling vents?
5.Is your home insulated? Without insulation, you will need a larger unit right from the start.
6.What types of walls do you have?
These and several more will be asked of you by the contractor before they can offer any suggestions and the answers are very important. You are also going to want to check the energy efficiency ratings of the units that you settle on. There are the Energy Star ratings as well as the BTUs ratings and the SEER ratings. These are all very important as they can affect any tax advantages that you may accrue due to the Greening of your home in accordance with many of the local regulations around the world.
Since the most efficient space heater will only have about a 70 -75 % efficiency rating, you are wasting a lot of energy with the system you have, now, and that is just not going to be good enough when the electrical rates start to make the move up that they all are going to do in the next several years, so a move to a much more efficient system is just going to be the right move for you to make.
The energy efficient central heating system is the right move and the savings will not only be with you, this year, but also for years to come and the resale value will only improve. If you are not mad keen on ducted air, then an under floor water heating system would be another very good option to consider.
In spite of all available information on the subject, achieving energy efficiency through solar powered systems can still be difficult to achieve without experts who can offer practical advice based on cutting-edge knowledge and years of experience in the field. That’s why many people are now turning to solar power equipment installation contractors such as the experts at Solare Energy, when they require high efficiency solutions that are designed for seamless integration within their home or business.
Headquartered in San Diego County, Solare Energy provides residential, commercial and governmental customers with smart energy solutions that integrate both solar and energy efficiency systems. These solutions help to ensure that clients receive cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and highly efficient energy production systems that provide them with the ideal energy production capacity for their long-term future.
Many of the company’s most prominent customers are governmental contractors. Federal agencies including military facilities and others must meet strict energy management requirements that are outlined within federal statutory laws and regulations. This is outlined by recent policy documents such as the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the National Energy Conservation Policy Act which has set in place a concrete set of energy goals that federal facilities are mandated to follow. The goals included with this legislation include: a 30% reduction in energy intensity by 2015, 7.5% of the electricity consumed by the Federal government must come from renewable energy by 2013, and the introduction of a policy whereby federal agencies can only lease space in buildings that have earned the Energy Star label.
Solare Energy now works to help federal agencies to meet these government set mandates by helping specific agencies identify problematic areas and helping them to carry out energy efficient project opportunities. In addition, solar contractors Solare Energy also work with federal agencies to analyze the various financing options that are available to them as a government workforce, including utility service contracts, power purchase agreements and government specific energy incentive programs.
As specialist solar contractors, Solare Energy is also now working with state agencies to ensure that they comply with the recently introduced Green Building Action Plan, which mandates that state buildings in California must be 20% more energy efficient by 2015. The precursor to the Green Building Action Plan, the Green Building Initiative also mandates that state agencies review the benefits of using clean and renewable on-site energy generation technologies in all new buildings or large renovation projects. Solare Energy has been involved, working directly with the California state legislators on a number of key projects, to identify and carry out solar and energy efficiency opportunities within the state. In addition, because of the company’s role as a promoter as well as a pioneer of solar technology, Solare Energy also helps to finance solar projects through the use of third-party solar PPAs [Power Purchase Agreements].
Working to make America a more cost-efficiency energy producing nation, one building at a time, Solare Energy are one of the country’s leaders when it comes to innovative solar energy efficiency technology. Contact the organization today to find out how these industry specialists can help to cut down your energy bills.