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Taking steps to improve your windows' energy efficiency can save you heating and cooling costs.

Through the Looking Glass: 5 Ways to Improve Your Windows’ Energy Efficiency

When you buy products through links on this post to improve your windows’ energy efficiency, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

Windows account for more than 30 percent of a typical home’s heating losses, regardless of their age. This means that they can be the key to improving your home’s comfort and lowering your energy bills.

Given that, if your home is feeling a bit draftier than usual as winter weather settles in, you might be thinking, “We need to replace our old, drafty windows stat!” In fact, the first thing many people do in a renovation is to replace all the windows. And it’s true that there is really neat, effective smart window technology coming to market (stay tuned for a future post on that!).

However, study after study shows that conventional window replacements have just about the worst bang for your buck when it comes to home energy efficiency investments. On the other hand, you can enjoy significant payback through energy savings if you simply improve your windows’ energy efficiency.

Whether you are a do-it-yourself homeowner or rely on professional contractors for your home improvement projects, take note of these five simple steps to make your windows more energy efficient.

5 Ways to Improve your Windows’ Energy Efficiency

Prepare Your Existing Windows

Are your windows are in fairly good condition? Is there any missing glass, rotting wood, or air/water leakage? If so, a little rehabilitation can go a long way. There are three primary ways to  “rehab” your windows.

Window Frame Upgrades

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) offers a helpful Wood Window Repair, Rehabilitation & Replacement Guide. Along these lines, we love the “Indow window.” This frame insert has a compression tube that holds it in place and seals tightly to the frame to eliminate any air leakage.

Caulking & Weatherstripping

Caulking and weatherstripping are also key steps to deal with unwanted drafts. The U.S. DOE provides helpful step-by-step guides for window caulking and weatherstripping.

Purchase Upgraded Window Coverings

A low-cost way to effectively improve your windows’ energy efficiency is through window coverings, like blinds and curtains. While they don’t actually make your windows more efficient, they can make a dent in your energy efficiency efforts. In the winter, heavy curtains (or even thermal curtains) can block drafts to help your home stay warm. In the summer, they can block sunlight from heating the room.

To ensure that your curtains do their job effectively, make sure that they fall below the ledge of the window. This will enable them to trap as much of a draft as possible. Also be mindful of when you open and close the curtains. As an example, during the winter, close your curtains at night when the temperatures are the lowest. Then open them during the day to welcome in those warm rays of sunshine!

Install Storm Windows

Once you’ve rehabbed your windows, or if they are already in good condition, the next step is storm windows. In particular, low-emissivity (also known as “low-e”) storm windows can boost energy efficiency at low cost. The low-e coating, which is nearly invisible, reduces conduction and radiation heat losses and can improve energy savings by 10-15 percent as compared to standard storm windows! In fact, a U.S. DOE study found that low-e storm windows have an average payback of two to four years, regardless of climate.

While you can find low-e storm windows at big-box retailers, we recommend custom ordering them in order to make sure that it perfectly fits the measurements of your window.

Look for Utility Incentives

Interested in purchasing low-e storm windows but operating on a tigh budget? Some regional utilities offer rebates and incentives for their customers to purchase and install storm windows. The U.S. DOE provides a database of such opportunities. Check it out to see if there are any programs that could help you with your window energy efficiency projects!

Install Window Films

Window films provide another layer on your window itself, which reduces convection and conduction. This not only provides energy efficiency, but also “solar control” window films can protect your skin by blocking infrared and ultraviolet rays. Win-win!

Keep Your Storm Windows Up Year Round

You can remove storm windows and panels during times of the year with more mild weather. But it’s even better to keep them in year-round. Just as low-e storm windows can help hold heat in during the winter, they can keep heat out and hold cool air in during the hot summer months. In fact, across the four seasons, low-e storm windows can save 12-33 percent in combined heating and cooling costs.

Taking steps to improve your windows' energy efficiency will ensure they provide beautiful views, not higher electricity bills! Source: Gabriel Tenan
Taking steps to improve your windows’ energy efficiency will ensure they provide beautiful views, not higher electricity bills! Source: Gabriel Tenan

Keep It In Perspective

It is important to remember that if your concern is maintaining your home’s temperature, windows are not the only place to focus your attention. Unfortunately, with energy efficiency, there is not one silver bullet. Most of the heat loss in older houses is, in fact, through the roof. So proper insulation of your home’s walls and attic is an important area to invest, as well.

That said, the investments set forth in this post help you improve your windows’ energy efficiency and enjoy reduced heating and cooling costs. So if you’re walking around your house in your winter jacket, don’t wait! It is definitely worth taking the steps above before expensive window replacement.

Let us know how they work for you in the comments! For more electricity essentials and energy saving strategies, subscribe to the WattDoesItUse blog for weekly updates on the latest and greatest!

Tweaks can help you save electricity and money on holiday lights.

Deck the Halls: 4 Ways To Save Electricity and Money On Holiday Lights and Decorations

When you buy products through links on this post to save electricity and money on holiday lights, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

December is finally here. As we all welcome the chilly, winter month while sipping hot cocoa, and crossing Black Friday gifts off our shopping list, we begin a much-loved and ever-joyous process that each of us has likely been awaiting since last year. Holiday decoration time!

Who doesn’t love the lights, décor, dreidels, and trees?! They’ve become fundamentals of the holiday season. Holiday decorations are so pertinent, in fact, that for my family it is honestly not the holiday season without rounds of the neighborhood to judge who has the best lights.

Holiday Lights Bring Cheer… And Utility Bill Spikes

But for as much as we love holiday lights and décor, there’s a harsh reality that comes hand-in-hand with the inflatable, lit-up snow globe or the house that’s ever-so-carefully lined from top-to-bottom with antique Christmas lights. Holiday lights can suck up a ton of energy. And whats more, they can spike your utility bill like you wouldn’t believe!

Yes, we feel that drain on our wallets. But it also doesn’t exactly align with the energy consumption consciousness that we work so hard throughout the year to establish!

That being said, we’d never tell you to stop the holiday decorating tradition dead in its tracks.  

In fact, we come to you today to share some good news: as with all things energy efficiency, there are smarter ways to decorate your home so it’s just a beautiful and cheerful but requires a fraction of the energy (and associated cost).

Know what that means? This holiday season, you can rock around the Christmas tree and light your Menorahs without running up an insane electricity bill.

How? We’re glad you asked.

4 Ways to Save Electricity and Money On Holiday Lights & Decorations

We’re all about holiday decorating, but we’re also pretty darn invested in conserving energy, too. As holiday light lovers, that often presents us with the dilemma of balancing our love for holiday décor and our passion for conserving energy.

We’ve identified tried-and-true ways to win the decoration game without losing the energy conservation one. Here are the four most effective ways to save electricity and money on holiday lights and decorations.

Fiber Optic Décor for the Win

One of the greatest parts of decorating for the holidays is stringing up all of your favorite décor on your holiday tree. But strings upon strings of lights hung up on your Christmas tree can be a real energy suck.

That’s where top-of-the-line fiber optic décor—like fiber optic Christmas trees!—can be a huge lifesaver. With this kind of décor, products typically use a single bulb located at the bottom of the unit to light up the entire decoration. Ultimately, that conserves quite a bit of energy and saves you some serious money in the process!

Upgrade Your Lighting Technology (Go LED!)

Did you read the last tip and think, “No way am I giving up my Christmas tree!” We get it! There is still a ways to get the same classic look and save money and energy on holiday lights: LEDs!

LED lighting is the way of the future—especially when it comes to decking out your house for the holidays.

LED bulbs are more efficient. They use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. They also generate less heat, which helps reduce the risk of burns and fires. And they can last up to 10 years longer than your traditional bulbs!

Even though those classic, incandescent lights you’ve been hanging up on your house gives off the traditional, vintage Christmas look (which, hey, we love too!), they’re unfortunately super inefficient. Even worse, they’re delicate and a lot less durable, which means no matter how well you take care of them, they likely will end up shattered or halfway lit, and meet their end in a landfill somewhere (which is an entirely different problem, for another time!).

By replacing those dated lights with LEDs (especially ENERGY STAR-qualified LED strands), you’ll be able to conserve energy, save money, and you’ll even be able to do away with the worry of breaking filaments and glass (because LED holiday lights don’t have any).

PRO TIP LED HOLIDAY LIGHTS

If you’re still looking for that incandescent light look without the inefficiency, look for LED lights that say “warm” on the label. Technology has advanced significantly such that LED lights no longer only give off the harsh bright light that they once did.

Set Timers & Create a Schedule

We’re not being a Grinch when we say this, we’re just being realistic. You don’t have to leave your holiday lights running around the clock.

Seriously, we promise we’re not Scrooging it up here—we’re all about holiday lights. But, take a moment and think about it: do you really need to run your holiday lights during the day when no one can see them? Or at 3am when everyone is asleep? Probably not.

By setting timers and schedules during the holiday season, you can seriously cut back on the amount of energy you’re using up to run your lights. Set your timer based on when you want your lights to be on display—even if you’re just running it from the time it gets dark to the wee hours of the morning, you’ll save a bundle compared to running them non-stop.

Reflective décor is a great strategy to save electricity and money on holiday lights. It can be as dialed up or toned down as your heart desires. Source: Nick Fewings
Reflective décor can be as dialed up or toned down as your heart desires, all the while ensuring your utility bill doesn’t get out of hand! Source: Nick Fewings
Get Creative With Reflective Décor

If you’re really looking to switch up your holiday decorations and save electricity and money on holiday lights this year, consider a reflective decorating strategy. This beautiful but minimalist approach leverages actual lighting to enhances your decor. Honestly, a lot of them are pretty darn cool. Whether you’re into wreaths, ribbons, bells, garlands, or otherwise, take advantage of the opportunity to get creative with reflective décor!

Let’s Talk Watts: Why the Type of Lights You’re Decorating With Matters 

Remember when we talked about LED lights a minute ago? SPOILER ALERT: We’re not quite finished yet.

Sure, it makes sense that LED lights are a more updated technology, so they’re likely more efficient—but just how much more efficient are they?

LED lights are designed to draw less power than traditional fluorescent and incandescent lights. In fact, they are about 80 percent more efficient (while we’re talking holiday lights here, the same applies in almost every other lighting scenario).  In fact, a typical 84-watt fluorescent bulb can be replaced by a 36-watt LED to give off the same level of light. (Need a little watt refresher? Check out our What is a Watt 101 article here learn about watts, kilowatt-hours (kWh), and more fun essential electricity terms).

The best part? They’re way more efficient because of how they each transform their energy.

Traditional lights typically convert 95 percent of their energy to heat and only five percent of their energy to light. LED lights are basically the opposite.

So, how exactly does this apply to Christmas lights?

While LED lights might cost a bit more upfront, they’ll last longer and ultimately end up saving you money on your electric bill during the holidays. Even better, you can count on them conserving a substantial amount of energy. Doesn’t that prospect make you feel all warm inside?! It does to us!

If you’re interested in quantifying the exact savings that you could enjoy by switching out holiday lights, check out this super visual, very cool calculator from Duke Energy. Here, you can actually add up the types of LED lights you’re using (or want to use) and calculate not only how much energy you’ll be expending, but also how much money you’ll be saving by substituting LED holiday lights.

LED lights can provide the same ambiance with a fraction of the energy consumption of traditional bulbs. Source: Paul Gaudriault
LED lights can provide the same ambiance with a fraction of the energy consumption of traditional bulbs. Source: Paul Gaudriault

Let There Be Light!

If you’re ready to get your stunning (and shockingly inexpensive) holiday decorations up and running, we hope you utilize a few of the tips and tricks we shared to save electricity and money on holiday lights. Remember, your holiday décor can be just as bright and festive as always. But with a few little tweaks, you can save a bundle on your electricity bill and help the planet by conserving more energy than you probably thought possible. Have another energy-saving holiday décor solution that we didn’t mention? Let’s hear it! Drop us a line in the comment section so you can share with your fellow energy conservers.

Looking for even more holiday electricity insight? Check out our energy-saving holiday gift-guides (we’ve even laid out some 101 shopping guides for energy-efficient TVs, stoves & ranges, and more)!

Throughout the year, WattDoesitUse also shares helpful blogs that can guide you toward a better understanding of your electricity at home, including how to decode your electricity bill (trust us, we know it can be confusing). Subscribe to our regularly updated blog for the latest and greatest!

Contrary to EV myths, EVs can save money and help the earth with reduced GHG emissions. Source: Andreas Dress

The 5 Most Common EV Myths, Debunked

Ah, the holiday season! Sleigh bells are ringing, carolers are singing, and road trips to family gatherings abound. Like many, you might be looking at your driveway thinking, “It’s time for a new car.” This time of year is certainly a great one to consider biting the bullet. As new models come to market, the previous year’s models go on sale. There are great deals to be had! But which car to choose? It might not surprise you to hear that we are bullish on electric vehicles (EVs). With an EV, you can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—thus helping the planet—and save money at the same time!

2019 survey from Consumer Reports and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that 63 percent of prospective car buyers in the U.S. are interested in EVs. However, even with interest levels rising, another recent study by AAA finds that most Americans still aren’t ready to buy. Not yet.

Why is this? EVs present several new, sometimes intimidating, considerations for drivers. Along these lines, there are a number of EV myths that cause people to hesitate. These concerns may have been true at one point but no longer need to be.

We want to help you sort through the facts. So in this post, we present and de-bunk the five most common EV myths.

Myth #1: EVs Are Low-Performance Vehicles

One of the most common EV myths is that they are as slow as golf carts. In fact, they are generally quicker than their gasoline-powered counterparts.

Electric motors generate 100 percent of their available torque instantly. This means that when an EV presses the accelerator pedal, the transition from stationary to speed is almost instantaneous. The top version of the Tesla Model S is one of the quickest cars in the world, with a 0-60 mph time of only 2.1 seconds. Of those who have test-driven the Tesla and decided to buy, many note that they made their purchase because “it was fast, and it was fun to drive.”

The Leaf SL Plus is a bit slower to accelerate, at 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds. However that is still extremely competitive as compared to conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Takeaway

EV technology has advanced to the point where it can compete with that of comparable ICE models. You can absolutely save money and reduce environmental impact while maintaining all of your performance expectations for your ride.

Myth #2: EVs are more expensive than conventional vehicles

Also among the most common EV myths is the concern that EVs are more expensive than their conventional counterparts.

It is true that the upfront price of an EV is still higher on average than that of a comparable conventional vehicle. However, the upfront costs of EVs are continuing to decrease over time.

And on top of that, the true price of a vehicle includes the lifetime costs of owning and operating it. EVs become very competitive when you incorporate subsidies and the ongoing savings that drivers enjoy over the life of their EVs. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute, which examined lifetime costs of the electric Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, showed that EVs consistently performed better than conventional vehicles due to lower fueling and maintenance costs.

On top of that, many EVs qualify for the U.S. Federal government tax credit of up to $7,500. We should note that the exceptions here are Tesla models. Credits phase out during the calendar year after an automaker sells 200,000 full electric and/or plug-in hybrid models. Tesla hit this milestone in 2018. Credits on Tesla vehicles are now $1,875. They will likely be eliminated on December 31, 2019 (so act fast if you’ve been eying one!). General Motors is likewise hitting the 200,000-unit mark and will see its subsidies shrink moving forward.

Several states offer their own subsidies to EV buyers in addition to the Federal tax credit. In Colorado, EV purchases are eligible for a $5,000 state income tax credit. And California residents can receive a cash rebate of $2,500-$4,500 from the state, depending on their income. You can find a full list of Federal, state, and private EV incentives that apply to you on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) EV Laws and Incentives website.

Takeaway

This is one of the EV myths that is partially true. However, though most EVs are currently priced at a premium compared to similar conventional vehicles, their upfront price tags continue to drop. EVs become even more competitive when you incorporate fuel and maintenance cost savings over the lifetime of the vehicle as compared to conventional models. To calculate your specific savings, use the U.S. DOE AFDC Vehicle Cost Calculator.

If you want to drive an EV but are currently on a tight budget, consider a used model. You can acquire a pre-owned EV quite cheaply. This is because the federal tax credit applies to a used EV’s resale value. Also, pre-owned EVs have fewer miles on them than conventional vehicles. This means they’ve typically endured less wear and tear than that of a used ICE vehicle.

Myth #3: There Are Not Enough Public Charging Stations

The third in our list of the most common EV myths is a lack of public charging station accessibility. In the aforementioned AAA survey, 63 percent of respondents cited “not enough places to charge” as a reason they were unsure or unwilling to choose an EV as their next car. 

As you can see from the U.S. DOE AFDC Charging Station Locator, there are a growing number of public charging stations available throughout the US. But in cities where EV penetration is increasing quickly, there is still a relative shortage of public chargers. State governments and private charging station manufacturers alike are working to address this issue. In fact, California, New Jersey, and New York have announced combined investments of $1.3 billion to build even more public charging infrastructure.

The private sector is also making it easier for EV drivers to access existing charging stations. For example, EVmatch is leveraging the sharing economy to increase access to reliable EV charging options in a similar way to Airbnb. Using the EVmatch app, EV drivers can find and reserve charging stations rented out by homeowners and businesses. This increases publicly available charging options by taking advantage of existing resources versus requiring new designated “public” charging stations.

On top of this, public charging is typically less of an important factor for EV owners than they expect. For people who live in apartment complexes and don’t have access to home charging, public stations are important. However, for the most part, EV owners tend to cover most of their charging needs with at-home and at-work charging.

Takeaway

There is still a shortage of public EV charging stations as compared to the gas stations based on the ratios of pumps/plugs to vehicles. So this is one of the EV myths that is also partially true. However, the number of public charging stations of all levels is increasing. And so are resources that empower EV owners to access existing (previously private) charging infrastructure at homes and offices.

EV owners may have to do initial research to understand public charging options for longer trips. But the infrastructure is robust enough that access is no longer a significant barrier.

Myth #4: EVs Will Run Out Of Charge While I’m Driving

According to the same AAA survey, 58 percent of consumers said they wouldn’t commit to EVs because of “range anxiety,” the fear that they will run out of charge while driving.

EVs have an average range of 194 miles for every charge, which is just under half the range of traditional vehicles (418 miles). They require 8-12 hours to recharge completely, compared to the few minutes it takes to refuel with gas. However, with increasing investments into and improvements to technologies, the driving range of EVs is continuing to increase. And as the range increases, the likelihood of running out of charge is diminishing. On top of that, more DC fast charging stations are becoming available for quick charging stops along major highways and in shopping centers around the U.S. 

On top of this, EV proponents counter that people drive less than 40 miles a day, on average. While this statistic is true, it can be a somewhat misleading statistic. People don’t necessarily drive a consistent, predictable number of miles each day. In fact, most people drive relatively few miles on a typical day. But they also take trips over that are more than 40 (or even 100) miles of driving. For these trips, EV drivers will still need to plan ahead. They can’t yet assume that they’ll have access to public charging access over their route, as they can with gas stations.

Takeaway

EV battery capacity has advanced enough that “range anxiety” is not longer a day-to-day concern for EV drivers, as it used to be. EV range can more than cover people’s typical daily driving needs and even the mileage of regional road trips. However, EV owners still have to conduct initial research to map out public charging options for longer trips.

Myth #5: They Aren’t Actually Greener

As with the first of our EV myths, the argument that EVs don’t offer environmental benefits couldn’t be further from the truth. Electric motors convert 75 percent of the chemical energy from their batteries to power the vehicle. By comparison, ICE vehicles convert only 20 percent of the energy stored in gasoline. What’s more, EVs emit no direct tailpipe pollutants. However, some argue that EVs aren’t actually greener than ICE vehicles because of the emissions associated with battery production and the indirect tailpipe pollutants that power plants produce when generating the electricity that fuels EVs.

EVs tend to fare best in emission comparisons when charged in parts of California, New York, and the Pacific Northwest. This is because renewable energy resources are more prevalent in these regions. Their impact is less in central U.S. states like Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. This is because the areas have greater dependence on fossil fuels to produce electricity. However, the UCS has found that EVs are still responsible for less pollution than conventional vehicles, regardless of region of the U.S. To understand the emissions related to your electricity source, see the U.S. DOE AFDC Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles website.

Some also worry about the environmental impact of battery materials. But according to a report by the California Air Resources Board, technology improvements have led to an EV development process that results in less than 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions than traditional ICE vehicles. On top of that, EV batteries have many reuse and recycling options. EV batteries can have second and third lives beyond their automotive use. For example, some new businesses apply used EV batteries as backup power in buildings. Some carmakers are even going into that business themselves to integrate reuse and recycle options.

Takeaway

The incremental environmental benefits of EVs vary as compared to ICE vehicles. This difference is predominantly driven by the fuel mix for electricity production in the region where an EV is charged. Regardless, the direct and well-to-wheel emissions of EVs are still less than those of ICE vehicles.

There are important concerns regarding the labor that is used to extract lithium. But fortunately, many automakers are committing to ethical lithium sourcing

Time To Hit The Road In An EV

There’s no question that EVs are gaining momentum. For the past several years, sales have consistently climbed year over year. And most recently, the first half of 2019 saw U.S. EV sales increase by 22% as compared to sales over the same period in 2018.

Many still hesitate to purchase an EV because of a few pervasive EV myths. As we have shown, while these myths have been true at one point, they are no longer the concerns they’ve been made out to be. Equipped with this piece’s information, give EVs a more serious look for your next vehicle! Whether you’re looking at new or used options, we’re pretty sure that an EV won’t disappoint.

For additional information about electricity consumption at home and how to save money on your utility bill, subscribe here for weekly updates from WDIU!

Hot water has become a daily necessity. It's important to select the best water heater for your needs. Source: Dan Watson

Decisions, Decisions! The Best Hot Water Heaters & How to Select Them

When you buy energy-efficient electronics through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

There are many debates that have been ongoing as long as we can remember—crunchy peanut butter or smooth? Morning shower or night? Whether you fall into the AM or PM shower camp, if you’re like most people, your day is not complete without that ritual. Either way, there is one underlying necessity that many of us might take for granted: hot water.

For this reason and many others, your hot water heater is an essential household appliance that may not be in plain sight but is working on overtime every time you take a shower, wash your hands, do the dishes, or run a load of laundry—all important aspects of your day-to-day life.

There won’t be a day that goes by when you haven’t utilized the unique power of a water heater in your home. But did you know how much your hot water heater could be contributing to your utility bill? The answer might surprise you!  In this post, we explain how hot water heaters work, connect that work to your energy use and utility bills, and provide you with a guide to the best hot water heaters for your home and how to select one.

Hot Water Heaters, A Primer

As you may have gathered from our previous posts, we like to start with the basics. Once you understand how hot water heaters work, it will become clear why they require so much energy and why it’s worth keeping power consumption in mind in order to identify the best hot water heater for your home.

How They Work

The science behind the water heater is actually pretty straightforward. A fuel-burning source heats either stored water or a volume of water that flows past that heat source. The heated water then travels through the fixtures in your home to where it is needed. That would be the dishwasher, shower, bathtub, washing machine, sink, you get it!

Types of Water Heaters

As you may have gathered from the above description, there are two ways to categorize hot water heaters: by storage type and by fuel type. Comparing by storage type, we have:

Storage Water Heaters: these hold a considerable volume of water to heat at any given time

Tankless (or Demand) Water Heaters: as the name implies, these have no storage tank but heat water as it passes by the heating source

Heat Pump Water Heaters: these move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly and only for hot water.

Comparing by fuel type, we have:

Electricity: these are widely available in the U.S. in either storage or tankless formats

Gas: within this category, there are fuel oil, natural gas, and propane water heaters, also available in both storage and tankless heaters

Solar: these are most abundant in the Southwest U.S. but available throughout the country

Geothermal: these are available throughout the U.S., but you’ll need a geothermal heat pump system already installed to leverage this type of hot water heater.

Storage vs. Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless heaters, also referred to as demand-type or instantaneous water heaters, do not store water. Instead, they only provide hot water as it is needed.

How They Work

Cold water flows into the heater when a hot water tap is opened. The flow of water is detected by a circuit board that activates the heat exchanger that heats the water as it passes through. Once the flow sensor determines that water has stopped flowing, it will quit heating it. In other words, a tankless water heater will heat water as long as the tap is open. Hence the term “demand.”

If you have a large home with fixtures that are pretty far from your hot water heater but want a demand-type heater, consider a model with a recirculation pump. This keeps hot water available in the hot water line and speeds up the delivery of hot water.

If efficiency is your number one concern, we suggest checking out even another variation of the tankless water heater which uses condensing technology. It captures the heat created by the outgoing exhaust gases and uses it to heat incoming cold water. This type of heat exchanger unit is very efficient in that it saves on your energy costs.

Why Tankless?

The initial cost of a tankless water heater is greater than that of a conventional storage one. However, tankless water heaters typically last longer, with a life expectancy of more than 20 years! They also have replaceable parts that can extend their life by many more years. Compare this to the expected 10-15 year lifetime of a storage water heater.

Additionally, tankless heaters boast lower operating and energy costs over those long lifetimes. If your home uses 41 gallons of less of hot water each day, demand water heaters can be 24 – 34 percent more energy-efficient than conventional storage tank water heaters. Now that’s what we’re talking about! If you use a lot of water, that efficiency will go down, but tankless heaters will still be up to 14 percent more energy-efficient.

Storage Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters provide many advantages over storage water heaters. But conventional storage models are still the most popular type of water heating systems for the home.

How They Work

The storage water heater for a single-family home has a reservoir of water that can range from 20-80 gallons. It releases that hot water each time you turn on the hot water tap. And then it replaces that used hot water with cold water, which it heats immediately, to ensure that the tank is always full.

Why Storage?

Storage water heaters typically have a lower up-front price tag and installation-related costs. The operating system of a storage water heater is also relatively simple, meaning that it can require less maintenance.

However, storage heaters typically require more space and bring greater energy costs. Since water is constantly heated in the tank, even when a hot water tap isn’t running, energy is wasted. This is called standby heat loss. If you opt for a storage heater, one thing to look for is a heavily insulated tank that will reduce that heat loss and lower your annual operating cost. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests looking for tanks with a thermal resistance (R-value) of R-12 to R-25.

Heat Pump Heaters

If you feel like you still haven’t found your goldilocks system in storage and tankless options, there are three more types of water heaters that you can choose from: indirect, heat pump and point-of-use. The most common of these in home settings is the heat pump water heater.

Heat pump heaters use electricity to pull heat from the surrounding airspace and use that to increase the temperature of the water that it has stored. Essentially, a heat pump water heater works like a refrigerator, but in reverse!

Because this type of heater is moving heat instead of directly generating it, it can be two or three times more energy-efficient than conventional electric water heaters! However, heat pump heaters do require mild climates to be effective, so they are only appropriate in certain locations.

Water Heaters by Fuel Source

Regardless of whether you select a demand-type, storage, or heat pump water heater, you will also need to select the fuel-type for your heater. To make this decision, definitely reach out to your utility to compare the rates of each type of fuel. You can calculate and compare annual operating costs using the energy factor of a heat pump, and the fuel’s cost.

Gas-Powered Water Heaters

Regardless of fuel type in this category (natural gas, propane, or fuel oil), each of these types of water heaters operates with a thermostat built into the inside of the tank. Once the water temperature drops below a set level, a burner ignites. 

Additional cold water enters the tank from the top and follows the path of a dip tube to the bottom of the heater. That is where the burner is located, and as the water heats, it rises within the tank to exit via the hot water outlet to the fixture.

Combustible gases created from this process are vented through the center of the tank in a flue. The flue also acts as a heat conductor. The gases move slowly due to the baffle design of the tank system.

Electric-Powered Water Heaters

Electric water heaters also use a built-in thermostat but have a 220-volt current that runs through a circuit with two heating elements. When the thermostat determines that the temperature has fallen below a set level, electrical energy is converted to heating energy inside the heating elements. The heat transfers to the stored water, via conduction, heating it.

Believe it or not, your kitchen coffee machine uses the very same heating process! 

Renewable Energy-Powered Water Heaters

Solar water heaters and geothermal water heaters provide hot water without burning any fuel source. In the case of solar heaters, the sun serves as the “fuel,” and in the case of geothermal heaters, stored heat in the earth provides the “fuel.” While both of these types of systems will require additional planning, they can provide significant operating and energy cost savings over the long run!

The Best Water Heater For Your Home

With so many factors determining the best water heater fit, the right model for you may be different from that of your neighbor! However, we consulted with experts and customers alike to provide recommendations for each of the major types of heaters to support your water heating journey.

Best Overall Electric Storage: Rheem Performance Electric Elements

This tank is plenty large for a family of three or four and has dual heating elements to ensure you have plenty of hot water whenever you and your family need it. If you have a big family and need more water capacity, consider the Westinghouse 52 Gal electric heater.

Best Overall Electric Tankless: EcoSmart ECO 11 Tankless

This water heater works quickly and provides great control over the temperature of your water and consistent heating performance.

Best Overall Gas Storage: Rheem Performance Natural Gas

This heater is big enough for two to four people, and we love that its push button ignition makes the start-up process quick and easy. It also comes with a solid six-year limited warranty. If you have a big family and need more water capacity, our vote goes to one of the largest residential storage heaters on the market: Westinghouse 60 Gallon natural gas heater.

Best Overall Gas Tankless: Rheem Performance Platinum

This water heater has a sleek design that allows it to fit in small spaces that normal tank heaters would not fit. It offers great, consistent results and is definitely a winning option if you’re looking for a gas-powered tankless heater!

Things are Heating Up!

There was a time when the only way you could heat water in your home was in small quantities on the top of a woodstove. Luckily, hot water heaters have evolved with new technology changing and improving the way we do things in our daily lives. Selecting a new hot water heater can be a bit of a project, with all the varieties out there, but hopefully this post will help you whittle down your search and identify the best fit for your home!

To learn more about the electricity that powers your home and energy saving strategies, subscribe for updates and continue to follow along! Have a particular product you want to know more about? Contact us and we’ll be happy to do some power sleuthing!

Buying the best energy-efficient electronics will provide ongoing savings for your loved ones. Source: Jonas Leupe

2019 Cyber Week Shopping Guide: 7 Energy-Efficient Electronics Look To For

When you buy energy-efficient electronics through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

It’s the time of year we’ve all been anxiously awaiting. You know the one—where we cross off days on our calendar in anticipation, where we plan furiously for how we’ll strategically conquer it, where we seek out the best of the best deals and discounts so we can finally snag that to-die-for product we’ve been eying all year.

That’s right, it’s cyber week—and it’s almost here!

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you’re running out of time to plan out and purchase the coolest and very best energy-efficient electronics for your loved ones this holiday season (or, you know, for you—you deserve an awesome gift, too).

Our advice?

If you’re truly looking to hunt down some deals, we suggest you take a (brief) pause to read this article.

Why? Because we’ve laid out something pretty sweet.

Sure, we’re guiding you toward some super sweet suggestions—but it’s more than that. We’re offering up our take on the best energy-efficient electronics to look for come black Friday, and throughout all of cyber week.

At WattDoesitUse, we believe in gifts that keep on giving. And to us, that means buying electronics and appliances that can do good while being really great gifts. Why not find great deals on super cool items for your family, friends, and colleagues and facilitate energy savings through your purchase choices?! Win-win!

Okay, enough turkey chit-chat—lets get down to business and with some of the best energy-efficient electronics .

The Best Energy-Efficient Electronics for Black Friday & Cyber Week 2019

Now—we want to be super clear here. We don’t have a crystal ball that tells us that these products will absolutely 100 percent go on sale this cyber shopping week (man, wouldn’t that be something, though).

But, as you know, cyber shopping week tends to hit every genre, which means that it’s more than likely something very similar to these products (and maybe even these products themselves) are bound to see some steep discounts.

Black Friday and Cyber Week mean deep discounts on the best energy-efficient electronics.
We’re chomping at the bit for deep discounts on the best energy-efficient electronics this year! Source: Allie Smith

Keep your eyes peeled for energy-efficient like these this Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Sale Shopping Week!

Eugene Trash Scanner

We love this cool, little product. The Eugene Trash Scanner turns your trash or your recycling container into a high-tech, cutting-edge dispenser. This system allows you to scan every single item before you toss it and it lets you know if that item (or parts of that item) can be recycled. It even adds your trashed item to a shopping list!

How It Helps Conserve Energy

By helping you better understand what to recycle and how to recycle something, you conserve energy by reducing or eliminating the need to make materials from scratch. Not only is this expensive, but it’s labor-intense and uses up natural resources, too.

ENERGY STAR Certified Laptops

We’re throwing you a general topic here, but that’s only because there are so many deals to be had. If you’re on the hunt for a top-notch energy-efficient laptop this cyber week, check out Best Buy’s collection of energy-star certified laptops here. They even have some black Friday pricing up early—be sure to shop fast! Amazon will also have some awesome deals if you, like us, are hooked on Prime shipping!

How It Helps Conserve Energy

Laptops that prioritize energy will run longer and better off of their battery source, meaning you’ll be able to get by plugging them in and drawing power from your home a lot less than with a desktop or a laptop that doesn’t prioritize energy.

Whirlpool Zera Food Recycler

Whirlpool’s WLabs Zera Food Recycler helps you make composting way easier (and less messy) right in your kitchen. This neat gadget turns your compostable food scraps into fertilizer right in front of you—it even includes a carbon filter to ensure that your kitchen doesn’t smell from all those composted scraps. You can even hook up this smart gadget to an app on your phone to run it remotely!

How It Helps Conserve Energy

Composting helps by reducing the amount of energy pumping needed to treat water and wastewater when it comes to sewage and trash. Further, by composting, you’re reducing a large amount of garbage that’s sent to landfills, which use machinery (which requires energy) to sort, process, and eliminate that waste.  

ENERGY STAR Certified Tablets

If a tablet is on your shopping to-do list, you’re going to love this selection of Black Friday pricing that’s already available on these ENERGY STAR certified tablets at Best Buy and Amazon.

How It Helps Conserve Energy

These work similarly to the laptops. They’ll better prioritize their own battery life to ensure the tablet lasts longer, meaning you’ll need to draw less power while using it than with other, less efficient tablets.

ENERGY STAR Certified Monitors

We’ll keep it brief since you can probably tell this is sort of a trend—check out Best Buy’s collection of Energy Star Certified Monitors this cyber shopping week!

How It Helps Conserve Energy

An energy-efficient monitor has to meet stringent requirements to verify that it actually conserves energy. That means it’ll have limited power modes when the monitor is on and off, as well as a set maximum of power consumption. Monitors that have the Energy Star rating are 15 percent more energy-efficient than standard options.

SolPad Mobile Panels

Keep an eye out for these neat gadgets this cyber shopping week! SolPad Mobile Panels are small, diverse, and totally affordable (and even more affordable if there’s a deal!). They don’t require installation and are easy to use, making converting solar energy for power easier than ever.

How It Helps Conserve Energy

Solar panels harvest the sun’s energy to do work, meaning, you can use these panels to charge electronics, power your devices, and more!

Lifx LED Lightbulb

This Wi-Fi-enabled Lifx LED Smart bulb lasts up to 40,000 hours before it needs replaced. The best part? It’s totally controlled by an app on your phone, so you’ll never forget to turn the light off again.

How It Helps Conserve Energy

With a built-in guarantee that you can turn the light off in your home from anywhere, you’ll never accidentally waste energy by leaving a bulb on at home!

Pro Tips: Is It Truly Energy Efficient?

Energy-efficient gadgets are all the rage right now, and honestly, we’re totally here for it. (In fact, we’re so here for it, we even wrote up a list of the 7 best energy-efficient gadgets out there for your home).

But because energy efficiency is such a huge trend, it can sometimes be hard to tell if a product you’re investing in will actually make a difference or if it’s just claiming to conserve energy. How can you be sure that you’re not investing your hard-earned money into the real deal?

Here are a few ways you can tell if your energy-efficient product is legit or if it’s simply pretending to be something it’s not.

  • A lot of appliances and gadgets out there that are big-name brands and claim to be energy efficient will feature an ENERGY STAR certification. This means they’re verified to actually do the job that they claim they’ll do.
  • Talk to the brand directly. If you’re unsure if a product is actually energy efficient (aka it’s missing a certification), don’t be afraid to reach out directly to the brand’s customer service. Ask them (politely, of course) if they can provide studies, proof, testimonials, or research to confirm that the product you’re planning to buy actually makes an energy efficiency difference.
  • Speak with your electric or energy company. More than likely, they’ll be able to not only let you know if a specific product or brand can walk the walk, but they’ll also be able to recommend other products or brands that can help you cut down your energy consumption.

Time to Get Shopping!

If you’re feelin’ totally ready to tackle this cyber shopping week with an energy-efficient mission in mind after reading this article, then we’ve done our job! Let us know in the comments where you’re finding the best energy-efficient electronics, tools, and appliances this year—you know your fellow readers will appreciate it. May Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Cyber Shopping Week all be good to you and gift you with the savings you love to love this time of year.

If you’re looking for more pro tips for conserving energy, other energy-efficient gift suggestions for the holidays, or simply are seeking out helpful information about energy and electricity, you’re in the right place. Keep up with our regularly updated blog on WattDoesitUse by subscribing and get ready to receive tips, tricks, and insight into the world of energy efficiency.

Investing in one of the best energy-efficient TVs can save you money. Source: Source: Jens Kreuter

The 3 Best Energy-Efficient TVs To Watch Your Holiday Favorites

When you buy through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

The holidays are approaching, and you know what that means. Oh, sure, lots of great food, time with family, and plenty of festivities. But also, let’s get real, whose Thanksgiving is complete without the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Or the big football game (obviously not as big as your family’s pick-up game, but you know what we mean!)? We’re obviously not encouraging you to spend your holidays plopped down in front of the TV while the rest of the world celebrates. But outside of the Academy Awards and Super Bowl Sunday, it truly is the most wonderful TV time of the year. But the electricity bill associated with these past times can dull the mood if you don’t have one of the best energy-efficient TVs!

So, since you plan to schedule a little TV-family-programming this holiday season, we absolutely have to ask: is the TV you’re watching energy-efficient? If not, you could be missing out on some major savings (and who doesn’t’ want a little more cash to spend on cyber week holiday shopping?)!

Television Viewing in the U.S.

At WattDoesitUse we’re all about living your best life (especially during the holiday season), which is why we so firmly believe that the type of TV you’re watching totally matters. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, TVs are responsible for about 4 percent of residential electricity alone in the United States. You might think, just a measly 4 percent? Doesn’t sound like a whole lot! But if you think about it in the grand scheme of things that’s a pretty big proportion for one screen, particularly since it can be much less if you’re invested in one of the best energy-efficient TVs!

Consider this next part one of our holiday gifts to you—a complete guide to the best energy-efficient TVs so you can have the same great viewing experience while whittling down your electricity consumption (and costs) this holiday season.

Why Does Energy Efficiency Matter?

We promise we’ll jump into the list you’re looking for in a flash—but first, let’s answer this seemingly simple (but infinitely important) question.

Why does energy efficiency matter in my home this holiday (and beyond)?

We could honestly talk about this for hours, but we’ll be brief and just say this: by embracing energy efficiency, you use less power to complete the same tasks required for memorable holiday entertaining (and, of course, day-to-day tasks throughout the year). Less power consumption is important because:

  • The less power you use, the less energy your electric company needs to generate at power plants.
  • The less energy the electric company generates, the less fuel it needs to burn and the fewer greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere.
  • The lower the greenhouse gas emissions, the better your air quality will be.
  • In short, the less energy you use, you more money you save and the more you help to save the planet!

The Top Features to Consider In An Energy-Efficient TV   

The number of features offered by today’s TV’s can be overwhelming. And if you’re like many people, you might worry that prioritizing energy efficiency means you’ll have to de-prioritize performance. Fortunately, that couldn’t be further from the case!

Follow our pro tips below to ensure you select the best energy-efficient TVs for your needs, meaning that it provides superb performance when you want it the most without spiking the energy bill and unnecessarily drawing electricity when not in use.

Picture Quality

Whether you know it or not, TV brightness and picture quality are linearly related to the amount of power that your TV consumes. The new, brighter OLED technology is “technically” more efficient than LCD technology, but it often ends up actually being more energy-intensive because of its brightness. The brighter the TV settings, the more energy an OLED screen will consume—which is why, when an OLED screen is at max brightness, it consumes twice as much power as LED LCD TVs at their brightest. With all that in mind, we suggest opting for an LED LCD model, which can still provide superb performance with fewer electricity requirements.

A couple other specs to look for include: a refresh Rate of at least 120 times per second and ultra-high definition (UHD) screens (i.e., “4k” resolution).

Size

We all know the whole bigger is better argument when it comes to TVs (don’t act like your neighbor has never brought you over just show off their huge flat-screen TV). But when it comes to energy efficiency, that’s not always the case. There’s a definite link between power consumption and size. Our recommendation? Stick to 55” and under if you’re opting to conserve energy. More generally, we like the ENERGY STAR sizing guidance:

  • Viewing distance: Measure your viewing distance and divide by 2 to determine your TV’s ideal diagonal length.
  • Line of sight: Aim to position your TV parallel with your eyes and no higher or lower than 15 degrees. Your space and willingness to mount your TV may impact the TV size that fits at an optimal angle.
Specific Energy Efficiency Features

Of course, if energy efficiency is your game, you’ll want to double-check that the TVs you’re looking at have features like:

  • ENERGY STAR Certification: As with other home appliances and electronic devices, if your TV is certified by ENERGY STAR, you can be confident you will be saving on operational costs versus other models. In fact, ENERGY STAR TVs consume on average 25 percent less electricity than conventional models.
  • Automatic Brightness Control (ABC): As we mentioned earlier, brightness and electricity consumption are linearly related. But depending on the lighting in the room, you might prefer a different brightness. ABC setting enable a TV to adjust brightness based ambient lighting in order to provide the best viewing experience possible for you, keeping energy efficiency in mind.
  • Local Dimming Settings: These settings allow you to turn off or dim sections of the LED backlighting which can save energy, and provide better contrast (when we say we want a black background, we want a black background!).
  • ENERGY STAR Picture Settings: okay we have to admit we love these! Are you watching a movie? Or perhaps a football game?
Compatibility

This one is more about taking the extra step before you buy to make sure your new TV is going to be compatible with your other accessories, gadgets, and even your energy-efficient lifestyle, too. Our best advice? Think about a new TV in a general sense. Ask questions, like, what other equipment will I need? What kind of connectors are required (HDMI)? How many of them? Answering these questions first is always for the best—that way you don’t have to worry about them right when Frosty the Snowman is about to start playing.

The Best Energy-Efficient TVs

Now, without further ado, here are 3 of the best energy-efficient TVs to be merry about your utility bill this holiday season without giving up your family’s favorite shows (because we’d never ask you to opt-out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Elf or to compromise your football viewing experience )!

Best For The Essentials: Vizio E60-C3 60” 1080p Full HD LED TV
Average annual power consumption: 80.2 kWh | Average annual power cost: $10.43

If you’re a family who’s into the TV every so often and is just looking for a good, solid performer that won’t break the bank or suck up all the energy on the planet, we suggest the Vizio E60-C3. It has local dimming features that really pack a punch when it comes to picture quality even with the energy-efficient 1080p resolution (less than the more common high-definition 4K resolution in many models). This Vizio is affordable, easy to use, and will save you on your utility bill to boot!

Best For A Budget: TCL 49S405 49” 4k Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV
Average annual power consumption: 115 kWh | Average annual power cost: $14.95

We’re all about TVs that minimize both the upfront price tag and the long-term power costs. The TCL is exactly that. This TV is a premium product at an affordable price tag—it provides Ultra HD picture quality, thousand of channels, and access to all apps you’d expect through Roku. No, it won’t provide you with a $4,000 TV experience, but as a basic option, it’s got great response time, wonderful color accuracy, and can help you save money on your utility bill like you wouldn’t believe.

Best For Action Seekers: Vizio PQ65-F1 65” 4k HDR TV
Average annual power consumption: 268 kWh | Average annual power cost: $34.87

If you love to love your TV and don’t plan to settle for anything less than the best but still want to be energy conscious, the Vizio PQ65 is the perfect choice for you! If you love fast-paced gaming and sports events, wide viewing angles, high refresh rates for smoother motion and clarity in those action and adventure movies, you’re going to love this TV. The best part? Because of its LED technology, it can do everything you want it to all while consuming half the electricity of the OLED models. You’ll get crisp motion, responsive viewing experiences, and more, all while minding your energy consumption. Sound like a win-win? We think so!

We hope this guide provided you with actionable advice to picking out your new energy-efficient TV.

BONUS HOLIDAY TIP: these bad boys make shockingly great gifts (if you’re looking for even more gifts suggestions, we may or may not have a list of those right here). Follow us by subscribing to our weekly update for downright solid information (if we do say so ourselves!) on how electricity works in our daily lives and pro tips to conserve energy and cut your utility bill.

Office admin scene. Source: Nick Morrison

Electricity 101: Understanding Your Electricity Bill

Having trouble understanding your electricity bill? If so, you’re not alone. We hear from many people who think every month, “what are all these numbers and why is my balance due so high?!”

Or maybe you think you know how to read your electric bill? Even so, you might be like many Americans who make several inadvertent but key mistakes.

Either way, we’ve got your back! Electricity bills can have a dizzying amount of numbers strewn across the page with units we rarely give thought to in our day-to-day. In a previous post, we explain these units and where your electricity comes from.

In this post, our mission is to demystify the electricity bill and make sure you are reading it correctly.

What Bill Are You Looking At?

First thing’s first, when it comes to understanding your electricity bill: you must make sure you are looking at the correct bill!

In some areas of the country, the electricity bill can come bundled with other municipal bills, like gas and water. In others, each energy source is managed by a separate entity which will send its own bill. If you live in an area that bundles utilities, remember your units of measurement for each energy type as you read through your bill. That way you can be sure that you don’t mix up or misunderstand what you’re being charged for:

What Monthly Billing Plan Are You On?

Another critical step in understanding your electricity bill is to understand whether you are being charged for the electricity you actually use each month or are on what’s often called a “budget billing plan.” Here’s the difference:

Monthly Usage

If you have this billing set up, you receive a bill every cycle (typically every month) charging you for the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) your household used over that period at the utility’s stated rate.

Monthly Budget

If you have this billing plan, your utility takes the number of kWh you consumed last year, assumes that you’ll use around the same amount this year and charges you a monthly average based on that assumption. With this type of billing plan, your utility essentially spreads out the total costs you pay for power over the course of the year so in typically high-consumption months you pay less, but in typically low-consumption months you pay more than if you have a monthly usage billing plan.

What Charges Are Making Up Your Electricity Price?

Your total electricity charge is often broken up into the many services associated with the steps of generating and transporting electricity to your home. Additional nuances to your electricity bill will arise if your utility uses any type of tiered service. It’s important to understand these components in order to identify opportunities for savings.

Common charges & Services

Most utilities break down your electricity charge include a number of different components. Three common services include:

  • Generation Charges – these are the charges from your local utility company (such as PG&E, or Duke energy) for the cost to generate the electricity that you consumed in the billing period.
  • Transmission Charges – these are charges from your local utility company for the cost of moving high voltage electricity to the lower voltage of the local electricity lines in your neighborhood.
  • Distribution Charges – these are the fees that your local utility company charges you to deliver the electricity through local lines into your home.

If you need a refresher on the electricity generation, transmission, and distribution processes, check out a previous in our Electricity 101 series.

How Much Electricity Are You Using Each Month?

Most electricity bills will show you how your monthly usage changes over the course of the year. They may even break out your daily use. This can cause confusion if you look at your electricity cost per day versus for the month. If you are tracking your electricity consumption using your own energy monitor, such as CURB Home Energy Monitoring System or Sense Energy Monitoring System, make sure the period over which you are measuring and assessing your usage matches that of your bill. Otherwise you might be comparing apples to oranges, which will get confusing if you’re trying to assess the effectiveness of your energy conservation or energy efficiency efforts. For most, tracking your monthly usage will be the best bet.

Tiered Billing Structures

Understanding your electricity bill, particularly the breakdown of your charges, may be a bit more complex if your utility uses a tiered billing structure. One type of billing structure is based on consumption. In this structure, your first 500 kWh may be on price, and then your 501st hour is a different price. If your utility uses this type of structure, you will see a breakdown of the number of kWh that you use in each tier. Individual utilities may also have individual incentive programs or charges specific to your state/region.

In this sample bill from PG&E, you can see an example of a tiered electricity usage structure. Source: MCE Clean Energy
In this sample bill from PG&E, you can see an example of a tiered electricity usage structure. Source: MCE Clean Energy

Another type of billing structure that utilities might use is time-of-use pricing. In this structure, utilities charge different rates during different periods of the day.

  • Peak hours, also known as “on-peak” hours, are when electricity demand (and price) is the highest. In the summer, peak hours are typically 10am-8pm during weekdays. In the winter, peak hours are typically around 7am-11am and 5pm-9pm.
  • Off-peak hours are when electricity demand (and price) is the lowest. In the summer, this time is typically 11pm and 7am. In the winter, the hours are typically 9pm-7am.
  • Mid-peak hours that fall between on- and off-peak hours, when electricity demand (and price) is relatively average.  

Knowing whether your utility uses a tiered billing will be a powerful aspect of understanding your electricity bill and how to save on it. For instance, if your utility uses a consumption-based tiered structure, you can benefit significantly by decreasing your overall energy consumption. On the other hand, if your utility uses a time-of-use structure, simply adjusting when you wash dishes or run loads of laundry could result in significant savings.

Go Forth and Save Money!

Understanding your electricity bill is the first step to making changes at home that will enable you to conserve energy and save money. If you have additional questions about understanding your bill, let us know in the comments!

Devices with energy-saving technology can save money and the planet. Source: Simon Abrams

7 Must-Have Energy-Saving Gadgets for Your Favorite Techie

The 7 Energy-Saving Gadgets That the Techie in Your Life Needs

When you buy through links on this post, we may earn an affiliate commission.  These commissions do not affect our product recommendations. Click here to learn more.

It’s probably no secret to you that the go-green effort is in full effect. This movement is now touching almost every aspect of our lives—from the way we eat to the way we deal with waste to the way we drive our cars.

Because sustainability efforts have a hand in every part of our lives, the idea of helping the environment (and saving money) through energy savings plays a role in how many of us shop, too! Manufacturers of all kinds of products that touch our everyday lives are offering more energy-saving gadgets than ever before. Of course, being folks who are hugely invested in conserving energy and saving you money (because who doesn’t love saving money?), we’re all about this trend.

Still, it’s vital to point out that not every energy saving gadget is as useful as it sounds. So we’ve compiled a list of some of the most effective, must-have energy-saving gadgets on the market. They won’t just say they save energy. They’ll actually do it.

The best part? If you use them correctly and really embrace them, they’ll save you some serious bucks while saving the planet.

Even small savings add up when it comes to power consumption. Source: Aniek Wessel
Even small savings add up when it comes to power consumption. Source: Aniek Wessel

Why Does Energy Saving Matter?

If you’re reading through this blog post thinking, “sure, energy conservation is important, I guess. But what’s the big deal? Can I reallymake that big of a difference by switching a few things at home?”

The short answer: Of course you can!

The longer answer? That one’s coming at you right now:

Even small changes accumulate over time to have a significant impact. So the tiny stuff totally matters. Why? Because when you switch out your normal gadgets—i.e., old-school thermostats or lightbulbs—you’re doing just a little bit to change the way you use energy. But a little bit goes a long way here. Those small changes, well, they add up—and the more you conserve energy, the better off our planet—and everyone living on it—will be.

Sure, we know you might think the energy-saving gadgets are just part of the go-green hype, but there are tons of reasons (beyond the fact that it’s trendy) for you to consider shopping for energy-saving gadgets.

Save Money

Energy savings = financial savings on your electric bill! When you cut back on the amount of energy you’re using by investing in energy-saving technology, you can expect to see a steep decrease in your energy bill (potentially hundreds of dollars every year if you’re doing it right!). Less money spent in one area, means more can be spent in another! And with the holiday gift-giving season coming up, who doesn’t want little more cash to spend?!

SAVE THE PLANET

Because energy and electricity are produced (mostly) through fossil fuels in the US, the less energy we’re using means fewer emissions from fossil fuels. To put it into perspective, in 2018, about 64 percent of electricity generation came from fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Reducing the amount of energy you use (even small things in your everyday routine) decrease energy demand and production, which in turn reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

The Must-Have Energy-Saving Gadgets for the Techie in Your Life

Now that we’re all on the same page about why energy-saving gadgets are super important, we can move on to the good stuff.

 Whether you’re trying to find the perfect gift for the energy-conscious techie in your life or you’ve realized it’s finally time to hop aboard the energy conservation train (hey, welcome to the club, there’s plenty of room for everyone here!), you’ll definitely want to check out the items below.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats have long been a nuisance to homeowners, renters, landlords, and more. Why? Because they’re typically date and require manual adjustments. You know what we mean—that hassle of remembering to change the temperature setting with the change in season or time of day.

If you invest in one energy-saving gadget this year, make it a smart thermostat.
Smart thermostats are powerful tools to reduce electricity consumption. Source: Dan Lefebvre

On top of that, as you may already be aware, the HVAC system which the thermostat controls is a huge energy suck—in fact, heating and cooling are the leading drivers of energy use (and bills!) in the home. Because of that, if you only install one new gadget this year, make it a smart thermostat. With smart thermostats, you can automatically change temperatures through the use of apps, pre-schedule temperatures for day and night schedules, and get a serious handle on your energy-savings in your household.

Looking for recommendations on which to choose or to get for your favorite techie this holiday season? You’re in luck—we devoted a whole blog post diving into the 7 best smart thermostats for energy savings and how to truly take advantage of them.

Smart Home Hubs & Energy Management Systems

We know what you’re thinking, and yes, these systems truly exist! There has been a major expansion of smart home devices and appliances available from various manufacturers. So streamlining the communication of these devices is more important than ever in order to leverage their energy-saving capabilities.

A smart home hub (or smart speaker) can serve as an energy management system that allows you to control your entire home (yes, you read that correctly) remotely with any smart device like your smartphone or tablet. We’re talking about lights, electric kettles, stereos, air conditioning—the works. It can all be controlled from one, single place. No longer will you have to suffer the energy consumption consequences of forgetting to turn the lights off when you leave the house—with an smart home hub, all it takes is the press of a button on your smart phone for all to be right with the world.

Amazon Echo is a family-favorite, voice-activated speaker that enables you to manage your home’s smart devices. But for full smart home management capabilities, we recommend Samsung’s SmartThings Hub.

LED Lighting

If you’re still using old-school regular fixtures and bulbs, you’re really driving energy bills and should switch to LED lighting ASAP! People used to hesitate about LED lights, complaining that they emitted harsh light. But they now provide much softer quality light. And in addition to running much more efficiently than incandescent bulbs, they have much longer lifespans and  can be dimmed, which gives you even more control over the lighting in your household.

LED light bulbs are becoming smart! Hence our categorization of them as must-have energy-saving gadgets.

Your techie will get particularly jazzed about Sengled LED bulbs, which are essentially high-tech appliances disguised as LED light bulbs. You can buy LED bulbs with a built-in Wi-Fi repeater, stereo system, or security camera, to name a few! And you can control Sengled bulbs from a smartphone app, which also measures your energy savings and allows you to track them.

Smart Windows

Most of us have heard about smartphones and smartwatches, but what about smart windows?! This is a super cool gadget that’s all the rage with energy conservationists, and something your favorite techie will love. Smart windows can help keep your home as energy efficient as possible year-round by using special filters. These filters activate when the exterior glass reaches certain transition points and tint the window to block unwanted solar heat and minimize glare. Smart windows therefore create cool space on the hottest days, saving you from cranking up the AC as much as before. And during cooler periods, they remain clear so your room takes in all the warming rays of light. The result? Less power required for temperature maintenance and a lower energy bill.

Smart windows are must-have energy-saving gadgets that help you manage the temperature of your home. Source: Adeolu Eletu
Smart windows apply filters to help you manage the temperature of your home. Source: Adeolu Eletu

Solar Power

If you’re trying to dramatically reduce your electricity and energy costs, consider solar chargers that can be stuck outside or in the window of your home to absorb the sun’s power. Then, use those solar rays to power your smart devices, charge your phones, and more!

We think your favorite techie will particularly love the Lumos unPlug Backpack to enable device charging throughout the day, even on the go! The Solio Solar Battery Pack and Charger is also super handy whether you’re at home, school or work.

Charging Stations & Smart Plugs

Have you ever heard of phantom load? It’s definitely spooky like it sounds, but not in the way you’re thinking. Phantom load is power drawn from the grid by electronics that aren’t technically “on” but are still plugged in (that’s right, the resulting energy use and increased cost are what makes this so scary). Phantom power pretty much sucks the power from your home for no reason whatsoever. But, there are some easy fixes.

First, charging stations help to automatically turn off and stop phantom power in its tracks when devices are fully charged. They can also be programmed to turn off automatically after a specific length of time, too! Similarly, smart plugs like the Belkin Wemo work with your wi-fi router and allow you to turn any appliance on and off from afar, with any Internet-enabled device. It will eliminate phantom load from any device or appliance plugged into it. For more tips on how to eliminate phantom loads in your home, check out our previous post with recommendations!

Certified Appliances

Okay, we admit these aren’t necessarily “gadgets.” But no energy-saving product review would be complete without mentioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR Program. If you’re looking to replace any appliance throughout your home, be sure to hunt down a product that sports the ENERGY STAR logo.You can find ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators, ceiling fans, toasters, coffee makers, and so much more (the list truly goes on and on). When you purchase these types of appliances, you know you’re getting up-to-date technology that puts energy conservation at the forefront—meaning energy-saving is a priority.

The result? You’ll cut your costs and do your part to conserve more energy without having to lift a finger.

Not a bad list, right? We thought so, too. Now comes the tough part for you: Figuring out how to convince your whole household you need every last one of these energy-saving gadgets on the list (we suggest showing them our blog post about how important energy conservation truly is! It also never hurts to mention you can cut your energy costs, just sayin’.)

If you’ve got any energy-saving gadgets that you think would be a perfect addition to this list, let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in other tips about how to conserve energy, insights on electricity and energy, or recommendations on ways to cut back your energy costs, keep up with our blog. The WattDoesItUse blog is regularly updated and overflowing with the need-to-know details about energy, electricity, conservation, and so much more! Don’t miss out!

Understand the drivers of energy use in your house to reduce power consumption and related costs. Source: Brian Babb

Electricity 101: Key Drivers of Energy Use At Home

Have you ever taken a long, sorrowful look at your energy bill, reached into your wallet for your credit card to pay it, and thought to yourself, where is all of this energy going? If you, like so many other energy consumers aren’t entirely sure what the heck is going on with your electricity bill, don’t understand your key drivers of energy use, or are simply overwhelmed by a high monthly electricity bill, then we’ve got some (hopefully) comforting news: you’re in the right place!

At WattDoesItUse, we truly get where you’re coming from. Knowledge is power, and our mission is to empower you with actionable information. So, what are the key drivers of energy and electricity use in your household? It’s not always easy to understand your electricity bill. But that’s precisely what we’ll seek to explain in this post.

More specifically, we will review some basics behind electricity consumption, followed by a room-by-room tour of your house to uncover the expected key drivers of energy use. Then, equipped with your enhanced energy literacy, we’ll take it a step further (you’re going to love this part) and brainstorm ways for you to conserve energy and whittle down your electric bill!

Now that we’ve established a solid foundation to get you going, let’s tackle the real reason we’re all here—discovering the energy hogs in your household! (No, we don’t mean your family members. We’ll handle the household appliances in this post; we’ll handle your family’s habits in another post!)

Who Uses Electricity?

To answer this succinctly—everybody! It’s pretty uncommon for commercial businesses or residences to not use electricity at all (that’s not to say some people don’t use it more efficiently than others, but we’ll get to that part later).

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First let’s make sure we’re on the same page about the basics.

Where does electricity come from?

We’ve got an entire blog post all about breaking down the logistics of electricity, but we’ll sum it up like this. Electricity is generated from sources like fossil fuels, wind, solar, and nuclear power. It is sent as a current through a transformer, which increases the voltage so it can travel a long distance. Then, that electrical charge runs through high-voltage transmission lines that run throughout the US. Eventually, the electrical current reaches a substation, which cranks down the voltage again so that it can travel through a smaller power line. The smaller power lines have built-in transformers that crank down the voltage further and help direct the electricity where it needs to go—to neighborhoods, businesses, apartment buildings, and more.

US transformer and electrical grid. Source: Sanna Linjos
Electricity travels through the extensive US grid to get from power generation plants to our homes. Source: Sanna Linjos

How do we measure electricity consumption?

If you haven’t read our electricity 101 guide about how we measure electricity (we definitely suggest it), you’ll need to know this: the amount of electricity a person uses over time is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A kilowatt, which is a measure of power, is equal to 1,000 watts—it shows up as a kilowatt on your electricity bill because it’s far easier to measure large quantities of electricity in kilowatts.

If we’re using an 80-watt lightbulb in our home and run it for an hour, that means we’ve used a total of 80-watt hours—which means a total of .08 kilowatt-hours.

US Electricity Consumption Statistics

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are over 140 million customers of electricity in the United States. That huge number of customers is divided into three basic categories:

  1. Residential (122 million customers, about 37 percent of electricity sales)
  2. Commercial (17 million customers, about 35 percent of sales)
  3. Industrial (less than 1 million customers, about 28 percent of electricity sales)

How Much Electricity Does a Typical US Household Use?

Before we dive into energy saving opportunities, we think it’s important to first remind you that no one household is going to use the same amount of electricity as another. There are a ton of factors that drive energy use. For example, seasonality, geographic location, the actual foundation or structure of the household, and of course, the way the members of the household use their electricity can all play a role.

Despite all of these factors, we want to equip you with some basic statistics that are true of most households in the United States:

  • Electricity consumption will typically peak during the summer (think about how high you crank up your air conditioning when it’s blistering hot out).
  • On a more micro scale, electricity usage will also peak during the day, in the late afternoon, when people return home from work.
  • On average, the typical household in the United States uses 920kWh of electricity per month (11,040kwh per year). At the average national electrical rate, that translates to $1,468 annually.
  • The average breakdown of that consumption is as follows:
    • 29 percent – Heating
    • 17 percent – Cooling
    • 14 percent – Water heating
    • 13 percent – Appliances
    • 12 percent – Lighting
    • 4 percent – Electronic Devices
    • 11 percent – Other

Let’s Talk About Electricity: Where Is Your Electricity Really Going?

With those numbers providing perspective, let’s talk about the real reason you’re here: understanding the key drivers of energy use in your household. We already mentioned that heating/cooling and household appliances are the key drivers of energy use… and that utility bill!

Let’s take a closer look at these appliances:

Central AC

Though this number will likely vary for everyone, a central AC (that’s at least 2 tons) will use about 1450 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your AC Unit: don’t heat and cool the rooms you aren’t using, change your thermostat setting each season, and use “vacation” settings when you’re not going to be home for a while.

Water Heater Pump

For a 4-person household, you can anticipate that a water heater will use about 310 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Water Heater: consider scaling back the time you spend in a hot shower, don’t run water when you’re not using it, and consider replacing appliances in your home that can monitor your hot water usage.

Washing Machine & Dryer

A washing machine will use about 9 kWh per month while a dryer will use about 75 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Washer and Dryer: always wait for a full load before washing, clean your lint trap between dryer loads, and air dry your clothes outside during warmer months (if you can!)

Refrigerator

A refrigerator will use about 105 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Refrigerator: keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible!

Range & Stovetop

This will, of course, vary on the type of range or stovetop you use, but expect an oven range to use about 58kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Range and Stovetop: Keep the oven door shut as much as possible, cover your pots and pans to help trap heat, and keep your range and stovetop clean. Better yet, invest in a more energy efficient range or stovetop!

Dishwasher

Your dishwasher is probably using close to 30 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving electricity With Your Dishwasher: don’t do the dishes unless you have a full load and scrape excess food off your plate instead of rinsing!

Microwave

Your microwave likely uses about 15 kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your Microwave: Unplug it when it’s not in use but use it when you can (it’s a faster way to heat food up, which also requires less power!)

Television

A TV Will use about 27kWh per month.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Your TV: unplug your TV when it’s not in use, try using power strips that can detect when your devices are in standby mode, and try streaming through more efficient devices, like a tablet.

Lightbulbs

Depending on your wattage, you can expect to use about 50 kWh per month lighting a 4-5 room household.

Quick Tip for Conserving Electricity With Lighting: upgrade your lightbulbs to a more energy-efficient brand and remember to turn the lights off when you leave a room.

Additional Energy Conservation Strategies

Of course, the easy answer is to use your appliances less frequently, and when you do use them, be smart about conserving energy. But, there are plenty more tips out there that can help you conserve energy in every single room in your household. We’ve compiled helpful guidance right here:

  • Replace or cover drafty windows
  • Find and seal any leaks in your home (check spaces under doors, windows, and more!)
  • Make sure you’re scheduling regular service appointments for your AC and heating units
  • Unplug your appliances when they’re not in use or consider using a power strip that can cut all power to these appliances when they’re turned off.
  • Keep air moving throughout your house with efficient ceiling fans so you don’t have to use AC as much
  • Lower your water heating costs by scaling back your hot showers

Interested in learning more about electricity? Looking for ways to conserve energy, cut back on expenses, or be more energy conscious in general? Well, you’re in the right place. Our WattDoesitUse blog is all about sharing unique ways to conserve electricity, become more energy-efficient, and help you enhance your electricity literacy, too! Got a tip for our readers on how to conserve energy in their households? We want to hear it. Drop your advice in the comments below! Have questions or suggestions for new blog topics? Leave us comments about that, too!

Smart thermostats are powerful tools to reduce electricity consumption.

7 Best Smart Thermostats For Energy Savings

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Whether in the depths of winter, the heat of summer, or the change of seasons, managing the thermostat can be a nuisance for homeowners, renters, and landlords/ladies alike! Is it better to keep it at one conservative temperature? Manually change the temperatures as you head out the door or come home from work? Attempt to pre-schedule temperatures for dav and night temperatures?  If you have been struggling to control your energy costs without adding to your already-long daily to-do list, you may have considered a smart thermostat. But which are the best smart thermostats for energy savings in your household?

With new products coming to market every day, the question is getting increasingly difficult to answer. But never fear!

Our goal is to support you in that decision-making process. In this post, we lay out the seven best smart thermostats for energy savings heading into 2020. As a bonus, there are many unexpected ways to leverage your smart thermostat once you have it. We dive into those opportunities in the second half of this post so you can make the most of your investment.

7 Best Smart Thermostats For Energy Savings

Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control

Loaded with features, the Ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control features Alexa support, a remote room sensor, and a touch display. You can can connect it to work with many other smart home devices—we love the connectivity! It is also very easy to install and operate.

Ecobee4 

In addition to having built-in Alexa voice technology, the Ecobee4 will connect to other smart home devices. Plus, like its compatriot with built-in voice control, it is easy to install and operate. It comes complete with a room sensor and offers many different wiring options.

Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)

When you hear the term ‘x generation’ it usually means a new and improved design. the latest Nest Learning Thermostat certainly meets this expectation. It features all the functionality of previous generations, and then some. On top of that, it comes with Alexa, Google Home, and IFTTT support so you can easily connect many other smart home devices. It has a sleek design and installs easily. It doesn’t come with a room sensor, but it does have that functionality and sensors can be purchased separately.

Honeywell Home T9 Smart Thermostat With Sensor

This is a dual-band WiFi thermostat that employs long-range sensors to control the temperature in your home. It works with Alexa, Cortana and Google voice commands and is easy to install. Some downsides: there is no HomeKit support. It also surprisingly doesn’t work directly with other Honeywell product. And lastly, the IFTTT functionality is limited.

Lux GEO-WH Wi-Fi Thermostat

This smart thermostat made our “best of the best” ranking because of its versatility. The Lux GEO-WH Wi-Fi Thermostat provides many different scheduling options and is easy to install. It has a stylish look and supports geofencing. However, it doesn’t support IFTTT and doesn’t have remote room sensors.

Lux Kono Smart Thermostat

This is a sharp-looking unit. The Lux Kono Smart Thermostat is HomeKit-enabled and provides a great deal of flexibility. It is easy to install and supports geofencing. However, as with the GEO-WH Wi-Fi Thermostat, it has no room sensors and lacks IFTTT support. It also can’t integrate with other smart devices (as other products on this list, like those of Next and Ecobee).

Nest Thermostat E

If you have a complex multi-stage HVAC system, steer clear of this one. Otherwise, the Nest Thermostat E can handle most any home set up. In fact, it contains features you would expect on a much more expensive model. As with the other models on this list, it is easy to install, boasts a stylish design, and works with other Nest and third-party smart home devices. It also supports Alexa, Google Home, and IFTTT.

Get Smart with your Smart Thermostat

So what exactly can you do with your smart thermostat other than control when your furnace or air conditioner goes on or off?

Well, they are called “smart” thermostats for a reason! The best smart thermostats empower you in many other ways to boost your energy efficiency and lower your utility bill through energy savings. In fact, Nest found a 10-12% savings on heating and 15% savings on cooling—about $131-$145—per year. Ecobee claims average savings of 23%.

But as with many types of technology, you have to understand its full potential and take advantage of that in order to truly realize savings. Here are some of the important features you should be aware of:

Smart Scheduling

We all know you can manually program your HVAC system with your smart thermostat. But did you know that it can also learn your habits? If you choose to allow your smart thermostat to do this, it will optimize temperature settings around your preferences and schedule. And you will barely have to touch it! However, if you prefer to personally control this process in order to maintain a rigid schedule around when you use and don’t use energy, you can choose to do so as well.

Home/Away Automation

Visiting family for the holidays? Fleeing the winter weather for a trip to the tropics? Remember when you had to remember to adjust your thermostat before you rushed out the door to the airport? Those days are gone! You can set your smart thermostat to automatically turn down your heat while you are away from home without having to worry about manually setting it. By using the Home/Away Assist or Auto-Away features, your smart thermostat will know when to adjust to “away” temperatures simply by monitoring a GPS signal from your smartphone.

HVAC Override Option

Your smart thermostat has a “Fan” option that permits you to override when your HVAC system’s fan kicks on or off. As an example, you can program the fan to run even if the heat or air conditioning isn’t. Because the fan can be an energy saving option versus air conditioning, we love that your smart thermostat can make this dissociation easy!

Access Permissions

Are the in-law’s in town? Considering AirBNB but worried about associated utility costs? If you have someone in your household who likes to fiddle with the thermostat settings, you can lock others out with a PIN. You can set this manually or via the app where you manage the thermostat on your smartphone.

Air Filter Reminders

Heating and cooling can represent up to 50% of your utility bill. As we mentioned in a previous post, tending to your HVAC system’s maintenance can therefore provide valuable savings. You can set your smart thermostat to tell you when an air filter is dirty—aka compromised—and you need to replace it.

On top of all this functionality, you can pair your smart thermostat with your smart home hub, which will allow you to control not only your smart thermostat, but also all of your other smart appliances and devices. From one place—your smart phone!

With that in mind, if you are sifting through bills and thinking, “there must be a straight-forward, low-maintenance investment to make a dent in our energy consumption and monthly bills!” — there sure is! Smart thermostats could be the perfect option to jumpstart that process, so long as you’ve done your homework to identify the best one for you.

If you are looking at additional smart technology to improve your energy efficiency and reduce power consumption, stay tuned! There are more reviews of the best smart devices and smart appliances coming your way.

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