Summertime seems to be getting hotter every year. This season, prepare your home in advance so relying more and more on your air conditioning won’t show up as much on your electric bill.

Here are five ways to give you’re A/C a break this summer:

  1. Call an HVAC technician. A professional can examine your system and let you know what needs repairing or replacing, which can prevent a mid-summer breakdown.
  2. Change or clean air filters. When filters do their job properly, they trap dirt, pet hair and anything else that’s floating in the air from recirculating into your home when the air conditioner is blowing. But dirty filters can prevent air from flowing, too, which makes the A/C have to work extra hard to cool your house. The solution: Change or clean your filters once a month during the summer.
  3. Run ceiling fans. When the A/C is running at the same time as a ceiling fan, the room where the fan is located will feel cool enough that you can raise the thermostat by about 4 degrees. A fan doesn’t cool the air, but it creates a breeze that makes anyone in the room feel cooler.
  4. Install a dehumidifier. Another great partner for the A/C is an energy-efficient dehumidifier. Lowering the humidity in your home helps the air conditioner work more efficiently because it doesn’t have to waste energy removing moisture from the air and can concentrate on simply cooling it.
  5. Don’t create heat. On days when it’s warm enough to turn on the air conditioner, turn off your oven, clothes dryer, lamps and other appliances that create heat. Wait until after dark, when the day cools off a bit, before running heat-producing machines.

The U.S. Department of Energy and most electric utilities recommend that you set your thermostat at 78 degrees during the summer.

Before you leave for work, crank it up to 85 degrees and before you turn in for the night, nudge it up to 82, the DOE recommends.

If that sounds a bit toasty for summertime, consider inching your thermostat up 1 degree at a time rather than all at once if you usually keep yours set at 72 in the summer—as most Americans do.

And consider replacing a manual thermostat with a programmable model so the settings will change automatically.

A springtime tune-up can prevent your air conditioning system from going on the fritz later, when the weather is so hot that you won’t want to be without the a/c for even a few hours.  

It typically around $100 to have a professional inspection of your system, and it’s well worth the money. 

Some contractors offer an annual preventive maintenance agreement, which will cost a few hundred dollars a year and typically includes a fall and spring inspection of your HVAC system and discounts on repairs and equipment. A better deal most often is to pay as you go for individual inspections. 

Either way, your cooling system will get attention from a qualified, licensed service technician who is trained to spot problems that most homeowners overlook. The tech might even alert you if a small repair now will prevent your family from sweltering this summer during an a/c breakdown. 

As soon as Christmas was over, stores and businesses started decorating with hearts in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

But American Heart Month isn’t just about romance. It’s about keeping your heart healthy by eating nutritious food and regulating blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Even if your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier and exercise regularly is already a distant memory, February is a great time to kick-start your healthy heart routine.

The electric appliances you might already have in your kitchen can help.

For example, a multicooker like the Instant Pot can steam and air-fry meat and vegetables without oil. A slow cooker can prepare chicken and beef dishes without added fats, too, if you let them simmer in broth, juice or another liquid and let the meal stew all day.

An electric indoor grill draws the fat from meat into a drip pan below the grate instead of using it to cook the dish. And a blender with blades sharp enough to shred ice makes it simple to whip up smoothies for breakfast and snacks so you and your family get plenty fruits and veggies, even in the morning.

This February, redefine “romance” to include helping your partner get and stay healthy. Recommit to those New Year’s resolutions and celebrate Heart Month by protecting yours and those of your loved ones.

Staying home more often than usual means you’re probably using your appliances nonstop. And that means you need to clean them more often.

Don’t overlook the appliances that aren’t in the kitchen.

It seems like your clothes washer would be a self-cleaning machine because it’s used for cleaning. But the more you use it, the more it needs a good scrubbing to get rid of built-up detergent and ward off mold.

Here are a few pre-spring cleaning tips for the laundry room:

Top-loading washers: Built-up detergent and fabric softeners can clog the machine if you don’t remove it regularly. To do that, remove the dispensers for those liquids and scrub them with soap, water and a non-scratch sponge. Then, fill the washer with hot water and add a cup of bleach. Let it sit for an hour before running a full wash cycle—with an empty tub. Then, fill it again, and this time add a cup of white vinegar and run a full wash cycle again. Finally, run a wash cycle with nothing but hot water.

For your first load of laundry after you clean the tub, wash whites only in case any residual bleach is still in the washer.

Front-loading washers: Get rid of mold and grime that get trapped in the door seal. Use a toothbrush and a solution of eight or nine cups of water and one cup of bleach to scrub the seal. Then, clean the tub the same way you would sanitize a top-loader, above.

Don’t forget about your dishwasher, too. Many people do not realize that newer dishwashers have filters that should be cleaned manually. Be sure to remove and clean the filter monthly of food particles and grease buildup that cause bad smells in your dishwasher. Clean debris away from the filter, then twist filter to remove (or consult your manufacturer’s guide). Scrub the filter with a soft brush or cloth under hot water until clean; then replace filter.

January and February typically are the coldest months of the year. That doesn’t mean you have to be cold for two months, especially inside your own home.

Dressing in layers, wearing socks with your slippers and staying active are no-cost, no-tech ways to stay cozy indoors even when all you can see for miles is snow and ice. Other tips for staying warm are:

  • Block drafts. If your windows are old or made from a single pane of glass, it’s time to upgrade. Energy-efficient glass—and windows with double panes—will go a long way toward keeping cold air from blowing into your house. They also could reduce the amount of money you spend on winter energy bills.
  • Seal leaks. Also great draft-blockers, weather stripping and caulk can plug holes around windows and doors, and wherever the inside of an outdoor wall is penetrated by a cable or phone line.
  • Make the bed. An electric blanket—one with an automatic shut-off and the seal of approval from a safety organization like UL—can keep you cozy at bedtime even when you turn the whole-house thermostat down to save energy overnight.
  • Make 2022 the year you finally switch to a programmable thermostat that will turn the heat up when the home is occupied and everyone is awake, and down at bedtime and when the family leaves for the day. (Note: If you have a heat pump, purchase a programmable thermostat with adaptive recovery technology to slowly warm the house and avoid the more costly auxiliary heat.)

Stop shivering indoors just because it’s cold outside. You don’t have to crank up the heat to stay warm on winter’s frostiest days.

First, bundle up. Dressing in layers is a great way to keep yourself comfortable without extra heat. Here are 10 more ways to make your home and yourself more comfortable during winter without increasing your energy use:

  1. Identify places in your walls where heated air can escape your home and cold air can get in. Look around windows and doors. Find penetrations on the indoor side of exterior walls where cables, cords and wires come into the house. Search for cracks around baseboards. Check the hatch that leads to the attic. Then caulk liberally.
  2. Invest in a smart thermostat that allows you to program it to lower the heat when you go to bed, raise it just before everyone wakes up, turn itself down again when the family leaves for the day, and warm up the house before you return at dinnertime. You could save 10% or more on your heating bill.
  3. Maintain your heating system. Hire a tech to inspect yours for inefficiencies or hidden problems. Clean or replace your furnace filters regularly.
  4. Scatter area rugs in rooms without carpets. They can prevent heat from escaping through the floor. They also feel warmer to walk on.
  5. Open the drapes on sunny days to let natural daylight and the sun’s warmth into your rooms. Close them when the sun sets and it gets cooler outdoors.

The “best toys” lists for the 2021 holiday season include a few items that teach about electricity or use it to operate. Here are some child-tested favorites:

National Geographic kits. The Potato Battery Kit teaches kids about electricity as they build a potato clock with a voltmeter. The Coin Powered Flashlight is an experiment that shows children how to make a battery with coins. They can watch the electric circuit in action when they turn on the flashlight. Astounding Science Experiments teaches little ones about electric engineering. The series includes several other science kits.

Kidzone Electric Vehicle Bumper Car. This motorized ride-on is like a mini-bumper car that kids can drive around while colliding into everything that gets in their way.

Razor Miniature Dirt Rocket. This scaled-down, electric-powered dirt bike is recommended for children ages 7 and older. For outdoor, off-road adventures, the bike features rear-wheel drive for weight and balance control, which helps with safety and stability.

Little Tikes My Real Jam Electric Guitar Music Toy. A realistically designed electric guitar, case and strap lets your little one pretend to be a rock star. It includes four “superstar play modes” that play music while your child pretends to strum.

Electronic Ride-On Excavator. A little “driver” can move the excavator with his or her legs and slide the levers to operate the motorized digger. The toy has sound effects to mimic a construction rig and includes a 6-volt rechargeable battery and charger.

Even with a house full of company and decorations lighting up the season, you might be able to save energy when compared to Christmases past.

Here are five small changes you can make to keep your energy use under control during the December holidays:

  1. Switch to LED lights for the tree and the outside of the house. Even if your old fluorescent lights are still in pretty good shape, it might be worth it to replace them with strands of LED lights that use less energy, emit less heat and will last for years longer.
  2. Put your outdoor lights on timers. There’s no need to keep the lights on all night. Program timers to turn the lights on once the sun goes down and to turn them off at bedtime.
  3. Don’t just turn the holiday lights off; unplug them. When electric devices are plugged into the wall, they still consume small amounts of electricity, even when you turn them off. Consider investing in power strips and plug several strands into each one. That way, you don’t have to unplug so many devices—you just have to unplug the power strips.
  4. Mix non-electric decorations with those you have to plug in. Hang wreaths and garland. Display battery-operated candles in your windows. If you don’t have to plug it in, it won’t use any energy.
  5. Put your crockpot and microwave to work. Your oven will be full for days as Christmas approaches. Consider slow-cooking some of your meals in a crockpot or speed-cooking side dishes in the microwave. Both use less energy than your regular oven.

The sun has an incredible amount of energy — more than we could ever fully harness. Fortunately, there’s an array of solar-powered gadgets and devices available to help you take advantage of this free source of energy. These technologies are a great way to power everyday things for free by simply using energy from the sun!

When you want to bring your music outdoors, solar-powered Bluetooth speakers are the perfect solution. Many Bluetooth speakers can be recharged with a USB port and electrical outlet, but solar-powered speakers are easily recharged by sunlight. As long as the sun is shining, the speaker will never run out of power. Most solar-powered speakers include a backup battery that allows the speaker to run long after the sun goes down. When shopping for a solar-powered speaker, be sure the speaker can handle the outdoor conditions. For example, if you’re planning to bring the speaker to the beach, make sure it’s water-resistant.

For an easy, low-maintenance approach to light up your lawn and walkways, solar pathway lighting (and other solar décor) is a great addition. Outdoor solar lights come in a variety of styles and can be used to decorate your outdoor space in different ways. They can be used as an alternative to traditional lights and offer several benefits. Once installed, solar lights run on their own and work relatively maintenance-free. Solar lights are powered by batteries that can run all night if the panels receive enough sunlight during the day. Solar lights are wireless, so there’s no need to search for an electrical outlet. You can purchase solar lights for about $5 to $20 depending on the size and design.

If you’re looking to engage your children, there are several DIY kits available for kids to learn more about solar energy. These kits typically include a small solar panel, connecting wires and the end-use device, which varies depending on the kit. From powering a small fan to lighting a lightbulb, these interactive kits provide an educational opportunity for kids to learn more about solar.

As an alternative to a charcoal or gas-powered grill, the solar-powered grill is another great way to cook meals outdoors. One of the most popular solar-powered grills is by GoSun and uses a solar vacuum tube to absorb light while also providing insulation. Using solar heat, the parabolic reflectors focus sunlight onto the vacuum tube. The tube can then convert about 80 percent of the solar energy into heat. There are plenty of occasions for using a solar-powered grill such as traveling, camping or even during a power outage. The internal temperature can typically reach up to 550 degrees while the insulation makes it cool to the touch on the outside — an important safety feature. Prices for solar-powered grills range from $150 to $300, making them comparable to gas-powered grills.

A gadget to help you keep track of time is the solar-powered watch. A small solar cell underneath the dial converts the solar energy into electrical energy, with excess energy stored into the rechargeable battery. As long as the watch receives a moderate amount of sunlight, the battery doesn’t need to be replaced for up to 10 years, which is much more convenient than replacing the battery roughly every year for conventional watches. Solar-powered watches can cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000 depending on their design.

The sun provides an endless amount of energy, and these gadgets are a great way to power everyday devices. As more solar-powered technologies are developed, you may find yourself considering a solar-powered gadget for your next purchase.

Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

Our use of electricity soars on Thanksgiving Day as we draft our oven, stove, refrigerator and even our heating system into overdrive as we spend extra time cooking and invite family into our homes.

Don’t spoil the holiday fun worrying about energy costs. Instead, make an effort to conserve energy even as you overuse your appliances, lights and heat. Here are some tips:

  • If your dining room has an older chandelier that doesn’t use CFLs, dim the brightness by at least 10 percent. If it doesn’t have a dimmer switch, install one.
  • Cook as many dishes at the same time as possible. Put two or three dishes in the oven together if their recipes call for the same temperature. That way, you can turn the oven off sooner.
  • Lower your home’s thermostat before you put the turkey in the oven. The heat that the oven and stovetop will emit — along with the heat that having extra people in the house creates — will keep your home warm enough without cranking up the thermostat, even if it’s cold outside.
  • Cook what you can in the microwave or slow cooker. They use less energy than the oven.
  • Use the dishwasher instead of cleaning the dinner dishes by hand. Dishwashers use less energy and water than washing by hand.

It’s tempting to turn the heat on as soon as the weather starts to cool down in the fall. But holding off for a few weeks until you really need to rely on heat can keep your energy bills low.

If you must turn the heat on during the early fall:

  1. Set it no higher than 68 degrees. This will make your indoor air comfortable without wasting energy.
  2. Move furniture and drapes away from warm air registers and baseboard heaters so they don’t block the heat from circulating. The freer the air flow, the lower you can set your thermostat.
  3. Close the flue damper of your wood-burning fireplace. In fact, consider fitting an electric fireplace into it so you can enjoy a light show without sending heated air up the chimney.
  4. Have an HVAC pro inspect your heating system before it gets too cold outside. Regular maintenance can prevent an expensive, inconvenient problem later in the winter when it would be uncomfortable to go even a day without a working heating system.
  5. Caulk indoor openings on external walls, like around the areas where the cable and phone lines come into the house and around penetrations for water pipes and sewer lines. Sealing those openings can keep your heated air in and the cool air out.

Little ghosts, goblins and princesses are a welcome sight on Halloween night. But beware of the vampire lurking inside your home.

You could be paying for vampire energy—electricity that leaks from your appliances, computers and entertainment systems—if you leave them plugged in even when they’re turned off.

Any cord that is plugged into an electrical outline draws electricity. So if you leave your mobile phone charger plugged in after you’ve removed the phone or you leave your computer and scanner plugged in after you shut down for the evening, you could be wasting—and paying for—unused energy.

Most people leave electronics plugged in all the time because it’s convenient to be able to turn them on without having to plug them in again and again, day after day. The worst offenders are “remote-ready” appliances, like computers, cable boxes, stereos, TVs, microwave ovens, garage door openers and video game consoles.

As long as they’re plugged in, they remain in a “ready” state so they don’t have to wake up or warm up when you turn them on.

That can cost you between $165 and $440 per year in wasted electricity, depending on how many devices you have.

A tip: Invest in a high-quality power strip—one that will sacrifice itself during a power surge rather than letting the surge ruin the appliance. Plug multiple items into the power strip and unplug the strip before bedtime. That’s easier than unplugging and replugging lots of appliances.

A caution: Don’t overload your home’s electrical circuits by plugging too many appliances into a single power strip. Especially if you live in an older home, consult an electrician about how much of an electrical load your single outlets can handle.

As farming technology advances, farmers are finding new ways to reduce costs, improve efficiency and increase crop yields. The newest trend of technological advancements for farming is precision agriculture, a strategy where farmers use advanced technologies to control the growth of crops and raising of livestock more accurately and efficiently.

As precision agriculture has grown in recent years, the technologies have become even more technical and precise by using data analytics and machine learning. With a whole suite of benefits, like reduced costs, standardized data and metrics and minimizing resource waste, it’s no surprise that technologies and strategies for precision agriculture are becoming more commonplace.

The initial wave of precision agriculture in the 1980s was made possible by GPS (global positioning system) devices, which were first placed on tractors. GPS-connected devices could control a tractor and automatically steer the tractor based on the field’s GPS coordinates. This helped reduce any overlap while driving, making farming practices more efficient.

Beyond autonomous tractors, there have been many innovations in farming technologies that are part of precision agriculture. One technology is the crop-monitoring drone, which can take aerial views of fields and help give the farmer a bird’s-eye view of their land. Connecting the drone to special software and GPS can also allow the drone to automatically take photos, making it even easier to use. When combined with GIS (geographic information system), the drone can help analyze the geospatial field data in real-time for the farmer.

Using robotics for precision agriculture can be applied to many kinds of machines. For example, robotic milking machines can be used to automate the cow milking process. These machines help farmers reduce their labor demands while also increasing efficiency, freeing up time for farmers to work on other parts of their farm. Since the machines are optimized to work efficiently, they can also help to remove more milk per cow and provide more rest for the cows.

If farmers want to optimize their crop production, then variable rate technology (VRT) can help. VRT allows the farmer to use a variable rate schedule for application of fertilizer or for irrigation. Although there are several different options for using VRT, the basics consist of a computer, software, GPS and a controller. Farmers can choose to use VRT in either a map-based or sensor-based way, depending on need of the farm. Using VRT helps farmers accurately measure water and fertilizer, save time and maximize irrigation and fertilization efficiency.

To properly use these new technologies, there are some important safety tips to consider. When learning to use any new technology, be sure to fully read the manual and understand the instructions before beginning any work. This can help farmers avoid preventable accidents. Different types of farm equipment will also require different safety precautions. For example, when working with grain bins, farmers should be especially careful to follow training procedures when it is necessary to work inside the grain bin.

Being aware of the best safety practices when working with a specific technology is the best way to avoid accidents. Additionally, since these technologies are digital, the threat of cybersecurity comes into play. Appropriate use of any USB thumb drives and being aware of spear-phishing cyberattacks will help prevent malicious entities from gaining access to the farmer’s confidential data.

Although the benefits are clear, there are a few barriers to using these new agricultural technologies. Having a well-established broadband connection is crucial for some of these technologies, and a lack of high-speed internet access can limit the use of precision agriculture technologies. Furthermore, using precision agriculture comes with a relatively large upfront financial investment, which may not provide a return on investment quickly enough to the farm.

Before incorporating precision agriculture technology into any farm, planning and preparation will be crucial to make the best use of the technology.


Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape.

 

When homeowners look for opportunities to improve efficiency, they frequently look inside. You should also consider how projects outside your home can impact energy use. Spring landscape projects can have a major impact on your home’s efficiency.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, shading your home is the most cost-effective way to reduce heat gain from the sun and reduce your air conditioning costs in the summer. Having more plants and trees in your yard can reduce the air temperature by up to 6 degrees.

Planting deciduous trees on the south, southwest and west sides of your home can cut heating during hot summer months while allowing sunlight through during the fall and winter when the trees have lost their leaves. When planting trees, consider the expected shape and height of the mature trees and where they will shade your home. A tree with a high mature height planted on the south side of a home, for example, will provide all-day roof shading in the summer while a shorter tree to the west can protect your home from the lower afternoon sun.

If your home is in an open area without many structures around it, cold winter winds can increase your heating bills. A windbreak on your property can help deflect these winds over your home. The most common type of windbreak uses a combination of evergreen trees and shrubs to block wind from the ground to the top of your home. For the best windbreak effect, plant these features on the north and northwest sides of your home at a distance of between two and five times the height of the mature trees. Incorporating a wall or fence can further assist with the wind break.

There are a few safety tips to consider when planting trees. Contact your local electric co-op before planting trees near power lines. We can recommend safe planting distances based on the type of tree. You should also call 811 before digging to avoid underground utilities on your property.

The goal of most lawn and garden projects is to bring beauty to your outdoor space, but a well-designed project can also improve your energy bill and increase the overall value of your home.

Whether your oven and stove top are powered by gas or electricity, it’s no secret that they consume more energy than smaller countertop appliances, like slow cookers and toaster ovens. In addition to efficiency, smaller kitchen appliances can provide faster cooking times and less hassle with cleanup.

If you’re looking for convenient cooking methods with the added bonus of energy efficiency, here are three electrifying appliances for your kitchen:

  1. Air fryers circulate hot air (convection) to cook the food. This means little to no oil is required, resulting in healthier meals than those from traditional fryers. Photo Credit: Hamilton Beach (Attribution required.)

    Air fryers are becoming increasingly popular, and consumers have a lot of good things to say about these handy little appliances. Air fryers use convection to circulate hot air and cook the food––this means little to no oil is required, resulting in healthier meals than those from traditional fryers. Air fryers are fairly small, so they won’t take up much of your counter space, and with everything cooked in the fryer, cleanup will be a breeze. Air fryers are available in a variety of sizes, and prices range from $40 to $200+.

  2. Electric griddles have certainly been around for a while, and they offer several benefits for any home chef (beyond bacon and eggs!). Griddles are convenient because you can cook everything at once––like a “one-pan” meal, and the possibilities are endless. From fajitas to sandwiches to French toast, griddles can help satisfy any taste buds. They consume small amounts of energy and provide quick cooking times, so your energy bill will thank you. Prices and sizes for griddles vary, but you can typically find one for about $30 at your local retail stores.
  3. Pizza brings people together, so why not consider a pizza maker for your kitchen? These compact, countertop machines are an inexpensive alternative to a costly brick oven, and they use less energy than your traditional oven. Choose your own fresh ingredients to whip up a faster, healthier pizza at home. Plus, most pizza makers are multifunctional and can be used to cook flatbreads, frittatas, quesadillas and more. You can purchase a pizza maker for about $30 to $150+ online or at your local retailer.

These are just a few electrifying appliance options for your kitchen. Remember, when you’re cooking a smaller meal, countertop appliances can save time and energy. To learn about additional ways to save energy at home, contact your local co-op.

Space heating and cooling account for a large portion of the average home’s energy use. In fact, the heating and cooling of your home could be responsible for more than half of your monthly electric bill.

Making small adjustments to your home’s temperature can have a significant impact on your monthly electric bill, and it all begins at your thermostat.

Set your thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter while you are home and awake, and set it even lower while you are sleeping or away. Lowering your thermostat 10-15 degrees for eight hours can reduce your heating bill by 10 percent or more.

You may have heard that lowering your thermostat while you are away will make it work harder once you return, and that is a reasonable argument. However, studies have found that you will use less energy by turning your system down when you are away and returning it to the original temperature when home versus leaving it at the original temperature the entire time. Don’t waste energy heating your furniture.

If all of these changes sound stressful, consider investing in a programmable or smart thermostat. Such a device can be programmed to run specific schedules or adjust the temperature when it senses you are away from home.

The location of your thermostat can also impact its performance and your energy bill. Be sure your thermostat is away from air vents, doors and windows, and it is best for it not to be located in kitchens, hallways or in direct sunlight. All of these factors can trick the thermostat into thinking your home is hotter or colder than it actually is.

Most of us spend very little time thinking about our thermostats, but they can have a significant impact on your comfort and your energy bill. We’re always available to help you make smarter energy choices. Contact your local co-op to learn more.

Baby, it’s cold outside! When you’re feeling chilly at home, there are several budget-friendly ways you can keep comfortable without turning up the thermostat.

Here are five easy ways to stay cozy this winter.

  1. Whether you’re experiencing extremely cold winter temps or you simply “run cold,” an electric blanket can deliver quick warmth like a regular throw or blanket cannot. Electric blankets can include a variety of features, like timers and dual temperature settings (if your cuddle buddy prefers less heat). This winter, consider an electric blanket instead of turning up the heat, and your energy bill will thank you.
  2. One of the easiest ways to stay cozy at home is to keep your feet warm. Our feet play a critical role in regulating body temperature, so when your feet are warm, your body automatically feels warmer. Try a pair of comfortable wool socks or house slippers to stay toasty.
  3. On winter days when the sun is shining, take advantage and harness natural warmth from sunlight. Open all curtains, drapes and blinds in your home to let the sunshine in––you’ll be able to feel the difference.
  4. Another way to make your home cozier is to use a humidifier. Cold air doesn’t hold water vapor like warm air, so by adding humidity inside your home, you can feel a little warmer. A favorable level of humidity inside your home can also help clear sinuses, soften skin and improve sleep.
  5. Beyond adding visual appeal to your home, area rugs can also provide extra insulation and a warm surface for your feet on cold winter days. Use large area rugs in rooms where you spend the most time. You’ll enjoy the new colors and textures of the rug, and the additional warmth will help keep your home comfortable.

These are just a few ways you can stay cozy this winter without turning up the thermostat. Don’t forget the hot chocolate!

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.

 

The holiday season is finally upon us, and Santa and his elves have been especially busy as they gear up for their biggest night of the year.  

It’s no secret that Santa is known for running an efficient workshop  how else could he make all those toys in time for Christmas Eve? Rumor has it that one way Santa ensures an efficient workspace is through energy-saving measures.  

Here are four ways Santa saves energy in his workshop. 

  1. Unlike the rest of us, Santa leaves his decorations up year-round. By using LED holiday light strands, he’s able to save on his monthly energy bills. LED holiday strands can last up to 40 seasons, which make them a great option for any festive home.  
  2. Santa requires power tools to make a year’s worth of new toys. That’s why he insists on using cordless power tools with the Energy Star rating. According to energystar.gov, if all power tools in the U.S. used Energy Star-rated battery chargers, 2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved — that’s equivalent to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1.7 million tons!  
  3. Mrs. Claus loves to keep warm by the fire in the evenings, and Santa knows one of the best tricks to ensure fireplace efficiency. While a fireplace can keep a small area of your home cozy and warm, it can also pull heated air from the room through the chimney. That’s why Santa always closes the fireplace flue when a fire isn’t burning.  
  4. Santa also saves energy by using power strips. They’re ideal for workshops, craft nooks, game rooms and other spaces in your home. With one simple switch, you can conveniently control several devices and electronics that are plugged into the power strip.  

This holiday season, let’s take a page from Santa’s book and remember to save energy when possible. With these four tips, you’ll be well on your way to savings (and, hopefully, Santa’s “nice” list!).  

Ah, the kitchen. It’s undeniably one of the most-loved rooms in our homes. It’s where we gather with family and friends for our favorite meals and memories. But like most of us, you probably aren’t thinking about saving energy when you’re planning that perfect dish. Here are four ways you can save energy in the kitchen with minimal effort:

When possible, cook with smaller appliances. Using smaller kitchen appliances like slow cookers, toaster ovens and convection ovens is more energy efficient than using your large stove or oven. According to the Department of Energy, a toaster or convection oven uses one-third to one-half as much energy as a full-sized oven.

Unplug appliances that draw phantom energy load. Halloween may be over, but it’s possible you have energy vampires — appliances like coffee makers, microwaves and toaster ovens that draw energy even when they’re not in use — in your kitchen. The Department of Energy has estimated that one home’s energy vampires left plugged in year-round can add up to $100-$200 in wasted energy costs. Unplug them when they’re not in use, or, better yet, use a power strip for convenient control.

Help large appliances work less. There are small ways you can help your larger kitchen appliances run more efficiently. For example, keep range-top burners clean from spills and fallen foods so they’ll reflect heat better. When it’s time to put leftovers in the refrigerator, make sure the food is covered. And allow it to cool down first so the fridge doesn’t have to work harder to cool warm food.

Use your dishwasher efficiently. Only run full loads, and avoid using the “rinse hold” function on your machine for just a few dirty dishes; it uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water with each use. You can also save energy by letting your dishes air dry. If your dishwasher doesn’t have an automatic air-dry switch, simply turn the dishwasher off after the final rinse and prop the door open so the dishes will dry faster.

Bonus tip: The best way to save energy is to not use it. Try a tasty, no-bake dessert recipe. Your sweet tooth (and energy bill!) will thank you.

By slightly adjusting a few of your habits in the kitchen, you’ll be well on your way to energy savings. Contact us to learn about additional ways you can save energy and money at home.