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33 Ways To Save Energy in your Home!

As we head into this holiday weekend, the last hurrah before summer ends (although, since Northampton area public schools started this past Thursday, to those of us with school-aged children, it feels as if summer is already over!) we thought we'd share the following link from Apartment Therapy. Since selling houses is what we do, we like to send out occasional reminders about how to save energy in your households, and make better choices for the environment as well. We hope you enjoy the link, and maybe learn a trick or two!

33 Small, Mindful Home Habits That'll Save You Money in the Long Run

 
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)
 
Little money-saving habits don't ever feel like they're doing much in the moment, but in the long run they can add up to significant savings. And, no, we're not talking about the same well-worn advice to brew your own coffee or bring your lunch to work. These are at-home habits, most of which involve a minor change in your routine and might only take a few seconds each.
 

Small habits that cost us money—or save us money, as the case may be—add up to pennies earned that compound day after day, month after month, year after to year into significant dollars.

Here are some money-saving habits to put into practice around the house. If you're not doing these yet, you should be:

How to Save on Air Conditioning Costs

  1. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. 
  2. Use ceiling fans to help cool rooms. 
  3. Set the thermostat a few degrees higher to shave money off your bill. 
  4. Close blinds and curtains to keep the sun out of rooms during the day to help keep temperatures inside cool. 
  5. Don't leave outside doors open when the A/C is running. 
  6. Try to put off heat-generating activities to the evening hours, when outdoor temperatures are cooler. This includes cooking on the stove (make salads or use the grill outside when it's hot out), running the dryer, etc. 
  7. Properly maintain your HVAC unit so it runs efficiently. 
  8. Change filters according to the season, usage, and the manufacturer's recommended timetable. 
  9. Switch to CFL bulbs, which generate significantly less heat. 
  10. Get a programmable thermostat (or better yet, a smart one) if you don't have one and set it to be a few degrees warmer when you're not home. 
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

How to Save on Electricity

  1. Turn off lights when you leave the room. 
  2. Keep cooled or heated air in the house by remembering to close doors and seal gaps (such as with a door snake). 
  3. Dress for the weather. Especially when it's cold, put on a sweater or use a blanket before you crank up the heat. 
  4. Choose energy efficient appliances when you're buying new ones. 
  5. Choose the cold water wash on your laundry whenever possible. 
  6. Air dry clothes whenever you can. 
  7. Unplug "energy vampires," items that are plugged in even when you're not using them. These include phone chargers, computers, and countertop appliances like the coffee maker or stand mixer. 
  8. Check your utility company for special rates. For example, some companies offer discounts for energy consumption that occurs during "off-peak" hours. 
  9. If you like to run your refrigerator cool, consider adjusting your fridge and freezer temperatures up to 40 and 0 degrees respectively, the top temperatures recommended by the FDA.
  10. Never forget to clean the lint trap in the dryer so that it can run most efficiently. 
  11. Try the air-dry rather than the heat-dry setting on your dishwasher. 
  12. Use a toaster oven rather than your full-size oven whenever possible. 
  13. Stop opening your oven to check on your cooking food; turn on the oven light and peek through the window instead. 
  14. Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees (it's safer, too). (This applies to electric water heaters, but for gas water heaters, lowering the temperature will also save money.) 
  15. Never run the dishwasher, washing machine, or dryer unless they're at capacity.
 
(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

How to Save Money on Your Water Bill

  1. Fix leaky faucets. And toilets. (Try the food coloring trick!) 
  2. Stop pre-rinsing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. 
  3. Take shorter showers. Try a shower timer.
  4. Replace your shower heads with low flow ones. 
  5. Turn off the water while you are brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or soaping up in the shower. 
  6. Use water from washing produce or boiling pasta to water plants. You could also collect water while you shower to water plants with. 
  7. Collect rain water for watering plants. (Your plants will love it!)
  8. Look for special rates with your water provider. Like with electricity, some off-peak times of the day have lower usage rates. Check to see if your utility company offers a water discount during these times and run your appliances and take showers within these parameters, when possible. 

 

 
 
 
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Going Solar - Changes to Local Programs!

Northampton Area Homeowners take note, there are some important changes coming to local solar programs that may effect you. If you are thinking about adding solar power to your home or property, it seems that now might be the time to do it! Read on for more details about how new tariffs instituted by the President,�and changes to local incentive programs, might effect costs for installation and use of solar power. The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette lays it all out.

Environment: Changes coming to solar programs

  • Phil Crafts, left, and Joan Snowdon, both of Leverett, look toward the angled roof on their house which would not allow for the installation of rooftop solar panels, Oct. 21, 2017. Instead, they had freestanding panels installed on their property.�GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

By CAITLIN ASHWORTH
@kate_ashworth
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

With a tariff on solar product imports, a new incentive program in Massachusetts and a change in rates from Eversource, industries and consumers using the sun's rays to generate energy are sure to see a change.

President Donald Trump imposed a 30 percent tariff -- which took effect last month -- on solar products in an effort to revive American solar manufacturing companies and create jobs. He also put a tariff on steel and aluminum. Both materials are used to mount solar panels.

Northampton-based Valley Solar general manager Patrick Rondeau said the company quickly bought up panels before the tariff kicked in.

"We've already seen our most popular panels increase in price," Rondeau said, adding that the costs have raised 10 to 15 percent.

Rondeau said homeowners looking to convert to solar could see a 3 to 5 percent increase.

"As one of the largest residential solar companies in the U.S., we are disappointed in the decision made by the Trump administration to set a tariff on imported solar panels," David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar, said in a statement. "We know that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, overwhelmingly support the expansion of solar power because they know it's a good thing for the health of our environment and economy, as well as our energy independence."

Bywater added that the company, which has a branch in Chicopee, will continue to provide customers with a better way to create energy and priorities remain unchanged.

In Easthampton, Patrick Quinlan, CEO of the start-up company SolaBlock, said that while the company will be affected by the tariff, he's optimistic for the future.

SolaBlock manufactures "solar masonry units," concrete blocks with integrated solar electric cells, according to the company's website. Quinlan said he purchases the best products he can, but products made in the United States are limited. Some U.S. suppliers have factories overseas, he added.

Sarah Zazzaro-Williams, manager of All Energy Solar in Chicopee, said the solar industry in Massachusetts is competitive and has seen steady growth within the last few years. She said many of the people who get solar panels installed do so to save money on their home's electricity costs.

While the tariff may increase costs, both Zazzaro-Williams and Rondeau said the state's new incentive program Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, or SMART, as well as new rates from Eversource may have a more direct impact on residents using or switching over to solar. She said many of people that get solar panels installed to save on home electricity costs.

Rondeau said "demand charges" by Eversource, which will be in effect next year, will have a greater impact on homeowners switching over to solar�than the tariff and new incentive.

Eversource

In January, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved a "demand charge" for residents using solar panels to generate energy for their home. The charge is based on a consumer's peak demand over a specified time period, typically the monthly billing cycle, according to the DPU decision.

"This new charge helps ensure we collect the costs to serve distributed generation without other customers subsidizing those choosing net metering options," Eversource wrote on its website. "It also helps Eversource recover the cost to serve net metering customers. We developed the demand charge using a cost of service model that established the minimum cost to maintain system reliability."

Zazzaro-Williams and Rondeau said the charge is based off peak energy use.

"It is unfair," Rondeau said.

State solar program

Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources spokeswoman Katie Gronendyke said the SMART program will replace SREC II, the solar renewable energy credit.

"With over 2,000 megawatts of solar now installed, Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in solar deployment and clean energy innovation," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement last month. "Through our next solar incentive program, SMART, and our forward-thinking solar grant programs, we look forward to doubling that amount of solar and building a sustainable and affordable clean energy future for the Commonwealth."

The main difference between the two programs is that SRECs are a tradable commodity where the market price is determined by supply and demand in a particular year, and SMART is a tariff-based incentive program, according to Gronendyke.

Zazzaro-Williams said the new incentive does not offer as much benefit as the current one, adding that All Energy Solar is pushing for customers to get solar panels fast while the current incentive is still in effect.

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Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.