For Everything There is A Season

By Stream Energy Internal Communications Editor Brian Hale

With the peak of summer’s heat upon us, the welcomed relief of cooler temperatures is on the horizon. The summer of 2011 will go down as one of the hottest summers on record in the US. Temperatures soared into the triple digits multiple times for much of the nation, with Texas suffering from more than 50 days of the triple-digit heat.

The welcomed heat relief will bring with it a reduction in the amount of electricity used for powering air conditioners across the nation. A reduction in electricity usage provides some relief for consumers’ pocketbooks. But with summer still holding on for the time being, there are additional ways to keep some extra green in your pockets for the final weeks of summer and the colder winter months.

Energy Tax Credits and Rebates

Depending on where you live and how “green” the appliances are in your home, you might be eligible for tax credits and rebates. Check with your local poles and wires company to see what, if any, rebates or credits they offer and if you are eligible. The Department of Energy provides a detailed list of providers around the country who offer rebates and credits.

Reduce Your Footprint

In 2009, the average energy consumption per person in the United States was more than 7,400 kwh each month. In Texas, the average was sixth worst in the nation at almost 11,000 kwh per person per month. You can help reduce the usage by unplugging all devices when not in use. This includes everything from home computers and televisions to electric toothbrushes and iPods. Even if a device is off, if it is plugged into an outlet, the device still draws a current.

Unplugging your electronics doesn’t have to be a daunting task. A power strip is an easy way to unplug multiple devices at one time. Reducing the number of devices drawing a current not only reduces the amount of electricity being drawn to your home, it relieves strain on the power grid that can quickly become overloaded during peak times. If too much strain is placed on the electric grid, states may be forced into rolling blackouts to reduce the strain—something Texas was on the verge of multiple times this summer.

Another way to increase your pocketbook while decreasing the strain on the environment is in your daily commute. Public transportation is an inexpensive way to get to your destination while reducing your carbon footprint. Many public transportation departments across the nation have busses and trains that run on alternative fuels such as ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), biodiesel liquefied natural gas (LNG) or electricity.

If public transportation isn’t an option for you, consider trading in your current high-emissions vehicle for a cleaner and greener vehicle. Soon, “green” vehicles may be your only option. President Obama recently announced a new policy that requires U.S. automakers to produce vehicles that achieve an average of 35.5 mpg by 2016—just five short years from now. Furthermore, an agreement with 13 automakers will increase the average fuel economy of vehicles they produce in 2025 to 54.5 mpg.  According to the Department of Transportation, the agreement is with manufacturers that produce 90 percent of the vehicles sold in the United States today.

A vehicle that runs on alternative fuel is something good for the environment and will save you money over your current vehicle. Locations for filling up on gasoline are much more prevalent than alternative fuels, but alternative fueling stations are located plentifully around the nation.

Keep What You’re Paying For

It’s no secret that heat rises. It also sinks. If you live in a multi-story home, the problem of how to keep the top floor comfortable is perplexing. Caused by a combination of the heat inside the home rising and the summer heat pounding your roof, the top floor of your home gets warmed from above and beneath. Ensure that your attic or roof has updated and adequate insulation or barrier. There are many new, inexpensive products available at your local hardware or home improvement store that can help reduce the amount of heat on the top floor of your home. When the weather eventually starts turning colder, you’ll be able to reduce the heat lost through the attic or roof, reducing the workload on your heating system.

You most likely have a rent or mortgage due every month. You also have an energy bill due every month. But could the home you’re paying for be costing you extra money? According to BBC News, the majority of heat lost is mainly through the roof, windows and gaps around doors. A radiant barrier is a great addition to your roof in the summer time (to keep your home cooler) and in the winter time (to reduce the amount of heat lost).  Exchange single-paned windows for double-paned windows and hang curtains. Add weather stripping around doorways and window panes.

You’re paying for your home and your energy. By taking these simple steps, you can help reduce your monthly utility bill while increasing the value and efficiency of your home.

Summer is getting close to finally fading into Fall, and with smarter decisions, you can make your home and life more efficient. Save some green by going green, and enjoy the autumn weather.