May 15th, 2013
Sometimes, making energy efficient building improvements can seem intimidating. Should you install solar panels on the roof of your home or office? Purchase new appliances? Replace all your lightbulbs? There are countless ways to go green, but making energy efficiency improvements doesn’t need to be a big endeavor. If you have a free afternoon and basic cleaning supplies, you can boost energy efficiency at no cost with a little spring cleaning.
Refrigerator. When’s the last time you looked behing your refrigerator? Move the fridge away from wall, and you’ll probably see refrigerator coils coated in dust, hair, pet fur, and dirt collect. Using your vacuum’s brush attachment, vacuum the coil and fan. Newer refrigerators may have a more discreet, hidden coil – check out this article for detailed tips on cleaning refrigerator coils. Be sure to unplug the refrigerator before vacuuming.
Air Filters. Air conditioners, furnaces, and heaters are magnets for dust. Too much debris build up slows down airflow, so the system has to work harder. Clean or replace air filters at least once a year. It’s a good idea to clean fans and space heaters as well. Filter maintenance doesn’t end with heating and cooling units. Most appliances have an air filter or debris filter- dishwashers, clothes dryers, even hair dryers. Clean appliances are much more efficient, and vacuuming a filter is a quick way to maximize energy efficiency.
Freezer. If your freezer is lined with more than 1/4 inch of frost, it’s time to defrost. Encased in a layer of ice, a freezer uses much more energy to keep food cold, contributing to higher energy bills. There are several ways to defrost a freezer. First, it’s important to unplug the freezer and remove all food and ice cube trays. Then, you can open the door and let it sit, or speed up the process with warm water. It’s a good idea to protect floor from any leaks with old newspapers or rags. EnergyStar has great tips for freezer maintenance.
Water Heater. This workhorse is prone to mineral deposits and sediment build-up. Keep your water heater running smoothly by draining water from the heater once a year. First, turn the power off and shut off all water supply. You’ll need a hose and a bucket. Simply drain water from the tank into a bucket. When the water stops flowing out of the hose, turn the water supply back on to flush sediment from the tank. Older water heaters may have weak or corroded drain valves, so be careful, and be sure to read any warning labels on the water tank.
May 10th, 2013
Recently, we came across an article titled “7 Jobs That Make the World a Better Place.” It’s a good list – landscape architect, solar power plant operator, recycling truck driver, energy auditor – hey, wait! That’s us! The article, posted on Patch.com, explained, “Energy auditors help curb energy waste by inspecting buildings to find areas of air leakage and advising customers on how to fix and prevent leaks.” Ideally, all jobs make a positive contribution to society in some way, but some certainly make a bigger impact than others. At EnerChange, we’re fortunate enough to spend our time helping nonprofit organizations use less energy.
So, why do we love working as energy consultants? Here’s 5 reasons!
1. Making a positive impact on the planet
This one is obvious, but it’s important! An energy consultants goal is a noble one: to reduce energy consumption Energy efficiency can alleviate all sorts of environmental problems, from air pollution to climate change to endangered species. Not bad for a day’s work.
2. Helping people solve problems
Energy efficiency has a lot of benefits for the environment, but there are major advantages for homeowners and businesses as well. Using less energy means lower energy bills. That means homeowners have more money in their pockets, businesses have more money to invest in innovation and job creation, and nonprofits can direct more resources to vital services.
3. Learning new things
Energy efficiency is a relatively new, evolving field. Scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs create so many new sustainable solutions, from energy efficient building materials to sustainable trade solutions. The tools and techniques of the trade are always changing, which makes the job exciting and flexible.
4. Contributing to a growing industry
The clean energy industry is growing quickly. According to the Brookings Institute, in 2011, there were 2.17 million jobs in the clean economy. The Center for American Progress reports that for every million dollars spent on clean energy projects, 16.7 green jobs are created. That means investing in energy efficient buildings and upgrades to existing structures not only helps the planet, but helps people and economies thrive.
5. Meeting new people and organizations.
In a consultant role, one works with many different people and organizations. An energy consultant might work with homeowners, big corporations, small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government institutions, all with unique goals and perspectives. EnerChange offers energy consulting services to nonprofits, and we love helping organizations help others.
If you’re considering a career in clean energy or would like to learn more about energy efficiency, visit the Alliance To Save Energy. Got a question about energy efficiency audits for nonprofits in Minnesota? Contact EnerChange.
April 30th, 2013
The time is now to make your school greener. Whether your school building is brand new and LEED certified, or if it’s older and you’re not sure how upgraded things are, there are always ways to be kinder to the Earth within and outside of your facility. It’s actually pretty easy for faculty, staff, and students to all get involved in making your school greener! Here are just a few ideas.
Schools are typically large buildings that require many, many light bulbs. In fact, according to the Alliance to Save Energy, lighting can account for almost 50% of a school’s electrical bill. CFL and LED light bulbs use 50% to 80% less energy than traditional florescent bulbs. Although it’s an investment for schools to make the light bulb switch, it will save money (and the environment) in the long run.
Another easy way to save money by saving energy in schools is to make sure electronics are shut down and/or unplugged when not in use. This means:
- Putting computers in sleep mode during the day, and turning them off and unplugging them or turning off the power strips at night
- Unplugging other not-in-use electronics, such as chargers, projectors, and televisions
- Keeping charging stations on only as needed. If they can be turned off at night and back on in the morning, do so.
Recycling is immensely important for schools. Not only does it keep recyclable items out of the landfill, but it also teaches students to take those recycling skills and use them at home. There are multiple ways all throughout the school building to make recycling a regular part of the day. A couple of those ways are:
- Lunch room: Buying something such as applesauce in bulk rather than small plastic cups will reduce the amount of plastic that you have to throw away.
- Recycle art project materials: Put paper scraps in the right bin, dispose of old/unusable materials in the correct ways, keep big scraps to reuse/think of creative ways to use them
- Books: Even when books are no longer relevant for you and your classroom, schools who can’t afford to buy new books will gladly take them.
- Conserve paper: Have a paper due next week? Have students print on the front and back sides of paper in order to use less.
- Excite students: Kids will be more excited to recycle if they’ve contributed a personal touch to the effort. Get kids to help decorate recycle bins. For example, you can use a box for paper recycling, and let kids draw on it with markers. If they’re young kids, have them draw a picture of how they recycle to decorate the wall by the bin. Get them involved!
- Make a big art project out of recycled materials to gain the attention of the whole school. Have students collect bottles or cans from recycle bins around the school and at home, and create some sort of sculpture or other art project. Get creative!
Going green and being eco-friendly aren’t only about saving energy and recycling. There are several ways for your cafeteria to go green, too! While these ideas might require a little more work and more involvement to make the change, the payoff is great.
- Composting: Set up a school compost pile, or find some nearby at different farms and community gardens that would be willing to take school compost. Give compostable materials back to the Earth!
- Local Food: Buying locally-grown food will not only help the local economy, but will also ensure fresher produce, and less air pollution without all the food transport.
- Buy in Bulk: As we mentioned in the recycling section, buying some foods in bulk cuts down on packaging, so there’s less to throw away. Also, it usually costs less to buy, since you don’t have to buy the packaging.
If your school is in the Minnesota area and you’re ready to save money by saving energy, contact us! Our program is completely free for nonprofits. We’ll analyze the inner workings of your facility, and then help you put new processes and materials in place (again, at no cost to you) to save your facility money by saving energy.
April 22nd, 2013
Happy Earth Day!
We’d love to celebrate by planting trees, but instead we’ll be drinking hot chocolate and shoveling snow. Minnesota may always get more than its fair share of snow, but that’s especially true this year, with the fourth snowiest April on record. At least we’ll save on cooling costs?
By the weekend, the Twin Cities could experience summer-like weather with highs in the 70s, heating up faster than you can say “dead snowman.” 8 inches of snow on Monday and a day at the beach on Saturday – that’s Minnesota!
An April snowstorm may not be best way to ring in Earth Day 2013, but the rapidly changing weather is a great reminder that our planet works in mysterious ways, and that our ecosystems and climates are incredibly complicated. So, here’s to you, Earth. You’re one weird planet.
March 27th, 2013
We all know about the benefits of solar power: it’s a renewable resource, it doesn’t create pollution, it’s relatively simple to implement. Yet solar power accounts for only 0.1% of the United’s States electricity. This is because for all its advantages, solar power has one major disadvantage: cost. Harnessing the power of the sun requires solar panels, and solar panels are very expensive.
Enter Mosaic, a new startup based in Oakland, California that matches organizations seeking solar power with investors. It’s kind of like Kickstarter, only investors make their money back gradually over a period of 5-10 years as projects earn revenue.
We read about Mosaic in Mother Jones magazine, where journalist Kate Sheppard wrote, “In order to qualify, projects must be for organizations that are financially stable, have adequate insurance, and benefit the wider community in some way. Recent projects include affordable housing projects, a convention center, several nonprofits, a grocery store, and a Native American reservation.”
Currently, only accredited investors (as determined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) and individuals living in New York and California (which have looser state regulations) can invest money in Mosaic projects. So far, Mosaic has helped organizations raise over $1.1 million for solar projects – a win-win situation for both investors and participating organizations.
Find out more about Mosaic at their website, and read the full story at Mother Jones.
March 8th, 2013
Earlier this month, The New York Times announced the cancellation of the Green blog, which focused on environment and energy. The Times says the change will allow the paper to “direct production resources to other online projects” and promises to continue to report on the topics covered in the Green blog, such as “climate change, land use, threatened ecosystems, government policy, the fossil fuel industries, the growing renewables sector, and consumer choices.” We at EnerChange, along with thousands of other readers, are sad to see the blog go.
The Green blog launched in April of 2010 as an outgrowth of the Times’ Green Inc. blog. It covered a huge variety of topics related to the environment and energy, from to fracking to to climate change to the plight of endangered species (including Minnesota’s moose problem), with an eye on national and international stories.
Take a look at the comments on the blog’s farewell announcement and you’ll see dozens of angry readers, accusing the New York Times of prioritizing fashion trends and fluff pieces over critical environmental coverage. While negative comments aren’t particularly uplifting, it’s nice to see a community of people passionate about conserving energy and protecting our planet.
We’ll miss the Green blog, but look forward to continued coverage in the paper’s Science/Environment section. Need some reading recommendations? Here are some of our favorite sources for green news:
Another way to stay informed? Connect with EnerChange on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube. Let’s keep the conversation going!
March 5th, 2013
DOWNLOAD THE PODCAST
Select the February 16, 2013 episode “Energy Saving Programs”
Team EnerChange had a fantastic time as guests on The Centsible Energy Hour on WCCO Radio 830. EnerChange’s Executive Director Steve Seidl and Vice President Mike Menzel appeared on the February 16, 2013 episode “Energy Saving Programs” to talk about how EnerChange helps non-profit organizations improve energy efficiency and cut utility costs. Becca Verdin from Xcel Energy also joined the conversation.
You’ll hear Steve discuss how EnerChange got started, learn about the EnerChange approach to an energy evaluation, and get some great tips for saving energy from Becca Verdin of Xcel Energy.
“We have made a lot of progress, saved a lot of energy, and are living up to our promise to help non-profits to save money by saving energy,” Steve Seidl said on the show. “EnerChange is about converting knowledge into real action.”
Since its start in 2010, EnerChange has worked on 354 buildings, including churches, schools, and senior living facilities. We’re eager to bring our services to more organizations in need. Ready to take a long, hard look at your energy usage? Contact EnerChange!
February 26th, 2013
Fact: our natural resources are limited, and we’re using them at an unsustainable rate. So, we need to find new energy sources. As wind energy and solar power become more common, scientists are testing potential new sources of energy to power our homes, workplaces, and industries. Recently, we came across an entertaining (if not mystifying and at times gross) article by How Stuff Works cataloging 10 of the strangest alternative energy sources.
Here’s a summary of the 10 weirdest energy sources. Read the full post at How Stuff Works.
- Muscle Power: Energy created by human movement.
- Piezoelectricity: Electricity generated by touching metal, such as cell phone buttons while texting.
- Hot Air: Heat from the sun trapped by tall solar updraft towers.
- Methane Emissions: Methane extracted from cow excrement and converted into a high-quality biogas fuel.
- Crude Oil: Derived from industrial yeast and benign strains of E.coli microorganisms.
- Marine Wind Farms: Wind energy, created by wind turbines tethered to the ocean floor.
- Wind-Powered Ships: Cargo ships powered by 13,000 square foot kites.
- Small Nuclear Reactors: The size of a hot tube, one of these devices could power 20,000 homes.
- Coffee Oil: Depending on the bean, coffee grounds contain enough oil to create biodiesel fuel.
- Mirrored Balloons: Released into the atmosphere, these balloons would transmit solar energy to receiving stations on Earth.
Intrigued? Read about the students, scientists, and research teams pioneering these creative energy sources in How Stuff Works piece, “10 Wacky Forms of Alternative Energy.” And for help conserving the regular old energy we use daily, read the EnerChange blog for tips or contact EnerChange to schedule a free energy assessment.
February 14th, 2013
This Saturday, when the dog has been walked and the brunch dishes scrubbed clean, tune into WCCO-AM Radio for The Centsible Energy Hour, a weekly talk show on WCCO-AM 830 focused on energy, economics, and “centsible” ways to go green.
This week, EnerChange Executive Director Steve Seidl will join hosts Mike Rogers and Mike Woodley to talk all things EnerChange. You’ll hear Steve talk about EnerChange’s work with non-profit organizations. We’ve helped dozens of schools, charities, and residential communities save money by saving energy by reducing energy consumption, updating facilities, and leveraging rebates and utility-funded programs. Plus, Steve will share tips for going green (and saving the paper green!) at home. And as always, listeners can call the show for advice.
We’re super excited to be a guest on The Centsible Energy Hour! Tune in at WCCO-AM 830 at 12:00 p.m. Central time on February 16th, 2013. Got lunch plans? We’ll post the podcast soon. And be sure to connect with The Centsible Energy Hour on Facebook and Twitter.
For more information about EnerChange’s free services for non-profit organizations, read about our energy conservation process.
January 30th, 2013
According to the Energy Information Agency, clothes dyers account for over 4% of total residential energy use in the United States. If you’re looking to cut back on energy usage and shrink your utility bill, the clothes dryer is a great place to start. You can boost efficiency by cleaning the lint filter to improve air circulation, drying full loads only, or using cooler cycles when possible. Of course, the best way to reduce laundry-related energy consumption is to dry clothes on a clothesline. But during winter, an outdoor clothesline isn’t an option. Instead, try wool dryer balls
Like magic, wool dryer balls cut down drying time by 20-50%, soften your clothes, and reduce static cling. Wool dryer balls are sold on Amazon.com and Etsy.com for $15-$20, but they are an easy, affordable DIY project. And bonus, they are 100% natural.