superuser's blog

How far would you go to win an energy-saving contest? The Hall family of Bellevue, Washington turned off their lights, unplugged all nonessential appliances, brewed their coffee and cooked their meals outside, and used computers at the library instead of at home. In one month, they reduced their energy consumption by 94%, easily winning the grand prize—a $7,500 Lowe’s gift card—in the Be an Energy Rockstar contest sponsored by Puget Sound Energy. Students at Minnesota’s Carleton College went even further: they camped outside for the duration of their winter campus competition.

Yesterday, the US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a proposed rule for furnaces that would provide significant savings for consumers on their home heating bills, and be among the biggest natural-gas saving standards ever completed by the agency. The new standards would reduce gas and propane furnace energy consumption by about 13% relative to basic furnaces sold today.

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Communities face a growing number of stresses that pose risks to their energy systems and economies. These include aging infrastructure in need of costly maintenance upgrades and severe weather events. Energy efficiency is a strategy—albeit not a broadly recognized one—to enhance the resilience of energy systems and the communities they serve.

Proposed new standards for gas fireplaces may make a cozy night in front of the fire a little cheaper. For decorative hearth products, the little blue flame that stands ready to light your gas fireplace at a moment’s notice can account for about 40% of the total annual energy consumed. Standing pilots lights are on 24/7, continuously burning small amounts of gas and sending dollars needlessly up your chimney.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama rightly pointed to a thriving domestic auto industry as a bright spot in the U.S. economy. It’s a good time to recall that the government’s 2008-2009 intervention on behalf of GM and Chrysler played a big role in that outcome, as did energy efficiency.

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Energy efficiency programs serving utility customers have grown rapidly over the past decade. While the rates of growth may have slowed in the last couple of years, most states have policies in place to achieve higher and higher energy savings from utility energy efficiency programs. In order to achieve high energy savings, program administrators can follow two key strategies: (1) get more customers to participate, and (2) get more savings from each participating customer.

Everyone knows that energy efficiency results in saving energy, but evidence points to an array of wider benefits. The term “multiple benefits” has emerged to describe the additional value that emerges with any energy performance improvement. The benefits that occur onsite can be especially meaningful to manufacturing, commercial, and institutional facilities. Energy efficiency’s positive ripple effects include increased productivity and product quality, system reliability, and more.