Posted on: 08-31-2011 at 10:41am
Understanding the correct ways to save on energy in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas
Myth #1: Turning ON and OFF a light, computer or TV uses more energy than just leaving it ON.
Fact: According to the Department of Energy, incandescent lights should be turned OFF whenever they’re not needed to save on energy. Did you know that 90% of the energy used to power a light bulb is converted to heat, while a dismal 10% is used to generate light? Turning standard incandescent lights OFF will always help you save on energy costs, even if it’s for just a few seconds. The same rule applies to other electronics such as TVs and computers. If not in use, turn them OFF.
A related myth is leaving a ceiling fan ON will cool the room. Not true. Fans cool people (feels up to 5 degrees cooler) by moving the envelope of hot air around them, but they don’t cool rooms, so turn them OFF as well when a room is unoccupied.
For the new Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs), it’s a little more complicated. With relatively high prices of electricity, a fairly conservative guideline is that it is cost effective to turn them OFF after about 5 minutes of use. With CFLs (especially the least expensive and older ones), turning them ON and OFF rapidly will shorten their lifespan and may limit your overall savings. Some manufacturers offer models with higher switching cycles; these are ones designated as heavy duty or can typically be found as a standard feature in the newer models. One investigation indicates that a CFL will always provide a savings after 50 hours or so of use.
Myth #2: It takes more energy to cool a house if the air conditioner has been OFF all day rather than keeping it running at a higher temperature (85 degrees, for example).
Fact: Cooling a hot house down at the end of the day always takes less energy than leaving the air conditioner running all day, even if it’s running on a high setting. Your air conditioner runs more efficiently when it operates for longer periods compared to short cycles of ON and OFF. One long cycle at the end of the day will save more on your energy than a number of short cycles during the whole time away. Using a programmable thermostat will allow you to turn the unit OFF and still cool the house down before you arrive home from work or your extended time away and help save on energy.
Myth #3: Turning my thermostat way down will make my home cooler a lot faster.
Fact: It doesn’t help speed up the process at all, and if you forget to reset the thermostat to the desired temperature, then you’ll just be wasting energy and money. Setting the temperature lower than the desired end temperature won’t get it there any faster (just like pressing an elevator button a lot of times won’t get you there any faster). Your thermostat is more like a light switch (ON or OFF) than a water hose (opening up the spigot to allow more water to come out). A programmable thermostat will let you plan in advance if you’d like to cool things down by the time you get home.
Myth #4: Buying a highly efficient air conditioner will automatically save me a lot of money on my energy bill.
Fact: Although not completely a myth, if things aren’t done right by the right people, then you could spend more up front than you need to and not save as much as you could over the life of the new unit. A big mistake is automatically replacing your current unit with one of the same size or larger without having an energy audit or other professional analysis done first. Bigger is not always better, especially in this case. The rule of thumb is to have one ton of refrigeration per 500 square feet, and both the inside air handler and the outside condenser unit must have the same tonnage.
If your duct system is leaking, then it needs to be fixed first. More than 60% of all homes experience leaks in their duct system; leaks can often times account for roughly 20 – 30% air loss (either heated or cooled air). Improper installation of a unit also can produce large amounts of energy being wasted due to leakage. Once the leaks are fixed and with the proper design by a quality company, it wouldn’t be surprising if they’re able to recommend a smaller unit than what is currently installed. The same design and installation concerns are apparent in the replacement of windows, adding insulation and/or a radiant barrier, and the purchase of other energy efficient items.
Myth #5: Using duct tape for sealing ducts is the right solution.
Fact: Through experience and laboratory testing, it has been clearly shown that duct tape is not the right solution. Unless it is just for a temporary, very short-term fix that you intend to replace, do not use duct tape. Contrary to its name, duct tape is great for hundreds of uses, but definitely not for repairing leaky ducts! In laboratory testing with 31 other sealants, duct tape was the only one that failed and failed consistently. In the typical hot attic, duct tape has very low durability and will dry out and separate from the ductwork the tape is being applied to. The best choice is mastic, a gooey glue-like substance that is painted on and hardens. A second choice would be a tape that is certified as UL 181A compliant for rigid ducts, or 181B for flexible duct work.
Myth #6: The largest source of air leakage in the home is around windows and doors. Therefore, replacing older windows will save on energy and money.
Fact: Although air leakage is one of the largest sources of energy loss in your home, the amount around windows and doors accounts for about 15% of the total loss. The largest amount is usually found in air duct leaks and holes in your ceiling and attic. Installing weather-stripping and caulking around doors and windows is always a good idea to save you money on your home energy. This will save you money, but replacing old windows with energy efficient ones is an expensive proposition and is very hard to justify on energy savings alone. If you have other reasons to replace your windows, besides to save on energy, then definitely replace them with Energy Star rated ones. You’ll see some savings in addition to having a new look and feel around your house.
Myth #7: Closing air ventilation registers and doors in unused rooms will save on energy usage and cost.
Fact: With today’s air-forced central cooling systems, closing too many air registers completely and closing the doors to those rooms increases the air pressure in your ducts. It can also cause or increase leaks or otherwise damage the system (freeze the coils, for example). According to a 2003 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “The reduction in building thermal loads due to conditioning only a part of the house was offset by increased duct system losses, mostly due to increased duct leakage.”
Another potential problem from air pressure imbalance is the buildup of mold. For example, if the attic entrance isn’t well sealed, the increased air pressure can draw hot, humid air from the attic which can then condense on a cool surface where mold can grow. Partially closing some registers, especially those closest to the unit is fine, but depending on the size and design of the house and ducting system, completely closing more than one or two will not be helpful to save you money on your home energy and could be harmful.
Myth #8: Using an electric dishwasher always uses more energy than washing dishes by hand.
Fact: Unless there are only a few dishes, then this is one case where the appliance wins out: washing by hand usually uses more hot water than using a dishwasher. According to a recent study at a university in Bonn, Germany, it was found that the dishwasher will use only one-half the energy and one-sixth of the water (and less soap, too)! Just follow some good practices with your dishwasher, and you’ll save those hands as well as some money on your energy bills. Most modern dishwashers do not require pre-rinsing; this saves water and energy, and you also need not bother with the Rinse & Hold cycle. Wait to wash a full load, and don’t use the heat cycle to dry the dishes. If your dishwasher has a pre-heater, then you can also set your water heater temperature lower.
Information researched and gathered for this publication came from a number of web sites:
- Iowa Energy Policy Council at http://www.coloradoenergy.org/tips/homeowner/hec/
- Department of Energy’s Energy Star site at http://www.energystar.gov/
- Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at http://www.lbl.gov/
- U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy site at http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/
Posted on: 08-26-2011 at 12:33pm
We care about our customers’ safety and satisfaction. As we enter hurricane season, weather-related emergencies become more likely. We encourage all customers to be prepared, by having the emergency contact numbers handy so you’ll know who to call in case of an outage.
Please see below for the emergency contact numbers for your area. Take precautions now to be safe and secure.
Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) Customers
Report emergencies immediately, including downed power lines, by calling 1-877-778-2222.
Potomac Electric Power (Pepco) Customers
Report emergencies immediately, including downed power lines, by calling 1-877-PEPCO-62 (1-877-737-2662).
Duquesne Light Customers
If you have an electric emergency, call Duquesne Light immediately at 1-888-393-7000.
They are available 24/7 to answer your emergency call.
If you have an electric emergency, call MetEd immediately at 1-888-544-4877.
They are available 24/7 to answer your emergency call.
If you have a electric emergency, call PECO immediately at 1-800-841-4141.
They are available 24/7 to answer your emergency call.
Report emergencies immediately, including downed power lines, by calling 1-800-DIAL-PPL (1-800-342-5775).
When prompted, press 1 for “electrical emergency.”
Oncor (TXU service area)
(Oncor can link to five different phone numbers with your ESID to speed restoration when you call to report outages. Call 888-313-6862 to set it up.)
CenterPoint (Reliant service area)
AEP Central (CPL service area)
TNMP (First Choice service area)
AEP North (WTU service area)
If you smell gas, quickly get away from the area. When you can no longer smell the gas, call Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) at its 24-hour emergency number: 1-877-427-4321 (outside metro Atlanta) or 770-907-4231 (in metro Atlanta).
Or, call 9-1-1 if you can’t remember the AGL number.
Visit www.safegas.org for more gas safety tips.
Be Prepared: Hurricane Irene
The Weather Channel classified Irene a powerful storm capable of causing extraordinary affects in the Northeast. This storm is real. It is large and very powerful.
Stream Energy recommends heeding all government warnings and advisories.
We’re dedicated to assisting our customers in weathering the affects of this dangerous storm. Although evacuations to areas out of the direct path of the storm are advised, here are a few steps to help you prepare for Hurricane Irene as it approaches.
Have a Storm Kit
This includes everything from a week’s worth of canned food, flashlights, batteries, bottled water, sleeping bags and pillows, personal hygiene items, a battery-operated radio and first aid supplies. When weathering a dangerous storm, it’s best to be over prepared.
Keep Local Emergency Numbers Handy
Not only does this include 911, but also your energy company, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and your insurance company. Having these numbers handy will provide great assistance after the storm has passed.
Local news stations, as well as The Weather Channel are providing round-the-clock, real-time updates on television as well as their websites. Stay informed with the most current information on the storm’s projected path and intensity. Remember, this storm is very large and capable of causing “extraordinary affects” for millions of people along the eastern seaboard.
Government websites also provide very useful information for helping prepare for weather emergencies. Here is a list of a few helpful websites that offer more information on how to be well prepared for Hurricane Irene:
Posted on: 08-23-2011 at 3:45pm
By Stream Energy Copywriter Katherine Lopez
We all know that this summer’s heat wave has been hard to deal with. The last thing anyone wants to do is be outside for more than 10 minutes because once you experience the scorching heat, the first thing that pops in your head is to get inside and adjust the AC similar to that of an igloo. It is no secret that staying cool means using energy, and at times we use an unnecessary amount. However, we have a responsibility to conserve our natural energy sources. Not only will we be doing the earth a huge favor but our pockets will be thankful as well!
So, the question is why should we conserve energy? Is it really that important? What is conserving energy? Well, the answers are simple. Conserving means to use or manage wisely, and to prevent loss. The act of conserving energy is important and the reasons as to why one should are just as significant. First of all, being conscious of how you use energy will help you save money on your energy bill. Using energy sources at a minimum and replacing energy equipment with more environmentally friendly technologies can help you get started on the right track.
Many commentators believe we are running out of our natural energy suppliers, such as oil. To go one step further, the fossil fuels that are used to make energy are typically used for cars and electricity used in our homes. These fuels produce carbon dioxide into the air, which in turn pollutes the air. These are definite red flags that need immediate attention. We should take steps to changing our habits to help our world.
Here are just a few tips on how you can conserve energy at home:
- Take short showers instead of baths
- Air dry your dishes instead of using the dishwashers drying cycle
- Plug home electronics into a power strips and turn the strips off when the equipment is not in use
I am a strong believer in conserving energy; it is not something that should be put aside. We shouldn’t be careless, but rather think ahead and plan for our children’s children to have the opportunity to experience the wonders of energy. In order to replace one behavior, you must substitute it with another learned behavior. It’s easy!
Here are a few websites to visit for more information:
Posted on: 08-17-2011 at 4:58pm
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.
Posted on: 08-12-2011 at 3:41pm
By Stream Energy Director of Wholesale Gas Operations Mark Bush
As with any growing company, the prospect of expansion is incredibly appetizing. The thoughts of expanding into new markets, gaining more customers and generating more revenue become a focal point of business. But Stream Energy is concerned with much more than just aggressive expansion. We must remain committed to the home bases that got us to where we are today.
The recent Power Surge in Atlanta was very needed and very well received by our Ignite Associates. A lot of energy and motivation was generated throughout the weekend. Expansion can be very exciting, but we need to remember our foundations that provided the framework for our current success. I believe it meant a lot to the people of Georgia for us to come to Atlanta and show them that Georgia is an important piece of the Stream Energy family.
But, we have to remember to take care of everyone. We are in the people business. We have to take care of our customers and Associates as well as the employees here at Stream Energy that take care of the Associates and customers. Power Surge went a long way to revitalize the Associate force in Georgia. With that came a lot of teamwork. I am very proud of the teamwork that took place at Stream Energy within the last few months that produced the new products for our Georgia customers. Both of the new products offered to our Georgia customers are new opportunities for Stream Energy. We have never offered a free gas promotion or a no-deposit product in which customers are not subjected to a deposit. This new product helps people become Stream Energy customers who might normally have challenges doing so.
We are in a very competitive environment. There is very little low-hanging fruit out there. We’ve always been a firm that has tried to offer very simple and affordable products in the marketplace. However, as our competitors become craftier with their offerings, we have to be able to adapt and react quickly. In that, the free gas and no deposit promotions are some of the ways that we are trying to compete in the marketplace. The challenges we face with these new products are ensuring accurate reporting on the number of customers Stream Energy acquires via the different products; managing our bad debt exposure on these products; and ensuring that the products continue to be profitable for the firm.
I think it’s important to continue living out the Stream Energy mantras within the corporate walls but also outside the walls. Offering creative products to our Georgia customers further exemplifies Stream Energy’s dedication to those mantras. Bringing up an idea is one thing, but you must also execute the plan. Teamwork is vital to the future success of our firm. Many departments, such as IT, Regulatory, Customer Operations and Ignite Field Development all worked closely together to successfully deliver these new products to our Georgia customers.
Energy commodities are the most volatile traded commodities in the world. We have to monitor them on a daily basis. Weather forecasts constantly change, and that makes it very hard to determine how much electricity and natural gas we should purchase. It’s very challenging when the difference in millions of dollars rests on the shoulders of accurate weather forecasters and analysts.
The hot summer across the nation has put a lot of demands on the Wholesale department at Stream Energy. July has gone down as one of the hottest months on record in the U.S., especially in the Northeast and here in Texas. The consistently high demand for electricity is something we have to be very mindful of as this affects our profitability.
Another weather phenomenon we constantly monitor is hurricanes. Earlier this year, analysts predicted between four and six major hurricanes to affect the U.S. We’ve had a slow start, thus far. However, we have to be very cautious of what could be lurking around the corner. Hurricanes don’t have a huge impact on the natural gas sector unless they come through the Gulf of Mexico and into the production region. What might appear as simple tropical depression with no real structure could suddenly develop overnight into a tropical storm and soon after that into a major hurricane barreling into the Gulf.
The onshore Shale gas production in places like Texas and Louisiana offer a natural gas source that is not threatened by hurricanes. This new drilling technology creates huge natural gas resources. Natural gas has a bright future within the U.S. as analysts believe there is more than 100 years’ worth of natural gas for the current U.S. demand. It is a very attractive industry.
Stream Energy has a bright future in Georgia as well as other markets. We currently manage less than 3% of the market share in Georgia, so expansion within that state is something to focus on in itself. Georgia was the first state to deregulate in natural gas. In terms of deregulation, it is a very mature market. However, because it has been so competitive, there has not been a new market entry since Stream Energy entered the state three years ago. Stream Energy hasn’t done everything perfectly, but we continue to improve every year in a market that is very competitive. Successfully managing the Stream business model in markets we currently serve helps us to build the foundation for continued expansion into other markets.