Warm up with DOE’s winter home tips

Energy Saver is the U.S. Department of Energy's consumer resource on saving energy and using renewable energy technologies at home. Check out the website, blog and Energy Saver Guide for consumer education material.
Energy Saver is the U.S. Department of Energy’s consumer resource on saving energy and using renewable energy technologies at home. Check out the website, blog and Energy Saver Guide for consumer education material. (Photo by DOE Energy Saver program)

Around this time of year, we are all getting fed up with cold weather and the high utility bills that come with it. Your customers might appreciate some suggestions for saving money and keeping warm over the next few (or, in some places, several) weeks. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has just the thing for your website or bill stuffer.  Here are simple steps we can all take to stay warm.

1. Spruce up the fireplace
Before you build that cozy fire and settle in with a good book and a hot beverage, give your fireplace some love.

Replacing your inefficient wood-burning fireplace with a more efficient wood stove or gas insert can turn your pretty–but high–maintenance—fireplace into a viable way to heat your home. Converting your fireplace will not only save you on monthly heating costs, it can improve air quality in your community. It could even put money back in your pocket—some states offer rebates or tax credits for upgrading your inefficient fireplace.

If you aren’t ready to update your fireplace, try adding glass doors with a heat-air exchange system. Make sure your fireplace is cleaned and your flue damper properly sealed. Also, try to keep the fireplace damper closed when you don’t have a fire burning to keep heat from your furnace from going up the chimney.

2. Reverse your fan
The same ceiling fan that helps to keep you cool in the summertime can also help circulate warm air in the winter. Look for a little switch on the motor housing to reverse the direction of your fan, pushing warm air down and recirculating it through the room. How do you ensure that your fan is spinning in the correct direction? When you look up, the blades are spinning clockwise.

3. Protect your lawn so it can protect you
Properly planned landscaping can save you energy and increase your home’s comfort. Windbreaks can help keep your heating bills under control by blocking the cold winter wind around your home. A wall or fence, evergreen trees and shrubs planted on the north, west and east sides of your home can be most effective in creating a windbreak and reducing heating costs.

Especially in some parts of the West, wet spring snowfall can snap branches that provide cooling shade during the summer. Worse yet, a broken branch could fall on a power line and cause an outage in the neighborhood.  Use a broom or a mop to shake the heavy snow off tree branches and relieve some of the weight.

4. Air-seal then insulate
Reducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of your home is one of the most cost-effective ways you can cut heating and cooling costs, improve durability, increase comfort and create a healthier indoor environment. Caulking and weather stripping are two simple and effective air-sealing techniques that offer quick returns on investment, often one year or less

5. Windows, windows, windows
Your windows do more than provide a view of snow-covered yards. They also provide a barrier to the cold. Windows with low-e coating reduce heat loss and even reflect back part of the room’s heat. Installing storm windows can also reduce heat loss through windows by about 10 to 20 percent.

If replacing windows is too big an investment, return to Step 4 and put some fresh calking around the panes and sill. Choose window coverings designed to help improve the performance of old windows. As a bonus, your home will get a little spring facelift to help you through the last dreary weeks of winter.

Read more about sustainability and implementing energy upgrades within the home on DOE’s Energy Saver blog, a great resource for customer education material.

Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

EERE Network News gets facelift, new delivery date

One of your best resources for the latest developments in clean energy and wise energy use (besides the Energy Services Bulletin, of course) is about to make some changes. Starting Nov. 10, the EERE Network News will become the EERE Weekly Digest of Clean Energy News and arrive in your inbox each Thursday.

There’s more: The new weekly newsletter will spotlight some of the fresher content offered by EERE, including videos and blogs. Browse the video gallery for short features on topics ranging from efficiency programs to technology to competition to financing. The EERE blog covers current Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy projects, interviews with energy experts and success stories about EERE’s technology offices and national laboratories.

If you don’t already subscribe to the EERE newsletter, You are leaving WAPA.gov. there is no time like the present to change that. Just a sample of what you missed in this week’s issue includes stories on the 40th anniversary of the DOE National Weatherization Program and Zillow’s partnership with the Sunshot Initiative.

You can also subscribe to newsletters that focus on specific technology programs. Key accounts managers may be interested in advanced manufacturing or building technology updates. The FEMP Digest offers valuable news for facilities managers, federal and otherwise. For resource planners, publications on wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy and fuel cells highlight activities, projects, events and education and funding opportunities.

The changes in the electric utility industry are coming hard and fast and can sometimes seem overwhelming. The EERE newsletters make it a little easier for busy professionals to keep up with—and maybe even get ahead of—the next big issues.

Source: EERE Network News, 11/2/16

Lake City, Colo., installs weather station from Equipment Loan Program

Western Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann (left) and GCEA Energy Use Specialist Alantha Garrison talk to Lake City Community School students about the town’s new weather station. (Photo by Gunnison County Electric Association)
Western Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann (left) and GCEA Energy Use Specialist Alantha Garrison talk to Lake City Community School students about the town’s new weather station. (Photo by Gunnison County Electric Association)

Gunnison County Electric Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (GCEA) has joined the list of Western customers who have borrowed a weather station from our Equipment Loan Program to teach students and their parents about the weather in their community.

Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann traveled to Lake City, Colorado, in November to deliver the unit and help technicians from GCEA install it on a theater. The station collects data on temperature, humidity, wind speed, rainfall, solar energy and more. The information is available on the Weather Underground website You are leaving WAPA.gov..

Lake City Community School students, teachers and district officials attended an unveiling event for the weather station organized by Philip Virden, the theater owner. Teachers plan to incorporate the weather station data into science lesson plans. The data will help the next generation of consumers gain a better understanding of how the weather relates to energy use and renewable energy generation.

When school is out, GCEA will continue to use the weather station data to monitor conditions for service calls in the Lake City area. GCEA Energy Use Specialist Alantha Garrison hopes the data can help cooperative members to better understand their utility bills, as well. Both Garrison and Virden are observers for the National Weather Service, so they appreciate the value of accurate weather information.

We look forward to following GCEA and the community as they put their weather data to use in the coming year. You can read more about the weather station in the GCEA News (Page 9). To learn more about education tools available from Western’s Equipment Loan Program, contact Gary Hoffmann.

NRECA recognizes Western customer for helping Montana schools win national efficiency challenge

Western congratulates  Southeast Electric Cooperative Redirecting to a non-government site for earning the Community Service Award-Youth Division from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Redirecting to a non-government site (NRECA). Earlier this year, the Montana cooperative helped to coach a team of students from Carter County, Mont., to victory in America’s Home Energy Education Challenge Redirecting to a non-government site.

Karen Kreitel and Marlene Waterland of Southeast Electric Cooperative with NRECA CEO Glenn English and NRECA President Mike Guidry. (Photo by Southeast Electric Cooperative)

The national student competition encourages students and their families to start saving money by saving energy.  The judges, who are science teachers, evaluated entries based on the inclusion of multiple schools, student participation, energy savings and a final report.  At least 94 schools and 120,000 students participated nationwide.

In June, Energy Services Bulletin reported on the Carter County School District’s triumph in the competition. Southeast Member Services Representative Marlene Waterland worked with five schools in the co-op’s territory to help them with their energy saving plans. Educational displays she borrowed from Western’s Equipment Loan Program helped to demonstrate concepts about energy use to third- through eighth-graders. 

The Carter County team – Alzada Elementary School, Carter County High School, Ekalaka Elementary School (K-8th grade), Hammond School (K-8th grade) and Hawks Home School – won the national competition by successfully reducing their home energy use by 3.4 percent. Montana Electric Cooperatives Inc.  Redirecting to a non-government site submitted that program to NRECA for national consideration.

Waterland accepted the award at the 12th annual TechAdvantage Expo Feb. 20. NRECA CEO Glenn English praised the small rural utility, noting, “Southeast Electric Cooperative has shown what it means to be a cooperative by engaging with the community – from age 5 on up – and finding new ways to improve the quality of life for their consumer members.”

Montana co-op borrows tools, coaches students to energy championship

Note: This story originally appeared in the Energy Services Bulletin for June 2012.

Winning the America’s Home Energy Education Challenge was a big victory for the students of Carter County, Mont., and Western is proud to have played a small role in the team’s success through our customer Southeast Electric Cooperative.

Southeast Electric Member Services Rep. Marlene Waterland shows students from Hawks Home School the different types of light bulbs on the lighting display, borrowed from Western’s Equipment Loan Program. (Photo by Southeast Electric Cooperative)


Teaching energy awareness

The team of five schools split a prize of $15,000 for tracking and reducing home energy use over three months. The Department of Energy created the national school competition to educate students and their families about the opportunities to save money by saving energy. Teams of third through eighth grade students worked with their science teachers and local utility companies to develop energy savings plans that reduce the amount of energy used to power their homes.

Marlene Waterland of Southeast Electric coordinated the program for Alzada Elementary School, Carter County High School, Ekalaka Elementary School, Hammond School and Hawks Home School. Using a lighting efficiency display and infrared cameras from Western’s Equipment Loan Program, the member services representative introduced students to different ways of thinking about energy waste and efficiency. “The displays are excellent teaching tools that we couldn’t afford otherwise,” Waterland said.

“It was great to be able to help Southeast Electric Cooperative and Marlene inspire these kids to apply their math and science skills to a real-life problem—how to save money by using energy efficiently at home,” said Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann.

Showing and telling

One of Western’s most popular educational tools, the lighting display shows how new technology can save energy using equipment everyone has in their homes—light bulbs.  The new lighting display incorporates lamps that may still be unfamiliar to consumers. “A lot of our customers are still trying to adjust to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs),” Waterland admitted. “It helps for them to see the different Kelvin ratings, and learn that they can buy brighter lights.”

The long-lasting cold cathode bulb, which is designed to be used outdoors in cold temperatures, also peaked student interest. “They could see how it could be useful for saving energy specifically in Montana,” said Waterland.

Southeast Electric Cooperative frequently borrows Western’s IR cameras to perform free home energy audits for its customers. Using the tool to teach 7th and 8th graders about energy losses gave Waterland the chance to do a “commercial” for Southeast’s free home energy audit program. She also took the camera to another school in the utility’s territory that wasn’t participating in the Challenge. “I try to schedule as many appointments and events as possible when I have Western equipment checked out,” she explained.

She walked the students of the small country school through a preliminary energy audit, showing them how the camera worked and what to look for. During the audit, the students discovered that a furnace filter had not been properly installed, so they were able to correct a problem.

All talents welcomed

The students of Carter County School District turned out to be quick—and creative—studies. They talked to their family members about energy- and money-saving steps they could take, including turning off the lights when leaving the room and running the laundry machine with cooler water and full loads. In an agricultural community, using timers for engine block heaters for tractors turned out to be a big saver.

It wasn’t only what the students did, but how they did it that earned them the award. Some students went right for the dollars and cents, Waterland recalled. “Southeast publishes fact sheets that give the monthly costs for running appliances, and they put those to good use,” she said. “You could see how the project pushed them to apply their math skills.”

Others applied their imagination to energy planning, with one sixth grade class writing fiction stories about saving energy. The national competition included a poster contest that gave artistically inclined students a way to encourage their families and communities to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Southeast awarded its own prize of $50 for the best local poster.

Local buy-in

To sharpen the local competition, Southeast also offered a $100 prize to the family that saved the most energy during the competition. “Of the 49 students participating, 20 families reduced their energy use, and the winner saved 41 percent,” Waterland said. “The family told us that their daughter ran around the house every night unplugging everything.”

Winning America’s Home Energy Education Challenge required focus, teamwork and long hours—and not just from the students. “It was demanding competition and the teachers were really good at keeping everyone on task,” said Waterland.

Waterland considers the 177 hours she spent coordinating the schools’ participation a worthwhile investment. “Southeast is a relatively small utility—only 900 customers and 2,000 meters—and we all support the community,” she explained. “Winning this competition is a source of pride for everyone.”

But the prize is more than just hometown pride, or even $15,000. It’s seeing students get excited about using math and science, and discovering creative ways to apply new skills. It’s teaching young people and their families to treat energy as the valuable resource to be used thoughtfully. And it’s preparing tomorrow’s consumers to work as partners with their utilities. “A student called me recently to find out whether it costs more to run a computer or a toaster, so they are still exploring how to save energy,” Waterland said. “There will be another competition, and these kids will be ready for it.”

Western customers can borrow educational displays—or other tools—from our Equipment Loan Program free of charge. You pay only for return shipping. Reserve your equipment online, or call Gary Hoffmann at 720-962-7420.

Registration Begins for America’s Home Energy Challenge

The U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Teachers Association are teaming up for America’s Home Energy Education Challenge,External link information a contest to help elementary and middle school students learn the science of energy and make wise choices about energy efficiency.

The goal of the competition is to educate America’s youth about the benefits of energy efficiency and the family’s role in energy use while helping families across the country reduce their energy bills. Registration for the nationwide student contest runs from Aug. 16 to Oct. 7, 2011.

The National Science Teachers Association External link information is running the program for DOE. The program will encourage students, teachers and families to learn more about energy use and efficiency, and to become more aware of how homes, schools and utilities are interconnected.

The competition is broken into two parts: the Home Energy Challenge and the Energy Fitness Award. Each is designed to encourage students to learn about science and home energy savings. Participants may choose one or get involved with both.

The Home Energy Challenge is a three-month contest for students and their teachers in the third through eighth grades. Students will collect data about their home energy use during that period and compare it to the previous year’s energy use for the same three months. Schools and classes will compete within 11 regions for more than $200,000 in prizes to be distributed at the regional and national levels of the competition. The first place regional award winners will qualify for the national competition, leading to evaluation for awards.

The second part of competition, the Energy Fitness Award, is an individual challenge that begins Sept. 20, 2011. Modeled after the President’s Physical Fitness Test, the Energy Fitness Award encourages students to complete specific tasks, such as interpreting a home energy bill and learning how to conduct a home energy assessment, and then demonstrate their learning and proficiency.

America’s Home Energy Education Challenge offers utilities a ready-made outreach program to raise consumers’ awareness about energy efficiency and steps they can take to reduce their energy use. It is also a great way to be a hero to teachers in your service territory by providing them with classroom projects to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Not to mention, the chance to win valuable prizes.

Burbank Water and Power helps Burbank youth build sustainable future

Students at Luther Burbank, John Muir and Jordan middle schools in Burbank, Calif., spent the month of February learning about the importance of water and energy conservation by participating in the LivingWise program funded by Burbank Water and Power (BWP).  Twenty Burbank middle school science teachers lead nearly 1,200 sixth grade students through a blend of teacher-designed classroom activities and hands-on home projects that comprise the LivingWise class curriculum.

The BWP-sponsored LivingWise program provides middle schools with efficiency and educational LivingWise kits for each student. The kit contains water and energy saving tools and products designed to teach students about energy and water sustainability. Each kit contains a low-flow showerhead, a low-flow kitchen faucet aerator, toilet leak detector tablets, a compact fluorescent light bulb and additional energy saving educational material. With the help of their parents, students install the products at home and help the entire family understand how to preserve water and energy resources.

BWP and the Burbank Unified School District have partnered on this educational program since 2007.  Teachers appreciate the LivingWise program as it brings to life California’s required environmental educational standards for sixth grade students.  The program also includes a friendly competition between the science classes to see which classes have the highest installation rates.  BWP provides gift cards for classroom supplies to the first-, second- and third-placed classes at each school, with first-placed classrooms receiving $250 in supplies.

Wealth of resources available to tribes

DOE’s Tribal Energy Program offers many publications and programs to help Indian tribes develop clean energy and energy efficiency resources:

  • Renewable Energy Development in Indian Country: A Handbook for Tribes is an accessible reference for those who are new to energy project development or seek a refresher on key development issues as they navigate the project development process. Developed by Douglas MacCourt of Ater Wynne LLP for the Tribal Energy Program, the handbook supports tribal leaders, tribal economic and energy enterprises with overviews of the renewable energy project development process, discussion on how to protect tribal interests and exploration of financing options.
  • The recently updated Renewable Energy Development on Tribal Lands brochure provides an overview of the program, including mission and purpose, 129 funded tribal energy projects, renewable energy resource information, education and training, technical assistance, and information resources. Download a copy on the Tribal Energy Program website.
  • Technical assistance and services offered by the Division of Energy and Mineral Development (DEMD) in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. DEMD provides technical assistance and scientific information to help tribes and allottees maximize their resource potential from oil and gas, renewable energy, or mineral resources.
  • Technical assistance to tribal EECBG recipients—DOE’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP) will be undertaking some new initiatives to provide technical assistance to Tribal Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant recipients.  Learn more about TAP for tribal EECBG recipients.
  • More technical assistance opportunities are available to assist Federally-recognized Indian tribes, bands, nations or other organized groups and communities with renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. It may include renewable energy technology information, renewable resource information, energy efficiency techniques, project support, system performance modeling, policy information, design review, special studies, strategic energy planning and training. Download the technical assistance request form, fill it out, and forward it to the Tribal Energy Program.
  • Student internships are available to current college upper-classmen and graduate students for summer 2011 internships. Students must be U.S. citizens and Native Americans with specific interest in renewable energy. Applications are due Feb. 18, 2011. Download the application, or learn more the internship program, and see comments of past interns and their papers.