Tag Archives: energy

It’s Audit Time (Energy Audit, That Is)

Photo by USDAgov

Taxes done? Congrats! Here’s another item for your to-do list before the Texas heat starts blasting down on us full force. April is the perfect month for a home energy audit! Do you really want to wait till August to start thinking about putting insulation in your attic?  

Why Hire a Pro?

An unsealed house is kind of like a leaky air mattress – no matter how much air you pump into it, it keeps rushing out the holes. We’ve got some terrific energy-saving tips that can help you detect and correct energy leaks all over the house, and chances are that you can do many of the fixes yourself. But the pros have the tools and expertise to find lots more than your typical DYI-er can. Two or three hours with a professional energy auditor can save you thousands and thousands of dollars in the years ahead. And if you’re buying a house, an energy audit is an essential pre-purchase step.

Inspection Lite or a Full Physical?

Energy assessments tend to fall into two categories:

  • A home energy survey is a walk-through visual inspection without diagnostic tools.  Inspectors will examine your windows, doors, ductwork, insulation, HVAC systems, appliances and lighting. They’ll study your electric bills and ask you about your comfort levels. Your final report should include recommendations for action, including tasks you can take care of yourself.
  • For a more detailed picture of your home’s energy usage, you’ll need a full building audit. This is where it gets high-tech! Inspectors pinpoint and measure air leaks with diagnostic tools like blower doors that suck the air out of your house and measure the air pressure, infrared thermographic scanners, duct leakage testers and combustion analyzers.  You’ll get a software analysis and detailed reports that tell you how much air your HVAC is leaking, how effective your wall and attic insulation is, and what specific steps you can take to stop wasting energy.

How to Get the Most From Your Home Energy Audit

  • Hire a certified energy auditor. Before you hire someone, ask to see a sample report. You want a clear to-do list that’s easy to understand and easy to follow.
  • Have all your energy bills ready for inspection. Do you have a smart meter? That makes it easy to create usage reports by time of day, week or year.
  • Make a list beforehand of your comfort issues, questions and top concerns.

Have you thought about having a professional energy audit? What energy efficiency improvements have you been able to take care of yourself? Tell us about it in the comments below. And don’t forget to subscribe to The Current for more energy saving tips.

Powering the Future

Photo by Flickr User Andres Rueda

One of the things we love about being a retail energy provider is learning about exciting new advances in science and technology. That’s why we were excited to read a Bizmology article recently about a California start-up company that’s exploring gallium nitride as a substitute for silicon in converters, transistors and switches.

The chemical properties of gallium nitride make it more efficient than silicon in terms of speed, temperature and its ability to handle power. In simple terms, gallium nitride loses less energy. Scientists hope that someday soon, gallium nitride might be an energy-efficient alternative to silicon in things like solar panels, electric cars, and military applications. To learn more about energy advances and news visit our Learning Center

Tell us about your favorite technological advancement in the comments below (and yes, it could be sliced bread). And don’t forget to subscribe to The Current for information on everything from saving electricity to the latest energy news.

#EcoMonday: LED Lights Help Conserve Energy This Holiday Season

San Antonio River Walk (Photo Credit: PR Newswire)

The San Antonio River Walk is transformed during the holiday season, but this year’s presentation of lights is unlike any other before it.  San Antonio threw away more than 85,000 traditional lights and lit up 1.76 million multi-colored light emitting diode (LED) lights. These 1.76 million lights are wrapped around trees, strewn over bridges, and along the walkways of the historic River Walk (Source: Marketwatch).

The city may have added 20 times more lights, but they cut their energy consumption in half! How is that possible? Well, LED lights save the city something like 33,000 kilowatt hours of energy because they use 80 percent less energy than traditional lights. Plus, these lights are more durable – lasting for at least 10 years. HGTV says these lights are much friendlier for the environment  as well because they stay cooler, use less wattage, and conserve energy. San Antonio’s energy bill will be more manageable thanks to LED lighting, and so can yours!

#EcoMonday: Smart Meters Are On the Rise

(Photo Credit: pikeresearch.com)

Black Friday is over, but holiday shopping has just begun. Sitting atop most holiday wish-lists are smart items: smart phones, smart tablets, smart cars, even smart refrigerators!  But you may already have a pretty nifty smart gadget in your home; if not, you may be getting one sooner than you think. A new report by Berg Insight says more than 50 percent of North America will have smart meters by 2016! The installed base for smart meters will continue to grow at 22.5 percent per year, bringing the grand total of smart meters in North America to 87.4 million by 2016.

North America is at the “forefront of metering innovation” according to Tobias Ryberg, a senior analyst at Berg Insights and author of the report. Furthermore, North America is “embracing the latest smart technologies that improve grid performance.” Find out how First Choice Power is using the newest technology to your advantage by offering a Prepaid plan (a service that would not be possible without smart meters).

So, what’s this buzz about smart meters? How smart can they really be? Well, unlike traditional meters, smart meters provide information about your energy usage on a very detailed level – they can report your energy usage in as little as 15-minute increments. Using this information, you will be able to see when and where you are using the most energy in your home (hour by hour, day by day, or week by week)…no more waiting for your monthly energy bill or counting on accurate meter readings.

Smart meters communicate three ways. They talk to you, through in-home energy monitors or online portals, telling you how much energy you’re using. They talk to your poles and wires company, letting them know when there are outages so the company can get your power on faster. They also talk to your retail electric company (that’s us!), giving us better information about your energy usage so we can serve you better (and maybe even save you money!).

It’s easy to find out if you have a smart meter! Just call Customer Care, and they will help you out. If you don’t have one yet, don’t worry. Santa can’t install one for you, but your transmission and distribution service provider (a.k.a your poles and wires company) has the schedule for smart meter installations.

Looks like smart products are even more popular than you thought!

#EcoMonday: Revisiting the Extreme Home Energy Makeover Web Series for Winter

Jerold Davis from TexEnergy Solutions explaining DIY home energy audit tips to First Choice Power's LaShanda Babbs

As we prepare to give our homes a holiday makeover, it’s a great time to take another look at First Choice Power’s Extreme Home Energy Makeover series about the home energy audit held at Marie Weise’s home in Wallis, Texas. Weise won our Extreme Home Energy Makeover Sweepstakes; the prize being a free home energy audit and $5,000 to use on energy-efficient upgrades. 

Although the Extreme Home Energy Makeover series was posted over the summer, home energy audits are just as important with winter just around the corner.  

Interesed in knowing how much air leaves your house, or how much air comes in? What about the spots in your house that have little or no insulation? Schedule a home energy audit, and be more prepared for winter! Watch this video to become more familiar with the audit process, more specifically the blower door test. Or, if you aren’t in the market for a full home energy audit, check out this video to learn about the no-cost, no-hassle, DIY steps you can take to make your house more energy-efficient.

More information on energy audits may be found by clicking, here!

Fun Friday Energy Saving Tips

 

(Photo Credit: visualphotos.com)It is finally Friday, and the weekend has [almost] officially started! Whether you plan to lounge around the house or go out on the town, we have some fun tips to help you save energy.

Are you doing some early holiday shopping online? Or maybe you’re streaming your favorite television shows you missed this week, or keeping track of your fantasy football. Before you fire up that laptop, make sure your AC adapter is on a power strip that can be turned off (or will turn off automatically). EnergySavers reports the transformer in the AC adapter continuously sucks in power, even when the laptop isn’t plugged in! Talk about wasting energy!

In fact, 20 percent of the energy we use at home goes to powering electrical appliances, like our TVs, DVD players, coffee makers, toasters, and microwaves…even when they are turned off! To learn more, visit GetEnergyAware.org.

Did you know that hair dryers reach temperatures higher than the temperature required for water to boil? Hair dryers also use almost 1200 watts of electricity each time we dry our hair, according to EnergySavers.gov. Add the Silence HP to your Holiday Wish List! It’s the energy-efficient AND quiet hairdryer!

What better way to relax than a long shower? Don’t worry about wasting water, buy a water-efficient showerhead. For a family of four, it can cut water usage by as much as 280 gallons/month, without making a noticeable difference in water pressure. Learn more by clicking here.

Now get out there and enjoy your weekend! Happy Veteran’s Day!

Taking the Guesswork Out of Your Energy Bills

The weather, especially right now, is absolutely unpredictable in Texas – The Examiner reports that utility bills for Texans in summer months can range from $75 to $500. Furthermore, RSS Weather reports that daily temperatures can fluctuate by as much as 30 degrees between the months of October and April! Not only does this make dressing for the weather difficult, it also creates a stressful monthly guessing game for energy bills.

First Choice Power makes energy bills predictable with their new Average Billing program. This program averages customer’s energy usage, so monthly bills don’t fluctuate as dramatically. Sound too good to be true? It’s easy! (Take a look at the graph pictured to see your potential savings)

Each month, First Choice Power will average the customer’s energy usage with their usage over the past 11 months. That average amount will then be multiplied by the rate on which the customer agreed upon when signing his or her contract. Finally, we will add or subtract 1/12 of the accumulated difference between the customer’s average bill and his or her actual bills. This difference will fluctuate over time, making monthly energy bill payments as predictable and consistent as possible. 

Call us now to get more information on Average Billing at (866) 469-2464.

#EcoMonday: ‘Tis the Season… for Winter Weatherizing

How do you plan to prep your home for winter? (Photo Credit: roweandesign.com)

We all know a thing or two about Spring Cleaning – but what about “Winter Weatherizing”? It is just as, if not more, important for homeowners. Preparing your home for winter is an easy way to help out the environment—and your wallet.

Here are some tips to increase your home’s energy efficiency this winter:

  • Each degree you raise your thermostat increases your energy bill by three percent. Don’t sweat it – try “winterizing” your wardrobe and bundling up! Before you touch the thermostat, throw on a warm sweater, comfy socks or fuzzy boots while you’re sitting around at home. Also, keep in mind last week’s post about using a programmable thermostat.
  • While you’re up in the attic retrieving holiday decorations, take a minute and check your insulation. Insulation wears away over time, becoming thinner and less effective. It allows heat to escape through the ceiling, forcing heat up and out of your home. Energy Savers reports adding another layer of insulation to the attic dramatically helps improve energy efficiency, and can save you up to 20% on your energy bills!
  • Preparing to roast your Thanksgiving turkey, bake a savory Pumpkin Pie, or cook other delicious holiday treats? Consider investing in energy-efficient appliances like refrigerators and freezers, which are typically considered the top energy users in your home. Click here for more tips on saving energy all throughout the house.
  • Shopping is one of the most popular activities of the holiday season, right? Why not do a little “window shopping” around the house and purchase some high-performance Energy Star-labeled windows! Significant heat escapes through single-pane windows, so purchasing this special kind can cut heating costs by as much as 30 percent!

Have any energy-saving tips of your own? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below!

#EcoMonday: First Choice Power’s President Discusses Smart Meters At UTPA Conference

Our Commander-in-Chief, Brian, speaking at the event (Photo Credit: Sonia Lopez)

By Guest Contributor: Monica Rodriguez

Last Wednesday, the Office of Sustainability at the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) hosted its fall workshop, “Creating Sustainable Economic Growth Through Energy Conservation Behavioral Change.” 

About 80 people—from industries located both in the United States and Mexico—attended, and I was one of them. It was so exciting to see so many folks working together to promote energy conservation!

First Choice Power President Brian Hayduk opened the conference with his presentation on Smart Grids through the use of Smart Meters. Did you know: energy demands are expected to grow more than 10 percent in the U.S. and 24 percent worldwide? Smart meters are best equipped to measure actual consumption – the Department of Energy could save as much as $100 billion!

The biggest message we took away from Brian’s presentation was that through the gathering of information, innovation is created resulting in value for consumers.

Other topics discussed: the impact of lighting on energy conservation, solar panel technology and Continuous Commission®. 

Overall, I’d say the conference was very successful. Everyone was able to take the lessons learned back to their companies, and I’m confident First Choice Power will remain at the forefront of such discussions in the future.  I am excited to learn more about new technologies in energy conservation! 

Interested in learning more, or attending future conferences? Click here!

Don’t Delay – Apply for a Reduce Your Use™ Grant Today

Our Reduce Your Use Grant for Hope for the Hungry is being used to buy energy-efficient freezers

It’s that time again. We’re getting ready to award Texas nonprofits, schools and chambers with as much as $2,000 in funds for energy-efficient upgrades!

“We want to help our nonprofit partners and schools reduce their energy costs so they can focus their funds on serving our communities’ needs,” said Brian Hayduk, president of First Choice Power. “Reduce Your Use Grants allow these organizations to make upgrades that will save significant money long-term on their energy bills.”

This past spring, we awarded more than $60,000 to 54 organizations through this program – a combined savings of more than $100,000 over the next four years! (These savings are estimated, based on data from http://www.doe.gov.)

To be eligible: Organizations must have current or active IRS 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6) status, be registered with and be in good standing with the appropriate state registration agency, be in a First Choice Power service territory or community where the company has business interest. Schools must also be in a First Choice Power community.

Encourage your favorite school or nonprofit to apply now! Click here for all the Reduce Your Use™ Grants details and application. The last day to apply for a Reduce Your Use grant is this Saturday, Oct. 15.

Good luck!