This new AC tech helps save energy and may help you sleep better

I’m always a little weary of turning on a hotel’s room air conditioning unit. It usually goes something like this: I turn it on and welcome a big (and loud) gust of cool air. ...

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This new AC tech helps save energy and may help you sleep better

Man with pillow over head

Thanks to a new technology, we no longer have to choose between cool temperatures and quiet nights.

Key Points

  • Older room air conditioners are like cars going from zero to 60 and back to zero.
  • The cycle of starting and stopping the cool air isn’t energy efficient.
  • This year’s ENERGY STAR Emerging Technology Award went to a new air conditioner that operates more continuously to save energy.

I’m always a little weary of turning on a hotel’s room air conditioning unit. It usually goes something like this: I turn it on and welcome a big (and loud) gust of cool air. Once the room’s temperature has dropped, the unit turns idle. I snuggle into bed, dozing off into dream land, and then WHOOOSH – the unit bursts back into action when it detects that the room is warming a bit and wakes me up. This cycle usually happens several times throughout the night, waking me more than a toddler with the sniffles.

But thanks to a new technology, we no longer have to choose between cool temperatures and quiet nights. This year’s ENERGY STAR Emerging Technology Award went to a new type of room air conditioner that uses Efficient Variable Output. That means the units operate more continuously instead of the abrupt starts and stops of older ones. Trading out that cycle of starting and stopping for a more steady stream uses less energy, kind of like a car going a steady speed down the highway versus one that’s going from zero to 60 then back to zero every few minutes.

Here’s a chart from ENERGY STAR showing the energy output:

If you’re thinking about buying a new room air conditioner, make sure to check out these ENERGY STAR approved ones here.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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End of Fixer Upper got you down? This will help.

Last week was a very sad day in my house. We laughed. We cried. We wondered how we ever lived without knowing what shiplap is. Our favorite show, Fixer Upper, ended.

But ...

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End of Fixer Upper got you down? This will help.

In honor of Chip and Joanna I’m going to get my hands dirty and plant a landscape worthy of even a Waco Tudor.

Key Points

  • Joanna Gaines was my best friend and I’m going to miss her.
  • In honor of Fixer Upper, I’m going to fix up my landscaping.
  • Good landscaping can help you mourn Fixer Upper AND save energy.

Last week was a very sad day in my house. We laughed. We cried. We wondered how we ever lived without knowing what shiplap is. Our favorite show, Fixer Upper, ended.

But through the tears we will persevere.

In honor of Chip and Joanna I’m going to get my hands dirty and plant a landscape worthy of even a Waco Tudor.

If you also need some Fixer Upper therapy, check out these landscaping tips to ease your heartache and save on your energy bill while you’re at it.

Trees

According to the Department of Energy, carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of the energy a typical household uses by providing shade and acting as a windbreak. In tree-shaded neighborhoods the summer daytime air temperature can be up to 6 degrees cooler than in treeless areas. And windbreaks to the north, west and east of houses cut fuel consumption by an average of 40 percent.

Shrubs

Groundcover plants like succulents and shrubs can cool the air before it reaches your home in the summer. Low shrubs on the windward side of your windbreak can also help trap snow before it blows next to your home in the winter.

Climbing vines

Consider shading your patio or deck with a trellis covered in climbing vines. It will help keep your outdoor living space cool, and cut down on the warm air that sneaks inside.

Need even more inspiration? Here’s a slideshow of 31 Fixer Upper-inspired curb appeal ideas to get you going. Now please pass the tissue (sniff, sniff).


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Three things we can learn about saving energy from Major League Baseball

Last week marked a true sign of spring: Major League Baseball’s opening day. The national past time can teach us all a few game-winning strategies to save some money on our utility ...

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Three things we can learn about saving energy from Major League Baseball

Forming good habits can help you win at saving energy.

Key Points

  • It’s officially baseball season.
  • Like a good team, we can use winning strategies to save money at home.
  • Know your weak spots, be smart with your home’s MVPs, and practice good energy savings tactics.

Last week marked a true sign of spring: Major League Baseball’s opening day. The national past time can teach us all a few game-winning strategies to save some money on our utility bills.

  1. Know your weak spots – Just like a good coach knows where more training is needed on the team, a good homeowner needs to be aware of where a home might be prone to losing at the energy savings game. A good place to find out where your home could improve is by using the ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick. The quick assessment will give you a score and a breakdown on what your home consumes the most energy for, like heating and cooling versus things like appliances, lighting and hot water. Check it out here.
  2. Be smart with your MVPs – Your home has its own Paul Goldschmidts and Mike Trouts (confession: I had to Google “2018 MLB MVP predictions” and have no idea who either of those guys are, but I like pretending like I do). The most valuable players in your house are the tactics that can save you the most energy. It varies from home to home, but likely contenders for the title are sealing up the leaks in your home, adding insulation in the attic and installing energy efficient lighting. Here’s a good place to find tips to up your energy savings game at home.
  3. Practice makes perfect – Forming good habits can help you win at saving energy. Set your thermostat as high as you comfortably can in the summer, use a programmable thermostat, replace your air filters and turn off the lights. These and other every day practices can add up to big savings. Find more simple ways to save this spring and summer here.

Now pass the peanuts and Cracker Jacks. I’m rooting for the home team.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Eat the chocolate. Save the energy.

Ah, Easter. That wonderful time of year when we give thanks for new life, reflect on amazing grace and mercy, and eat our weight in chocolate. #grateful.

My daughters and ...

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Eat the chocolate. Save the energy.

Chocolate easter bunnies

It turns out eating a couple feet of chocolate bunny could be a good way to help save energy.

Key Points

  • Eating chocolate can actually save energy. Really.
  • Hershey’s is a good example of a company making energy efficiency a priority.
  • We can prioritize our own energy efficiency efforts by completing a home energy audit.

Ah, Easter. That wonderful time of year when we give thanks for new life, reflect on amazing grace and mercy, and eat our weight in chocolate. #grateful.

My daughters and I were at the store the other day when my three-year-old spotted a chocolate bunny that was as tall as she is. She’s only a couple feet tall, but it was still quite impressive. And sure, I could take that bunny down during one viewing of “Ben-Hur”, but that’s just because I’m really committed to Easter.

It turns out eating a couple feet of chocolate bunny could be a good way to help save energy. Sidenote: This is the part where I use the same reasoning for energy efficiency as I use on my accountant husband when I try to convince him that I “saved” our family lots of money by cashing in on Black Friday deals every November. No matter what he says, this reasoning is sound. Promise.

The bunny we spotted was made by Hershey’s. And it just so happens that Hershey’s is committed to saving energy. The company manufactures a lot of treats, and that manufacturing process presents a lot of ways to innovate and use less energy. Specifically, Hershey’s is updating its lighting to be more energy efficient and using machinery that uses less energy. Recently, Hershey’s remodeled its historic original factory building into office space. The end result is a Gold LEED Certified building (that means it earned lots of points for using energy-saving measures in the space and they get a certificate to prove it).

So similar to how “the more I spend the more we save” on Black Friday, the more chocolate bunny I consume, the more energy Hershey’s saves during its energy efficient manufacturing process.  See how that works?

But it doesn’t stop there. After eating the entire chocolate bunny, I’ll feel inspired to save energy in my own home. And with three pounds of sugar pumping through my veins, I’ll have the energy to do things like conduct a home energy audit like this one offered by my local utility, Black Hills Energy.

So there you have it. Eating a chocolate bunny is the right thing to do for the love of Easter and to save energy. Happy noshing.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Clean all the things! And save energy while you’re at it

I’m sure you remember that moment as a child. The air shifts. The sun shines. A bird chirps. And then your mom goes on a full out cleaning rampage. You and you siblings scurry ...

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Clean all the things! And save energy while you’re at it

In addition to leaving your house in better shape, spring-cleaning mania can help us on our energy bills.

Key Points

  • Spring cleaning can save energy.
  • Dusting helps your electronics run more efficiently.
  • Changing your AC filters and cleaning your refrigerator coils reduce energy use.

I’m sure you remember that moment as a child. The air shifts. The sun shines. A bird chirps. And then your mom goes on a full out cleaning rampage. You and you siblings scurry to hide all your toys before they get caught up in the cleaning frenzy and delivered to Goodwill.  

Yes. It is officially spring. And it’s time to get our spring cleaning on.

Nothing is safe in the wake of my spring cleaning binger. Not a crumb will go unswept, shelf undusted or random puzzle piece left behind. Mr. Potatohead set with only one arm and an ear left? You’re out of here.

In addition to leaving your house in better shape, this yearly cleaning mania can help us on our energy bills. Here’s how:

  • Dusting - Cleaning off your electronics can lead to energy kgrlhdfljhdfljgdvings. All that grime can make your devices work a little harder – and pull more energy – to do their jobs.
  • Checking the vents - Don’t forget to tackle your vents to make sure air can circulate around your house easily. Easier air flow will help your furnace and AC run more efficiently.  
  • Changing filters - Check your furnace filter at least once a month to make sure it’s not full of dust and slowing your heater down. And while you’re at it, check your AC filter now to make sure it’s clean and ready for the warm weather. This helps the air quality in your home, and helps your heating and cooling systems use less energy.
  • Cleaning the fridge - While you have your vacuum out, check your refrigerator coils. If there’s dust built up on them, it’s probably making your fridge work harder to keep your food cold. A quick pass with your vacuum nozzle will do the trick.
  • Cleaning the ceiling fans - While you’re up there dusting, flip the switch to run counter-clockwise for the spring and summer. The added breeze will help your home stay a little cooler without the AC, and save electricity.

Happy cleaning everyone. And good luck saving those toys kids. If I were you, I’d start gathering them for safe keeping now.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Pretend it’s summer and check out this AC buyers guide

With the official start of Daylight Savings this week, I’m ready to put winter behind me. Call me optimistic, but I’m hoping that daydreaming of swimming pools and sunscreen ...

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Pretend it’s summer and check out this AC buyers guide

Woman adjusting air conditioner

Beyond shopping for sandals, another way we can wish summer into existence is to plan for how we’ll cool our homes when the heat comes.

Key Points

  • Winter is almost over and all I want to think about is summer.  
  • If you’re considering a room air conditioner for the coming heat, make sure to get the right one for the space to avoid wasting energy.
  • Also make sure and use it correctly. Bad installation can be a recipe for an energy wasting disaster.

With the official start of Daylight Savings this week, I’m ready to put winter behind me. Call me optimistic, but I’m hoping that daydreaming of swimming pools and sunscreen while online shopping for flip flops will make the warm season come more quickly.

Beyond shopping for sandals, another way we can wish summer into existence is to plan for how we’ll cool our homes when the heat comes. If you don’t have a central air conditioner in your home, you’ll likely turn to a room AC. Check out these tips from ENERGY STAR before heading to the store:

Size your AC for Comfort and Savings

Bigger is not always better! An oversized unit will cool the room, but only remove some of the humidity. This will leave the room with a damp, clammy feeling. A properly sized unit will deliver maximum comfort and savings. Check out this chart to help determine the best size.

Proper AC Installation and Use is the Key to Cool

An improperly installed room air conditioner leaks as much air as a six-square-inch hole, increasing energy costs and making your home less comfortable. Follow these tips to beat the heat:

  • Be sure to follow the instructions and use the insulation materials included with your room air conditioner.
  • Make sure the unit is level so the drainage system works effectively.
  • Don't put lamps or TVs near the AC thermostat as the extra heat will cause it to run longer.
  • Set the thermostat as high as is comfortable, typically 78° F. You'll appreciate the savings.
  • On humid days, set the fan speed low. Slower air movement removes more moisture.
  • Use an extra fan to spread the cooled air around.
  • At the end of the cooling season, if possible, remove the room AC unit to minimize heat loss. Or use an appropriately-sized cover during winter.

Maybe the energy savings from all those good AC techniques will even help me justify buying a new pair of espadrilles.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A. in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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