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Power Plug » Residential The Flex Your Power Energy Blog Thu, 27 Jan 2011 18:29:08 +0000 en Weatherizing for Winter from Preservation Magazine Sun, 09 Jan 2011 00:21:44 +0000 Megan Toth Preservation magazine presents a few timely tips for winter energy efficiency. These are especially relevant for slightly older homes. You can check out more videos with tips and DIY instructions here.

Cash for Appliances Continues, Over $25 Million Remaining Fri, 21 May 2010 23:38:00 +0000 Megan Toth

The California Cash for Appliances program, which previously only covered purchases made through May 23rd has been extended and will now continue until program funds are exhausted. The program has currently received over 29,000 applications, and remains replete with funds with over $25,880,000 left to dole out to new applicants. The program also allows customers to combine the cash for appliances rebates with any other incentives that might be offered in the region, making it a lucrative time to make the upgrade to an energy-efficient appliance.

For more details visit the website or simply check our rebate finder to locate all rebates in your area.

California Cash for Appliances Program Starts Thursday, April 22 Wed, 21 Apr 2010 23:14:03 +0000 Megan Toth Modern, ENERGY STAR qualified appliances, cost much less to run than their older counterparts. (Image: California Energy Commission)

Starting this Thursday, California residents can apply for rebates ranging from $50 to $200 for purchasing an energy-efficient room air conditioner, clothes washer, or refrigerator from a list of eligible appliances. The Cash for Appliances program, run through the California Energy Commission, is part of the federal stimulus effort aimed at improving efficiency. Rebates are expected to go quickly, and customers can find a list of eligible appliances at

To be eligible, you must purchase the new appliance from a California retailer and it must replace an existing appliance, working or nonworking, of the same type. The old appliance must be recycled by a California Certified Recycling Facility. You can also purchase from one of the program’s platinum partners who will deliver and install the new appliance, and recycle the old one for free. Many utilities also offer recycling programs (including recycling incentives), and the Cash for Appliances rebates can be combined with other utility rebates to maximize your incentive.

Rebates will be available on a first-come first-served basis for purchases made between April 22 and May 23. The claim form must be mailed in within 30 days of purchase. The form must include proof of purchase, proof of recycling, a copy of the yellow Energy Guide Label from the new appliance and a copy of a recent utility bill to prove you live in California. For more details visit the website or simply check our rebate finder to locate all rebates in your area.

Lights Out for Earth Hour This Saturday Fri, 26 Mar 2010 19:57:27 +0000 Megan Toth

Join individuals around the world in celebrating Earth Hour by turning off lights, appliances and other electronics for at least one hour this Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. Started by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the annual event helps to raise awareness about global warming and demonstrate the collective power of simple, energy-saving actions.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, with 2.2 million homes and businesses switching off their lights for one hour. In 2008, participation rose with over 50 million people switching off their lights world-wide, and last year that number sky-rocketted to nearly 1 billion world-wide. Famous landmarks chose to go dark as well including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas Strip, the Parthenon and Acropolis in Athens, and more.

In the past, some cities have been able to cut electricity demand by 13% during those peak hours. Help your city make an impact by powering down at 8:30 p.m. this Saturday.

Cities Suffering from Localized CO2 Domes Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:14:55 +0000 Megan Toth Photo: Flickr

A new study recently found that local carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions may result in localized health and pollution impacts unrelated to global climate change. It is widely known that CO2 emitted in one city will eventually mix with CO2 emitted across the globe, contributing to an overall increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2. As such, it doesn’t much matter where CO2 is emitted in terms of its contribution climate change. In contrast, the new study finds, CO2 may have direct local impacts on health and air pollution related to where CO2 is emitted and where its concentrations are highest.

While older research has found that local “domes” of high CO2 levels often form over cities, little was known about the health impacts of these domes. The study, “Enhancement of Local Air Pollution by Urban CO2 Domes,” by Mark Jacobson of Stanford finds that local CO2 emissions may increase local ozone and particulate matter that contribute to respiratory ailments. The study also estimates that local CO2 emissions may increase premature mortality by 50-100 people per year in California and 300-1000 per year in the United States.

The study carries significant implications for cities where high amounts of CO2 and other pollutants are emitted, and bolsters the already compelling case for local action.

New Report Evaluates No-First-Cost Financing Strategies for Saving Energy Wed, 24 Feb 2010 20:50:36 +0000 Megan Toth

CalCEF Innovations, a branch of the California Clean Energy Fund, recently released its second white paper in its Energy Efficiency series: “Energy Efficiency Paying the Way: New Financing Solutions Remove First-Cost Hurdles.” The paper uses case studies to evaluate newly deployed no-first-cost financing options available to businesses and other entities looking to make energy-saving improvements. Intended for policy-makers, regulators, and private sector firms, the paper analyzes six programs including (among others):

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE): Government programs, such as the highlighted Palm Desert, CA initiative, offer property owners 20-year loans for Energy Efficiency that are repaid through property tax assessments.

On-bill Financing: Loans for energy efficiency can be re-paid through the customer’s regular utility bill. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) offers on-bill financing.

These programs help customers overcome the initial financial barriers to otherwise cost-efficient upgrades. Paul Frankel, managing director of CalCEF Innovations explains, “We’ve uncovered a critical gap in the energy efficiency sector, where the deployment of retrofits is not at pace with the large potential for profits—both economical and environmental—due to a perceived cost-prohibitive barrier to entry. Energy efficiency can pay back three or four times on its investment in a relatively short time frame when strategic financing and aggregated deployment strategies are implemented.”

Governor Schwarzenegger Announces New Green Building Standards Code Fri, 29 Jan 2010 01:40:52 +0000 Megan Toth (Photo: Office of the Governor)

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced recently that on January 1, 2011, California will adopt the nation’s first ever mandatory Green Building Standards Code (CALGREEN) to improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact in new California buildings. Under CALGREEN, every new building constructed in California will be required to reduce water consumption by 20 percent, divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills and install low pollutant-emitting materials, in addition to other requirements. The regulations also call for mandatory inspections of energy systems such as heating, air conditioning, and mechanical equipment for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet to ensure maximum efficiency. The California Air Resources Board estimates that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons by 2020.

CALGREEN also includes more stringent voluntary provisions to encourage local communities to take further action to green their buildings and improve energy efficiency.

Many of the mandatory provisions in the code are already part of the statewide building code, making verification of CALGREEN an easy transition for local building inspectors. Additionally, building owners will enjoy the benefit of being able to label their facilities as CALGREEN compliant upon passing inspection, without using costly third-party certification programs.

Book Round-Up: 6 Great Reads to Help You Save Energy and Go Green Tue, 05 Jan 2010 22:33:09 +0000 Megan Toth “The Carbon-Free Home” is one of many books with tips to help you maximize your energy savings.

As you prepare for a new, even more energy-efficient year, read over our quick list of books that can help get you there. Check out the material below and let these handy guides help you with your upgrades all year long.

  1. The Carbon-Free Home” by Stephen and Rebekah Hren. A well-thought out explanation of how to make your house carbon-free from people who have done it. Includes thirty-six projects and a description of project length, cost, energy saved, and skills you need.
  2. Save Energy Save Money!: 201 Do-It-Yourself Projects Tips, and Ideas” by Family Handyman. Includes images and visual aids.
  3. Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings: Save Money, Save the Earth” by Jennifer Thorne Amann, Alex Wilson, Katie Ackerly. A guide to help users zero-in on the most useful improvements for their homes.
  4. The Home Energy Diet: How to Save Money by Making Your House Energy-Smart” (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series) by Paul Scheckel.
  5. Insulate and Weatherize: Expert Advice from Start to Finish” by Bruce Harley. Online preview available.
  6. Complete Guide to Reducing Energy Costs” by Consumer Reports. Offers information and step-by-step photos to help with home improvements.
  7. The Low Carbon Diet; A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds” by David Gershon. We wrote about this workbook in an earlier post, and it remains a great guide to saving energy and cutting carbon emissions.
CEC Approves California TV Standards Fri, 04 Dec 2009 23:48:22 +0000 Megan Toth

In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the California Energy Commission (CEC) recently approved the nation’s first energy efficiency standards for televisions. The standards will be implemented in 2011 and will make new TVs sold in California the most energy efficient TVs in the nation.

After ten years, the Commission expects the regulations to save $8.1 billion in energy costs and save enough to power 864,000 single-family homes. Pacific Gas & Electric estimates that the standards will cut CO2 emissions by 3 million tons over a decade.

“The real winners of these new TV energy efficiencies are California consumers who will be saving billions of dollars and conserving energy while preserving their choice to buy any size or type of TV. Californians buy four million televisions each year and they deserve the most energy efficient models available,” said Energy Commission Chairman Karen Douglas.

The standards mandate that new TVs must consume 33% less electricity by 2011 and 49% less by 2013, but will only affect TVs with screens 58 inches or smaller. For example, a 42-inch screen would consume 183 watts or less by 2011 and 115 watts or less by 2013. Stores will not be prohibited from selling existing stock of older televisions after the standards go into effect.

Energy Efficiency and Indoor Air Quality: Getting the Best of Both Mon, 16 Nov 2009 23:01:47 +0000 Megan Toth (Illustration: U.S. EPA)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and ENERGY STAR, weatherization not only helps homeowners save energy and money, but can also provide an avenue to improving indoor air quality. When combined with proper mechanical ventilation, energy efficiency improvements can control where air enters and exits the home and can help prevent mold growth by reducing condensation. Control is particularly important. In a leaky home, outdoor air can enter the house intermittently through cracks, unsealed joints, or penetrations. Dependent upon the weather there may be too much leakage, resulting in a drafty house or too little ventilation, resulting in stuffy air. Leakage also means that the air coming into your home may be filtered through dirty, dusty areas.

When sealing up leaks and upgrading your home’s efficiency, paying attention to indoor air quality is crucial. If performed improperly, weatherization can have negative impacts on occupant health, so it is important to read up on indoor air quality tips. You may also consider hiring a professional to assess your home. When done correctly efficiency improvements have the potential to save energy and improve air quality. Mechanical ventilation in a well-insulated, well-sealed house can exhaust pollutants and bring in outdoor air in a planned way, limiting the intake of unwanted pollutants. This makes a house both comfortable and energy efficient.