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Seek out and slay your energy vampires

Posted in Appliances, Electronics, Energy conservation on October 28th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

PrintNot to creep you out, but there are vampires in your house. These are the cell phone chargers, cable boxes and other electronic devices that use energy in standby mode. While there’s some debate about the impact of vampire power on your energy bill — some say it accounts for up to 10 percent while others say it’s less than 1 percent — it’s still  a good idea to drive a stake into the heart of energy waste anywhere you can.

Vampier bar illustrationHere are some ideas for slaying your energy vampires:

  • Unplug devices you don’t use often such as extra TVs or old desktop computers.
  • Use power strips, which allow you to toggle the power on and off. You can control the power use of a cluster of devices so they’re not consuming electricity when you don’t need them.
  • Cut down the idle time on computers and video consoles.
  • When buying new electronics, choose ENERGY STAR products which have been tested and rated for energy efficiency.

Household gadgets, by the way, are using less power. But there are so darn many electronic devices in use now that keeping an eye on their energy consumption is becoming more important.

I spy wasted energy

Posted in Appliances, Construction, Electronics, Energy conservation, Heating and cooling, Lighting, Recycling on May 28th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

PrintHome energy audits can help detect air leaks and other issues

If you don’t like people nosing around your house, don’t invite Greg Jourdan in. He opens closet doors, lets the water run in the bathroom sink, feels around your windows, switches lights on and off and even points a gun, albeit an energy-friendly “thermal gun.”

Photo of home energy audit - Greg Jourdan and John Eder

Greg Jourdan shows homeowner John Eder how a thermal imaging camera finds cold spots in his home.

It’s all for a good cause. Greg Jourdan, an energy consultant and Wenatchee Valley College instructor, navigates through local homes upon request to sleuth out wasted energy. He starts by using diagnostic equipment, including a gun-shaped thermal imaging camera, to identify places where energy is being lost. He supplements his investigation with a big blower fan that he sets up in an exterior entry door to create a large negative air vacuum in the home, to find the air leaks. Then he does a complete walk-through, looking at a home’s insulation, windows, ductwork, heating and cooling, lighting, electronics and appliances. To finish, he issues a report that includes recommendations on how homeowners can make improvements.

John and Linda Eder welcomed Jourdan into their home earlier this month. The Sunnyslope couple won Chelan PUD’s drawing for a free home energy audit at the KPQ Home and Garden Show this spring.

Although it’s 26 years old, their home rated high on Jourdan’s scale of efficiency. The Eders have upgraded to vinyl-framed windows and have adequate insulation. They’ve replaced the incandescent bulbs in their recessed fixtures with LEDs, taking advantage of Chelan PUD’s rebates. They use a heat pump for heating and cooling, and just had it serviced.

Photo of Greg Jourdan with blower door

This fabric door and fan create negative pressure in the house to help measure air leaks.

The Eders use more electricity than might be expected because they heat and cool John’s workshop, bringing their total conditioned space to 3,600 square foot. But on a watts-per-square-foot basis, their energy use is relatively low.

Jourdan did make some general recommendations which apply to most homes, including:

• Set the thermostat  for cooling as high as possible while maintaining reasonable comfort levels while home. Set it to 84 degrees when away from home, or install a programmable thermostat to do that automatically.

• Conversely, place thermostat settings for heating as low as possible while maintaining reasonable comfort levels. Set it to 60 degrees when away, or install a programmable thermostat. (Note: If you have a heat pump, make sure you install a “smart” thermostat that will warm the house back up gradually and minimize the use of inefficient strip heat.)

• Replace air filters every two to three months or as needed to keep the indoor unit coil clean.

• Reduce the temperature setting on the water heater to 120 degrees or less.

• Install low-flow showerheads in bathrooms.

• Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible.

• Minimize use of spare refrigerators and freezers. If not needed, consider recycling through Chelan PUD’s free recycling and rebate program.

You can perform your own energy audit by following this checklist. Learn about professional home energy audits here. Jourdan can be reached at

Durable, affordable, cheerful holiday LEDs

Posted in Electronics, Energy conservation on October 29th, 2013 by Susan – Comments Off

LED holiday lights – once difficult to find and expensive to purchase — are showing up in more and more stores at affordable prices.  At the same time manufacturers have improved the selection, producing bigger and brighter bulbs and new color options.

Here are some reasons to consider LED lighting for your holiday decorating this year:

  • Energy-efficient – 0.08 watts per LED C7 multicolor bulb (compared with 0.48 watts for an incandescent mini-light and 6.0 watts for a standard incandescent C7 bulb.)
  • Long life span – up to 100,000 hours or more used indoors, half that outdoors, and some manufacturers provide a limited lifetime warranty.
  • Safety – no chance of combustion since the bulbs are cool to the touch, regardless of how long they are left on.
  • Sturdy bulbs – the epoxy lenses are virtually indestructible.

Check out our brochure on LED holiday lighting, and happy holidays!

Nest test fails to save energy

Posted in Electronics, Energy conservation, Heating and cooling on July 17th, 2013 by Susan – Comments Off
Photo of Kari Sorensen with Nest thermostat

Kari Sorensen won a Nest thermostat in a Lightly Facebook drawing last October.

But other factors – not the high-tech thermostat – are probably to blame, homeowner says

Kari Sorensen’s demanding lifestyle seems like the perfect fit for a Nest Learning Thermostat. She’s too busy to have to bother with frequent setting and re-setting of temperatures to save energy in her Manson home.

But the high-tech thermostat, installed last October, failed to help Sorensen save on her electric bill. Chelan PUD staff visited with Sorensen to try to figure out why.

Sorensen thinks a series of personal circumstances, and not the thermostat, contributed to higher bills. A slip on the ice landed Sorensen in the hospital with a concussion in January. A friend stayed in her home for two weeks while she recovered, and kept the heat turned up. Sorensen also has been away frequently this spring, leaving a house-sitter to adjust temperatures to the sitter’s liking.

Over the winter and spring, Sorensen decided to remodel an unfinished top floor. She added a flat-screen TV and an electric fireplace. The uninsulated upstairs rooms previously had been closed off.

Photo of Nest in Heat/Cool modeSorensen said she’s also had trouble using the Heat/Cool mode on the Nest. This setting switches automatically between heating and cooling to keep the temperature within a preferred range. This is useful for climates that consistently require both heating and cooling in the same day – for example, if you’re living in a desert climate and require cooling during the day and heating at night. But it shouldn’t be necessary in North Central Washington. Generally, setting one or the other separately is the most efficient approach. To save energy, shoot for 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer.

Which brings up another point: Sorensen likes it cooler than most, setting her cooling at 72. “I do like it cool,” she confessed.

All in all though, “I love my Nest,” she said. Sorensen won the Nest in a drawing on the PUD’s Lightly Facebook page. She uses her iPad to track energy use when she’s at work at the Blueberry Hills restaurant she owns and operates with her parents. “I love to log on and see what the system is doing,” she said. And because she’s on the go, she appreciates the Auto Away feature. The Nest turns itself down automatically when it senses that nobody’s home.

Photo of Kari Sorensen with blueberry bucket

Sorensen shows off the seasonal bounty at Blueberry Hills farm, which she co-owns with her parents.

That’s a frequent occurrence this time of year, when the restaurant is buzzing with tourists and the 10½ acres of U-pick blueberry fields are filled with families out for a genuine farm experience. That flash of bright pink you see among the berry bushes is Sorensen, who moves easily from meeting with accountants and marketers in her office to jumping on a four-wheeler to find the biggest, sweetest berries and give older pickers a ride – still wearing high heels and a lacy dress.

Sorensen’s 1943 home remains an energy challenge. An addition from the ’60s brought the house to 4,000 drafty square feet that’s hard to heat and cool. She’s added a new heating/cooling system, doors and windows (using the PUD’s rebate program for windows) and energy-efficient appliances. But she knows that much of the space still needs insulation. And she’s considering installing a ductless heat pump upstairs. Both improvements are eligible for PUD rebates.

Recommendations for Sorensen are:

• Seal air leaks to the outside upstairs, around windows and doors, and outlet and switch plates. Pay particular attention to recessed lights, and plumbing and wiring penetrations.
• Insulate attic, walls and underfloor. This is the single most cost-effective thing she can do.
• Increase the cool setting to 78 or as close to that as is comfortable.
• Double-check Nest settings and recommendations to make sure she’s getting the full advantage of its many features.


Do you have a Nest? If so, how do you like it?

Upgrade appliances and get money back

Posted in Appliances, Electronics, Energy conservation, Lighting on April 4th, 2013 by Susan – 2 Comments

Photo of Clothes washer with PUD eligible tagIf spring cleaning includes getting rid of your old refrigerator or brightening up a room, we’ve got some ideas for you. Chelan PUD is offering rebates for energy-efficiency upgrades on several products for your home.

Items and the rebate amounts are:

  • LED downlight retrofit kits, $25
  • Electric storage water heaters, $25-$125
  • Clothes washers, $30-$75
  • Refrigerators and freezers, $50
  • Line voltage zoned thermostats, $115
  • Heat pump water heaters, $300-$500

All ENERGY STAR refrigerators, freezers and clothes washers are eligible. Rebate amounts for some products vary based on the energy-efficiency of the model selected.

Find complete information on the program here.

The program offers quick turn-around of 7 to 10 business days if you elect to receive a check, or if you choose the new Tango Card, you can redeem it immediately for your choice of gift cards at 17 premier retailers such as Amazon, Starbucks and Home Depot. Or you can donate your rebate to your choice of eight charities such as Habitat for Humanity.

Find the details here.

P.S. Recycle your old refrigerator or freezer for free and get a $30 rebate from the PUD. Find out how.