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‘E’ is for emergencies

Posted in Energy conservation, Heating and cooling on December 2nd, 2015 by Susan – Be the first to comment

PrintChanging to ‘e heat’ on your heat pump thermostat will reduce energy savings

Every winter we talk to customers with heat pumps who switch their settings to “e heat,” “EM heat” or “auxiliary heat” at the first sign of frost. If you want to take advantage of the energy-efficiency of a heat pump, making that switch may be a bad idea.

A heat pump draws heat from outside air. When temperatures drop, a heat pump draws less heat inside. Eventually it can’t provide all the heat needed and supplemental heat from your furnace kicks in.

Caucasian lady pressing modern thermostatThat furnace heat — called electric resistance — is 100 percent efficient. But heat pump heat is 200 to 300 percent efficient. If you switch your thermostat to the e-heat setting you’re shutting off the heat pump and relying entirely on the furnace. Which means you’re surrendering potential energy savings.

As energy expert Dr. Allison Bailes states, if you want to save on your electric bill, keep the thermostat at the “Heat” setting. Save the emergency setting for a real emergency, such as when your faithful old heat pump quits working.

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 Energy Vanguard article: ‘How NOT to use your heat pump thermostat’

 All about air source heat pumps

Nest test fails to save energy

Posted in Electronics, Energy conservation, Heating and cooling on July 17th, 2013 by Susan – Be the first to comment
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.

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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.

Thanks for the (holiday) memories

Posted in Energy conservation, Lighting, Uncategorized on January 9th, 2013 by Susan – Be the first to comment

Customers share energy-saving tips and holiday recollections

Last month Chelan County PUD sponsored a drawing on its website for energy-efficient holiday LED lights, asking customers to share their best tips. We got plenty of good ideas and some warm Christmas memories. Here’s what some of our friends and neighbors said.

Photo of wreath

Homes decorated simply with greenery "shine" during the day if not at night, one customer suggests

Sandra T. - Just say NO to leaving the lights on when you are not using them, and always use energy-efficient bulbs. Do not leave the TV on when not watching it.

Dean P. - Don’t put lights on your Christmas tree. Save electricity.

Mike O. - Never leave a portable heater plugged in overnight.

Jennifer T. - To save water: replace your old toilets with water saving ones, replace your lawn with eco-lawn, and repair leaks around faucets right away.

Laurie R. –  Shovel snow by hand rather than using a snowblower and you save gas and get fit at the same time.

Elsa M. – In order to save electricity on the outside of our house, I just decorate with a green wreath on the entrance door. It is simple. I know our house does not shine at night but during the day it looks very nice.

Greg M. - Turn off your outside Christmas lights before going to bed. This will save electricity and also may prevent a fire hazard as you are sleeping.

Dorothy J. - Out Christmas shopping or partying for an extended period? Turn your thermostat down before you leave.

Chris S. (the drawing winner) –  Safely put up the lights and enjoy. They don’t have to be perfect.

Kirk E. – The best thing I ever did was to buy a timer for my outside Christmas lights — once I set it to turn on/off, I don’t have to worry about remembering to do that in the evening when I’m tired and often forget about it.

Betty R. – Some of my most favorite holiday memories are of taking holiday light-seeing excursions, with friends and family,with a nice hot drink, and Christmas music playing. That, to me, is what makes the holiday special

Our personal favorite:
Al H. – Growing up, we had a foil-covered cardboard star for the top of the Christmas tree. Over the years the foil had become quite shabby, so one year my father bought a fancy angel for the tree top. My sister and I didn’t like it because it wasn’t a star, so my mother re-covered the star with aluminum cooking foil. At age 70, I still have that star, which my wife and I use every Christmas.

Thank you to our contest participants. Keep those tips coming in!

Testing the Nest thermostat: a personal Nest-i-mony

Posted in Energy conservation, Heating and cooling on November 2nd, 2012 by Susan – Be the first to comment
Photo of Kari Sorensen

Kari Sorensen, a dog lover, restaurant owner and avid user of technology, is the winner of a Nest thermostat provided by Lightly.

Kari Sorensen runs a restaurant, cooks gourmet meals, oversees an orchard, concocts herbal teas and supplements, rescues abandoned dogs and now, owns a Nest Learning Thermostat.

Sorensen won Chelan PUD’s Lightly Facebook drawing for the Nest. Alpine Aire of Wenatchee installed the Nest at her home on Oct. 22.

Sorensen reports she’s already enjoying the thermostat. She’s been “teaching” it about her habits so it can make adjustments automatically. The Nest learns behaviors in a week, then programs itself to adjust when occupants are away, activating features to save energy. 

“It used to be that I would check my Facebook first thing in the morning,” she said. “Now I check the Nest for my energy usage. The Nest knows now that I want to see that so when I walk by it lights up. It’s the craziest thing. So it’s learning.”

She’s promised to keep us informed through posts on Facebook. We’ll call it a personal Nest-i-mony.

Sorensen uses both an iPad and an iPhone, which she connected seamlessly to the Nest for remote operation.  She said she’s always interested in saving energy, and might have purchased a Nest if she hadn’t won the random drawing.

“I really wanted to not use so much energy,” she said. “If everybody cut down a little bit, it would go a long way toward solving energy problems. I don’t want to be a resource hog.

“The more energy I can save, the more the PUD has to sell on the open market at a higher rate. That keeps all our rates low. Even though energy is inexpensive here, that doesn’t mean we should waste it.”

Sorensen’s home in Manson is an energy challenge. Built in 1943 with additions in the ’60s, the 4,000-square-foot home can be cold and drafty. In the past six years, Sorensen has added a new heating/cooling system, doors and windows (she used the PUD’s rebate program for windows), Energy Star appliances and a new roof.

The home was built by Harold and Eva Stutzman. It’s perched amid nine acres of berry bushes, apples and flowers. A home constructed by her great-great grandfather, Amos B. Peters, sits across the street.

Sorensen is the owner/manager of the popular Blueberry Hills restaurant. Her personal account of being a fifth generation farmer and developing the “down home scratch country cookin’ ” restaurant is on the Blueberry Hills website.