Energy Efficiency

Stretching Black Friday Savings Beyond the Sale

Holiday shopping is around the corner and we are now just days away from the biggest retail spending day of the year. For many, getting up at the break of dawn and joining the pandemonium of people traffic and chaos to save a few bucks has become almost a yearly ritual.

If you are in the market for a new television or electronics, black Friday deals don’t have to stop at the checkout line. By purchasing energy efficient devices and adjusting the settings of your new electronics after you unbox them, you can yield savings year-round on your energy bills. The following suggestions might be worth considering for you early bird bargain hunters.
When available, purchase ENERGY STAR ™ products. These products are the most efficient products in their product categories, and are generally the top 25% in energy efficiency. TV’s are a flagship black Friday item. While price discounts can be eye drawing, also pay attention to the yellow EnergyGuide label. Some of the higher end ultra HD televisions can consume as much as two to three times more than more efficient models. If you are looking to purchase a new video game console, be aware these devices can be big energy users. Nintendo Wii and Wii U’s use far less power than Playstations and Xbox’s. Playstations curtail power when in standby mode, but Xbox One’s continue to draw 10 watts of power even with the television off. If you are in the market for a device to stream media from the internet, media players such as Apple TV, Roku, or Amazon Fire are about 20-30 times more efficient than using a game console.

You can continue to save some green by making changes to device settings when you initially set them up. With new computers, use power-management settings to reduce energy use. Also skip screensavers and set the screen to switch off after 15 minutes of inactivity and to sleep after 30 minutes. Most new TV’s have a quick start feature than can be disabled. When the feature is enabled, the device can use excessive electricity in standby mode when the TV thinks it’s off. You can also turn on automatic brightness control on most new televisions. The feature can result in almost 50% of energy savings in a room that’s dimly lit.

What a better gift to give someone than one that keeps on giving. Device level meters such as the Kill-A-Watt EZ meter cost about $20-30, and assess the efficiency of the appliance or device it is plugged into, while helping you monitor and reduce your power costs over time. Programable and Smart thermostats allow you to set schedules and conditions for your home HVAC system which can easily save you up to 30% annually on your utility bills. LED bulbs may not get your gift recipient grinning from ear to ear, but every LED bulb you replace can save around $100 over its lifetime versus incandescent.

Choosing more energy efficient electronics help curb climate pollution, so not only are you saving green, you’re being green as well. These products may not laugh when you tickle them, but the long-term savings might allow to increase your gift budget for next Christmas. So when you’re strolling through your favorite box store, groggy from yesterday’s turkey, it might be worth keeping some of these suggestions in mind.


Smart Homes, Energy Efficiency Coming to a Palm Near You

While remote and voice controlled houses may seem more like science fiction than fact to most of us, home automation technology may soon be as common as smart TVs. Smart home technology has been available for several years now, but has been seen as more of a niche product category due to how complicated and expensive the systems are. The philosophy of smart home and home automation is transforming as the complex and pricey, custom-systems are being edged out by less expensive and simpler solutions.

It can get very costly to install a traditional home automation system. These custom systems require engineering and the help of an integration contractor. After purchasing interface equipment (remotes, keypads, etc.), and custom written software, you can easily be looking at a bill setting you back tens of thousands of dollars.

homekitThere is a revolution occurring in the smart home industry. Instead of needing engineered installation and custom programming, going forward systems will be integrated through smart phone/tablet apps and use standard connection interfaces such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all invested billions of dollars in research and devolvement of “smart home” innovations, and all either have released platforms or are releasing one soon. These companies are experts in mass marketing and user friendliness, and are expected to evolve home automation from a niche market to an “off-the-shelf” cell phone connected industry. Apple’s platform “Homekit” already has over 50 compatible product brands spanning different categories such as lights, locks, thermostats, security, garage doors, outlets, cameras, HVAC systems, window shades, ect. that can all be controlled through the Apple Homekit app.

While convenience might be the most obvious benefit to home automation, it can also improve energy efficiency and reduce consumption costs. One such proven product that has been in stores is the Nest thermostat. Nest replaces standard thermostats but allows you to control it and set schedules anywhere any time through its downloadable app. In addition, it also uses sensors, cloud computing, and algorithms to make adjustments based on settings you prefer, the temperature outside, when you get up, and when you are away.wemo

Another example of an energy efficient home automation product is the Belkin WeMo line. WeMo offers smart plug units and light switches that will automatically turn things off based on a timer or motion, but can also be controlled through a smart phone app.

The innovation of home automation will become even more advanced and fascinating, as analysts predict the smart home product space to grow over 15% in the next few years, and to reach a net worth of $121.7 billion by 2022. Once people have lived with it, they most likely will not be able to ever live without it. The futuristic fantasy of smart homes will very likely become common place in the not so distant future.


March Madness from an Energy Perspective

In 2015 an estimated 70 million Americans filled out brackets for the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in what has become a yearly event across the country. It has become so popular that even billionaire Warren Buffet offered $1 billion dollars to the person who could complete a perfect bracket. (Just one day in and 99% of the brackets submitted were busted). In fact, to this day no one has ever picked a perfect bracket. Everyone has a strategy for selecting a winner. Mascots, team colors, seed ranking… but has anyone ever decided it based on campus energy criteria?
For a new perspective, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) took last year’s tournament field, and selected each winning team based on the individual schools’ renewable energy portfolios.

RMI’s Criteria for Selecting the “Best Energy” Team:

• Data was collected from the most recent year available, based on the percentage of renewable energy in the utility supply.

• Tie breakers, when and where necessary, were based on the 2014 Green Guide or other data on campus-sited renewables.

• Large-scale hydro was included as a renewable resource, which admittedly gives a big boost to certain teams, such as those from the Pacific Northwest.


The 2015 bracket results were:

Madness bracket image

Overall, in 2015 the final four based on renewable energy efficiency per campus was Oregon, Texas, UC Irvine, and Eastern Washington.

In the end Oregon is declared the most renewable energy campus and thus, crowned the 2015 National Champions! Obviously this was not the outcome on the court as Duke ended up winning, but it is an interesting way to approach your picks for the 2016 bracket.


March Madness kicks off tonight with the four “play in” games, and the round of 64 games begin Thursday (3/17/16). If professional “bracketologists” can’t pick the perfect bracket with a systematic approach, then why not have a little fun with your March Madness picks this year.


Download a copy of this year’s bracket from CBS Sports:  > HERE

Check out Rocky Mountain Institute’s full Renewable Energy Bracketology blog post  > HERE