December 2018 Newsletter

Top 13 Christmas Lights Safety Tips

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For some, the holiday season starts the day after Halloween while others prefer to wait until they’ve carved into the Thanksgiving bird to decorate their home in red and green. Whether you’re an early bird or a week-of decorator, most homeowners can agree that hanging Christmas lights will be the most time-consuming task for the holidays and one of the most dangerous.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Christmas lights cause 40% of Christmas tree fires, and overall decorations caused more than 15,000 injuries resulting in an emergency room visit with falls being the highest at 34%, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Knowing how to properly install and maintain your Christmas lights could be the difference between happy holidays or more than just chestnuts roasting over an open fire. Here are 13 safety tips to follow when decking the house with Christmas lights.

Tip 1: Replace Old or Damaged Christmas Lights

Before plugging in last year’s Christmas lights, inspect their condition to make sure they’re up to par. Check for cracked or frayed cords, wires poking through the insulation and sockets without bulbs.

It might seem tedious, but damage to the cord or light bulb could cause an electric shock when plugged in, or worse, an electric fire.

Tip 2: Switch to LED Lights

If you’re in the market to purchase new Christmas lights, consider LED lights with epoxy lenses. LED lights are cool to the touch, compared to traditional Christmas lights, and use less electricity – a nice break for your electric bill.

Since most holiday fires are caused by overheated lights on a Christmas tree, switching to LED lights could prevent your tree from catching fire.

Tip 3: Follow the Rule of Three

Most manufacturers agree that plugging in more than three sets of Christmas lights into a single extension cord may cause problems with overheating. However, it depends on both the strand’s wattage and the maximum watt capacity of the plug.

If you’re unsure of how to check the wattage of your home, you can use a power strip with a built-in circuit breaker instead of your wall outlet. Make sure you cross-reference the wattage of your Christmas lights to the amount of your power strip before you plug it in.

Tip 4: Look for Christmas Lights with a UL Safety Certification

Some Christmas lights will include a UL Safety Certification, meaning that the lights have been designed and manufactured to meet industry specifications for safety from Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety certification origination.

Lights that have these certifications will be safer to use in your home, compared to lights that don’t have this certification. If your current lights don’t have the UL Safety Certification, you might want to invest in ones that do, especially if your lights are older than a few years.

Tip: 5 Keep Your Christmas Tree Hydrated

Other than overheated Christmas lights, fires are also caused by dry Christmas trees. A dry tree will be more flammable compared to one that’s been properly watered. If you prefer a real Christmas tree, make sure you check the water every day to prevent the tree from drying out.

However, if you’re not too attached to a real Christmas tree, it’s actually safer to purchase an artificial Christmas tree made from fire-resistant materials.

Tip 6: Use Outdoor and Indoor Lights, Respectively

Christmas lights are labeled by their use, so you’ll notice a disclaimer that reads “for indoor use only” or “for indoor and outdoor use.” Make sure you read this carefully as indoor-only Christmas lights cannot be used for the outdoors.

Indoor-only lights aren’t insulated like outdoor lights and won’t work with moisture from the outdoors. In fact, if indoor lights are exposed to water, snow or any other outdoor element, they could possibly become hazardous.

Tip 7: Use Ladders Appropriately

Since falls are the highest emergency room-related injury during the holidays, it’s important to know how to safely use a ladder when hanging Christmas lights off the roof of your home or in any other space that would require a ladder.

Have a spotter with you at all times to hold the ladder for stability. When hanging Christmas lights, never extend your body further than parallel with the ladder to prevent tipping. Consider a wooden or fiberglass ladder when you’re working with Christmas lights to prevent an electric shock.

Tip 8: Use Christmas Light Clips Instead of Nails or Screws

When hanging outdoor Christmas lights on your roof, don’t use nails or screws to secure the lights as they can puncture the wires, causing the lights to malfunction, or worse, shock the person installing them.

Instead, opt for light clips found at any hardware store to secure the lights onto the house. The light clips are safer for the Christmas lights and will cause less damage to your roof, compared to nails or screws.

Tip 9: Secure All Loose Light Strands

If you need to use an extension cord or have a long strand of lights between your Christmas tree and outlet, make sure you secure all loose light strands with electrical tape to avoid tripping and falling.

If you have loose light strands outdoors, secure them with ground staples found at any hardware store. Simply place the staple around the light and push as far as you can into the grass or other soft surfaces to secure the cord.

Tip 10: Don’t Run Christmas Lights through Windows or Doors

If you don’t have access to an outdoor outlet, you may find it challenging to light up your home this holiday season. Remember that you can’t run Christmas lights or extension cords through windows or doors.

When closed on the light strand, windows and doors can cause wires to break or become frayed from constant pressure, making them a safety hazard for shocks or electric fires.

Tip 11: Use a GFCI Outlet for Outdoor Lights

There’s a specific outlet used for outdoor Christmas lights called a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. It prevents electric shock from electrical systems that could be exposed to wet conditions, like rain or snow, acting as a circuit breaker.

This is especially helpful if your outlet is outdoors. Make sure you protect yourself and your home from electric shorts by purchasing a GFCI outlet. You might need to hire a licensed electrician to install this outlet or you can install it yourself.

Tip 12: Don’t Forget to Turn Off the Lights

Christmas tree lights should not be left on for prolonged periods of time or overnight. Even LED lights can overheat, and with a combination of a dry Christmas tree, could cause a fire. Make it a habit to turn off your Christmas lights every time you leave the house or go to bed at night.

To make it easier, purchase a light timer for your Christmas tree lights and set it to a time to turn off every night and back on the next day. You can also buy a wireless control to shut off your lights through an app on your phone. Not only could this save your home from a fire, but it could also save you money in electricity bills.

Tip 13: Be Sure to Store Lights Properly Until Next Season

When the holiday season is over, make sure you don’t slack on putting away your decorations. Check the local laws of your city for how long you can keep up your holiday decorations. Some cities will ticket homes who have their holiday decorations up past a certain date.

Store all outdoor and indoor Christmas lights in a well-sealed container to prevent water damage and rodent access.

Knowing how to properly install and maintain your Christmas lights could save you money in electricity bills, prevent you or a loved one from getting an electric shock and eliminate the chance of a home fire. Follow these tips this holiday season to keep you and your home safe.

Source: click here



November 2018 Newsletter

How much energy does it take to roast a turkey?

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Your burning utility sector Thanksgiving questions, answered

It takes about four hours to roast a 16 pound turkey, which means if you put it in a 350-degree oven at 8 a.m. you should be asleep by 3 p.m. That's fairly simply Thanksgiving math, but a far more tricky question is: How much electricity did it take to roast that turkey? 

Before we try to track down the answer, let's just point out that from a utility-perspective the holidays really are a relaxing time of year. Perhaps not for you — your household power bill might be higher as you crank the oven for hours and fill the house with crazy aunts and uncles — but overall loads decline on the holidays.

“Demand for electricity on Thanksgiving Day is generally lower than on a typical week day,” said NYSEG spokesman Clayton Ellis, “because the largest users of electricity are closed for the holiday.”

So, about that turkey …

The most direct answer comes from TXU Energy, which estimates it takes roughly 8 kWh to cook your average turkey – an electric oven drawing 2 kW, running for four hours. And with about 46 million turkeys roasted each Thanksgiving (a fact they authoritatively sourced from the National Turkey Federation), that's a lot of energy.

But not all households use electricity for cooking. The California Energy Commission estimates about  58% of American homes have electric stoves rather than gas, which means about 26 million turkeys cooked in electric ovens – or 213 million kWh used, according to TXU.

“When you translate that to dollars spent on electricity for the day, it’s nowhere near what’s spent for holiday meal ingredients, but it still adds up,” the utility said. “Based on the most recent federal electricity pricing data, it also means that roughly $25 million may be spent on the electricity used to roast turkeys across the nation this Turkey Day.”

That's one answer, but TXU isn't the only source to try and dig into the power consumption behind the gravy boat and cranberry sauce.

A lot of blogs have dipped into the question: Over at Green Explored, they assume an oven using .4 kWh would cook the average bird in four hours using 1.6 kWh — or 48 million kWh across the United States. Go Green Solar assumed a 4.4 kWh oven for a total of 17.6 kWh per turkey and came up with 792 million kWh used around the country to cook turkey (but they assumed a large bird and all electric ovens).

Back in 2013, Wired — being Wired, of course — tried to figure out how many batteries it would take to cook a turkey. They came up with 151 D cells, unless you tried to cook it fast, and then it was 263. The magazine's tests showed that to cook a 10 pound turkey in an hour you would need almost 200 watts.

About the only thing these estimates have in common is cook time, which is hugely variable since opening the oven door once can drop the temperature by 25 degrees. And who can resist?

But the coolest answer comes from a blog post a few years ago at Home Energy Pros, which is a network aimed at home energy professionals and is partly funded by the Department of Energy. Using data from the Phased Deep Retrofit project at the Florida Solar Energy Center, an analyst compared Thanksgiving 2012 load with the previous week's Thursday in fairly small sample of 30 homes.

For the day, holiday loads averaged 2.76 kWh while the week before was just .73 kWh. While the post focused on all-day power use (including cooking the full meal), the basic estimate is about 2 kWh to feed the family. And that result was largely in line with another Florida project completed more than a decade before, which estimated Thanksgiving cooking at 2.5 kWh. Check out the graphical representation of load, dropping off right after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Stop opening the oven. Yes, you.

Any way you cut it, it takes a lot of energy to cook a Thanksgiving meal. A lot of electricity, too.

Utilities are increasingly looking for ways to engage their customers, and holiday efficiency tips have become a staple of the season. So unless you're cooking with gas or stocked up on Duracells, here are a few suggestions from around the power industry:

  • Consolidated Edison is using turkey season to put energy savings in terms of pizza. Maybe they figure there's only so many leftovers you can eat? The utility says an average string of LED lights costs 47 cents to run for a month, so six strings add up to just under $3 -- "a little more than the cost of an NYC slice of pizza," ConEd notes. "Non-LED lights can cost you up to 10 times the amount to power, so get rid of the old lights and go enjoy the whole pie." They're serious about the pizza and have included a video. Watch until the end.

  • Stop peeking: Florida Power & Light notes that ovens "lose a lot of heat when opened and require significant energy to heat back up to the appropriate temperature." What doesn't use a lot of energy? The oven light and window.

  • Edison Electric Institute is running a virtual culinary efficiency school with 10 cooking tips, including: "Use the microwave instead of your regular oven whenever possible. Microwave ovens draw less than half the power of your regular oven, and they cook for a much shorter period of time."

  • And the California Energy Commission's Consumer Energy Center makes a point about right-sizing your pan to heating element. "More heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air," the agency notes. Using a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste more than 40% of the energy.

source: click here



October 2018 Newsletter

Solar Light Jack O’Lantern

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This Solar Light Jack O’Lantern charges all day in the sun and turns on automatically each night to wow your neighbors and guests without you having to do a thing! I know, I know. Pretty cool, right? How do you make your own? Let’s get started!

Solar Light Jack O’Lantern

Materials

  • Small-medium sized pumpkin

  • Outdoor solar light (just the top piece that holds the battery)

  • Knife or pumpkin carving tool

  • Spoon to scoop out the insides of the pumpkin

  • Pen or pencil

  • Piece of paper

  • Scissors

  • Small disposable bag to put pumpkin “innards”

For specific instructions, click here.



September 2018 Newsletter

Home Electrical Safety Tips

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According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical cords and temporary wiring account for over 25% of the estimated 81,000 electrical system fires that occur each year. The risk of fires can be reduced by following these essential home electrical safety tips.

Extension cord safety rules

  • Don't use extension cords as a substitute for repairing building wiring.

  • Inspect extension cords for broken connectors, damaged insulation and missing hardware before each use.

  • Do not run extension cords through walls, over beams, around corners or through doorways.

  • Only use extension cords approved for the environment and loads expected.

  • Equip extension cords with ground fault interruption (GFI) devices.

  • Dont use coiled extension cords.

  • Discard damaged extension cords; don't try to repair them.

  • Use only surge protected power strips. Inspect the power strips regularly for damage or signs of overloading.

Temporary wiring safety rules

  • Don't substitute temporary and flexible wiring for repairing building wiring.

  • Use temporary wiring only when needed for maintenance, repair or demolition activities.

  • Limit temporary wiring for holiday or ornamental lighting to no more than 90 days.

  • In outdoor settings use only outdoor approved temporary wiring and extension cords.

  • Don't route temporary wiring across floors, around doors or through walls.

  • Locate temporary wiring at least 7 feet above any walking or working surface.

  • Protect temporary wiring from sharp edges, heat and sunlight to avoid breakdown of the insulation.

For more electrical safety tips, check out: nationwide.com



August 2018 Newlsetter

Why go solar – Top 10 benefits of solar energy

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There are many reasons why homeowners go solar, but improving the environment and cutting energy costs are the most common. Many people are aware that solar is a great home efficiency upgrade and are eager to reduce their carbon footprint while also improving property value.

Whether your motivations for going solar are economic, environmental, or personal, this sizable list of solar power beenfits will have something for everyone. Here are the top ten reasons why solar energy is good for your home and more popular than ever in the United States.

The cost of solar is dropping across the nation. 

  • #1 Drastically reduce or even eliminate your electric bills

    Whether you’re a homeowner, business, or nonprofit, electricity costs can make up a large portion of your monthly expenses. With a solar panel system, you’ll generate free power for your system’s entire 25+ year lifecycle. Even if you don’t produce 100 percent of the energy you consume, solar will reduce your utility bills and you’ll still save a lot of money.

 

  • #2 Earn a great return on your investment

    Solar panels aren’t an expense – they’re one of the best ways to invest, with returns rivaling those of more traditional investments like stocks and bonds. Thanks to substantial electricity bill savings, the average American homeowner pays off their solar panel system in seven to eight years and sees an ROI of 20 percent or more.

 

  • #3 Protect against rising energy costs

    One of the most clear cut benefits of solar panels is the ability to hedge utility prices. In the past ten years, residential electricity prices have gone up by an average of three percent annually. By investing in a solar energy system now, you can fix your electricity rate and protect against unpredictable increases in electricity costs. If you’re a business or homeowner with fluctuating cash flow, going solar also helps you better forecast and manage your expenses.

 

  • #4 Increase your property value

    Multiple studies have found that homes equipped with solar energy systems have higher property values and sell more quickly than non-solar homes. Appraisers are increasingly taking solar installations into consideration as they value homes at the time of a sale, and as homebuyers become more educated about solar, demand for properties equipped with solar panel systems will continue to grow.

 

  • #5 Boost U.S. energy independence

    The sun is a near-infinite source of energy and a key component of achieving energy independence in the United States. By increasing our capacity to generate electricity from the sun, we can also insulate our country from price fluctuations in global energy markets.

 

  • #6 Create jobs and help your local economy

    According to The Solar Foundation, the solar industry added jobs at a rate nearly 12 times faster than the overall U.S. economy in 2015, representing 1.2 percent of all jobs in the country. This growth is expected to continue. Because solar-related jobs tend to be higher paying and cannot be outsourced, they are a significant contributor to the U.S. economy.

 

  • #7 Protect the environment

    Solar is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Buildings are responsible for 38 percent of all carbon emissions in the U.S., and going solar can significantly decrease that number. A typical residential solar panel system will eliminate three to four tons of carbon emissions each year—the equivalent of planting over 100 trees annually.

 

  • #8 Demonstrate your commitment to sustainability

    Sustainability and corporate social responsibility are important components of an organization’s culture and values. They also produce bottom line results. Increasingly, consumers and communities are recognizing and rewarding businesses that choose to operate responsibly. Businesses are finding that “green” credentials are a powerful driver of consumer purchasing decisions, creating goodwill and improving business results.

 

  • #9 Increase employee morale

    Just like consumers, employees have a demonstrated appreciation for their employers’ commitment to operating responsibility. Employees share in the success and contributions of their organizations. Companies that care about their community and environment tend to have lower turnover rates, more engaged employees, and higher levels of morale.

 

  • #10 Stay competitive

    Companies quickly are realizing the social and economic benefits of adopting solar power. As early adopters pull ahead of the competition, many companies are exploring solar power as a way to keep up.

For this article & more great information, check out: www.energysage.com



July 2018 Newsletter

Exciting News FOR solar!

from BusinessInsider.com
This Aug. 13, 2014, file photo, shows an array of mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating site in Primm, Nev -- AP Photo/John Locher

This Aug. 13, 2014, file photo, shows an array of mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating site in Primm, Nev -- AP Photo/John Locher

The US has added more solar power than any other type of electricity in 2018 so far — more evidence of an energy revolution

  • The US added more solar power than any other type of electricity in the first quarter of 2018.

  • Solar accounts for 55% of all US electricity added so far in 2018.

  • The number is evidence of a broader global shift: Investment in renewable energy for electricity is overtaking fossil fuels.

The US added more solar power than any other type of electricity in the first quarter of 2018.

According to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a nonprofit group, the US solar market added 2.5 gigawatts of new capacity in the first three months of 2018, up 13% from the first quarter of 2017.

That accounts for 55% of all US electricity added in the first quarter of 2018, including fossil fuels and other forms of renewable energy.

"This data shows that solar has become a common-sense option for much of the US and is too strong to be set back for long," SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement.

The SEIA report notes that the bulk of the new solar capacity added comes from utility-scale projects, which are large installations that feed power into the grid. Non-residential solar, a category used when companies like AT&T and Nestle switch their electricity source to solar power, was the second largest area of growth, according to the SEIA.

Shayanne Gal/ Business Insider

Shayanne Gal/ Business Insider

This growth comes despite the 30% tariffs the Trump administration levied on imported solar panels earlier this year. The tariffs went into effect at the beginning of February, a change that some in the solar industry previously told Business Insider would lead to a reduced demand for solar power.

After the tariffs went into effect, developers killed some $2.5 billion of solar installation projects, according toReuters. Some US senators recently introduced a bipartisan bill to repeal the tariffs, saying they "jeopardize tens of thousands of workers" who are employed installing and maintaining solar installations in the US.

In 2017, before the tariffs were implemented, it cost around $50 to produce one megawatt-hour of electricity from solar power, according to an analysis from the investment bank Lazard. Coal, by comparison, cost about $102 per megawatt-hour to produce, the report calculated.

Rising US solar investment mirrors a larger global shift. In 2017, solar energy attracted $160.8 billion in investment, according to data from the United Nations Environment Program, outpacing nuclear and fossil fuels. China was by far the largest investor last year, sinking $126 billion alone into the renewable energy sector, according to a UN report.

Solar in 2017 was also the fastest growing electricity source globally, with 98 gigawatts added in 2017.

 

Shayanne Gal/ Business Insider

Shayanne Gal/ Business Insider

For this article & more great information, check out: www.businessinsider.com