Tag Archives: Reliant Challenge

5 DIY Projects to an Energy-Efficient Home

I’m half way through the Reliant Challenge and I can already tell you that even if I don’t win the trip to BlogHer 2014, simply by participating in this challenge and what we’re now saving on our electric bill is enough of a win!

Home Energy Checkup-1 Last week, Reliant sent out an energy auditor, Daniel, to help show us areas of our home that’s causing our energy usage to go up, provide tips on how to be more energy-efficient, and strategies for decreasing our electric bill.

He begun by reviewing our electric bills over the last 12 months, and what he showed me wasn’t any surprise! Tim and I have both known that our air conditioning runs almost 24/7 in the summer time. Trying to keep our home cooled to 78 is a challenge, but we’ve always attributed this to poor circulation in our home and the fact that we live in Texas. It just gets hot. What did surprise me was that we’re using more electricity than most people who live in Dallas. So, with the energy auditor by my side, we went through a home inspection to discover why!

Although you can call Reliant and request a Home Energy Snapshot for your home, I wanted to provide you with a few pointers that our auditor provided to help you get a jump start on improving your home’s energy efficiency.

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5 DIY Projects To Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

1)  Seal your attic— Our home was built in 1968, and we have the original drop-down door leading up to our attic. Our auditor used a tool to detect air temperature around the door of the attic and it was amazing the temperature difference in our hallway around the attic opening.

Recommendation: Insulate the attic door with a layer of foam board or radiant paneling underneath the folding stairs and weather strip around the edges. An even better solution would be to create an attic stair cover or attic tent/draft cap. This will create a seal trapping air in the attic and not allowing our heat (or air conditioning) to escape!

2) Check Your Attic’s Insulation — Would it surprise you to find out our attic has the original insulation from 1968; including some places where there’s no insulation from unfinished home improvement projects? I believe he measured our insulation to be 4-5″ in some of its highest places.

Recommendation: The current Department of Energy recommendation for all attics is R-30 (or an even layer 10″-11″ deep). This is an easy DIY project because most stores will rent an attic blower for relatively cheap, and new insulation can be added over existing insulation as long as air leaks have been sealed and you’re not just masking an existing problem.

3) Take Care of the HVAC System— One of the most interesting facts he shared with us about our current HVAC system is that it’s almost 18 years old and he gave an analogy that even I could understand! Although our system is old, he explained that you can compare it to a car.  A good quality car will last a long time as long as you’re providing yearly maintenance and catching smaller problems and repairing them as they arise. If you’re not maintaining, similar to a car, you’ll find more frequent and more expensive repairs happening out of the blue.

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Recommendation: Yearly HVAC check-ups by a professional are extremely important to maintaining your HVAC unit unless you want to find yourself replacing it or spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on repairs. Keep the outside system clean with a simple wash with a water hose and change out air filters at least every 3 months (and possibly more often in the summer with extra usage.)

ReliantTips1 4) Turn Off Your Attic Lights — As homes begin to shift, separation can occur between the walls of your home. Our auditor found a large gap between the ceiling in our living room and the brick of our fireplace. With the lights off, he could see directly down into our living room, and if he could see down, air was definitely escaping up.

Recommendation: Go into your attic and turn off the lights while the house lights are on. See if you can spy any light coming into the attic from your home downstairs. If so, use “Great Stuff” or another type of sealer (as appropriate) to block the air leaks and insulate on top.

5) Replace Those Bulbs — A simple, easy (and cost effective) solution for energy efficiency is to start replacing your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs. Thanks to Reliant, Tim & I  were gifted a $50 Home Depot gift card to help us on this journey, and through lots of thought and price comparison, we decided to pass up on the florescent and go straight to the LED bulbs. This is the one area on our inspection our auditor was congratulatory to us!

Recommendation:  As a family who is home almost all day, and constantly using electricity, switching to CFL’s or LEDs will use about 75-85% less energy to produce the same amount of light. CFL’s and LED’s also produce much less waste heat than incandescents. Since these types of light bulbs can be costly, his recommendation was to prioritize frequently used light fixtures, or lights which get left on for long periods of time and begin replacing these first. Infrequently used lights can be converted as they burn out to maximize financial savings.

So, the “proof is in the pudding” as they say in the south. . . do these tips work? We’ll have to see in the long run–especially in the summer time–whether it will be a drastic savings difference.

But what I can tell you is that we received our lowest electric bill in over 2 and a half years this month!

As I said in the beginning, even if I don’t win the challenge, the savings we’re experiencing along has been well worth this challenge!

**I’ve partnered with Reliant Energy for the Reliant Challenge; however this post has not been sponsored. Reliant provided me with a free home energy inspection and a $50 Home Depot gift card to provide tips on how to create an energy-efficient home. All opinions are 100% my own! 

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Can You Cook Without Your Oven?

Since taking on the Reliant Challenge in October, I’ve been making a conscious effort to change our energy habits.

Lights are now being turned off in bedrooms as we move from room to room. I do a walk through of the house when we’re heading out to make sure there’s nothing on or running when we leave. And now, I always do a quick check of the Nest to make sure it’s set correctly since we’re still having some weird fall Texas weather.

But I have to be honest, this is about all I know how to do cut down on our electricity costs. Thankfully, Reliant has been helping me because I’m sure my limited amount of knowledge would not win me this contest!

One of the ways they’ve challenged us this month is to limit the use of our oven. Why? Did you know that using your oven for 1 hour at 365 degrees will cost an average of $0.16 each time you use it compared to a microwave oven which averages $0.03 on high for 15 minutes? Obviously we’re not talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, but when it comes to being more energy efficient that 2 kWh vs. 0.36 kWh is definitely more energy-friendly!

So, I took this challenge seriously and I went on a mission to find some meals that I could make for 1 week–leaving the oven behind!

What Did Our Meals Look Like?

I’ll be honest–being on Weight Watchers definitely helped during this challenge. Typically, anything that goes into our oven isn’t always the most healthy. It usually involves some kind of “Cream of …” or pasta.  So skipping the oven was actually a no-brainer when trying to find meals that would be diet-friendly.

Meals included:

– Simple grilled Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches

– Santa Fe Chicken Salad from Tom Thumb

– Alton Brown’s Fajita Marinade on the grill

– Steak & Asparagus on the grill

– America’s Test Kitchen’s Skillet Chicken with Penne & Broccoli (See photos of it here.)

Crockin’ Girls Mexican Lasagna

These were just a few of my personal favorites, but I’m now on a mission to find some great new recipes that are energy-saving. And thanks to a few of my blogger friends I now have a whole list of recipes that spare the oven and will get me one step closer to winning this challenge!

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On the Side

Life on the Horizon: Black Bean & Corn Salsa

Carrie Elle: Five Fruit Salad

Carrie Elle: Corn Salad

 

The Main Dish

Crystal & Co.: Lime Garlic Butter Salmon

Coffee & Giggles: Crockpot Creamy Chicken Taco Chili

Crystal & Co.: English Muffin Pizza

Southern Yankee Mix: Grilled Smoked Sausage Kabobs

Roubinek Reality: Texas Jambalaya

Crystal & Co.: Cabbage Beef Casserole

 Do you have any recipes you can share? 

**I am participating in a energy-saving competition sponsored by Reliant. I did not receive any compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own. 
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Let the Reliant Challenge Begin!

If you live in Texas you know that right around October, we reach this time of uncertainty in the weather.

When fall rolls around on September 21st, even nature is confused. Leaves are falling, but temperatures remain in the steady 90’s and (and if we’re unlucky) 100’s.

Then almost overnight–sometimes literally overnight–rainstorms will move in and it’s so long heat and hello beautiful fall temperatures. Although the 70’s and 80’s are  welcome break after the months of long, humid heat, you can imagine what an adjustment it is for our homes! From A/C blasting all day to a mixture of heat and air conditioning.

And don’t get me started on trying to figure out what to wear. It’s almost just as confusing.

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Up until a few weeks ago, we’ve been using a basic thermostat that we purchase back in our second year of marriage. I remember when we installed it, we were so impressed by it’s abilities! {It was replacing one of those circular 80’s style thermostats which you had to fiddle with almost 4 times a day to keep cool.} It not only had a digital display of the temperature, but allowed you to program when the A/C or Heat kicked on. For 7 years it met our needs.

This summer, I think our little thermostat met its match. By the time September hit, although it was digital, we were back to adjusting the thermostat several times a day because it was starting to go a little crazy. Heat? A/C? It had no clue!

Ironically, right around the time we were thinking about purchasing a new thermostat, Reliant invited me to participate in their Energy Awareness Month challenge!

Nest1 They’ve invited 5 bloggers in Dallas and Houston to participate and raise awareness for simple ways Texans can conserve energy during our first real month of fall. So, I used this challenge as an opportunity to up my energy saving game and install a Nest!

The Simplest Way to Save Energy

If you’re not familiar with the Nest Thermostat, it’s definitely THE way to help you save energy. Thermostats make up for over half the energy in your home. That means if you’re not correctly programming your home’s temperature you could be wasting up to $173 a year.*

Nest allows you to not only program your thermostat, but takes it to the next level and actually learns your temperature habits. As you adjust the temperature at certain times of the day, it remembers these variations, but also learns when you’re away from the house through “Auto-Away”–built in motion sensors that detect movement while you’re up and walking around your home. If you work outside of the home, it’ll learn your work habits and set itself to be energy efficient while you’re away. Genius.

Other Ways To Conserve

Lightbulbs On top of our new Nest addition, I’m also trying to be more proactive in conserving energy through obvious ways. Shutting off the lights when we leave a room or leave the house. Filling up the dishwasher before setting it to run. Watching my water settings on our washing machine. (If I don’t need warm or hot water, then use cold and being aware of the water level.) 

I know my next step to conserve even more energy is to finally make the switch from incandescent to fluorescent or LED, but I have to be honest…this will be the toughest switch to make of all simply for vanity reasons.

Although as I did a little browsing at Home Depot today, I was becoming more optimistic as I discovered fluorescent bulbs are looking a little more appealing.

Want to know more about the Reliant Challenge? 

Make sure to continue following along each month as I attempt to make our home more Energy Efficient and compete in a variety of challenges.

What’s in it for me? A Trip to BlogHer 2014!

How can you help? I’d love for you to help cheer me on each month, but as far as helping me win, this one is totally up to me! I could definitely use some advice on ways to me more energy efficient! Have any ideas? Make sure to comment! 

You can also follow along with my competition; 4 other Dallas and Houston bloggers:

  • The Nerd’s Wife – Arena is a Dallas mommy blogger, who admittedly, married a nerd.
  • Frugal Confessions – Amanda has chosen to live the frugal life by choice and because she has a passion for it.
  • 7 on a Shoestring – Staci is a mom of five – yes, you read that correctly! Based in Dallas, she looks for ways to feed and entertain her large family on a shoestring budget.
  • Cheerios and Lattes – Mackenzie’s blog focuses on making family life more enjoyable, sharing recipes, activities and DIY projects.

May the most energy efficient win!

 

*Fact provided by Nest Thermostat.

**I’ve been asked to participate in the Reliant Challenge to raise awareness for energy conservation. I have not been compensated for writing this post or mentioning Reliant; however, as part of the challenge, we were provided with a Nest Thermostat. 
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