Guest Commentary from EcoDog, Inc: 5 Ways to Keep Your Cool While Reducing Energy


While summer temperatures are close to the 100 degree mark in places across the country, it can be a challenge to reduce energy while the air conditioner is going full force. Here are five things you can do to reduce energy consumption and costs while keeping your cool:

1. Run or install ceiling fans to circulate the air instead of using the air conditioner. Today’s ceiling fans are very economical and have various settings including one to reverse the blades to optimize air circulation.

2.  If your home is well insulated, keep your windows closed to keep in the cooler air. If not, it’s wise to look into energy saving insulation. And, you may qualify for a 10 percent Federal energy tax credit for buying qualified energy efficient improvements. To qualify for the tax credit, the energy improvement must meet or exceed the criteria established by the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code. The home insulation improvements must be made inside the taxpayer’s main home in the United States.

3. Run dishwashers and washer/dryers later in the evening, during non-peak usage times. The electric utilities are charging us all more to use appliances during peak times. By running appliances later in the evening, you’ll save $$ and keep you house cooler too!

4. Use energy-efficient light bulbs and don’t forget to use more energy-efficient landscape lighting! This is an area that many homeowners forget to check. Did you check the timer to adjust for longer daylight hours? Can you reduce the number of hours that the lights are on?5.

5. Invest in a home energy monitoring system. As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. By understanding where you’re using the most energy – whether it’s the washer/dryer or your kid’s gaming center, by identifying the energy hogs in your home you can adjust the time and length of operation. Or, you might find that the extra refrigerator you have in the garage or man-cave is not up to EnergyStar® standards and is costing you a bundle to power. Easy-to-use monitoring software can help you understand your energy usage habits and arm you with information that can help you not only understand where you’re using the most energy – room by room – but will also help you understand your utility bill! The investment is well worth it and will pay for itself in no time. Typical users of our home energy management system, FIDO®, are seeing 20-30 percent savings.

Here’s to more money in your pocket and staying cool!


DOE and Software Developers are Driving Energy Saving Tools


The U.S. Energy Department’s Apps for Energy competition is offering $100, in prizes to software developers for the best new apps that help utility customers make the most out of their Green Button electricity usage data. Green Button is an open standard for sharing electricity data that will be available to millions of utility customers. Understanding energy usage is at the pinnacle of making better informed energy decisions and reducing costs.

Having easy-to-use and understandable insight into energy usage puts the power back into the consumer’s hands, literally. Saying that I used 50 kilowatts of power last month on my utility bill is not useful. This lack of meaningful information from utilities has launched a new industry known as Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS). These systems offer consumers an energy management tool that is tailored to their particular lifestyle. And, thanks to some very creative folks in the industry, many of these tools are very user-friendly.  One software tool in particular from EcoDog can not only show you where you’re using energy and how to save dollars, they’re app can show you how much money you’d save installing solar or predict how much it will cost you to run your electric vehicle. Very cool!

The Smart Grid is a brave new world for utilities and thanks to open standards, developers will be instrumental in creating useful tools to help us understand energy usage better and positively change our behaviors.

Yep, there’s an app for that…now, if I could just move to the next level in Angry Birds!

PJ Jennings

Securing the Power Grid and Our Way of Life


There have been many stories of late about securing the grid against cyber threats, terrorism and unplanned outages. However, for most folks, these stories go unnoticed overshadowed by the latest antics of Hollywood actors, politicians or YouTube videos. Granted talking about the electrical grid is not the most glitzy of subjects (I should know, I’ve been talking about power for 20+ years while my friends’ eyes glaze over), but we as a society should be very interested and concerned about our electrical lifeline to the world. A few months back, San Diego had an unexpected blackout in the middle of the day – unexpected as there were no storms or heat waves – just a maintenance worker in a neighboring state pushing the wrong buttons.  Needless to say there was gridlock on local streets as traffic lights went out, gas pumps shut down because there was no power to run them, work stopped and plans for the evening were cancelled. It was an interesting look at human nature – what do we do when the things we take for granted every day are all of sudden unavailable?  Panic. How do I charge my cell phone? Yikes!

Securing the grid against human error and/or more nefarious actions needs to be a priority. Our appetite for energy is not going to go away. In fact, our need for electrical energy is exponentially increasing. It is our lifeline to the world and integral to our daily lives. Both investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and municipal-owned utilities (MOUs) are on the forward path to making the power grid more intelligent. However, the grid cannot be truly smart if it’s not secure. I propose that utilities need to be working on a parallel path in integrating data and communication infrastructure technologies that facilitate a more efficient and faster grid, while embedding security from the customer’s meter to a utility’s data center. Breaching the grid is serious and not only can the operation of the grid be compromised, but customer data as well. See article on “Data breach exposes info on NY utility customers.”  Fortunately, new reliability standards such as the North American Electric Corporation’s Critical Infrastructure Protection (NERC CIP) security guidelines requiring a utility’s cyber assets be protected against threats are a step in the right direction.

Making the grid smart and secure is a must. Our way of life in the 21st century demands it.

What are your thoughts?

PJ Jennings

© Copyright Jennings & Associates Communications, Inc.