PECO's Refrigerator Recycling Program

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When Pennsylvanians get new, energy-efficient refrigerators for their homes, old refrigerators often get relegated to a support role in garages or basements. After all, the old models still work, and they can be used to chill drinks and snacks for a basement game room or for bulk-purchased foods that homeowners hadn’t bought before because they lacked the space.

Some consumers like to use things — cars, televisions, home appliances — as long as they can because they take pride in making things last, and, besides, they reason, smart consumers get value for their purchases and don’t buy something if they don’t need it.

There are a lot of old refrigerators out there as a result of this philosophy, and many of them are 20, 30, or even 40 years old. In fact, there are more than 27 million pre-1993 refrigerators still in use, and about 26 percent of all U.S. homes have a second refrigerator, according to 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Unfortunately, old refrigerators that keep on working are a big problem for consumers, as well as for utilities, which are trying to avoid having to build new power plants to handle the growing demand for electricity. Old refrigerators are terribly inefficient, and can use up to four times the amount of energy as a modern, energy-efficient model for the same amount of cooling. Hanging on to that old refrigerator costs consumers a lot of money — between $150 and $200 a year — and pulls a lot of electricity from power grids like the one owned by Pennsylvania utility PECO Energy Co.

PECO Helping Customers Save Energy

Thankfully, PECO’s new Smart Appliance Recycling program helps customers start saving energy and saving money on monthly bills by giving them $35 for their old refrigerators. The utility will even send a truck to pick it up and have it shipped to a “demanufacturing” facility in Hatfield that sucks out the harmful refrigerant for responsible disposal and prepares the 150 pounds of metal, 25 pounds of plastic, and 3 pounds of glass in an average refrigerator for recycling.

In its first year of operation, the facility has recycled 50,000 refrigerators with an average age of 22 years. Demanufacturing those refrigerators saved 85,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 7,000 homes for a year, according to Jaco Environmental, the company that runs the Hatfield facility.

So far, PECO’s Smart Appliance Recycling program has helped customers of the utility recycle 15,662 old refrigerators at the facility, which saved 27,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, the equivalent of planting 30,000 trees or taking 30 million miles of automobile driving off the books, according to PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel.

PECO’s Smart Appliance Recycling program will also pay customers $35 to recycle freezers and $10 to recycle room air conditioners.

PECO Smart Appliance Recycling Program Requirements

There are several requirement that need to be met in order to qualify for PECO’s Smart Appliance Recycling Program:

  • Homeowners must be PECO customers
  • Refrigerator and freezer size must be between 10 and 30 cubic feet
  • Units must be empty and working when they are picked up
  • In order to be picked up, units must be accessible by the removal team by a clear and safe path
  • Removal teams won’t risk injury, modify homes (remove doors and railings), or remove personal effects to remove units

Sources

GreenSpace: Cold War on the Inefficient Old Fridge,” The Philadelphia Enquirer, March 21, 2011.

PECO Smart Ideas website, “PECO Smart Appliance Recycling.”

Top 7 Tips for Energy-Efficient Home Lighting

Tips for Energy-Efficient Home LightingThere are countless ways to reduce energy costs, but few are as easy as changing your home’s lighting. In fact, lighting consumes about 10 percent of the average home’s electricity use, and using energy-efficient lighting strategies can reduce the average home’s lighting costs by up to 75 percent. To help you get started, here are seven tips for saving money by making your home lighting more energy efficient.

1. Use more direct “task” lighting

Task lighting is direct, overhead lighting for desks, kitchen cooking areas, tool benches, craft tables and other areas. In cases like this, you don’t need to light the whole room to accomplish your task. You can just light the area you need illuminated, thereby preventing waste and cutting lighting costs.

2. Install energy-efficient light bulbs

Energy-efficient light bulbs are designed to provide the same amount of light while using less electricity:

 --Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) will provide the same quantity of light as incandescent light bulbs while using about 75 percent less electricity. They also last from about 8 to 10 times longer. And don’t forget to check out the special CFLs that are compatible with dimmer switches.

 --High-efficiency halogen lighting is a good option if you don’t like the look of CFLs. You can replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 72-watt or 70-watt halogen bulb or replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a 42-watt or 40-watt halogen bulb and still get the same amount of light.

 --Light emitting diode (LEDs) bulbs are the most energy-efficient and long-lasting types of light bulbs. You can replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a 12-watt LED that will last more than 20,000 hours, or about 10 years.

3. Shop for lumens, not watts

Remember to shop for light bulbs using lumens, not watts. Lumens describes the amount of light a bulb produces, while watts determines the amount of electricity the bulb uses. Energy-efficient light bulbs will produce the same lumens but use fewer watts (which is how a 12-watt LED, for example, can produce as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb).

3. Consider changing the surface color of your room

The way interior surfaces reflect light can be a major player in lighting efficiency. Since lighter colors reflect more light than darker surfaces, you should consider repainting your walls and ceilings with lighter colors and choose lighter colors for your floors and furniture. Conversely, darker colors will absorb more light and require you to use higher wattage bulbs to create the same level of illumination.

4. Use fewer, higher-wattage bulbs

If your home has lamps and light fixtures with multiple sockets for two or more incandescent bulbs, you should consider using fewer, higher-wattage bulbs instead of filling all the sockets with lower-wattage bulbs. Doing so will actually allow you to produce more light. A 100-watt bulb, for instance, produces 50 percent more light than four 25-watt bulbs but uses the same amount of energy. And that’s just for incandescent bulbs. If you use CFLs or LEDs in a similar fashion, your electricity use will be dramatically lower.

5. Locate lamps in corners of rooms

When possible, you should place or install floor, table and hanging lamps in the corners of rooms rather than against a flat wall. Doing so will allow the light from the lamp to reflect off of two wall surfaces instead of one, providing you with greater illumination from the same bulb(s).

6. Clean your lighting fixtures regularly

Make sure to dust and otherwise clean your lighting fixtures regularly. Any dirt or grime that gets on bulbs or reflectors will decrease lighting efficiency.

7. Use multiple circuits for large areas

In the case of large areas that use high levels of lighting some of the time but not all of the time, such as family or living rooms, consider installing fixtures on two or three circuits. That way, you can control the lighting of separate areas of the room (similar to the way that task lighting works, but on a larger scale) without having to light the entire area.

How have you managed to cut you home lighting costs? Let us know what you’ve done and how it’s worked for you.

Sources

Edison Electric Institute, “More Than 100 Ways to Improve Your Electric Bill.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Lighting.”

Sales Tax Holiday for Energy-Efficient Appliances Comes to Texas May 26–28, 2012

Tax Free Shopping 2012This Memorial Day weekend, Texans can save on sales tax on ENERGY STAR appliances using the state’s fifth annual sales tax holiday.

The state-wide promotion runs from May 28–30 and will help residents cut energy costs by allowing them to purchase one of the following ENERGY STAR–certified appliance upgrades without having to pay a single cent in sales tax:

--Air conditioners, up to $6,000

--Ceiling fans

--Clothes washers, but not clothes dryers (ENERGY STAR doesn’t label clothes dryers because most use about the same amount of energy)

--Dehumidifiers

--Dishwashers

--Light bulbs, incandescent and fluorescent

--Programmable thermostats manufactured up to December 31, 2009 (ENERGY STAR no longer rates programmable thermostats, but any ENERGY STAR–rated programmable thermostats manufactured before January 1, 2010 that are still in stock are eligible) --Refrigerators, up to $2,000

What if I Want to Buy Online or Through a Catalog?

You can shop online or through a catalog and still qualify for the sales tax exemption as long as the ENERGY STAR–certified appliance is paid for and the retailer accepts the order between May 26–28. In such cases, the appliance may be shipped after May 28.

What About Out-of-Stock, Backordered and On-Order Appliances?

If the ENERGY STAR–certified appliance is backlogged, temporarily out of stock or on order by the retailer, you’ll still qualify for the sales tax exemption as long as you purchase the appliance between May 26–28.

How Does the Sales Tax Holiday Work With Layaway Plans?

You’ll be able to qualify for the sales tax exemption as long as you complete your order and the ENERGY STAR–certified appliance is accepted into layaway between May 26–28. You can also qualify for the sales tax exemption on an ENERGY STAR–certified appliance already in layaway if you make your final payment between May 26–28.

Are Delivery Charges Tax Exempt?

Some delivery charges will qualify for the sales tax exemption. Several factors determine the tax-exempt status of your order — including if you have a mix of eligible ENERGY STAR–certified appliances and non-eligible items and whether you are charged a flat delivery fee or not — so make sure to ask your retailer for more information on delivery charges before you place your order.

Are the Installation Charges for My New Appliance Also Tax Exempt?

Whether or not the installation of ENERGY STAR–certified appliances qualifies for the sales tax exemption is somewhat complicated and depends on several factors like the type of installation and the nature of the jobsite. For more information on the tax-exempt status of installations, contact the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, your installer or contractor.

Sources

Window on State Government, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, “ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday Information for Sellers Memorial Day Weekend: May 26-28, 2012.”

Design Concept Encourages Energy Efficiency with a Cool, Futuristic Monitor

Erica Pozzey, a graduate student from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, has developed a new, super sleek and stylish way to monitor your home’s energy consumption. The system, called Triad Energy, combines an award-winning design with captivating real-time infographics to keep you engaged and motivated enough to monitor your home’s energy use on an ongoing basis. It even allows you to see the energy usage of other Triad Energy users near you. That way, you can know how efficient you have to be to become the most energy-efficient household in the neighborhood.

The system’s wall mounted display, called Triad Wall, looks like a piece of triangular technology from the future. The three truncated points each represent a separate energy consumption measurement: how much energy you are using, how close your energy use is to the target you set for yourself and how your energy use compares with homes in your area that also have Triad Energy monitors. The display uses a smooth, organic triangle graphic to visually communicate your energy use, with each point indicating one of the three categories. It even comes with pleasing ambient backlighting that changes color, presumably to signify the amount of energy you’re using.

If you’re not a visual person, however, there’s no need to worry. The system comes with a sophisticated web-based interface that gives you plenty of detailed data to look through to better understand your energy habits. The web interface also allows communication to and from Triad Wall, tracks and provides detailed reports of your energy use and can be set up to send alerts to your mobile device to make sure you’re always in the loop.

On the one hand, the system encourages self-monitoring with its futuristic Triad Wall and well-featured web platform. On the other, it works as a kind of social media device, allowing you to share energy information with other users so you know who your neighborhood queen or king of energy efficiency is. With everyone competing for the top spot by using less energy, we all win.

Whether or not you decide to vie for the crown of “most energy efficient” in your neighborhood, (we suspect you’ll be able to shut off the social feature if you prefer) we love the idea of a simple, at-a-glance way to check our energy consumption. If Pozzey is right, it may be just the thing that motivates us to use less energy. And that’s something that's good for everyone.

Sources

Futuristic Wall Display Shows Real-Time Energy Usage,” Physorg, Feb. 27, 2012.

2012 LED Light Bulb Discounts for Houston-Area Residents

LED light bulb subsidies in Houston

If you’re a residential electricity customer who lives in the Houston, Texas area, you have a few choices when it comes to the type of light bulb you can buy. You can get the standard incandescent bulb or you can shop for energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), halogen bulbs or ultra-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). People buy incandescent bulbs, CFLs and halogen bulbs all the time, but not as many folks invest in LEDs because of their cost.

However, thanks to a money-saving program by Houston–area electricity utility CenterPoint Energy that’s been carried over to 2012, you can actually save some real money off ENERGY STAR–certified LED light bulbs.

The program offers discounts on a variety of LEDs at all Houston–area Home Depot, Lowe's, Sam's Clubs and Costco stores. The great thing is that you won’t get some sort of rebate card or check in the mail. The discount is built in and applied right at the register. (Although the utility’s website still lists information for the 2011 program, we’ve confirmed with them that the 2012 program is, in fact, underway.)

What are the benefits of LEDs?

LEDs, compared with incandescent bulbs, use 80 percent less energy, last 15 times longer, and save $50 in electricity costs over the life of a single bulb. Installing just one LED can save you from $5 to $11 a year in electricity costs. Installing five LEDs can save you $250 over their lifetime.

Which LEDs are part of the discount program?

There are several distinct types of LEDs that qualify for discounts under CenterPoint’s program:

A-line LEDs look most like normal incandescent bulbs and are used to replace typical 40W to 100W incandescent bulbs in cases where the bulb is visible or has a downward-facing socket.

7W decorative LEDs are used for decorative lighting fixtures, such as chandeliers.

Globe LEDs are meant to replace 40W to 60W incandescent globe bulbs in cases where the bulb is visible, like above or around a bathroom vanity mirror, and in downward-facing sockets.

MR16 LEDs replace 20W halogen bulbs, which are typically used for task lighting in things like desk lamps.

PAR38 flood LEDs are used to replace 90W to 120W outdoor floodlights and work equally well with motion sensors or photo cells.

R30 flood LEDs are perfect for replacing 65W to 90W R lamps used in recessed cans.

R40 flood LEDs are for stronger 65 W to 120W R lamps in recessed cans and are great for providing bright lights in bathrooms.

How Do I Shop for LEDs?

Since LEDs use fewer watts than incandescent bulbs — which is why they’re so efficient in the first place — you can’t look to replace your 40W incandescent bulb with a 40W LED. In fact, they don’t even make 40W LEDs. Instead, incandescent bulbs and LEDs are compared by lumens, or the amount of light they produce, rather than watts, or the amount of electricity they use (more on watts vs. lumens here). Here’s a chart to help you compare watts between incandescent bulbs and LEDs:

Incandescent BulbLED Equivalent

40W

7–12W

60W

10–15W

75W

16–20W

90W

16W

100W

16W


Sources

CenterPoint Energy, “Advanced Lighting Program — Residential.”

CenterPoint Energy, “Make Your Mark with ENERGY STAR LEDs.”

How to Choose the Right Outdoor Lighting for Your Home’s Main Entryway

Select Outdoor Lighting for Front Door

When shopping for outdoor lighting fixtures for your home’s main entryway, it’s important to choose a fixture style and finish that complements the design of your home. However, the size and location of the fixtures you choose are just as important as the style you settle on. While aesthetic tastes can vary greatly, there are a few general tips for picking the right sized fixtures and installing them in the best location near your entryway or front door:

  • Avoid choosing fixtures that are too small for your entryway or door. Keep in mind that the fixtures, when viewed from 50 feet away, will appear about half as large as they really are.
  • When using a single side lantern to light your main entryway, the fixture should be about one-third the height of your door.
  • When using two lanterns to light your main entryway, one on each side of your door, the fixtures can be slightly smaller, about one-quarter the height of the door.
  • When mounting the fixtures, make sure they are slightly above eye-level. Typically, this means the filament should be situated about 66 inches above the bottom of your door’s threshold.

Before you buy lighting fixtures for your main entryway, grab a tape measure and take some measurements of your door. No matter which lighting fixture you end up choosing, at least you’ll know it’s the right proportion for your home’s main entryway.

Sources

Lamps Plus, “Quick Guide: Choosing the Right Sized Exterior Lighting.”

BGE Offers Refrigerator Recycling for Residential Electricity Customers

Maryland refrigerator recycling

If you’re a residential electricity customer of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) and you have an old refrigerator or freezer you’re thinking about ditching, the utility has an offer that just might help you make your decision.

BGE, through its Smart Energy Savers Program, is willing to swing by your home, pick up your unwanted refrigerator or freezer, recycle it, and give you $50 for your trouble.

According to the utility, more than 95 percent of each refrigerator and freezer is recycled by the program, which means that less than 5 percent of each appliance makes its way into a landfill. Plus, BGE says that you can cut your annual energy use by about $100 if you get rid of that second refrigerator or freezer in your garage or basement.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of BGE’s refrigerator and freezer recycling program, here are a few things you should know:

  • Regardless of whether you buy your electricity from BGE or an alternative Baltimore electricity supplier like Spark Energy, BGE must be the company that delivers your electricity and you must have a valid BGE account number
  • You must own the refrigerator or freezer
  • Appliances must have a capacity of between 10 and 27 cubic feet
  • The appliance must work
  • The appliance will be picked up at the address listed on your BGE billing account for no charge
  • You can have up to two appliances recycled through the program
  • You’ll get a check for $50 for each appliance recycled; checks will be mailed to your billing account address within four weeks of the time your appliance is picked up

To recycle a refrigerator or freezer through BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program, you can call the utility at 866.898.1901 to schedule a pickup.

Sources

Refrigerator and Freezer Recycling, BGE Smart Energy Savers Program.