Feeling the impact of winter weather in July? Just check your utility bill.

You’ll never guess why electricity rates will jump this summer. Hint: the Polar Vortex.

Last winter’s brutal polar vortex brought such cold temperatures that many New Yorkers saw their heating bills nearly double. Months later, the lingering after-effects of the polar vortex continue to keep electricity prices high.

Weather forecasters predict that New York State will experience sweltering temperatures in July and August 2014. As it gets hotter, air conditioners and refrigerators will have to work harder to keep things cool.

What does this mean for New York residents? Electricity prices are about to spike once again.

“New Yorkers, still reeling from home heating costs this winter, can expect to continue to get hammered by high bills this summer,” said Beth Finkel, New York State Director for AARP, a nonprofit social advocacy organization.

Why would the polar vortex impact summer energy rates? A recent study from the AARP explored the long-term impacts of extreme winter weather. It found that electricity generators had to tap into natural gas reserves during the polar vortex. The nation’s once abundant natural gas surplus was depleted. Now that reserves are low, natural gas prices are rising and the market has become increasingly volatile, which will lead to a summer rate spike.

The Energy Research Council issued a study mirroring the findings of the AARP report.

The AARP’s Finkel warns that throwing “looming rate hikes into the equation and household budgets for many simply don’t stand a chance against unprecedented utility bills. Something’s got to be done.”

In New York, the utility’s standard electricity supply rates are based on market conditions—and those prices fluctuate every 15 minutes.

AARP says that New Yorkers pay the highest electric rates in the United States. Since utility companies and the Public Service Commission handle how much to charge for electricity, New Yorkers have little control.

But where there are concerns, there are solutions. Rather than deal with the fluctuating prices offered by the utility companies, New Yorkers can opt for a fixed-rate plan from an electricity supplier such as Liberty Power. These fixed-rate plans can provide New York residents peace of mind. Making the switch allows households and businesses to worry less about unpredictable costs.

Liberty Power offers people fixed-rate electricity plans for up to 60 months. Customers are locked into a rate and avoid sudden spikes from extreme weather. That allows a household to budget more easily because the per kWh rate paid remains the same month-to-month, despite a polar vortex or summer heat wave.

For further information on available fixed-rate plans contact 1-866-POWER-99 to speak to a Liberty Power representative or click here for a price quote.

Dorm Survival 101: Room Appliances

Additional ‘stuff’ to help make dorm life livable

Welcome back to Liberty Power’s Dorm Survival Guide. While the following items aren’t ‘must haves’ they are definitely ‘nice to have’ when you’re trying to transform a stark, dirty dorm room into a place you can call home (at least for the next year).

  • Air Purifier/Humidifier – Beat those allergies by keeping an air purifier or humidifier around. Your nose and throat will thank you for it!
  • Iron/Steamer – Crushed clothes are not in style and never will be. Iron out those awkward folds and present yourself as a responsible adult. Professors (and your dates) will appreciate it.
  • Outlet Adapter – Some outlets are two prong friendly while others are three prong friendly. Don’t resort to buying all new appliances! Instead, just grab an outlet adapter and voila! Crisis averted!
  • Portable Air Conditioner/Fan/Heater – Not all dorm rooms have individual thermostats. And not all roommates are agreeable when it comes to temperature. Without these portables, you may have to either sweat it out or wrap yourself in blankets. Better to be prepared.
  • Power Drill – You won’t be building a house from scratch, but you may be doing some sort of assembly in your new dorm room. A power drill will make life that much easier.
  • Smart Battery Charger – You may not always have a spare outlet available for your charging needs. These compact devices can keep you going for days!
  • Stereo System – You’re in college! Turn up the music and have some fun! But make sure it’s okay with your roommates first.
  • Surge Protector – Dorm rooms usually only have between two and four outlets, yet students usually have about 10 different things they need to plug in. Make sure to bring a surge protector to expand the outlet offering and also protect your appliances from sudden power surges.
  • Vacuum Cleaner/Hand Vacuum – Mom’s no longer around to clean your room for you. Make sure to have a vacuum or hand vacuum to clean up your mess… or at least in emergencies when the parental units are coming to visit.

Ok, we’ve definitely checked off quite a few things on the list. But we’re not done yet. Next week, Liberty Power’s Dorm Survival Guide will cover electronics and school supplies. In the meantime, start packing!

Dorm Survival 101: Kitchen Appliances, The Sequel

Operation: Don’t Starve is back with some more helpful kitchen appliances to start your semester off right.

  • Coffee Maker – For the coffee addicts out there! This machine will become your best friend during midterms and finals. All night study session anyone?
  • Electric Handheld Can Opener/Jar Opener – Those jars can be quite intimidating sometimes. Don’t forget to bring a jar and can opener or else dinner may be a while.
  • Hot Air Popcorn Popper – Who doesn’t love popcorn with their favorite movie? A hot air popcorn popper provides a healthier alternative as the corn is not popped in oil! A snack that’s fast, easy, and good for you!
  • Hot Pot/Tea Kettle – These will fulfill your quick heating needs, especially for the tea drinkers out there. It has been proven that green tea can help maintain a healthy weight, ahem, freshman 15, ahem…
  • Rice Cooker – A super easy lifesaver for those times when all cafeterias are closed or serving not so appealing meals. Cook a chicken cutlet on your tabletop grill and voila! Dinner!
  • Water Filter – Water bottles can contaminate the environment and tap water may not always be the safest. Your best bet to finding a more cost effective solution that works all the time would be a water filter. There are the faucet attachments, fridge containers, and even water bottles that can get the job done.

Now, you’re ready to master the kitchen in your dorm! Or at least avoid starvation before you get out of all those introductory courses. But wait, we’re not done just yet. Tune in tomorrow for a look at other notable appliances you’ll want to consider in Liberty Power’s Dorm Survival Guide!

Dorm Survival 101: Kitchen Appliances

Our Operation: Don’t Starve checklist is essential when the campus meal plan just isn’t cutting it

 

The dining hall on campus is so convenient… except when it’s closed. Sigh. Now, what are you supposed to do? Here’s a list of dorm-friendly (or off-campus apartment) kitchen appliances to keep you from starving when your options are limited:

  • Blender/Hand Blender – You’ll be amazed at the things you can come up with while using a blender. Blend fruits for a smoothie, make your own tomato sauce, or experiment and come up with your own concoction! Word to the wise when you’re mixing and matching foods… just because they may taste good individually does not mean they will taste good together.
  • Cookware – You can’t cook without something to cook in! A basic set of pots and pans should do the trick.
  • Microwave – After the coffee maker, the microwave is your next best friend. For the on-the-go college student, it’s the easiest way to heat up simple meals when time is of the essence. Just make sure you are sticking with university standards when it comes to wattage.
  • Mini Fridge – A mini fridge in your room is a must! You might be leaving your food to chance if you put it in the communal fridge on your dorm floor. Again, just make sure you are getting the correct size. Dorm rooms can be small and you don’t want your fridge being the center of attention.
  • Tabletop Grill – Another one for those not so appealing moments at the cafeteria. You can grill meat/chicken, make grilled cheese sandwiches, and for those with a sweet tooth, try s ’mores!
  • Toaster – Toast, the perfect fix for a quick breakfast or a late night sandwich. Be careful not to burn it though… dorm smoke detectors are verrrrrry sensitive.

This was just to get you started… stay tuned for the second half of our Operation: Don’t Starve checklist tomorrow.

Turn Your Old Light Bulbs into Energy Efficient Mini Greenhouses

So your old light bulb burns out. What do you do? First, you probably curse it for burning out at the worst possible time; not that there’s ever a good time for it to burn out. And then you unscrew it, look at it one last time, shake your head, and throw it out. Now, wouldn’t it be nice to have another purpose for these glass bulbs? Cue superhero music: There is! Turn those old, energy sucking, inorganic light bulbs into useful, organic, mini greenhouses. It’s simple, fun, and a great lesson for the kids.

Before you get started, though, you’re going to need the following materials:

  • Burned out light bulb
  • Glue
  • Socket to hold the light bulb in place
  • Rubber piece to hold the socket in place
  • Escutcheon (piece that will serve as the bottom of the light bulb and will hold it above the cup)
  • Small plastic cup
  • Soil
  • Pliers
  • File
  • Compressor
  • Drill with drill bit

Once you gather the materials, follow these steps to create the mini light bulb greenhouse:

  • Prepare the light bulb by using the pliers to pull out the bottom contact. Then use the file to break the glass between the two contacts and smooth the edges. If it’s a frosted light bulb, clean the powder with a rag and water. Clean out any broken glass before proceeding.
    NOTE: This step works best if completed over an empty box that can catch the broken glass and other pieces that are getting cleaned out of the bulb.
    • Prepare the base of the soon to be mini green house by first using the drill to widen the bottom of the socket. Make sure the socket fits snug in the bottom of the light bulb. Glue the socket to the rubber piece and let it dry. Then glue that to the escutcheon and let it dry.
    • Fill the plastic cup with soil and add seeds or a small plant. Make sure to water the soil so that it’s damp.
    • Attach the escutcheon, rubber, socket piece to the top of the plastic cup. If there is a plant already growing, push it through the hole in the top.
    • Attach the bulb to the top of the escutcheon, rubber, socket piece.

    Voila! You now have your very own mini light bulb greenhouse. Make sure to place it in a well-lit area and water as needed. Your kids will love creating this simple project and you’ll enjoy teaching them about saving the planet at the same time. And so ends this edition of superhero crafts. Until next time folks, stay safe, stay green, and check back for more!

    Tips & Savings – Tin Can Grill Craft

    Recycle Tin Cans into Mini Grills on Your Next Camping Trip
    Its prime time camping season and what better way to spend some time with family and friends than to pack up your stuff and head out to the camping grounds? It’s just you, the wilderness, and wait… You forgot to pack one of the essentials… the grill! You could try to create a bonfire, but that may create a bigger problem. Fear not! We won’t let you starve! Chances are you did pack some sort of tin can, whether it be a coffee can, can of beans or any other type, there must be one somewhere inside your trailer. Follow these simple steps to turn that random can into your very own personal grill.

    • Using a marker, define one inch lines from the top of the can to about 2 inches from the bottom of the can.
    • Using some heavy duty scissors, cut those slats from top to about 2 inches from the bottom of the can.
    • Bend the slats outward to create a holder.
    • Line the inside of the can with foil.
    • Add coal.
    • Place a cooling rack on top of the can.
    • Grill at your pleasure. (Make sure to light the coals, of course!)

    You can now be a grill master, anytime, anywhere. Happy grilling!

    Source: http://lifehacker.com/5931624/make-a-diy-grill-out-of-a-tin-can

    Easy Ways to Save on Lighting at Work

    When it comes to saving on lighting, a lot of the same rules that apply to your house apply to your business too.

    Turn off your lights

    Turning off lights and other equipment in vacant rooms prevents wasted energy and can greatly help in the reduction of your utility bill.

    Install sensors

    Occupancy sensors can further ensure your vacant conference rooms are not draining your power usage. Switch plate occupancy sensors automatically turn lights on and off by ‘seeing’ when people enter or leave a room. Just make sure you are installing it right. Placing it behind a door will not help it “see” when someone enters the room.

    Get CFLs

    Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) cost about 75% less to operate and last 10 times longer than your traditional incandescent lights. Make sure to use them wherever it’s appropriate.

    Consider small changes

    Think about other areas where you could improve your energy costs. Try using ENERGY STAR qualified exit signs. According to ENERGY STAR’s savings calculator, the use of their certified exit signs could saving up to $100 per year per sign that you replace.

    Use your natural resources

    Natural sun light can help reduce costs as well as improve the moods of those in the office. We encourage you to leverage this option as often as possible!

    Light according to your people

    Different people have different lighting needs. For some, too much light in an office can lead to discomfort causing headaches, stiff necks and aches in the shoulder area. Adjusting the lights in your office will not only help lower your electric bill, it will increase overall productivity too.

    How to lower your business’ energy bill

    Lowering your business’ energy bill is probably more similar than you realize to the steps you take to do the same at home. This week, we’ll remind you of a few basics you can do in your office to keep your energy bill under control.

    • Tune up your equipment
    Schedule regular maintenance on your office equipment before the peak use seasons (winter for heating and summer for air conditioning) to make sure nothing is damaged or under-performing.

    • Change/clean your air filters
    Sometimes having too many particles in your air filter can really hurt its efficiency. Make sure to clean your air filters! You’ll benefit from a better performing AC as well as from a higher quality of air. Concerned about filter replacement costs? Look into purchasing an AC that comes with budget-friendly reusable, cleanable filters.

    • Take care of your building
    Occasionally, pesky leaks or faulty insulation play the culprit in your energy bill spike. Make sure to keep up with your building’s basic needs to ensure you are not blowing money out the windows. This can be a balancing act – you want to keep your controlled air in while still letting in some fresh air from the outside. Click here to check out the EPA’s guides on indoor air quality.

    • Master your elements
    You can reduce the amount of heat that comes into your building by simple treating your windows to reduce the amount of sun you allow in. Use solar screens (get them at your local hardware store) to block heat and glare. You can also use drapes or curtains, but these still let heat in through the glass. Focus specially on the windows facing east and west. West-facing rooms tend to get a lot warmer in the afternoon so unless you want to crank up your AC, try to schedule meetings in those room in the mornings.

    Next week we’ll go over lighting options that can help you save on your business’ electricity bill.

    Do you have any office energy savings tips? Let us know in the comments below, or here.

    Energy Saving Tips for Your Office Equipment

    Small changes in how you handle your office equipment can go a long way in reducing your business’ energy bill. Here are some of our favorite tips:

    Batteries
    If any of your office equipment uses batteries – wireless mice, cordless phones, etc. – consider using rechargeable ones; in the long run they are the most cost effective. If you must use the normal one-use batteries, make sure you check with your trash removal company to ensure proper disposal.
    Don’t be afraid to turn things off
    There are a lot of misconceptions about what actually saves power. For example, the screen saver on your computer does not reduce the amount of energy your monitor uses.
    Some people used to think their equipment would deteriorate over time if continuously turned on and off so they would just keep them on all of the time. This is not what you want to be doing with your computers.
    Phantom power
    In homes, most of the electricity used to power electronics is consumed when the device is turned… off. Surprised? This happens from internal systems that keep going while the electronic is not active. The same happens in offices. Avoid using up that energy by unplugging the device or using a power strip that has an on/off switch.
    Laptops
    When upgrading your computing systems explore switching to laptops; they tend to consume less energy than their desktop counterparts. They may require a higher initial investment but it will definitely pay off in the long run.
    Battery chargers
    It doesn’t matter if it’s for rechargeable batteries or a laptop, a battery charger will continue to drain power even after the battery is fully charged. An easy fix – apply the same rules we mentioned for phantom power and unplug it or turn it off!

    Saving Energy One Conscious Decision at a Time

    10 tips on how to save energy without breaking the bank or changing your entire lifestyle

    People talk about saving energy all the time, but not many people actually engage in the activities essential to doing so. Either it’s too time consuming or requires going out of their way to get it done. Whatever excuses you can come up with stop here. The following are 10 of the easiest ways to save energy and even save money in the process without having to seriously alter that crazy lifestyle of yours.

    1. Turn Off the Lights and Other Electronics When Not in Use
      You’re not in the room so there’s no need to keep them on. The ghosts probably prefer the lights off anyway and don’t really care who the father is on the latest installment of Maury.
    2. Unplug Appliances When Not in Use
      It’s not enough to just turn them off; appliances that don’t need to be plugged in 24/7 and should be unplugged when not in use. Those greedy little vampires will consume unnecessary energy as soon as you turn your back to them.
    3. Clean Up After Your Appliances
      Show your air filters some love by cleaning or changing them regularly. The same goes for cleaning refrigerator coils, dryer lint filters, and even lighting fixtures in your home.
    4. Keep Your Freezer as Full as Possible
      Misery may love company, but not as much as your food. Place containers filled with water in your refrigerator to take up space and keep everything colder without using as much energy.
    5. Allow Your Dishes to Enjoy Some Fresh Air
      Don’t keep them cooped up in the dishwasher, give them some fresh air and let them air dry. It’s okay to wash them in there, but drying can be done in a regular dish rack.
    6. Allow Your Clothes to Enjoy Some Fresh Air Too
      Air drying clothes is a great way to save energy. Let them be independent for once; they’re grown, they don’t need to be plastered to your side or stuck in a drawer every moment of the day.
    7. Allow Yourself to Enjoy Some Fresh Air
      Your air conditioner won’t hate you for turning it off when the weather is nice and cool outside. It may even enjoy the break. Open up the windows, get some fresh air and enjoy the beauty of nature!
    8. Keep the Sun Out
      Don’t let the sun bully your house into getting hot. Close your blinds, shades and drapes during the day to keep your house cooler; therefore, using less energy from your air conditioner.
    9. Dress According to the Weather
      This may seem like a novel idea, but when it’s cold, wear more clothes indoors to stay warm. When it’s warmer, wear less clothes, just make sure to close those blinds so your creepy neighbors can’t get a glimpse.
    10. Save Water = Save Energy = Save Money = Save Time
      It’s a win-win-win…win. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth and shaving. Take showers instead of baths. Just don’t nix these activities all together and voila, you’re still clean, but you’ve saved so much in the process.

    The point is, you don’t have to undergo an entire life changing process to save energy, nor do you have to be charged an arm and a leg. It’s a simple, conscious decision that we all make to be the difference we want to see in the world, which Gandhi put so eloquently. It’s the little things that count the most!

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