Friday, August 28, 2009

Kids can learn about energy efficiency, too!

A new school year often means new teachers, maybe some new friends and new subjects to study. To help our eager learners, SCE&G’s Kids’ Zone offers a great online resource for kids to learn about energy-related topics.

Topics on the site range from electric and natural gas safety to a special micro site designed especially for teachers and another micro site called Energy Efficiency World.

Energy Efficiency World is a particularly fun place for kids to learn about renewable energy and develop good habits that reduce energy use in the home. The site contains several games and informative pages for kids, as well as resources for parents and teachers.

Kids are likely to enjoy the Eco Racer game, which allows players to race cars around a track while learning about renewable energy sources. Players also are required to “charge up” at renewable energy pit locations to keep playing the game.

Stop the Guzzler is another game that allows kids to spot wasted energy in three rooms of a home. If they miss a key appliance or other energy waster, the fuzzy, purple Guzzler character grows and becomes too large to leave each room.

For older kids who need to write school reports, Energy Efficiency World offers information about how to use energy efficiently, ways to help the environment, and an opportunity to print out a Home Energy Inspection check list and an Energy Saver Certificate.

While the SCE&G Kids’ Zone is largely geared towards teaching kids about energy efficiency, I’m sure the adults will enjoy it, too. I know I’m still trying to master the Eco Racer game …

Friday, August 21, 2009

Stay informed about outages during a storm

No one likes to be without electricity, but sometimes Mother Nature gets in our way and outages occur. As we enter the height of hurricane season, did you know there are three ways you can report or track outages?

Telephone
Reporting or checking on outages by telephone is the most common method. Here are our numbers:

For outages and downed/sparking power lines: 1-888-333-4465

For gas leaks: 1-800-815-0083

Mobile Phone
If your landline phone is not working, or if you simply like the convenience, you can report and check the status of a power outage by using a PDA, such as a BlackBerry® or iPhone®, or an Internet-ready cell phone. For mobile outage reporting, visit www.sceg.com/mobile and go to the Storm Center.

Online
If you have Internet access, go to the SCE&G Storm Center at www.sceg.com/storm. There, you can view a map of current outages, report a power outage and get emergency telephone numbers to contact us. The SCE&G Storm Center also has useful information that will help you prepare for and handle energy-related emergencies.

The most important thing to remember during a storm is safety. Always stay away from downed power lines. You cannot tell if a line is energized just by looking at it. Call us so we can check it out.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Identify ways to save with SCE&G’s Online Home Energy Audit

We’re all interested in controlling our energy costs in today’s uncertain economy. SCE&G has a free tool called the Online Home Energy Audit that is designed to give you a better understanding of your energy usage so you can identify ways to save.

The Online Home Energy Audit has two options for showing you how to save energy: The Full Energy Profile and the EZ-Energy Profile. The Full Energy Profile asks detailed questions about your home, your appliances and your energy usage patterns. It will take about 30 minutes to complete. The EZ-Profile is designed for people who are pressed for time or who may not have all the information asked for in the Full Energy Profile. You’ll still get a detailed report with the EZ-Profile, but keep in mind the software will make some assumptions about your appliances and energy usage patterns. As a result, the information it provides will be more generic. So, if you have the time, the Full Energy Profile is the best way to go.

Once you complete your Profile, a report is generated with energy tips and other saving suggestions. The report is made up of colorful, easy-to-follow graphs and charts which will help you identify the biggest energy users in your home. It will also show you how fluctuations in the outdoor temperature can affect your heating and cooling costs.

SCE&G’s Online Home Energy Audit provides detailed information and will help you make educated and informed decisions about the best ways to save energy in your own home. Check it out today at www.sceg.com/energyaudit.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Qualifying for the new energy efficiency tax credits

You may have heard you can get federal tax credits for installing a variety of renewable energy generators (such as solar panels) and/or making energy efficient home improvements (such as windows, doors, and skylights) to your existing home. The Internal Revenue Service has even started publishing information (here and here) about how your investment this year will yield tax savings next year.

But reading through all this information gets confusing fast. What does it all mean for you?
If you own your home, then the purchase price for energy-efficient improvements such as new windows, insulation, doors, roofs and HVAC equipment, as well as natural gas furnaces and natural gas water heaters, are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit, as long as they are installed in 2009 or 2010. The cost of installation also qualifies for the tax credit on some of these items. A total of $1,500 in combined credits is allowed for the two-year period.

When purchasing the above mentioned appliances, be sure to look for the bright yellow ENERGY STAR™ label for a smart energy choice that will save money in the long run.

Things like solar panels and solar water heaters are also eligible for the 30 percent credit, and are exempt from the $1,500 cap and qualify for credits through 2016.

All of these tax credits are a result of President George W. Bush’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 and President Barrack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Before you make a purchase, check out www.energystar.gov/taxcredits for all the details.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Making your home more energy efficient doesn’t have to cost a lot

Improving your home’s energy efficiency doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, there are a number of home improvement projects you can do yourself with little to no cost. Here are just two simple ways to save on your energy bills:

Seal the gap.
Did you know a 1/8-inch gap around a door is equivalent to a hole in your wall the size of a grapefruit? Caulk, seal and weather-strip around all seams, cracks and openings. Pay special attention around windows and exterior doors, and don’t forget to check places where wires enter your home, i.e. behind your thermostat and wall outlets. Caulking, felt strips with adhesive backing or plastic V-strips with adhesive backing are available at hardware and home improvement stores.

Install ceiling fans.
According to the Department of Energy, using a ceiling fan allows you to raise your thermostat setting about 4 degrees with no reduction in comfort. The airflow from the fans creates a wind-chill effect that helps you feel cooler - by as much as 7 degrees cooler. Because of this, you could see about a 5 percent savings on your cooling bill for each degree you raise your thermostat above the recommended 78 to 80 degrees. And, remember to turn them off when you leave the room.

What projects have you completed around your house? Share your ideas here! Or, learn more about how to save energy by visiting www.sceg.com/myenergy.
Have an energy efficiency question?

Welcome to the EnergyWise® blog, a place to gain insights into energy efficiency tips and programs offered by South Carolina Electric & Gas. Have a specific question? Ask our Energy Team or comment to one of our posts below.