Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Break is almost here!

Warm Seasons Greetings
from the Energy Efficiency Coordinator!

Just a friendly reminder whether you are leaving your classroom for break or traveling away from home over the Holidays, be sure to shut down everything before you leave including monitors, speakers, printers, copiers, projectors, etc. Any electronics drawing vampire energy should be turned off or unplugged. Every effort no matter how small truly does make a difference. Thank you for doing your part, everyone!

Wishing you a Groovy Holiday Season &
much Energy Efficiency in the New Year!

Look Up

The attic is one of the places where you will often find the biggest air leaks which in turn can increase your energy bills and make it uncomfortably hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter.
It is also an area that is usually accessible making it easier to seal and insulate.
So to improve the comfort level of your home during the heating and cooling months and to be much more energy efficient, look up!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fancy Nancy and Curious George

Fancy Nancy Every Day is Earth Day is a fun book about being eco-conscious in a variety of areas. I would love to visit your kindergarten, first or second grade classroom to read this book to your students and then follow with a short discussion about energy efficiency at their level.

Another option is Curious George Plants a Tree. Please consider having the district's EEC as a guest reader in your classroom. To schedule a visit either email or call ext.0051.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Did you know?

Did you know that leaving your computer on draws an average of 50-300 watts, about as much as a common refrigerator? To save energy, a general rule of thumb for shutting down as opposed to leaving your computer up and running is about 20 - 30 minutes. If you are going to be away from your computer for longer than a half hour, then consider shutting down and restarting upon your return.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Forgotten Door

The title of today's post sounds a little like a mystery novel. There is a door that often gets overlooked when weather-proofing because the doors leading directly outside are what first come to mind when checking for gaps and air leaks.

The forgotten door is the one between the house and the garage.  This is especially important when the garage is not insulated. Besides replacing the weather stripping around the door frame, installing a door sweep helps seal the gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold to prevent cold air from entering and warm air from escaping, or vice versa in the summer months.

So there is no mystery here, just remember when checking for unwanted airflow between your house and outside, don't forget the door to the garage.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Video Game Vampires

No, this is not about the release of Wii Vampire Wars or any other such video game...
In a recent news article about energy and electronics, it stated some gaming consoles can use almost as much energy as a TV does to run so the consoles should not be left turned on when not being used. Meaning if the TV is off but the game console is still running or the unit is left sitting on the menu page for hours when not being used, energy is still being drawn to the game console.
So consider activating a sleep mode before you walk away and leave the unit on or have it go into auto-shutdown after a set amount of time.

Igniting Creative Energy

Igniting Creative Energy (ICE) is a national student challenge to motivate learning, ignite the imagination, and fuel the creative potential in youth.

The ICE Challenge is an incentive based educational opportunity for K - 12 students throughout the U.S. and much of Canada. Students are asked to use their creative energy to develop entries in the categories of Visual Arts and Music, Science and Technology, and Language Arts. Entries are to relate to the theme "Igniting Creative Energy" and demonstrate character building as it applies to wise energy choices and environmental stewardship. The entries are also to demonstrate an understanding of what an individual, family or group can do to make a difference in their home or community.

So why participate? Besides the fact that is a creative and fun educational opportunity, the GRAND PRIZE is a trip for two to Washington D.C. Three students and one teacher will win a trip for two to our nation's capital.

But wait, there's more...
For more information and all the details for students and teachers including important guidelines and deadlines, click here: ICE Challenge

Check it out!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Today's Energy Thought

If you are trying to decide about switching to LED (light emitting diode) lights for decorating at this time of year, here are a few points to keep in mind.

  • New LED lights can last up to 20 years, do not contain any mercury and consume very low amounts of energy.
  • Older non-LED lights used 6 hours per day can cost about $30 per month in electricity while LED lights will cost about 50 cents for the same amount of time, quite a savings comparatively.
  • Additionally, LED lights do not generate heat and remain cool to the touch making them much safer than the traditional strands of lights that can get hot and become a fire hazard.
For the most efficient decorative lighting, have you seen the solar powered holiday lights now available? These turn on automatically at sunset, have all the adjustable options like twinkling and flashing, and best of all, use no electricity.

So here's to a merry, bright and efficient Holiday Season!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Game show held over

The year two game show "Who wants to be an Energy Zillionaire?" is still available up until winter break. It takes about 20 minutes or so to play so if you want a quick, fun and educational activity, please contact me via email or at ext 0051. I facilitate (aka play game show host) so there is no prep on the teacher's part other than to schedule my visit. Look at the posts from last week to see the fun pictures from Jeffers Pond and Glendale. It is age appropriate for grades four and older.

So... Who wants to be an Energy Zillionaire???

Think outside the roll

Are you one who dives into a present ripping the wrapping to shreds? Or do you gingerly peel off the cellophane tape trying to preserve as much of the wrapping as possible? According to the Clean Air Council, an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated in the U.S. during the time between Thanksgiving and the end of December. 4 million tons of that is wrapping paper and shopping bags. That's about 800 million pounds of waste generated during only one month of the year. Besides reusing gift bags and ribbons, here are some other ideas to help you be eco-conscious and creative with your gift giving.
  • Make part of your gift the wrapping by using a tea towel to wrap a mug or other kitchen items.
  • Wrap up gifts for gals with a festive scarf.
  • Use a colorful bandanna or a fun stocking hat for a hard to wrap item or gift cards.
  • Re-usable totes are everywhere so grab one at the checkout and make it the gift bag.
  • Use newspaper, catalog or magazine pages or take-out menus as wrapping.
Just look around your office or home and you'll be surprised what you can find to re-use or re-purpose to reduce some of that 800 million tons of waste this month. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

the Dub R-bows vs. the G-M-N-T

The Energy game show went on the road again and today it was played by the HS Eco-team at their weekly meeting.  It was The "Double Rainbows" verses the "Green-age Mutant Ninja Turtles." The students were almost flawless with their answers only being tripped up by a microwave oven question.
So I shall pose it here for you to ponder:

How much energy does a microwave use compared to a conventional oven?

A) They use the same amount of energy.
B) 15% less energy.
C) 50% less energy.
D) A microwave actually uses more energy.

Scroll down for the answer...

C) Microwaves use 50% less energy compared to a conventional oven.

Just a little food for thought.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What are you, a penguin?

Have you ever heard that question as you stand in front of an open refrigerator? The quicker you are in and out of a refrigerator or freezer, the better it is for keeping the temperatures inside from rising. When warm air gets into the cold or frozen compartment, it causes the refrigerator to work harder to maintain optimal temperatures.
So if you have a penguin at home, gently remind them to make up their mind before they open the refrigerator or freezer and then once they do open it, ask them to not dawdle with the door open. The same can be said for leaving a door ajar while you bring in groceries or run out to the mailbox. Keep the cold air out and don't let the warm air escape by keeping doors closed between trips into the house or while you run outside for "just a sec."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Did you know?

Did you know that our schools are billed twice for our electricity use? Well, technically there are two components to our school’s electricity bill - the energy charge and the demand charge. The bills we see at our homes have the cost per kilowatt hour of electricity used, but schools and other commercial buildings are also charged for their peak demand load.

Here is how electric energy is billed for a school:
1. Energy Charge (use over time): Electricity is typically metered at each school facility to determine the amount of kilowatt hours used. This meter is read each month and the difference in the readings accounts for the total consumption; school are billed accordingly.
2. Demand Charge (use at one point in time): Utility companies look at the highest peak of electric use during the month. For example, during the month of December, the total peak demand will be measured every fifteen minutes and charted on a graph. The highest electric load during the month is what the utility will bill for demand. So in other words, if one day out of the month you have everything powered to full blast, that’s the day you’ll be charged for all month.
Why does a utility company have this charge?
Electricity-consuming equipment in a school determines the school’s demand for electricity. As electric use fluctuates during the day and during various seasons, it creates unknown electric load demands for a utility company. In order to accommodate for this, the utility company needs to know the maximum amount of electricity required to provide to their customers.
How can schools help reduce this electricity charge?
Focus on reducing energy use from 11am – 4pm, since that is when occupancy and energy use are highest. In fact, lunch hour is typically the most energy-intense time of the day in a school. Building engineers are trained on how to schedule their large equipment to lower their peak demand load. It is important to understand this concept in case you do play a role in a strategy to reduce these demands costs.

Game Show in Action

Sara, the site leader at Jeffers Pond's Kids Company, provided these action shots of the game show in progress. As you can see, the students were very attentive and really concentrating on the questions. The smart board made it easy to facilitate the interactive video game and the wireless controllers were great for buzzing in to answer. Again, a fun and educational time was had by all.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kids Co at GD

After JP, I ventured back out in the snow and headed over to Glendale to meet with their Kids Company students. Here the "Lakers" team took on the "Girl Power" team in a spirited and exciting game of "Who Wants to be an Energy Zillionaire?" Thank you, GD Kids Co, for the opportunity to spend some time with your awesome students. It was a lot of fun to play the energy game show with this sharp group of eco-conscious kids.

Kids Co at JP

This past Friday in the midst of a snow storm, I visited Jeffers Pond Kids Company to play the year two game show "Who Wants to be an Energy Zillionaire?" It was the "Pink Zebras" team verses the "Beastly Boys" team.
These 3rd - 5th graders had lots of fun playing the game and learning more about saving energy at both school and at home. Thanks for a fun and educational afternoon, JP Kids Company!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

the Stall Street Journal

The first edition is posted in most of the staff restrooms throughout the district. It will be up at the middle schools tomorrow after a second printing. Click below to read this fun and informative publication.

A sister publication, the Laker Energy Times, has been placed in some of the staff break rooms as well. Same content, different title.

Two Tips for Today

An easy way to save energy is to turn down the brightness of your computer screen. It takes more energy to run a brighter display. Many computers have shortcut keys or brightness settings. If you use a battery powered lap top you probably turn down the brightness to perserve battery so if you are on a desk top, turn down the brightness to use less energy.

Second, unplug printers, scanners and other hardware when you are not using it. Unless you print regularly, leaving your computer's printer or scanner plugged in is unnecessary. Disconnecting it from the power outlet saves energy. Or if it is easier, plug the printer into a power strip and switch it off unless you are printing.

Just two simple tips for today.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Today's Energy Thought

17 million barrels of oil are used each year just to produce all the disposable plastic water bottles used in the U.S. Yikes! That's a lot of oil! What's more, only about 12% of disposable water bottles are actually recycled. That means 88% of these bottles end up in a landfill or becoming litter.
Utilizing a refillable stainless-steel, glass or ceramic container, helps you save money, energy and the environment by taking water with you and you can fill up just about every place you go. And by the way, there is no evidence to support the idea that drinking bottled water is any safer than filtered tap water. In fact, it's been proven that some bottled water IS tap water.

Quarterly Results

Congratulations to
Edgewood School
Five Hawks Elementary
Jeffers Pond Elementary
Hidden Oaks Middle School
Twin Oaks Middle School
Prior Lake High School
and the District Service Center!
These buildings met or exceeded their 10% energy reduction goal for the 2nd quarter, April - June, 2010. I was able to present the head buliding operators with their awards this morning. We are very close to reporting our 3rd quarter results for July - September so stay tuned, Energy Fans, for more good news coming soon. Thanks to the above buildings for doing your part to save energy and $$$!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stay Warm Minnesota

Stay Warm Minnesota is a website full of useful information regarding energy efficiency and heating assistance programs provided by the federal and state government, private industry, non profits and local energy utilities.

Click here to check it out:  Stay Warm Minnesota

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Break

Before you leave your classroom or your house for the long weekend, be sure to turn off computer monitors and printers. These electronics continue to draw energy even when the computer is shut down. Take a look around and SEE where you can conserve energy while away from school or home.

Wishing you a fun, safe, and efficient Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today's Energy Thought

Solar Power...
The world's largest solar energy roof covers the exposition hall of the Floriade 2002 in Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands. The area of the roof is 281,045 square feet and it has a generating capacity of 2.3 megawatts which powers over 300 homes! That is really taking advantage of some pretty powerful sunshine in a huge way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Great Job Glendale!

I stopped in to Glendale last week to check in with Ms. Aker and the SEE Squad in 5th grade. I was so impressed to see the set-up in their pod area. There is a cabinet with all their SEE Squad supplies and a schedule posted for who and when the energy monitors go on patrol in the building. I will be back to GD again soon to catch the SEE Squad in action. Stay tuned for some video clips to be posted next week.

Way to go, Glendale, you are Energy Rock Stars!

Add a layer

Before you reach to turn up the thermostat a degree or two or five, try adding a sweater. I remember being about 8 years old when I saw that the round dial type thermostat we had on the wall went up over 100 degrees. It was the middle of a really cold winter in Michigan and I asked my mom if we could turn it up to 90 degrees and wear shorts and tee-shirts. I wanted to make it like summer inside the house. Well, you can just imagine what her answer was... Even a degree or two does make a difference so try bumping your thermostat down and dress for the temperature.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wise Water Usage

You've probably heard the water saving tip about turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. Well, here is a water conservation tip you may not have thought of...

When you are waiting for water to heat up in the shower or at the kitchen sink, here is an easy way to put that water to use rather than just letting it run down the drain. Catch the water in a bucket or watering can and use it to water house plants. Just a simple way to use water that otherwise is wasted. Now that is being wise with your water.

Great Opportunity

The Lexus Environmental Challenge is open to teams of middle-school or high school students and awards scholarship money to the team with the most innovative environmental projects. What a great opportunity for students. Click on the link above for details.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

News from Grainwood

This just in from GW... The teacher who oversees the SEE Squad there sent this picture of two of the energy monitors in their building. Ms. Ernst said the students are really enjoying this activity and have gone so far as to give themselves code names like "A1S4" and "the Platypus." She also stated that GW staff is already pretty good about conserving energy so they are giving out more Wow! than Ooooops! stickers but hey, that's a good thing!

Excellent work, GW SEE Squad and
well done, GW staff and students, well done!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stringing of the Lights

Today's post is for the staff in the district and it is not just about saving energy but about safety as well. Strands of lights whether they have regular bulbs or energy efficient LEDs are not allowed in classrooms or in any office or building within the school district. According to the State Fire Marshall, strings of lights are considered the same as extension cords and are a potential fire hazard and are prohibited anywhere in our district.
So just a friendly reminder to keep your festive decorations to the non-electric type to save energy and stay within the State Fire Code for our buildings.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Watt?

CFLs use less power to create the same amount of light so below you will see the wattage comparison and also the lifetime savings for the various sizes of bulbs. Hopefully this info will help you decide which wattage best fits your needs.

INCANDESCENT   CFL equivalent   Lifetime Savings
40 watt                     9-11 watt               $15-20
60 watt                    13-17 watt              $25-30
75 watt                    18-20 watt              $30-35
100 watt                  23-26 watt              $40-45
150 watt                  32-42 watt              $60-70

Now think about just how many light bulbs you have around your house, inside and out. Don't forget the garage and basement. The savings can really add up!

Savings with a Twist

By now you have probably seen all sorts of CFLs out on the market. There are plenty of options available now in all sorts of shapes and sizes. And if you're not a big fan of the twisted bulb look, some bulbs are now being covered with globes to look more like traditional light bulbs. But beware of the off-brand bulbs not given an ENERGY STAR® endorsement because even though these may cost less initially, they do not last near as long so will need replacing sooner.
Choose ENERGY STAR® CFLs because they:
  • Use up to 80% less energy
  • Last up to 10 times longer
  • Average lifetime savings = $30
  • Produce up to 90% less heat
  • Are eco-friendly because they conserve energy
Stay tuned for my next post which will have a comparison between CLFs and incandescent bulbs to help you chose the proper replacement wattage.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Did you know?

Did you know our district is now a partner with ENERGY STAR®?
School districts in the SEE® program lead the nation with the number of ENERGY STAR® Leader awards for continuous improvement in energy efficiency district-wide. Our district is very close to qualifying for an ENERGY STAR® Leader award. Excellent work, everyone! Thanks for doing your part.

Today's Energy Thought

Refrigeration usually makes up approximately 8-10% of the typical utility bill. Making sure thermostats are at optimal temperature settings is a free and easy way to save energy.

A freezer should be set between zero and 5 degrees F and a refrigerator compartment should be between 37 and 40 degrees F.
If settings are 10 degrees lower than these, you can increase your energy usage by up to as much as 25%. That is a big jump!

So if you have no idea what the temp is in your fridge or freezer, pop a thermometer inside and check it out, can't hurt, might help.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who Wants to be an Energy Zillionaire???

The year two Game Show Activity is coming to our district November 29th - December 10th and also again in the spring. This fun and interactive activity filled with energy related trivia is a great educational tool and I want to share it with as many students and staff as possible.
It can be used for student organizations, in classrooms, at Kids Company or staff meetings to spread the word about the importance of saving energy in an exciting way. A 4th grade teacher at Glendale has already requested it and I hope to share it with the high school Eco team. Who else wants to try it??? Please contact me at the DSC with questions or to schedule it in your building.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Blue and Gold Make Green

The Laker Eco Team's motto is Blue and Gold Make Green. How cool is that? I met with a great group of high school students this morning, check out their greeting below.

Stay tuned for more updates from the Laker Eco team at Prior Lake High School. I am looking forward to meeting with them again soon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Energy Projects

If you are looking for new ideas for Science Fair projects, below is a great link to some energy experiments courtesy of the National Energy Education Development Project. There are several options in four categories: Primary, Elementary, Intermediate and Secondary.
Check it out:

Energy Slang

Did you know a set of valves, pipes, and fittings used to control the flow of oil and gas as it leaves a well and enters a pipeline is called a Christmas Tree?

Several common words and phrases we use in everyday language take on a whole new meaning to those in the energy industry.

Just click on the link below to go to an activity page at the U.S. Energy Information Administration's website and check out some other energy slang:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Watts Up?

Recently I've fielded questions from staff regarding how much energy specific electronics use; for example aquariums, smart boards, projectors, cell phone chargers, etc. I am excited to try out the Watts Up? Pro, a handy dandy watt meter/power analyzer/electricity meter we have access to from SEE.
I will be able to plug various electronic items into the meter for specific amounts of time and then will connect it to a computer to track all sorts of data. It will track true power over time, capture surges and display peak readings, display usage and cost, create graphs and other visuals to help make us more aware of our energy use.
There are specific plans for using the watt meter over the next few weeks but if you have something in your building or classroom you would like tracked, please contact me at ext. 0051 and I'll check it out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thank you, JP and TOMS!

Earlier this week I was at Twin Oaks middle school and met with Mrs. Warner and head building operator Bob about implementing SEE program activities in their building. Soon there will be a SEE Squad in place and I am looking forward to sharing the Energy game show with TOMS' students.

This morning I was at Jeffers Pond Elementary and met with Mrs. Solberg, head building operator, Dave and Ms. Dicke, a 4th grade classroom teacher. A good discussion ensued about how well their staff is doing when it comes to energy conservation.  We also recognized the many learning opportunities provided through the SEE program and agreed there is always room for improvement.

It's awesome to get two more of our schools on board with the SEE program! Heading to Hidden Oaks and the high school next week.

Have a fun, safe, and efficient Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

High School Eco Team

Did you know PLHS has an Eco Team?
A group of 40+ students meet weekly before school with two science teachers. I am excited to meet with this group next week to introduce the SEE program to them and plan some fun activites at the high school level.

To switch off or to leave on? That is the question...

In light (pun intended) of the Ooooops! and Wow! stickers appearing around the district from our active SEE Squads, this question bares repeating from an earlier post...
Does turning fluorescent lights off use more energy than leaving them on?

A common misconception is that there is a boost of energy required to power up a bulb so you should leave lights on when leaving an area for a short amount of time.
It turns out, however, the power surge is so brief that its energy draw doesn't amount to much; the equivalent of a few seconds or so of normal operation, according to U.S. Department of Energy estimates. In other words, strictly from an energy saving standpoint, it's almost always beneficial to shut off fluorescents when leaving a room—the start-up energy is offset by the power saved in even the briefest outages.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today's Energy Thought

If your water heater was manufactured before 2004, consider wrapping it with an insulating blanket designed specifically for this purpose. Newer water heaters don't need added insulation because the federal requirement for tank insulation was updated and increased in 2004. Most water heaters manufactured before then have less insulation which results in standby heat loss and wasted energy.

Water heating can account for as much as 17% of an average home's annual energy use so installing an insulating blanket can pay off quickly. Some manufacturers have specific guidelines for installing an insulating blanket, so be sure to check the owners manual. Also please note on gas units, areas not to cover include warning labels, the top of the unit, the pressure relief valve, the control panel, and any bottom air inlets.

And the last thought today on water heaters... it is a good idea to drain off a bucket of hot water from your water heater annually to remove sediment that will interfere with the heater's long-term use and efficiency. Speaking from recent experience at home, this was something we did not know should be done as preventative maintenance so we had to replace our water heater after we found years of sediment effecting our hot water pressure and ultimately damaging the unit.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Winter Winds are Coming

Did you know a one-eighth inch gap around an exterior door is equivalent to a six inch square hole in the side of your house and causes a lot of energy loss?  When put in those terms I realized I would not leave a gaping hole in the side of my house all winter so I'd better check for air leaks. There are two ways to check your exterior doors:
Have someone stand on the other side of the door and shine a flashlight around the door's perimeter. If you can see light through the cracks, your door needs sealing.
Hold a piece of paper between the door and the frame and shut the door. If you can pull the paper out without tearing it, you should weather strip around the door.