February 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Whatever your politics, Chicagoans, it’s important to vote. I just found this environmental questionnaire detailing mayoral candidate’s responses to various environmental issues. All of the candidates voiced strong support for improving energy efficiency in both private and public buildings, buying more renewable energy, and reducing greenhouse gas pollution 25% by 2020. There were some differing opinions on how to reduce emissions from the Fiske and Crawford power plants. For example, while other candidates promised to enforce compliance, Miguel del Valle backed his promise to clean up the plants with the threat of shutting them down if they don’t comply.

Check it out if you’re undecided, or find out your candidate’s stances:

Too energy efficient to think

February 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you were walking through Millennium Park this past November, you might have seen Lumenhaus, an energy efficient house designed by a team of students and faculty from Virginia Tech. The prototype house is designed to run entirely on solar energy, using a combination of solar voltaic cells, insulation, and geo-thermal heating to keep the house powered and warm. It even comes with an iPhone app to control all parts of the house.

I was thinking about the house today when I read in this article that the National Renewable Energy Lab’s Research Support Facility building is so energy efficient that its silence weirded employees out. The building was designed not to need conventional heating or air conditioning, but the architects installed speakers that play noises mimicking heating and cooling noises anyways because “managers found that workers needed something more than silence”.

When I saw Lumenhaus, I asked the Virginia Tech students giving tours if anybody had ever slept in it overnight, and they said no. I wonder if somebody had lived in the house for a day, would they have said that the house needed something more than silence?

Related articles:
National Renewable Energy Lab’s Research Support Facility
A New York Times reporter’s visit to the facility

Your Home Breathes, Just Like You?

February 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

by Anna Scott

Ever wonder why your heat always needs to be on? According to a recent New York Times article, modern homes are designed to “exchange” one third of air every hour, so even a well insulated home will leak heat. Combatting this is a two step process: first, find the source of the heat loss, and second, plug up the leaks.

If you own a pair of thermal imaging goggles, you can easily see where the heat leaves your home. For the rest of us, we’ll rely on some cheap tricks. The author of this article figured out a low cost alternative- incense smoke. He waited for a windy day, then burned an incense stick around windows and doors, the likely locations for where air gets out. The smoke patterns revealed where the air was leaking out.

One free tip from the author’s energy auditing experience: raise your front door’s threshold in the wintertime by turning the screws counter-clockwise, and then lower the threshold in the summer when your door expands. Otherwise, all the experts he talked with recommended weather stripping on doors and windows.

Personally, I weatherproof windows with plastic sheeting and duct tape. It blocks out some of the light, so I only do it on some windows. This video points out that I shouldn’t forget about curtains, and suggests ones that go to the floor.

Winterizing your home or apartment is always an easy way to save on heating, but with impending rate hikes on gas bills (as the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday) that could increase natural gas bills by more than $100 next year, weatherproofing could become even more important.

What do you do to winterize your home?

For more info:

About Anna: I’m a senior at the University of Chicago. My major is mathematics, but I spend a lot of my time studying environmental issues like climate change, weather, and energy efficiency. I’m excited to be joining the Power2Swtich team and blogging about energy issues.

Alternative & Nuclear Energy Makes the Cut in Obama’s 2012 budget

February 16, 2011 § 5 Comments

Photo: the author (Anna Scott) sailing on Clinton Nuclear Generating Station's cooling lake, near Clinton, IL. Courtesy of Allie Weill.

Arguing that spending in alternative energy will create jobs and increase domestic security, the Obama administration’s 2012 budget calls for an increase in energy spending, stressing support of clean and alternative energy technology. Among continued research and development funding, the proposal sets aside $3.2 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

Nuclear energy is also back in vogue, with Obama requesting $36 billion in loan guarantees for the domestic nuclear energy. No new nuclear projects have started in the past four decades, so dedicating money to build even one power plant would completely change the industry. The Department of Energy estimates that this money could be used to construct “9 to 13 new reactors”; currently, 104 reactors operate at 65 power plants in the United States, generating about 100 billion kilowatts every year.

So if nuclear is in, what’s out? Big oil: the budget proposes slashing fossil fuel subsidies, ending preferential taxes, and reducing fossil fuel research and development funding. Other savings will also come from shutting down the particle accelerator at Fermi Lab here in Illinois, a move that was announced this January. Hydrogen cell technology is also facing severe budget cuts.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you were hoping for a hydrogen-powered car for Christmas, you might be out of luck. But if you’re looking to lower your power costs (and you’re already in the right place), this funding could help build more power plants, and lead to more renewable energy initiatives. More suppliers could help lower electricity costs, which–no matter your politics–is good news.

For more info:

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Residential Customers can now Switch From COMED in Illinois!

February 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ve been asked one question over and over again since we started our electricity price comparison service for commercial clients in Illinois‘. And the question is ‘Can I buy my residential electricity from someone other than Comed?’. And our answer has always been ‘Soon’…


And we’re super excited to be able to save residential customers 7-30% on their electricity expenses. Equally important to us is the opportunity to provide renewable energy too!!

We’ve partnered with Bluestar Energy, Champion Energy Services and Spark Energy to reduce how much you spend to watch TV, play on your Kinects/XBox, cook your food etc. Check our supplier list here

We’ve also been joined by our Energy Detectives ‘Ohms and Wattson’, who will help you manage your home energy usage and cost. Read more about them here and here

And not to forget our business owners; we’re still running our 3 Months of free electricity campaign. Sign up here

Get excited because we are!!!!

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AG Madigan vows to fight ComEd automatic rate hike | Utilities | Crain’s Chicago Business

February 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

AG Madigan vows to fight ComEd automatic rate hike | Utilities | Crain’s Chicago Business.

AG Madigan vows to fight ComEd automatic rate hike

(Crain’s) — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has come out in opposition to legislation backed by Commonwealth Edison Co. that would provide for automatic annual electricity rate hikes.

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Congratulations to Power2Switch!!

February 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Celebrations of Light Finale 2007

We’re actually congratulating ourselves. A bit immodest but one needs to do these things once in a while. And we have good reason to. Three good reasons. Actually five but we’ll have to wait to share the other two.

What we can share is that January was good for us in terms of customer signups (and savings for our customers), product improvement and accolades.

– Customers: We’re saving 9 franchise locations over $25,000/year on their electricity bills

– Product improvement: We’re working on product development to develop our energy monitoring and management portal. Part of that product development ties into the first accolade we received.

– Accolades: We got selected into the Illinois Smart Grid Cluster. It’s a select group of companies and we are proud to be associated with the Illinois Institute of technology, OH-Community Partners and the Clean Energy Trust. press release can be read here

– Accolades: And speaking of the Clean Energy Trust, we also got selected to present at the Clean Energy Trust Challenge finals on the 3rd of March. Over 70 applications were received and 10 finalists were selected. The press release can be found here and we’re in good company The event will be held as part of the Midwest Alternative Venture Forum of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship (where we’ve been incubated for the last year and a half).

We’re super pumped about the progress we’re making! More news to come soon!!

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