Now that we are spending more time in our homes, it only makes sense that our energy bill is steadily increasing. This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Luckily there are some easy ways to increase your family’s energy efficiency while being kind to Mother Earth.

Here are a few easy ways you can start with today

1. Change your appliances.

While this may seem like an increase in costs, changing your appliances to eco-friendly models will actually lower your electric bill as soon as they are installed. This goes for dishwashers, ovens, refrigerators, furnaces, washers and dryers—chances are if it is a major appliance, there is an eco-friendly version available. To justify the cost, it is a good idea to compare electricity costs before and after installation, as you are bound to see a large change. Make sure to check how much the electric rate that your electric supplier is charging in your zip code so that you can make a relevant comparison. You can also use online tools to compare carious eco-friendly models of the appliance in question to that you can be sure that you’re getting the right dryer for your needs from the supplier of your choice.

2. Seal your home.

Reduce Your Energy Bill

There are many cracks and crevices in your home, so it is important to do regular checks of your home and ensure that everything is sealed properly. Check around your foundation, fireplace, door frames, window frames and near your dryer, furnace and air conditioner vent for any cracks or gaps. Sealing these and adding additional insulation will allow your home to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and can save you as much as 10% in energy costs annually. It is also a smart idea to replace your windows about every 10 years or so to ensure the best seal possible and so that you know you have the best energy efficient window panes available.

3. Install a programmable thermostat.

Reduce Your Energy Bill

Take a minute to look at your thermostat and see how it is programmed. Most thermostats run 24 hours a day and seven days a week when this is not, in fact, necessary. A programmable thermostat can help you heat and cool your home according to your family’s habits and schedule. For example, if you know that your family will not be home every morning between 8 am and 10 am, you can program the machine to turn off automatically and save on heating and cooling costs. Or, when you are asleep, you may not need your furnace to run at full speed, so even turning it down a few degrees can add up to a lot of savings over time.

4. Make little changes.

Reduce Your Energy Bill

Being environmentally friendly doesn’t have to mean making large changes. Simple fixes around the house, such as using a wool dryer ball when doing a load of laundry can save you both time and money. Not only are reusable wool dryer balls eco-friendly by replacing the waste of single-use dryer sheets, but they can also actually speed up the drying process, which saves energy! On average, using a dryer ball can reduce the drying process by about 7% each load. So why wouldn’t you toss a few balls in? It’s pretty amazing that a simple wool ball can soak up enough moisture to lower your drying time, even when you’re running a load of laundry that’s all towels, but it really works. You’ll even notice less wrinkles in your clothes, so it’s really an all-around win.

5. Don’t open your appliances when cooking.

Reduce Your Energy Bill

Not only does opening your appliances when they’re in use cause your meal to take longer cooking, doing so can actually increase their energy production. In fact, every time you peek into your oven to check on your food, the internal temperature can drop up to 25 degrees, making your oven use much more energy to reheat to the original level again. The same goes for a crockpot and microwave, so keep them closed!

6.Unplug everything

Reduce Your Energy Bill

You may have certain electronics plugged in all the time out of habit. But doing so can cause you to run up unnecessary electric bill expenses. Go around your home and unplug everything, and remember to only plug them in when they’re in use. This way you can save energy because you may have electronics plugged in that you never use.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to living a more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious life. Both Mother Nature and your wallet will thank you.

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getting started in the cloud
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5 Simple Steps to Getting Started in The Cloud

All start-ups and small businesses have heard that the cloud is everywhere and can transform your business. But what is it and what can it do? Cloud-IT specialists Principal have the answers.

Confusingly, the cloud is used by providers, software sellers and businesses who want your money as a catch-all term for a variety of things. It can become quite complicated, but it doesn’t need to be.

The cloud is basically an on-demand storage or software resource that you can access immediately through the internet.

Tech giant IBM offers a handy definition of the various different types of cloud applications which is a good place to start. It’s likely that after reading that you’ll have more questions than you started with. To help, here are 5 simple steps to getting started in the cloud.

1. Pick your cloud

The first thing to clarify is, like the sky above, there isn’t one cloud – there are infinite numbers of potential clouds. As a business, you need to configure one that works for you.

As a small business you will want to focus on how the cloud can benefit you. For most, that’s likely to be moving certain data and applications to the cloud.

The first step is to analyse your data centre usage. This audit can identify your current software and storage requirements, enabling you to identify areas that could be better served in the cloud.

It’s important to recognise that to work any proposed move needs to improve efficiency and be cost-effective.

The bottom line is, if it won’t save you time or money, then think again.

2. Solid security

The cloud is as secure – if not more secure – than your own proprietary network, but you still need to be cautious.

Once you’ve identified the information and software you’d like to be hosted by the cloud then take the time to assess what this means for security.

The Data Protection Act and European Data Protection Regulation all have implications for how you manage and store data, and how you select your partners too – more on that below.

3. Simple strategy

Once you’ve done the groundwork, you can begin straight away. Microsoft, Adobe, SAP are just a couple of the huge names who have moved to providing software via the cloud. Dropbox is a leading name in cloud storage, but isn’t the only one.  All you need to do to get started in the cloud is get your credit card out and sign up.

If you do though, you could be making a mistake. According to tech bible ZDNet, what most cloud projects miss is a strategy – and we agree.

A solid cloud computing solution needs structure. This will help create a system that works for the organisation and your customer. It is also built with the future in mind, growing and developing as your business does.

4. Cloud culture

Your implementation strategy is important. Equally important is how your organisation embraces the cloud. It’s all about culture.

The cloud offers freedom to access information, work collaboratively, remotely and at all times of the day. But it comes with some new risks. These are particularly important to recognise as employees increasingly use their own devices for work.

Businesses need to develop working practices and approaches that are fit for the new world of the cloud. You’ll need to introduce new staff guidelines for document sharing and storage to help you and your employees work in a new way.

5. Provider or partner

If you’re tech minded it’s relatively easy to set-up a personal cloud, but you need to explore whether it’s the right approach for you.

Focusing solely on individual providers can leave you with a fragmented cloud system, with complex and inefficient interdependencies between different pieces of software from different providers.

In the end, you could end up paying for a system that far more complicated than the one it replaced.

One way of avoiding this is working with a partner who can help you configure a cloud solution that works for you. They can also take care of some of the security and access issues, helping you devise a strategy for success.

A successful transition to the cloud needs some thought and some planning, but genuinely does have the power to transform the way you work – increasing productivity, efficiency and profit.

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