There are SO many ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and choose products, materials and appliances for your home that are environmentally friendly. And this hour, you’re going to learn more about just a few of the cool eco-friendly products that make being green, easy!
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And welcome to a very special Earth Day Money Pit program. We are kicking off a month-long season of energy-saving and green home improvement topics that we’re going to cover. You know, you might just be one person but can make a big difference. And we are going to show you how.
Hey, we are today in the city that never sleeps: New York, New York. We’re broadcasting from The Home Depot store on 23rd Street. We want to thank them for making this broadcast possible. And Home Depot is taking full advantage of Earth Day to showcase hundreds of items that will help you go green.
LESLIE: That’s right. There are actually so many ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and choose products, materials and even appliances for your home that are environmentally friendly. And this hour, you’re going to learn more about just a few of the cool, eco-friendly products that make being green easy.
TOM: Coming up, we’ve got info on a truly incredible energy-efficient light bulb that is safer and looks just like the one Edison invented.
LESLIE: And we’re also going to tell you about a smart thermostat that allows you to control energy use from your iPhone or just about any other portable device.
TOM: And we’ve even got advice on a few things that you can do, starting today, that will help reduce your carbon footprint for all your tomorrows.
LESLIE: And The Home Depot is a great place to look for these green goods. They actually have a program called Eco Options, which helps you figure out which products are eco-friendly. And it’s really based on a stringent set of criteria that The Home Depot team has determined that all of these products meet.
TOM: And here to tell us about the program and some of the exciting eco-options available to us is Pelly Cecchi from The Home Depot.
PELLY: Hey. How are you doing?
TOM: We hear a lot about sort of green-washing today where there’s just so many standards for determining green. You guys have set up this Eco Options program, which really clarifies that. Are consumers responding to that?
PELLY: Yes, they are, actually. They are looking for the products and also the labels, as well.
TOM: Mm-hmm. That makes it a lot easier, I guess, for them to figure out if it’s truly a green product.
PELLY: Yes. Actually, we have over 6,000 products that are eco-friendly.
LESLIE: They run the full gamut of product or do you find that there’s one category that tends to have more eco-options available?
PELLY: Well, we have showerheads, toilets, appliances. A variety of different departments here at the store.
TOM: Mm-hmm, yeah. And I guess when a consumer comes in, do they ever get into a situation where there’s almost too many choices and your staff has to kind of help them narrow it down when it comes to making those sorts of decisions?
PELLY: Yes. When it comes down to showerheads and some toilets, correct.
TOM: And has the WaterSense program helped, I mean, as another standard that people can apply?
PELLY: Yes. Customers are looking for that extra savings of 30 percent less water, trying to cut down on utility costs, yes.
LESLIE: Do you find that because a product will be so eco-friendly and offer so much energy savings or even cost savings, that the products tend to cost more money and you’ll recoup it? Or has everything sort of evened out in the marketplace?
PELLY: I want to say they’re reasonably priced here.
TOM: I think it’s very complimentary that The Home Depot has been such a leader in energy efficiency. You’ve been the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for a number of years and I think you’re in line for that for 2013, as well. You’ve helped customers save over $700 million in energy costs through the sale of ENERGY STAR-qualified products.
So what are some of the – maybe the popular areas of ENERGY STAR that people are looking? Windows? Doors? Appliances? What?
PELLY: Actually, appliances. The washers, the dishwashers are ENERGY STAR-qualified products. This is the season right now for air conditioners. They’re looking for a high ENERGY STAR air conditioner.
When it comes down to showerheads, because it’s WaterSense, for us here in New York City, it’s important for the customers to cut cost.
TOM: And that’s something interesting for those that are not from New York City. We always find, being from the suburbs, your stores to be so interesting to us because you have more of certain things and less of others. So, for example, in my Home Depot, it feels like a third of it is a lumber department, you know? But there’s no sheets of plywood rolling out of here.
LESLIE: You can’t select a 2x4.
TOM: Right. You can’t choose a 2x4 but – because that doesn’t fit on a subway. But you guys have so many other things that are great for an urban area. You’ve got shelving, you’ve got all kinds of storage and organization stuff, you’ve got every lighting control imaginable. So it’s really interesting the way all of your inventory is tied to the neighborhood that you’re in.
PELLY: Right. And lighting – actually, the CFLs here – actually, customers are looking for. Especially, there’s the LED light bulb. That’s something that’s new out there and they’re interested in that. They’re coming in for it by name, actually.
LESLIE: And I think it’s interesting. Based on your location, being that Tom and I are suburb folks, there are different recycling plants that I can go to, depending on whatever item I’m trying to be eco-friendly and recycle: batteries, cell-phone batteries, whatever it might be. You guys really take that responsibility for a New York City resident, to help them recycle things, correct?
PELLY: Yes. We actually have a few programs here. A customer can bring their CFL, their compact fluorescent lamp. And then we recycle, with our program, also chargeable batteries. And lead-acid batteries we actually will recycle. We have a program and they can bring it at any time. Any Home Depot in the United States, actually, nationwide.
TOM: Yeah, I read a stat about that, that you recycled 660,000 pounds of CFLs across the country last year.
LESLIE: That’s huge.
TOM: That’s a lot of light bulbs. Yeah, absolutely. And with the LEDs now, as you mentioned, we really don’t need the CFLs as much. So are CFLs kind of fading out of favor, so to speak, and more folks are looking to the LEDs now?
PELLY: It is a new interest, let’s just say.
PELLY: So, that is a popular item as of, let’s just say, for the last two months.
PELLY: That’s something that they’re looking for.
LESLIE: Do you find that the consumer sort of knows what they’re looking for when it comes to the LED? Or do you really have to educate them about the differences and the benefits?
PELLY: Customers are actually always interested in finding new information, how to cut costs and what to do to reduce energy. So, it’s something that we educate our customers. Also, let’s just say newspapers and magazines actually help out with their advertisements.
TOM: That’s great. Pelly Cecchi from The Home Depot, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and for welcoming us here to your Home Depot.
PELLY: Well, thank you for coming.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. We’ve got a great, speaking of green, energy-saving contest going on right now on our Facebook page, right?
LESLIE: That’s right. It’s called Green My House and we’ve got some great, energy-efficient appliances, I would say, up for grabs. Our grand prize is the Amana Bottom-Freezer Fridge and it’s worth 1,500 bucks.
LESLIE: That’s a great prize.
TOM: We’ve also got a high-efficiency washing machine. We’ve got a whole house load of light bulbs and we’ve got five of these very cool Honeywell Smart Wi-Fi Thermostats. They’re worth $249 each. We’re going to talk about those later in the program.
But this is the coolest thing – is that if you share the contest online, you get bonus entries.
LESLIE: I like it.
TOM: So head on over to Money Pit …
LESLIE: We already know that our Money Pit friends are all addicted to Facebook.
LESLIE: So, as long as you’re on there, refer the contest to a few more friends, as well.
TOM: Alright. So enter now at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
LESLIE: Well, did you know that showering can use about 30 gallons of water per household per day? Unless you’re in my house with two small kids and I only get to shower every other day, so I’m going 60 every 4 days.
LESLIE: Well, the key to saving might actually be in the showerhead. And much like its ENERGY STAR program, the EPA has a WaterSense program that helps consumers identify high-performance showerheads that actually reduce water and energy use.
TOM: Yep. Great point. Because you could save more than 2,300 gallons per year just by installing WaterSense-labeled showerheads. And you’re also going to save energy by lowering the demand on your water heater.
Now, you can also take that savings to the sink, as well, because WaterSense-labeled faucets and faucet accessories can reduce a sink’s water flow by 30 percent. So, if you’re going to shop for a plumbing fixture or faucet, look for that WaterSense label and slow the flow.
LESLIE: Well, this is a special edition of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, celebrating the ways that we can do more to environmentally aware at home and all the energy and money savings that come along with it. We’re taking your calls about home repair, home improvement and being green 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Up next, something as simple as changing your light bulbs can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings. And it doesn’t have to mean switching to a weird-looking corkscrew bulb that gives off a funny glow. We’re going to explain, when The Money Pit Radio Show’s special broadcast – live from New York City, smack dab in the 23rd Street Home Depot – continues, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we want to welcome you back to a very special edition of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We are celebrating all things eco-friendly on the program this week. And we’re bringing you information on products and materials that will help save the planet and of course, in turn, help you save some money and maybe keep your conscience a little clearer, which is great. So it’s a win-win for everybody.
TOM: That’s right. And April is synonymous with green living, of course, because of Earth Day. The first one was celebrated 43 years ago. And it seems to make a bigger splash each and every year as more people realize that they, too, can make a difference by making small changes in their own lives. And one of those changes you’ve heard us talk about many times here on The Money Pit is switching out those old, incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient light bulbs.
LESLIE: And if you dread doing this because the newer bulbs cost too much or they’re too bulky or you just think that they’re plain weird-looking, our next guest may be able to solve all of those problems for you. David Elien is with Cree Light Bulbs and joins us now with the details.
DAVID: Thank you.
TOM: So, tell us about Cree LED bulbs. What makes them special?
DAVID: What makes our Cree LED bulbs special is that they not only look like a light bulb, they light like a light bulb but they work much better.
TOM: Right. Yeah, I noticed them. I actually used a couple of these this morning. I was taking a close look at them and I noticed they have a very even, warm glow. So they look a lot like incandescents.
DAVID: That’s correct. So, one of the things that we emphasized in our design was we wanted the light bulb to light like the light that people are used to.
DAVID: And consumers have grown used to that warm, omnidirectional light that they get from traditional incandescent bulbs.
TOM: We’ve seen a lot of changes in light-bulb design. Of course, CFLs were sort of the first energy-saving bulb and there were issues with the color of the bulb and the dullness and temperature sensitivity.
LESLIE: And the immediacy of the light.
TOM: That’s right. How quickly it comes on, that warm-up, that – same thing with the long – the 4-foot-long compact – same thing, right?
LESLIE: Fluoro tubes, yeah.
TOM: So now, we’re starting to see more LEDs that are coming out but I’ve noticed that a lot of them are – kind of have sort of the snow-cone effect, like the spotlight effect.
DAVID: Right. Right.
TOM: Your bulb, I think, is the first one I’ve seen that is – really, truly, closely resembles the even glow of an incandescent.
DAVID: Right. And so the idea here was to have consumers be in a position to be able to do the right thing without suffering any compromises in their experience.
DAVID: So, when consumers went and bought a CFL, their expectation was they would save energy but also get a good lighting experience out of it.
DAVID: And in a lot of ways, that technology fell short.
DAVID: And so the idea with our breakthrough Cree LED bulb was let’s make sure that it looks like what the customer is familiar with but it also gives them a phenomenal experience and on top of that, saves them 84 percent energy relative to incandescents.
TOM: Wow. Eighty-four percent less. Wow.
LESLIE: That’s big.
DAVID: Eight-four percent energy. Gives them a useful life of up to 22 years.
LESLIE: Per bulb.
DAVID: Per bulb.
TOM: The switch will wear out before the bulb will wear out.
DAVID: That’s right.
DAVID: So you’ll have to replace your fixture before you replace the bulb. And consumers are generally used to treating bulbs – incandescent bulbs – like they treat a razor blade, something that you would replace on a pretty frequent basis.
TOM: Right. And also, the price on these things is way down. I saw a stack of these at Home Depot and they started around 10 bucks. Is that right?
DAVID: That is correct.
DAVID: So the range of our products start as little as $10. And again, the idea was to compel consumers to use the technology.
DAVID: And at $10, a consumer is able to get a bulb that pays for itself in about a year.
DAVID: And then after that, over the course of its long life, which is about 22 years, it pays them.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Wow. Your bulbs pay you back.
LESLIE: That’s pretty awesome.
LESLIE: Now, when it comes to selecting the bulb, as far as wattage goes, I know with CFLs there was always some confusion because it didn’t – it wasn’t quite the same as what we were used to looking at for an incandescent.
LESLIE: So now, if I’m looking at a Cree LED bulb, how do I know what to get for my fixture?
DAVID: Well, the Cree LED bulbs are designed to be a one-form replacement for the incandescent bulb. So if you’ve been buying a 60-watt incandescent bulb, all you need to do is look for that 60-watt replacement LED bulb. The only thing that you need to remember, however, is that that 60-watt Cree LED bulb is using 9½ watts of energy.
DAVID: But it’s illuminating the way that a 60-watt incandescent bulb will.
TOM: I’m so glad that the bulb manufacturers have started to finally put the equivalent wattage on the packaging. Because, like you say, nobody goes in the store and says, “I’m looking for a 9-watt bulb,” you know?
DAVID: Right. Right, right.
LESLIE: It’s confusing.
TOM: Right. You are getting a 9-watt bulb but you’re getting the equivalent of 40 watts of illumination.
TOM: And so as long as we can just all accept the fact that, yeah, for the geeks out there, watts is a measure of electrical consumption but we’re just going to just give up on the fact that we’ve now equated that, also, with a certain amount of brightness.
DAVID: Mm-hmm. Right.
TOM: And we’re going to start asking for the wattage in brightness that we want in our bulbs, so it makes it a lot easier.
TOM: Now, the other thing that you guys did with this bulb, which I think is fantastic, is – there’s a lot of concern about CFLs when you drop them, the mercury in them and the big mess that they cause.
TOM: There are standards about how you should clean them up. You guys now have a safety coating on your bulb so that if you break it, the glass doesn’t fly off, right?
DAVID: That’s correct. So the safety coating, among other things, it makes the bulb shatter-resistant.
LESLIE: That’s great.
DAVID: And unlike a CFL, the CFLs contain some toxic materials, including mercury. Our bulb doesn’t contain any toxic materials. The safety coating is just a precaution because of the long life of the bulb. One other thing I should note is that you would dispose of our bulb the way you would dispose of everyday household electronics, any other electronics.
DAVID: There’s no special handling or instructions that you need to follow to dispose of our bulb.
TOM: So if it breaks or 22 years from now, it wears out, we can just throw it in the trash.
DAVID: Wears out. In the electronics cycling pile (inaudible at 0:15:42).
LESLIE: Well, David, thank you so much for sharing the new Cree LED technology with us. It’s very exciting.
DAVID: Great. Thank you for having me.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a call from Lisa in New Jersey.
Lisa, welcome to The Money Pit.
LISA: Hey, thanks for taking my call. I’ve heard a lot about free solar-panel installation. Can you tell me if it’s too good to be true or if I should go with it?
TOM: Well, solar is an interesting area because there are as many solar systems as there are ways to pay for solar systems, it seems like. So when you talk about a free solar panel, generally what’s happening is this: the solar-panel installer or manufacturer is doing a partnership with you where basically, they get to collect some of that energy and resell some of that energy. So, it kind of splits the difference between you getting all of the savings of solar and you getting some of the savings of solar and trading it off against the cost of installation.
TOM: So I think you need to look carefully at every scenario that’s presented, from an economic perspective, at you and make a very careful, reasoned decision. And just be really careful to consider things like how long you’re going to be in the home, what happens if it breaks down, who maintains it, all those sorts of things.
And also look carefully at the rebates, because the rebates impact the cost of the equipment, as well. And who’s going to get those rebates? In some states, the rebates are very significant.
LESLIE: Right. And the rebates, they need to be filed in a very specific manner, with very specific items from the packaging and labeling. So you want to make sure that you hold onto everything, hold onto all of the receipts. I think, really, the best place to start as far as a rebate might be concerned is to ask your accountant, or somebody that you know in the financial area as far as accounting goes, what needs to be done and how much you could possibly recoup there.
TOM: Good point. Lisa, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
Well, recycling is a great way to help cut down on waste but it’s also a great way to make some extra money these days, if you’re talking about e-waste. Now, that’s the electronic waste. Electronics contain lead, they contain mercury and brominated flame retardants. Not good stuff. So it’s really important to keep the estimated 2.5 million-plus tons of e-waste out of our landfills.
And some of the parts of cell phones are rare and need to be mined from the earth, so it just makes sense to recycle or better yet, sell off your old electronics.
LESLIE: Yeah. Lots of companies are cropping up that will do just that. You want to check out BuyMyTronics.com or YouRenew.com. They actually pay you cash for your used e-waste. And lots of charities are also accepting them.
But a word of warning. You want to make sure if you’re donating, selling, make sure you strip all of your personal information off of your devices before you just hand them over to a stranger.
TOM: Good advice. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still ahead, we’re going to be taking more of your calls to 1-888-MONEY-PIT and we’re also going to talk about how you can add a great-looking window shade to your home that can also add some savings to your wallet when it comes to that cooling bill, when our eco-friendly edition of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, coming to you from New York City, returns, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we want to welcome you back to a very special edition of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
Today, we are highlighting all kinds of green options when it comes to home improvement and helping you to look for ways that you can become eco-friendly in your very own money pit. You can reduce your carbon footprint, reduce your energy bills and perhaps reduce your guilt, if you do have some of that Mother Nature guilt. And we’ve got all info on, really, great products that can help you do all of that.
TOM: And if you’ve got a question about how to make your home more efficient, we’d like to talk to you right now. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Give us a call with your green-energy question.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Alright. First up, we’ve got Jim in Michigan who’s got a rainwater-system question.
JIM: Tom and Leslie, thanks for taking my call. I’m an amateur gardener and last year, the water bill just tore me up.
JIM: And a buddy of mine suggested I look into something called “rainwater collection systems,” which I Googled.
JIM: And I’ve done a little bit of homework but I really would like your take on these things. Are they worth the investment or not?
TOM: You know, that’s one of those examples of old is new again, don’t you think? I mean it’s kind of coming back. Many, many years ago, these were very, very standard and today, they’re coming back but they’re kind of coming back with a twist, in the sense that now there’s some increased convenience of them.
For example, I know that there are gutter fixtures that will take the leaders right into the rain barrels.
LESLIE: Like a barrel system.
TOM: Right. The barrel system. And then they have covers on them so they don’t become mosquito-breeding ponds. And I think you can even hook them up to irrigation systems, right?
LESLIE: You can. I would think it’s a smaller, sort of drip system for maybe container gardening but you’re not going to do your lawn with this.
LESLIE: You’re not going to get that much.
And I think, Jim, it’s interesting to consider – some people have even gotten even more sophisticated and done rainwater collection where you can filter it and even drink it if you wanted to have it for outside. But that’s very different than just your standard barrel collection system. So if you are interested in being able to actually drink that water, there are several filtration systems available on the market if that was something you were interested in.
But there are gravity-fed barrels so that you can actually hook up a hose to it and really water around the yard. So it’s a great option.
TOM: Jim, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Kelly in Texas with a roofing question.
KELLY: Yeah, I have a Craftsman-style home and it has ridge vents. But I had an energy audit just this spring and the energy audit said, “Kelly, you don’t have any soffit vents in your – around your eaves.”
TOM: OK. Yeah. Hmm.
KELLY: Well, I don’t really have eaves. All of my roof ends in these exposed rafters. It does have gables. And so he said, “You need to vent this house. Your house – your attic is not properly ventilated because you don’t have any way for the air to get in the bottom.”
TOM: Yeah, well, your energy auditor was absolutely correct. Because a ridge vent is only half of the ventilation system. You need to match that with soffit venting so that you have intake at the soffit, the air runs under the roof sheathing and then out at the ridge. And that’s sort of a 24-7 cycle. But the problem is that you don’t have sort of the physical structure; you don’t have the overhang with a soffit.
So in your case, there’s a special kind of vent that simulates what happens with a soffit.
LESLIE: And a gable vent is not going to be enough because it’s too close to the ridge vent, usually.
TOM: And actually, it can be counterproductive because you get sort of this turbulent effect where it will interfere with that flow.
LESLIE: It’s like a storm in your attic.
TOM: Yeah, kind of. And so, the solution is something called a “drip-edge vent.” And what that does is it creates like – literally, think of it as a 2-inch soffit at the end of that roof line. And it will extend the soffit area just enough to let air come in.
So look it up. It’s called a “drip-edge vent.” That will solve your problem and I don’t think you really need the gable vents. Those two together – the drip-edge vent at the soffit area and the ridge vent – will do the trick.
LESLIE: Is that something that can be done post a new roof install or is that really like, “Ooh, you missed the boat”?
TOM: You can do it but you have to take the shingles off at the bottom.
TOM: So it’s a roofing project. But if you’ve got a severe ventilation problem, I think it’s something that’s really, really important to do.
LESLIE: It’s worth it.
Alright. Next up, we’ve got Tom in Nebraska who’s working on a decking project.
TOM IN NEBRASKA: I’m building a cedar deck and I’m trying to figure out which products to use in order to preserve the life of it.
TOM: Yeah. That’s a great question. Cedar is a great material because it’s naturally insect-resistant. But I think people get confused because it’s insect-resistant. That doesn’t mean it’s going to stop deteriorating from the UV of the sun.
LESLIE: Right. There are several good products out there and I’m not sure offhand what the sort of aging process is for cedar, how much time you’ve kind of got to let that sit out there before you actually put a top coat on it.
But with cedar, it really is so gorgeous. You probably just want to go with a clear coat. Flood is a great product line. They make wonderful things that you can put onto a wood deck to sort of just make them UV-protected, which really is where you want to go. But especially if you’re going with a clear coat, it’s something you’re going to have to apply, I would say, every three years on your horizontal surfaces, just to make sure that that cedar is going to stand up. Because it’s gorgeous and it is an investment and you want to protect it.
TOM: Yeah. And that’s another reason so many people are turning to composites today. Because even with an insect-resistant product …
LESLIE: Oh, please, we did it. I’m lazy. I’m not going – I’m lazy. I got tired of refinishing a wood deck every three to five years. And I was the only one who wanted to do it and it really drove me crazy.
TOM: Tom, we hope that helps you out. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Alright, you guys. You know what? Being that we’re being green, even though Kermit said it wasn’t easy, it’s pretty darn easy. We are having a Facebook contest called Green My House and we’ve got some great, eco-friendly prizes up for grabs.
TOM: Yeah, we’ve got a GE high-efficiency washing machine worth $799.
LESLIE: Man, that’s awesome.
TOM: This is a great machine.
LESLIE: And I can’t enter.
TOM: You cannot enter. That’s right. You cannot enter.
But you can enter. And if you do and convince your friends to enter on Facebook, you’ll even get bonus entries for every one of your friends that enter. That’s all online at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.
LESLIE: Alright. Still to come, dimming a light not only adds drama to your space but it can also add big savings to your lighting bill. The Money Pit’s special broadcast continues, after this.
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TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we are going green this week, in more ways than one. We are helping you find ways to keep our planet green and of course, to keep more green in your wallet.
TOM: And we’ve come a long way since the very first Earth Day, back in 1970, when most Americans really didn’t think much about the impact on our environment. I mean think about it: we poured in leaded gas into our cars and we got about seven miles a gallon. We didn’t think about having energy-efficient windows or doors and we even dumped our household hazmats right down the kitchen sink. No way. But yeah, we did it.
LESLIE: Yeah, well, out of sight, out of mind. Let’s put the past behind us and really focus on the future.
And you know what? Now we even have small choices and those small choices can have an impact on our planet and in turn, on our wallets. And you can make some very simple changes in your home that will help the planet and save you money. You know that’s going to be people’s real motivation here. They’re like, “Planet, OK. Wallet? Yes, please.”
TOM: And one of those changes: turning the lights off when you leave the room. Sounds easy but admit it, it is not always a habit. Our next guest tells us how to make sure we never ask again, “Who left the lights on?” With us is Matt Donati from Lutron.
MATT: Thanks. Hi.
TOM: So this is that flashback moment that your parents may have said to you and now you say to your kids when you come home, especially at night, and see that the lights are on in the house, right? “Who left the lights on?”
TOM: So you guys have a technology now that really stops that once and for all.
MATT: Yeah, exactly. And that’s when you know you’re getting older is when you start sounding like your dad and saying the same things that he said.
So, Lutron has a – it’s a Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. And what it does is you replace your existing light switch, you install it and it’s going to make sure your lights turn off and – whenever there’s no one in the room.
MATT: So what if your kids go in there and they come out and they don’t turn the lights off? The sensor is going to do that for them.
TOM: Because it senses that there’s no movement in the room or temperature in the room or what?
MATT: Right. It senses that there’s no one in the room, so it actually – it’s sensing the heat that someone’s generating.
MATT: And it can tell that there’s a change in heat, so it tells them that – “Hey, let’s turn the lights on.” And whenever they walk out of the room …
LESLIE: It’s interesting that it goes by heat because I would imagine if I’m sitting reading a book and I’m very minimally moving and it’s just a slight page turn – so it’s still sensing my body temperature rather than me flailing my arms around.
MATT: Right. So it’s seeing your hand as you turn your page. And that change in – from moving from left to right is a change in temperature for the sensor. And it’s going to keep – it says, “Hey, there’s somebody in here. I’m going to keep the lights on.”
And that’s one of the things that makes our sensor better is it’s going to pick up those fine motions, to make sure – there’s two important things. We want to make sure the lights turn on and off but also make sure that they stay on whenever you’re in the space.
LESLIE: Now what about if you put something like this in your master bedroom and now you’ve fallen asleep or you’ve turned the lights off, you’ve fallen asleep but you roll over. Do the lights come back on?
MATT: Right. So, if you leave it – if you leave the sensor as is, it would turn on. However, you can disable that auto-on feature. We call that “vacancy mode.” So it’s perfect for a bedroom whereas you still have to manually turn on the light switch but then it’ll still turn off for you whenever you leave the space. So in a bedroom, you can turn the lights off and then you’re going to – your sleep is not going to turn them on in the middle of the night.
TOM: Now, how do you stop the lights from going off if, let’s say, you’re just sort of going in and out of a room; you’re not really in there steadily. But you don’t want the lights to pop on and off every time you walk in and out; you want them to stay on for some period of time because maybe you’re, you know, just moving between rooms.
MATT: So, there is a feature in the sensor that will pick up daylight. So if you enable this feature, if you walk in a space and there’s enough – there’s ample light, it’s going to know to keep the lights off.
MATT: And then the next time you come and it’s later in the day and the sun has gone down, it’s going to turn the lights on for you.
TOM: So that’s interesting because that’s a different question. If it’s so – if it’s daylight sensitive, it’s not going to turn the lights on if the lights are already on. That’s brilliant because why do that, right?
LESLIE: Yeah, why do you need them?
TOM: Right. But what if you just leave the room and you don’t want the lights to go off immediately because maybe you’re moving between two rooms, you’re moving stuff back and forth. Can you determine how long the lights stay on?
MATT: When you install it, the sensor, it’ll stay on for five minutes after you leave the space. You can reduce that as low as one minute. So a small – like a powder room, that would be perfect because it needs that time to see you. So one minute is perfect for the smaller rooms. But in a larger room, you can increase it up to 30 minutes. So you can change it from 1- to 5- to 15- to 30-minute time-outs. And that’s how you would impact that. If you are going in and out, you can have it stay on longer.
LESLIE: Now, Matt, I noticed when we first started talking, you said you can replace this with your existing switch. Is it a simple-enough project that any homeowner can tackle installing a dimmer?
MATT: It’s very simple. It takes about 15 minutes. And most installs you can just get by with just a screwdriver. So you would uninstall your current switch and then you would install this sensor with a screwdriver. Takes about 15 minutes. So it’s very – it’s a great DIY project.
LESLIE: And Matthew, I think it’s so interesting that if it’s so simple for someone to install, any questions that they have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Lutron has got an 800 number that they can pick up and call. I mean even if it’s 3:00 in the morning, because that’s when people are doing the projects.
MATT: Right, exactly. It’s U.S.-based. It’s open at night, it’s open on weekends. So if you run into some trouble, give us a call.
LESLIE: Great. Good advice. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit, Matt.
MATT: Thank you.
TOM: Well, some bigger buildings are doing their share to help reduce the impact on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency has released its list of cities with the most ENERGY STAR-rated buildings. And this means it’s buildings that the EPA has certified use at least 35 percent less energy and emit 35 percent fewer greenhouse gases.
Now, that list of cities with these Earth-friendly buildings is a little bit surprising.
LESLIE: Yeah. First up, the city itself has got a ton of smog but Los Angeles is clear number one with their Earth-friendly buildings. They’ve got 528 of them, actually, followed by our capital, Washington D.C., then Chicago and New York.
TOM: So, why is this important? Well, in 2012, these buildings helped save more than $2.7 billion in energy bills while preventing greenhouse-gas emissions equal to about 2 million homes.
LESLIE: That’s huge. And that’s why we always tell you to buy ENERGY STAR.
TOM: Absolutely. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. And up next, if you’re heating or cooling your home to capacity when you’re not in it, you’re throwing money out the window. We’re going to tell you about a stylish way to regulate your temperature, just ahead.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And you are tuned to a very special edition of The Money Pit. We’re highlighting products and materials that will help you go green. We’re broadcasting today on location at The Home Depot on 23rd Street, which is abuzz with all kinds of home improvement activity today.
LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. It’s urban Home Depot activity. It’s kind of interesting. No lumber but lots of cool, decorative things.
Now, if you head to your local Home Depot with the goal of purchasing eco-friendly, green products, look for their Eco Options designation. It’s sort of a label that The Home Depot has given to products that meet certain criteria. And there are so many things here in the store that can actually help you save energy and money.
TOM: And one of those products that sounds so simple but can make a big difference is your thermostat. You know, old thermostats have to be manually controlled and they just don’t make sense anymore. A smart thermostat is the wave of the future.
And Honeywell has a brand-new one out that is Wi-Fi operated. It’s a Wi-Fi smart thermostat that can also match your home décor. And here to talk to us about that is Mike Bruce from Honeywell.
MIKE: Hey. Thank you for having me.
LESLIE: So forget that it’s a really cool thermostat. You can actually make it match your decorating style?
MIKE: Absolutely. And that’s one of the key features. And through talking to customers over the years, they keep telling us, “Bleh, I want something that really matches my décor or something I can change to …”
LESLIE: It’s a thermostat.
MIKE: It’s a thermostat, right, but thermostats have always traditionally been just a big, white hunk of plastic on the wall.
TOM: Yeah. Exactly.
MIKE: And so, what we’ve done with this one is because we have a high-definition display, we can change the color to match any type of décor you have. So if it’s in the man cave, you can have it match your favorite sporting team or during the holiday season, you can have it kind of match the holiday. Or if you just want to match the furniture or match the wall color, you can do that, as well, which is something that customers have been telling us they wanted and we’ve done that in this new thermostat.
TOM: Alright. So great concept but of course, being the geek, I like the Wi-Fi capability. So, as I understand it, you can operate this with your smartphone?
MIKE: Yeah, absolutely. Just like the name says, it’s a Wi-Fi smart thermostat. So, it connects to your home Wi-Fi network and then you can control your thermostat from anywhere in the world with your smartphone, tablet or PC through our Total Connect Comfort app, which is the number-one rated thermostat app on iTunes and Google Play.
TOM: I can stay on my La-Z-Boy. I don’t have to get off the La-Z-Boy to walk across the room, which is just so exhausting, to change my temperature. I can do it right from my smartphone.
MIKE: That’s right. Laziness breeds efficiency and that’s what this is designed to do.
LESLIE: My goodness. And it’s also – I guess it’s great if you leave for that family vacation and on your way to the airport, you’re like, “Oh, no. Did I turn off the heat? Did I lower the heat? Did I put the air conditioning on?” Whatever it might be, you can do that there, as well.
MIKE: That’s correct. And that’s another great feature is heating and cooling picks up about 50 percent of your home’s energy usage. And having the ability to set the thermostat back while you’re away, either on vacation or if you’re a business traveler, and being able to check in on the thermostat to make sure it’s not wasting energy when you’re not there is a key benefit to saving energy.
Not to mention that if you’re coming home from the airport and you want to heat it up on the way there, you can do that, as well. So, it’s great to have that flexibility with the thermostat.
TOM: And this is accurate, too, to – is it within 1 degree?
MIKE: Yeah, it’s plus or minus 1 degree, which the closer it is to controlling temperature, the more efficient it is, actually, because it’s not having high temperature swings up and down.
LESLIE: Now, how simple is this to install? Is it pretty much wire for wire or do you really need a pro to do this?
MIKE: This is a do-it-yourself thermostat, so we’ve made it really easy to install. It works on a wide variety of systems. And if you have any trouble, we have a website, WiFiThermostat.com, that’s going to give you wiring assistance, installation videos, things to really help with the installation of the thermostat.
TOM: Awesome. Mike Bruce from Honeywell, the Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
MIKE: Thank you so much for having me.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you a few great ideas to help make your home more energy-efficient and help you save money this Earth Day and beyond.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself ...
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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(Copyright 2013 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)