Home Improvements for Savings and Greater Energy Efficiency

Summer's ending and soon enough heating season will be upon us. Here are seven home improvement tips offered by "The Daily Green" to get your house ready for an energy efficient fall and winter.
1) Get an energy audit - You will want to know where your house is wasting energy so that you can address those areas first. There is no reason to waste money on heating bills just to see that heat seep and leak from your house. As Grandpa would say, "we're not heating the outdoors...." You can perform you own energy audit but there is no substitute for an energy audit performed by a trained professional who can use the right equipment and methodology to assess your home's energy efficiency.
2) Caulk cracks and leaks - The Department of Energy says that up to 30% of the cost of cooling and heating is consumed by leakage. Caulking will prevent heated or cooled air from seeping out of your house. Use silicone caulk when joining differing materials like brick, metal flashing, stone and wood. It will stick to painted surfaces but paint will not adhere when cured. Water-based foam sealant is good for window and door frame cracks, but not for larger gaps. The area to be caulked should be clean and the caulk bead should be applied in a constant stream rather than a series of bursts from the caulk gun.
3) Use weather-stripping - To stop air leaks from windows and door frames, weather-stripping can be applied where caulk would not be convenient, such as door frames to be opened and closed where the weather-stripping can form a tight seal when the door is closed. Felt weather-stripping is good for window and door frames, but is not durable for multiple seasons and should not be exposed to moisture. Tape weather-stripping is useful for door frames, window sashes and non-opening windows. Several other specialized weather-stripping types are available; you can learn more at your hardware supplier.
4) Seal and insulate ducts - Forced air systems lose heated air through joints and vents. Duct sealing prevents loss of heated or cooled air. The insulation used should have an R-value at or over 6. The project should pay back its cost within a year, saving energy costs after the small cost of the insulation is recovered.
5) Add insulation where needed - Floors, walls and attics often lack sufficient insulation to prevent heat loss. Sometimes one or more rooms of the house are insulated less than others, creating uneven heat distribution and inefficient use of the heating system. An R-value chart will show whether, based on what area of the country you live in, you need insulation rated between R13 and R30 for floors, R25-R49 for walls and R30-60 for attics. A tax deduction of 10% of the cost of materials up to $500 is available through 2011.
6) Replace old appliances - A new Energy Star rated refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer, furnace, water heater or central air conditioner can save 10% or more on energy costs. While popular, some state rebate programs are still available for assistance with the costs of a replacement. See our August 18 post "Financial Incentives for Energy Efficiency"for information about available programs.
7) Plant trees - One of the oldest ways to improve the environment can improve conditions in your home. Evergreen trees planted on the stormy side of your house will save on heating bills by blocking cold winds. Shade trees on the west side of your home can block heat, reducing their strain on your cooling system. Trees also increase salability of your home, though planting them while they are young will require some patience until they grow to their full usefulness.
Your home is a breathing living entity. It grows with you and it supports your way of life. Creating a more energy efficient home is an ongoing project – as much an art as a science. As your needs change, as the seasons change, as the condition of your home changes, you will need to respond in kind, to get the most out of your house with the least energy expenditure. No answer is good for every homeowner, but all home owners can try to achieve greater efficiency. The result, a more energy efficient community, a more energy independent nation, can be the outcome, one we should all desire.

NYS Appliance Rebate Program Goes to Wait-List in Two Days

An appliance rebate program announced by New York State offering up to $350 toward the purchase of energy efficient Energy Star washing machines and $250 toward Energy Star washing machines received in two days applications for the entire $3,500,000 allotted for the rebates. The program began on September 2 and was filled up on September 4.
The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority's (NYSERDA) "Buy Green, Save New York State High Efficiency Appliance Rebate Program," is now accepting wait list applications. Their website  says that "our experience has shown that not all applications submitted by applicants are followed by the required submission of a complete and valid hard copy application and required receipts" so more applicants will be accepted from the waiting list.
In addition to Energy Star status, the rebated equipment needs to be CEE (Consortium for Energy Efficiency) Tier 2 or Tier 3 rated, making them "super-efficient," saving an additional 10-20% energy savings for washers and 5-10% more energy savings for refrigerators . Refrigerators use up to 15% of total household energy expenditures. CEE Tier 2 and 3 rated appliances' efficiency is at the upper und of Energy Star qualifications.
A previous NYSERDA rebate program, the "New York State Great Appliance Swap-Out", which ran from February 2010 until funds ran out in March 2010 included rebates for freezers, dishwashers, and recycling. Instead in the new rebate program, "We're focusing on appliances where we can make the biggest energy efficiency gains" said Francis J. Murray, NYSERDA President and CEO. The "swap-out" provided over $16 million in rebates to 165,000 households, with the participation of over 1,000 retailers.
NYSERDA, is described in the rebate program announcement as “a public benefit corporation, [that] offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels."  The Authority has been active in providing innovative environmental protection since 1975. The rebate program is funded by the US Department of Energy’s State Energy Program, from funds available under the 2009 Recovery Act.


Housing Sector Energy Efficiency Conference this Week

Introducing energy efficiency in the housing sector will be the topic of a day-long conference "Energy Efficiency in the Residential Sector: Practice, Policy, Prospects" to be held this Thursday, September 5 as part of the University of California at Berkeley series on Urban Sustainability; "Urban Housing, Economy and Transit: Confronting a Crisis." Participants will include researchers from UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California energy regulators, US housing and Urban Development representatives, homebuilders and policy advocates.
Sustainable residential energy use, energy efficiency in public housing, government participation and green housing policy, and energy efficient investment in a troubled economy will be the subject of panel discussions. The government's role in energy-efficient housing will be the topic of the closing keynote, presented by Ralph Bostic, Assistant Secretary for Policy and Research at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The conference will be available on webcast after its conclusion. Question can be directed to conference coordinator Brian Gothberg at


Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Stick Your Neck Out: Help Your Community Save Energy

Barbara Kingsolver: The Literature of Efficiency

“Right now, other frightening imperatives have distracted us so far from the program of benevolence toward our planet that it seems we might just try to burn the whole world for fuel to keep ourselves guarded and cozy. But that is not the expressed will of our people. Most of us do understand, when we can calm down and think clearly, that whether we are at peace or at war, the lives that hang in the balance are not just ours but the millions more that create the support system and biological context for humanity. More and more of us are listening for the silent alarm, stopping in our tracks, wishing to salvage the parts of this earth we haven’t yet wrecked. “

-Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder: Essays (2003)

Barbara Kingsolver (born April 8, 1955) is an American novelist, essayist and poet. She writes on biodiversity and the relations between people, their settlements and their ecosystems. Each of her books published since 1993 has been on the New York Times Best Seller list. Her books emphasize the relationship between individuality and the responsibilities of life in a community and the conflicts between people and their environmental surroundings.  


Thoughts on Energy

Not only will atomic power be released, but someday we will harness the rise and fall of the tides and imprison the rays of the sun.
-Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931), 22 August 1921

The pattern of preferences for using energy efficiency to decrease demand and [renewable energy sources] to supply energy has been consistent in the poll data for 18 years. This is one of the strongest patterns identified in the entire data set on energy and the environment.
-Dr. Barbara Farhar of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, quoted by Thomas O. Gray in "Views On The Environment: Clean And Green" American Wind Energy Association  

The word "energy" incidentally equates with the Greek word for "challenge." I think there is much to learn in thinking of our federal energy problem in that light. Further, it is important for us to think of energy in terms of a gift of life.
-Thomas Carr, testimony to U.S. Senate Commerce Committee,  September 1974  

The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.
-Pierre Tielhard de Chardin (1881-1955)  
thanks to the University of St. Thomas - energy quotes  


New Efficiency Standards to Cool Refrigerator Power Demand

New energy efficiency standards issued by the Department of Energy (DOE) Friday will save the equivalent of the energy consumption of every home in the US over two months. More than $200 in savings is expected for the typical consumer over the life of the new  refrigerators, which will save consumers nationwide over $21 billion on their power bills through 2043. The standards will take effect in 2014.
The energy consumption of a refrigerator under the new rules will be cut by 25%, using one-third the electricity used by a refrigerator in the 1970s. Over 240 million metric tons of carbon emissions will be avoided over the next thirty years. "These standards represent a consensus among manufacturers, consumer groups and environmentalists" said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "The agreement builds on more than three decades of common-sense state and federal refrigerator efficiency standards that have collectively saved American families hundreds of billions of dollars....Even as the size of American refrigerators has increased and more features have been added, the historical purchase prices have come down and we are all saving money on our electricity bills every month."
The rules are the result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which required the DOE to review and amend energy conservation standards for residential refrigerators and freezers. Earlier standards established on 1976 eliminated the least efficient half of the refrigerator market. Refrigerator efficiency continued to improve with Energy Star standards, but further improvements were needed, challenging the industry to build on the energy efficiency standards achieved between 1976 and today. The steady improvement of refrigerator technology shows how better products can deliver consumer benefit while providing profit for the manufacturers - that energy efficiency works.
"This consensus agreement maximized cost-effective energy savings for consumers while keeping impacts on manufacturers to manageable levels" according to the Executive Director of the American Council for Energy Efficiency Steve Nadel.  Joseph McGuire, president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers said the new rule "Is based on the consensus agreement reached by stakeholders which balances energy savings, consumer choice and manufacturer impact. We applaud DOE for its work."
Since 2009 the DOE has established new energy efficiency standards for over thirty commercial and household products, expected to result in a savings to consumers of up to $300 billion through 2030. Energy efficiency is happening now. It is the way to an affordable, clean, comfortable future. Agreements such as the refrigerator ruling will help guide our economy toward an energy efficient future, free of dependence on fossil fuels, with lower electricity costs and less power-generation emissions.


Rewards Program for Energy Efficiency Actions

An ambitious program to get communities to save energy, using a web app to monitor their savings and to obtain rewards from program participants for efficiency achievements, the SouthCoast Energy Challenge aims to get Massachusetts communities to compete against each other to achieve efficiency goal achievements. The Challenge aims to get 15% of households to reduce fossil fuel energy consumption by 15% over three years. The Challenge aims to work with 35,000 homes and debuted on August 5 in the seaport town of New Bedford Massachusetts with 200 participants.
Initiated by one individual who brought his idea to the attention of a local non-profit, the Marion Institute, which brought in the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance and a variety of university and planning groups, the Challenge offers participants an online application where they record and calculate their energy savings over time. Attainment of levels of savings entitles the participants to rewards through the EarthAid application, which tracks energy use and efficiency actions.
Efficiency improvements are tracked through several categories including home, travel and food. The first home step is to get a no-cost home energy assessment from a MassSave Home Energy program home performance contractor. Then, steps to track utility savings, calculate Co2 footprint, turn down the water heater thermostat, insulate the hot water tank and pipes, adopt cold water laundering and recycling, signing up for their utility’s green energy program, eliminating "vampire" phantom power loads, and hang drying laundry are outlined with their power savings for each participant.
Travel actions include eliminating idling your car, checking tire pressure, using mass transit, and keeping to the speed limit. Again, with each step dollar and CO2 emission savings are listed and checked off when applicable. Food actions include composting and buying locally made food.
The Earth-Aid tracking and rewards application is joined through a social account. Participants sign up, link their online utility accounts, track their progress and become eligible for rewards. The app reads your meter and provides an online energy budget - the more energy you save the more points you earn. Points can be redeemed for rewards from local participating businesses and brands.
Earth Aid, which links to over 200 utilities, has been called the of home energy management. Rather than rely on an in-home smart-meter or a program where the information is delivered through a meter in partnership with the utility,such as Google's failed Powermeter and Microsoft's abandoned Hohm, Earthaid partners with the homeowner, delivering his utility data in a digestible form, with graphs and recommendations. When asked if people would participate in the program just to get the rewards, EarthAid CEO Ben Bixby said "Whether is important for you to save energy and the rewards are a bonus or if it's important for you to just win awards, the outcome is the same. We're trying to build an app that serves all people. Those that are green already and people that are just trying to save money for the fun stuff in life."
SouthCoast Energy Challenge registered businesses offering rewards include a local farm, a coffeehouse and a printing business. The South Coast Energy Challenge offers one Earth Air reward point for every kilowatt hour of electricity saved or for every 10 cubic feet of gas saved of for every 20 gallons of water saved. The participant sees savings on a dashboard displaying consumption data, detailed statements from all utilities, a comparison to utility usage in the nation, state, or zip code, or against other individual participants.
The Challenge organizers think they can save $26 million in the region. Karen Malcolm, Southeast Environmental Education Alliance marketing coordinator Karen Malcolm said "our work is to shift the understanding of the broader community so that more and more people take that first step of a home energy assessment, and do on-ground follow through with them. Farm owner and reward participant Derek Christianson saw his participation as leading to more customers - "it's a way to communicate to your patrons...that this is something that you take very seriously."
The SouthCoast Energy Challenge website says "We see a future where SouthCoast families are healthier, our air and water cleaner, and we are more thoughtful energy consumers." Through programs like these the word about energy efficiency is being spread throughout communities. Does energy efficiency come from the bottom up, with small changes made by consumers leading to major changes in the countries' energy regimen, or from the top down, with utilities' programs persuading consumers to be more efficient? Energy efficiency programs are trying both approaches – and perhaps they both are needed.


Benjamin Franklin's Energy Efficiency

Founding father, inventor and practical philosopher, Benjamin Franklin is remembered for his lightning and key experiment where he proved that lightning is a form of electricity, and survived to tell the tale. He is an American original, and the inventor of the one of the earliest energy efficiency devices - The Pennsylvania fireplace. Franklin's fireplace was built with an open front that could be positioned to focus heat on specific parts of a room rather than the less efficient heating of an entire room by an open fireplace. The Pennsylvania fireplace is still used today.

Franklin was a pioneer in the understanding of electricity. He popularized the idea that it was a "single" force rather than the flow of two opposing forces. He developed a language for describing electricity, its tools and behaviors, originating the terms "charge," "battery," "conductor," "condensor," "armature," "positive" and "negative" current.

Franklin is well-known for his pithy quotes from his pamphlet, Poor Richard's Almanack. They speak of thrift, introspection, calm deliberation, and apply definitively to today's energy efficiency debate. His quotes from the Almanack should be taken as good advice for today's energy planner.

     "When the well is dry we know the worth of water."

     "A penny saved is a penny earned"

     "Who is rich? He that rejoices in his portion."

Energy efficiency, energy-saving, these concepts are as old as the republic. Today, over 250 years since Franklin's kite experiment, we would do well to go back to these traditional roots of our nation. Moderation, using only as much as is needed, appreciation of the value of resources, these are all ideas which should never go out of style, and can save us from our self-made energy crisis.


A Prayer to Energy: The Literature of Efficiency

Thomas John Carlisle (October 11, 1913 – August 17, 1992) was an American poet, Presbyterian minister, and an expert on Emily Dickinson.

A Prayer

Help us to harness
the wind,
the water,
the sun,
and all the ready
and renewable
sources of power.
Teach us to conserve,
use wisely
the blessed treasures
of our wealth-stored earth.
Help us to share
your bounty,
not waste it,
or pervert it
into peril
for our children
or our neighbors
in other nations.
You, who are life
and energy
and blessing,
teach us to revere
and respect
your tender world.


The Western Grid's Clean Energy Future

Our energy future can go down the road of business as usual, or a clean energy vision can be implemented according  to "Western Grid 2050: Contrasting Futures, Contrasting Fortunes" a 165 page report released this week by the Western Grid Group (WGG) with support from the Western Clean Energy Advocates (WCEA). WCEA, an alliance of more than 25 renewable energy industry, environmental, tribal, public health and regulatory groups and advocates, is joined by former Colorado State Governor Bill Ritter in calling for state leadership and regional collaboration to achieve the clean energy vision.
The report lays out two contrasting paths, the business as usual (BAU) and the clean energy vision (CEV). It demonstrates how the over $200 billion that growing demand in eleven Western states requires to be invested in the western electricity system infrastructure in the next twenty years would be deployed given the two paths. Report author Carl Linvill said "it's time to rethink our grid. Advances in information, communications and clean energy technologies have opened the opportunity to overcome the barriers of twentieth century grid technology and transition to a 21st century clean energy economy in the West."
The report looks at the power grid system and energy resource mix achievable under the two paths. The BAU path assumes continued dependence on currently used power resources and infrastructure, renewable deployment only to the extent of current legislative mandates and modest energy efficiency measures. THE CEV assumes aggressive pursuit of demand reduction through energy efficiency conservation, demand response distribution and distributed or small-scale power generation. The report found that, if carefully planned, the CEV would have six major benefits:
- CEV creates more local jobs than BAU. While BAU assumes high fuel expenditure, CEV assumes more direct investment in infrastructure development and operation
- CEV's energy supply is more secure and reliable due to less dependence on price-sensitive fossil fuels and centralized power generation.
- CEV can save costs for power customers. The CEV path can be achieved at a lower cost than the BAU due to the BAU's higher fuel and carbon costs.
- CEV has less impact on the west's water supply. Electricity-related water use would be cut in half by 2050 saving over 30 billion gallons of scarce Western water in the CEV.
- CEV benefits public health by preventing illness stemming from air-borne particulate matter and mercury exposure.
In the second phase of the Western Grid 2050 report  to be released in September, the WGG and WCEA will examine “Clean Energy Vision Policies”, policies in place that can be improved and new state policy alternatives that can support the transition to the Clean Energy Vision path. AS Governor Ritter said, "We can't afford to wait for Washington, nor should we. The West is the land of frontiers, of pioneers and innovation. Let's make good on that heritage. Let's break with business as usual and build a more prosperous, safe, and sustainable future."


Edward Abbey - The Literature of Efficiency

It’s late summer and from time to time we will bring you some quotes from writers and scientists noted for their interest in energy and society. Today’s selections are from Edward Abbey (1927-1989), often known as Cactus Ed, a southwestern desert-based writer and advocate for wilderness. He has been referred to as the “Thoreau of the American West.”
In addition to Thoreau, Abbey counted Aldo Leopold, Gary Snyder and Peter Kropotkin among his literary influences. His appeal cut across political lines as his advocacy for wilderness attracted lovers of nature from all corners. He was an equal opportunity offender; his writings were often found disagreeable by mainstream environmentalists as well as conservatives. Among his more controversial statements was
"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."
Citation of Abbey’s quotes here today does not imply support for any of those groups who have claimed inspiration from his writings or their actions. His thoughts are presented, instead, to remind us of one man’s views, open to interpretation, but explicitly stated nonetheless.  Please feel free to add your comments.
"An economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human." 
 –Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

“If industrial man continues to multiply his numbers and expand his operations he will succeed in his apparent intention, to seal himself off from the natural and isolate himself within a synthetic prison of his own making."
–Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
"Ah yes, the head is full of books. The hard part is to force them down through the bloodstream and out through the fingers."
–Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast
One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards."
- Speech, 1976 published as “Joy, Shipmates, Joy”


Major Energy Efficiency Milestones in the Statehouses

While State legislatures scramble to make up lost revenue to fund important projects, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) observed "significant advances" in the development of green buildings and schools and housing. In a report released August 17, "Advancing Green Building Policy in the States - 2011 Victories from Alabama to Wyoming" the USGBC reported significant energy efficiency progress in state legislation.
30 "wins" across 22 states were noted in a report on 400 bills being followed this year. "Surely bills with a fiscal note in nearly any chamber were likely to be dead on arrival" the report said "but thankfully building green is not a partisan issue." The report found that "safe and efficient buildings resonate with a very broad audience and strike an important chord with lawmakers who are doing their best foster economic activity and the growth of the emerging clean, green economy."
The USGBC counted success even among bills that did not get enacted; "good bills that do not advance should not be considered losses." These bills, they say, "go far to move the ball forward for the green building conversation. The report provides a state by state description of relevant legislative activity, where you can look up action in your own state.
Among the highlights:
Colorado: homeowners looking to sell their home and buy a new one can receive grants to improve the energy efficiency of their existing homes below minimum energy standards ratings and buy “highly efficient” new homes rated by a recognized energy efficiency building rating system (HB 1160).
Connecticut: In what the USGBS called a "landmark achievement" HB 1243 (enacted as Public Act 11-80) creates a Clean Energy Finance Authority, a "green" bank, to devote private capital to clean energy projects and establish "a proactive one-stop-shop for addressing energy efficiency in commercial buildings."
Idaho: An updated commercial and residential building energy code became effective January 1 .
New York: A revolving loan fund and financing program will give property owners the opportunity to get loans for energy efficiency upgrades to be repaid with savings earned on utility bills (AB 8510). The New York State Building Energy Code tightened the required energy efficiency rating for new residential buildings.
Ohio: Landlords investing in energy efficiency improvements would get tax credits as a result of SB50.
Wyoming: 2011 saw the enactment of HB 179 in which municipalities can create building energy efficiency programs.
Even in a period of economic uncertainty and political divisiveness, energy efficiency programs are proving successful in the states, where savings and environmental benefits are felt at the local level. These successes indicate that it is worth it to fight for progress in Energy Efficiency - there is a demand for it and there are ways to meet that demand.


Power Utility Partners On Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Power utilities are often considered the passive beneficiary of energy efficiency. Lesser demand during peak hours means less strain on the power utility's resources. When we save energy, we pay less to the power utility, so what is their interest in energy efficiency? Essentially, it is the same concern we have - the cost of energy resources is increasing. When we reduce demand, the utility has some relief from the price of energy resources. For that reason, more and more power utilities are sponsoring energy efficiency education and assistance programs.
One utility, New Jersey's Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), serving 2.2 million electricity customers, offers a wide variety of programs, energy calculators and references to help their customers save energy. According to Anne Hoskins, the utility’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Sustainability, in 2010 their energy efficiency programs helped saved “the equivalent of a 30-megawatt power plant running continuously - without generating any pollution."
She says the utility "stands ready" to deliver "the economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency." Rather than spending "scarce subsidy dollars” on "market encourage investment in conventional electric generation" she believes resources should be devoted to "supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency." Hoskins estimates that an energy efficiency program targeting multifamily, lower income and senior citizens housing could save annually "up to 350,000 megawatt-hours of electricity" and provide "$1.3 billion reduction in energy cost over the life of the installed efficiency improvements."
Now PG&E does not have an angelic reputation in New Jersey. Complaints about their customer service outnumbered positive comments by 10-1 on an online ratings site. But PG&E provides multiple tools to help the residential power customer become energy efficient. A variety of online calculators are available in their online toolkit.
The home energy calculator provides a detailed report and a pie-chart on your estimated annual and monthly electric costs, tables providing estimated electric costs by appliance, and similar charts and tables for annual and monthly electric use. It asks you to fill in information about your home type and usage, air leaks and insulation, windows and glass, heating and cooling systems, water heating, refrigerators and freezers, televisions and lighting, other appliances and pools and hot tubs to produce the report..
The calculator then produces the pie charts and tables, and provides a diagnostic analysis. My report told me that
- If I lower my heat settings two degrees I could save up to $191/year
- Replacing 50% of my light bulbs withe CFL bulbs savings could be $49/year
- Upgrading my heat system to a new high efficiency model could save up to $1,400/year
- Replacing single-pane windows with high-efficiency windows could save $1,067/year
- Professional weatherization could save $46/year
This calculator's usefulness is not restricted to New Jersey or PSE&G residents, though it's estimation of power rate and weather impacts are particular to New Jersey. Additional special purpose calculators determine:
- What your home's appliances cost to operate (you input your local power rate for the calculation)
- Savings from replacing older central air conditioning with higher efficiency units
- Purchase price and operating cost of CFL's versus standard incandescent bulbs
- Savings achievable by using a programmable thermostat
- Annual costs of current heating system versus other heating options
While day-to-day delivery of services in New Jersey remains controversial, they are investing $227 million in energy efficiency "putting people to work and helping lower energy bills." Their website says "there is no cleaner or cheaper kilowatt-hour than the one that is not used." They say they will have created 1,000 jobs through the energy efficiency program, saving a total of 58 megawatts annually, reducing participant’s utility bills by $31 million.
PSE&G Is focusing on lower income areas where energy efficiency is usually lower and harder to achieve as residents can't afford improvements. PSE&G has installed over 5,700 programmable thermostats and provided 169,000 CFL bulbs in Urban Enterprise Zones in 2010. This effort not only reduces energy consumption directly, it also aids the power customer who will spend a smaller percentage of their income on utility bills.
The utilities Whole House Energy Efficiency Program provides free in-home energy audits, free in-home air leakage testing and sealing, a free appliance safety test and a free programmable thermostat to designated New Jersey cities, totaling up to $1,400 in free services.
It is in power utilities' interests to achieve energy efficiencies. As they strive to save fuel costs, we strive to save on our electric bill and on our contribution to the carbon load caused by excess power demand. The result is a rare partnership indeed, but in the new world of energy strategies, an effective one.


Small-Scale Wind Power in Portland, Oregon

Energy Efficiencies can be found almost anywhere people live. You can use your own roof to generate power. You can seal up your building with insulation, use Energy Star appliances, use a programmable thermostat on your air conditioner, and there will still be room for more energy efficiency. Look at your way of life, where can you do things more efficiently? Where can you cut back on your electricity consumption or make it more effective? Where you find energy savings you will have found money savings. You Can Afford to Save Energy! 


Energy Efficiency in the News

Brick Maker Sees Energy Efficiency Protection from Recession
The world's biggest brick maker, Weinerberger, will not suffer from recession as much has others, due to energy efficiency. The brick maker’s chief executive, Heimo Scheuch told CNBC on August 18 "We are much more focused on energy efficiency building. Here you have a mega trend in that new build is much more energy efficient and our products and our group are used much more in this respect. Therefore we are not so much in the current trend of the market." He added, "if you build energy efficient buildings you create more jobs...We can show people that if you build the whole envelope with brick you get more energy efficiency over time.”

LED Pilot Program to Save Sacramento $1.3 Million
By replacing its parking garage lighting with new light-emitting diodes (LEDs) the City of Sacramento expects to save taxpayers $1.1 million over the life of the bulbs and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to the effect of more than 250,000 trees. The more than 1,700 fixtures will reach payback within five years, eliminating the need for four or five conventional light bulb replacements, which consume 210 watts while the LEDs consume 70 watts. Sensors on the LEDs will reduce their intensity when no motion is detected from parkers or their cars, stepping power demand down to 28 watts. The $1.3 million up front cost was covered by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the US Department of Energy revolving loan program. Sacramento is also installing LEDs in street lights, with a goal of saving $1,000 per light over the ten year life span of the LEDS, or $200,000 savings for the 200 lights in the pilot program.

The Promise of Energy Efficiency Webinar
A free webinar, “David Goldstein and the Promise of Energy Efficiency”, will be presented on Thursday, September 1 at 12:00 PM ET. David Goldstein, author of "Invisible Energy: Strategies to Rescue the Economy and Save the Planet," is energy program co-director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He will be interviewed by Annemarie Newman, external affairs manager at the Energy Center of Wisconsin, which uses a "data-driven approach inclusive of industry, nonprofit and government perspectives to advance sound energy efficient practices and policies.” The presentation is intended to offer "a high-level conversation to inspire thinking outside of conventional bounds on energy efficiency policy, programs, incentives and implementation in the built environment." Registration is now open on the Webinar's announcement page.

Challenge to Achieve 25% Energy Use Reduction by 2021
A challenge was issued this week by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) to reduce the region's energy use in the next ten years. The challenge, called the 25inTENsity Challenge has already signed up the Northwest Food Producers Association, the Oregon Association of Nurseries, and Winerywise, the Washington Guide to Sustainable Winery Practices. The NEEA's 25inTENsity home page  points out that "Energy Efficiency is a quick route to productivity, lower costs and risk and improved ROI."
The NEEA’s 25inTENsity website offers on demand videos and webinars to "bring together thought leaders, industry experts and insights in peer-to-peer exploration of strategic energy management." Webinar topics  include "Why Energy? - Energy Efficiency Sustains Competitive Advantage;" "Strategic Energy Management - Industry experts detail strategic energy management as a mechanism for industry health and innovation;" and "Innovation Collaboration - Setting an Industry Energy Goal - Learn how industrial energy visioning and goal setting sustain global competiveness.” Follow this exciting collaboration as new industry groups join and set their own goals for Energy Efficiency improvements.


EIA Sees Business Opportunities in Air Conditioning Upgrades

A "significant business opportunity" to reduce home cooling costs by upgrading to more energy efficient air conditioning equipment is noted by the Energy information Administration (EIA) in the results of its Residential Energy Consumption Survey. The survey of households in 2009 found that 87% of US households have air conditioning, but only 42% have routine service or maintenance done on their central air conditioning systems.
The newer the house, the greater the likelihood that routine service or maintenance was performed on central air conditioning systems. Maintenance on  air conditioners is done in 22% of the homes built in the 1960s, 27% of the homes built in the 1970's, 30% of the homes built in the 1980s and 36% of the homes built in the 1990s. Contrary to this trend. 55% of the homeowners in homes built in the 2000-2009 span did not do routine air conditioner maintenance.
The survey found that over 10% of the homes with air conditioning have equipment predating the first federal energy efficiency standards from the early 1990s. These air conditioners may use up to twice the amount of energy used by today's equipment. The EIA finds that original equipment predating efficiency standards is mostly found in homes built in the 1970s and the 1980s.
Air conditioner usage has grown from 68% in 1993 to 87% or 98 million households in 2009. The South has nearly universal air conditioning usage. Nationally according to the EIA, "except for the few temperate regions on the West Coast, air conditioners are now standard equipment in most homes, especially in those newly constructed."
Programmable thermostat usage, to lower the air conditioner's output when it is not most needed, does not mirror air conditioner use. While the South has almost double the amount of central air conditioners running all summer than the northeast and the west, the South only had 38% programmable thermostat usage compared to 65% in the West and 60% in the Northeast. The Midwest, with similar all-summer usage to the South has more programmable thermostats than the South, but still less than the West and Northeast. Overall 22% of detached single family homes use a programmable thermostat to adjust temperature during sleeping hours or when no one is home during the day.
The survey found that energy efficient double- or triple-pane window use has grown from 52% in pre-1990 homes to 80% in homes built from 2000 to 2009, an important step toward improving the energy efficiency of the cooling systems in the home. Weather stripping or caulking was added by 35% all households and 26% added insulation reduce air leakage and heat loss. These results are a great start but leave plenty of room for growth. As the EIA noted, the effort to make home cooling more energy efficient presents a real opportunity for job creation and business development.
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Financial Incentives for Energy Efficiency

Many financial incentives are available for improving the energy efficiency of your home, but it may take some searching around to find the ones that apply to you. As a follow-up to our August 9 post “Federal Consumer Energy Efficiency Tax Payback” here are a few links to sources of information about rebates and grants for energy efficiency product purchases and installations.
The Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) presents a simple search system to choose from over 2,200 programs. You choose your state from a map, and a list of financial incentives by municipality, power utility or county is presented. When you select a program from the list you get a summary page of the incentive package – the eligible technologies and the financial structure of the incentive. A summary of the package and contact information appears below the list of incentives for that plan. The DSIRE database also offers a customizable service for organizations, with updates and a policy tracking service.
The DSIRE program also offers a search widget in which you select incentives for renewable or energy efficiency or both, select a state, identify yourself as a homeowner, commercial property owner, government or non-profit, click “view incentives” and the list of state incentives is opened. The widget can be placed on a website – there is a “get widget” button at the bottom of the tool.
Favorable mortgages and refinancing packages are now being created for first-time home buyers and home improvers, taking into account a home’s overall energy efficiency. Making a home more energy efficient makes it less expensive to operate, increasing its value. The energy efficiency mortgage is a good deal for the homeowner and the lenders, as power costs are saved while home value increases. An information sheet from the Department of Energy describes energy-efficient housing finance programs.
 The US Department of Housing and Urban Development describes its Energy Efficient Mortgage Program (EEM) as a program encouraging lenders to make credit available to borrowers who would not otherwise qualify. The EEMs “provide mortgage insurance for a person to purchase or refinance a principal residence and incorporate the cost of energy efficient improvements into the mortgage. The borrower does not have to qualify for the additional money and does not make a down payment on it.” To qualify for the EEM the energy efficiency improvement’s cost must be less than the “total present value of the energy saved over the useful life of the energy improvement.”
The Federal Trade Commission offers a guide to interpreting the EnergyGuide label – that large yellow sticker found on new household appliances. The label enables comparison of energy efficiency between makes and models, helping you to save money on your purchase. A diagram interpreting the label is presented, followed by a question and answer section. As of May 10 of this year the FTC Appliance Label is required on new televisions. As newer HDTVs draw far more energy than older models the FTC saw the need for a new label required to list the annual energy cost of the TV and an annual energy cost comparison for other TVs with similar screen sizes.
You can afford to save energy and many opportunities are out there to make the effort more cost-effective for you. Let us know how you are achieving greater energy efficiency and how you are using these and incentives and information sources.

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Federal Court Upholds Energy Efficiency Standards for Small Motors

In a move expected to save the need to build an estimated eight power plants, the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled yesterday in favor of a regulation establishing energy efficiency standards for small electric motors. Motors covered by the rule include exhaust fans, blowers, conveyors, compressors, sump pumps and pool pumps. The decision rejected a challenge by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to efficiency standards in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.
The decision directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to set the strongest efficiency standards technologically feasible and economically justified for small electric motors for 0.25 to 3 horsepower. A large energy savings will result from the application of the efficiency standards to hundreds of thousands of products annually.
Friend of the Court filer Earthjustice's attorney David Baron said the decision "upholds a federal rule that's expected to save about 2 percent of total annual US energy consumption over the next 30 years." "This is good news for Americans" he said, "because energy efficiency is the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to reduce our energy consumption, save money and promote a clean renewable energy future."
The appeal, a petition for review of a Department of Energy order by NEMA, was argued on May 12, 2011. NEMA said the Department of Energy’s efficiency rules excluded motors exceeding 1 horsepower, from being regulated as small electric motors. The DOE had issued the rules on March 9, 2010, setting standards for electric motors with a power rating between 0.25 to 3 horsepower, setting a date of March 9, 2015 for compliance with the rules. NEMA's petition for review called for elimination of the efficiency rules based on its interpretation of DOE's classification of differently sized motors. NEMA argued that the rules limit the horsepower of affected small electrical motors.
The court found that despite NEMA's position the efficiency rules do not unambiguously limit horsepower as NEMA suggests. It found that the efficiency rules not only "lack an express horsepower limitation" but they also "limit only the maximum and not the minimum, horsepower."
A dissenting member of the thee Judge panel wrote in his dissenting opinion "We should reject DOE's position because it alters the fundamental relationship between Congress and the bureaucracy" in its interpretation of the legislative history of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. His opinion of the relationship between Congressional legislation and Department of Energy  rulemaking did not prevail. He remarks in a footnote "I do not believe the majority has been "hoodwinked"....I merely point out that the majority has accepted DOE's...position on how to read the statutory definition."
In its role as the agency implementing energy legislation the Department of Energy's small motor efficiency rule will work to the economic benefit of power users and reduce the need for emissions-producing power generation. Small machine efficiency will improve and the nation will have taken a step forward towards incorporating Energy Efficiency in its daily way of life.
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Home Cooling with Solar Powered Attic Fans Works

After our recent post, Solar Attic Fans can Save Your Air Conditioner (August 11, 2011) we received some questions about the idea that blowing hot summer air out of your attic can result in a cooler house. The Broan Solar Powered Attic Fan can cool up to 1,600 square feet of attic space, running from first light, without need for a thermostat. It cools as the sun heats.
The following are responses to these critiques about solar powered attic fans :
"They suck air conditioned air from the house"
: If you have a properly constructed thermal barrier between your attic and the rest of your home there will be no air leakage. Thermal barriers are an important aspect of your house's overall construction and should be maintained. Where there is air leakage the problem is with the thermal barrier and not with the Solar Power Attic Fan. It is a main principle of Energy Efficiency efforts that you seal all air leakage in your house in order to maximize your cooling and heating effectiveness.
"They can cause back drafting"
: Once again, if your house is properly constructed, back drafting should not occur. If it does, the back drafting condition is in immediate need of repair and the Solar Powered Attic Fan is not at fault.
"They can pull bad, moldy air into the house from a crawl space or basement"
: Basements and crawl spaces that are clean and mold-free will not produce "bad moldy air." If mold and "bad air" are problems they should be addressed. Once again the problem is not with the Solar Powered Attic Fan. In fact, the Solar Powered Attic Fan will reduce mold conditions in your attic in the winter, blowing out moist attic air resulting from household water use
"They increase the likelihood of getting toxic fumes from the garage into the house"
If someone is running a vehicle in a garage for a great length of time there may be greater problems at home than an HVAC issue. And once again, the problem is with the production of toxic fumes in the garage, not with the Solar Powered Attic Fan.
These critiques have one thing in common - they use potential building conditions in need of remedy to question the value of a fan which would pull the hot air out of your attic, providing comfort and relief from the heat in your home. While HVAC contractors may see an awful lot of home defects, you should maintain your home in its best possible condition, and presumably want to avoid air leakage, mold, "bad air" and a toxic fume condition in your garage.
None of these addressable issues detract from the comfort that can be provided by allowing a solar powered attic fan to reduce the temperature in your attic without costing you a dime in electric bills. Reductions of up to 15 degrees from peak summer attic temperatures are typical, and with that much less heat radiating into your house due to the solar powered attic fan you will be more comfortable in the summer heat.
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Your Next Computer Can Be Energy Efficient

The back to school season is a once of the most popular times for computer purchases and plenty of guidelines can help you buy the most energy efficient computer possible. More than $1.8 billion in energy costs could be saved annually if all computers were ENERGY STAR qualified, reducing the greenhouse gas emission equivalent of 2 million vehicles.
 A new program, the Green Electronics Council's Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) evaluates computers based on 51 environmental criteria. EPEAT rates computers as Gold, Silver or Bronze based on how well they meet the test criteria. An example of the criteria is displays - some computer LED displays contain mercury, but an EPEAT gold-rated laptop has a mercury-free LED backlit display. As of May of this year 885 laptops met the EPEAT Gold Standard
The EPEAT website offers a registry where you can look up the energy efficiency of a manufacturer's products, or enter a particular model number. Testing the registry search, I learned that the laptop I am writing this post on is rated Bronze, Energy Star version 5.0. Could be better, could be worse. To check your computer click "Search the Registry" on EPEAT's home page.
ENERGY STAR estimates that the cost savings of using power management settings on new computers as compared to old computers where the settings where not used is $216 over 4 years at $.11 per KwH. Computers qualified as ENERGY STAR 5.0 have tight total annual energy consumption. They must have efficient internal or external power supplies in off, idle and sleep modes. ENERGY STAR power management features send the computer into a low-powered sleep mode after an inactive period, awakening with the touch of a key.
A Computer Power Management Savings Calculator spreadsheet is available at the ENERGY STAR website where you can enter your state, number of computers, LCD monitors, desktops and notebooks used, your computer’s sleep, hibernate, or shut down mode patterns and the percentage of computers turned off at night and during weekends, holidays and vacations. Entering some sample numbers into the form I learned that my ENERGY STAR 5.0 laptop is saving 200 lbs. of carbon emissions in three years.
Power management features are often considered a requirement for desktops. But laptops draw 20-30 watts of power, less than desktops but still a considerable amount. Using system standby and sleep power management features reduces the laptop’s power drain to 1-2 watts in one of the standby modes. The features should be enabled for both AC power when plugged into the wall and DC power when running on battery power. If you must keep your computer on 24/7 for remote access, keep the power management on your monitor only, as waking from sleep or hibernate may not be possible with a remote connection.
ENERGY STAR offers up-to-date lists  of recommended computers models, in a series of spreadsheets and .pdfs available for download listing qualified desktops and integrated computers, workstation computers, thin clients, notebooks, and small scale servers. The spreadsheet provides product identifying information and then a series of Total Energy Consumption measures and sleep mode characteristics. These figures are best for comparing the characteristics of several models.
A computer can be one of the most energy efficient tools in your home.  It is possible to have the most modern technology without wasting power.  That is part of the message of Energy Efficiency – that you can enjoy modern conveniences and save energy at the same time. As ENERGY STAR and EPEAT computer recommendations gain favor the day of truly energy efficient computing is near. If you can find one of the few wind-powered Internet Service providers or use a home-generated solar power set-up your computing will be on the forefront of energy efficiency .

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A National Energy Efficiency Policy for Today and the Future

All buildings would consume no more energy than they create through a combination of energy efficiencies and new technologies by the year 2030 if a new national energy strategy, the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 (S. 1000 - ESIC) is passed by Congress. In June the bipartisan bill, introduced by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Republican Robert Portman (Ohio) was passed with strong support by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. It has broad support from industry, which wants more efficiencies in order to gain a technological advantage. The bill’s future in the House of Representatives may be enhanced by Portman's new role as a member of the deficit reduction super committee.
Section 101 of the bill, "Greater Efficiency in Building Codes" requires the Secretary of Energy to set increasing targets by year creating a "path to achieving zero-net-energy" by the year 2030. These incremental code updates are built from the baselines of the 2009 IECC for residential buildings and ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010 for commercial buildings. A 2012 IECC update will meet the initial 50% reduction target of what has become known as the 2030 Challenge. The Challenge is included in various local, state and federal legislation, but its inclusion in the ESIC would make it part of a comprehensive national energy efficiency strategy.
The bill would increase private sector investment in building efficiency improvements by expanding federal loan guarantee programs. It would help finance energy efficiency upgrades by manufacturers through a revolving loan program. It would set standards for residential appliances, residential cooling and heating systems and standards for outdoor lighting. It would strengthen national model building energy codes for new home construction. The federal government, which consumes the most energy of any organization in the country, would be required to improve energy saving practices for computers, establish a smart metering program and improve national model building codes.
Energy efficiency is the best means for achieving national energy independence according to supporters of the bill. Shaheen said "Action on our energy policy can't wait for another election, or for a different Senate, and it doesn't have to." She says the national energy strategy outlined in the bill "can make our economy more competitive, start addressing our nation's energy challenges and create private sector jobs." She explained that the bill is aimed to appeal to both parties by remaining tax neutral and focusing on new energy savings.
The bill has attracted the attention of interested parties from all points in the political and economic spectrum. Over fifty  groups registered to lobby on the bill, including the the Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Ground Water Association, the US Green Building Council, Xcel Energy, the Edison Electric Institute, Honeywell, Ingersoll-Rand, Intel, Johnson Controls, the Business Roundtable, the Consumers Union, Dow Chemical, BASF, Berkshire Hathaway, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Real Estate Roundtable, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the US Chamber of Commerce.
Construction industry concerns during the committee hearings about proposed energy efficiency improvements to building codes led to the original bill being modified to make the stronger codes voluntary, with new funding incentives to states that adopt the stronger building code standards. But over 100 trade association, advocacy groups and businesses have endorsed the bill. Shaheen and Portman were praised by the Bipartisan Policy Center for "identifying obstacles to the deployment of energy efficiency measures and for developing a number of practical solutions."
The 194 page bill is a comprehensive attempt to introduce efficiency to all aspects of energy use. Title I calls for improvements to model building codes and standards. Title II creates a rural energy savings loan fund for public power districts and electric cooperatives to use for themselves or to loan to their customers at a rate of no more than 3%. Title III creates a revolving loan program with the states to fund industrial energy efficiency projects. Title IV concerns the federal government's energy use with programs to improve federal energy efficiency.
Energy Efficiency is the future. It will make a major contribution to reorienting our energy consumption patterns, reduce our need for foreign energy sources, and reduce our energy costs. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 would be a major stride in that direction. Look for it to be introduced in the House this fall. In its spirit of bipartisanship it could become law. If you believe in energy efficiency as a way out of our energy crisis let your legislator know you are looking forward to the passage of a House companion bill to S. 1000. It will lead to the reduction of power bills and establish a direction for our now aimless and drifting energy policy.
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