Posts Tagged ‘energy efficient’

Free Home Energy Assessments for Arlington MA Residents

Arlington MA residents are eligible for a free home energy assessment, sponsored by Mass Save’s Home Energy Check Campaign and supported, in part, by Arlington’s Vision 2020/Sustainable Arlington organization.

A energy-efficient, air-tight home diagram

A green home is a happy home

The Home Energy Check Campaign offers homeowners the opportunity to have a complimentary energy assessment of their home completed at no cost to the homeowner, and includes the assessment, complimentary give-aways, and a follow-up list of suggested improvements the homeowner can make to improve the energy efficiency of their home. You can sign up for your free assessment at the Home Energy Check.org web site.

“Residents who get a home energy assessment and follow up on the suggestions made during the assessment will benefit by lowering their energy use, which reduces their utility bills and improves comfort. This is a home run for residents,” says Rob Garrity, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN), the organization responsible for running the program.

During the energy assessment, an energy auditor will perform a walk-thru assessment using a checklist of standard areas that provide the biggest energy savings. If you sign up for an audit, you can expect the auditor to check your home’s attic, windows, and heating system. In general, your home’s insulation will be the biggest area for improvement.

“The more insulation you have, the more you’re separated from the exterior temperature effect,” says David Landskov, an Arlington resident who recently completed an energy assessment. According to Landskov, “insulation degrades over time and you should periodically review it to see if it meets current standards.” A home energy assessment will help you determine the effectiveness of your insulation.

In addition to the valuable information the homeowner receives from an assessment, there are also some nice give-aways that help to make an immediate impact on your energy savings. Number one among them, free faucet aerators. Not only are they free, but the energy auditor will install them for you. Once installed, you use less water and you don’t even notice a difference in your water pressure. This translates into an immediate payback, as your water bill is reduced and the energy cost that would have been used to heat any of that excess water is also saved.

Perhaps the least-known of the benefits of having a home energy assessment are the varied rebates and incentives for which the homeowner is then eligible, including a 75% instant rebate (up to $2,000) for completing the recommended insulation and weatherization audit items. Also available is a Federal tax credit of up to $500 per household.

The most intriguing incentive, however, is the homeowner’s eligiblity to participate in the Mass Save HEAT Loan Program, which provides up to a $15,000 zero percent (0%) interest loan to have energy-efficient improvements made to a home. With a seven-year payback period, the loan payment you make would be less than the amount of money you save from the energy-efficient improvement(s). For more information on this program, visit the Mass Save HEAT Loan program web site.

“The overall benefit [of the Home Energy Check Campaign] is you get to know your home better,” says Austin Whitman, another Arlington resident who recently had an assessment of his home completed. “But there’s also a reward in knowing you’re contributing less to overall energy usage and having less of an impact on the environment.”

The program is open to all Arlington residents through the end of this month.

For more information, visit the following web sites:

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Soulful Song, Heartbreaking Video Inspires Clean Energy Action

Please watch this video, then go to the Environmental Defense Fund web site to send a letter to your Senator, demanding action NOW on energy reform.  If AIG is too big to fail, our environment and ecology should be “way too big to fail,” don’t you agree?

Send a letter to your Senator today, and thanks!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Rent Some Sun and Save Money

In your mind’s eye, what do you envision a solar panel to look like? Do you think they’re still big, white and boxy? Maybe you think of some ugly black strips across your roof, which look more like a shredded tire laid out flat than a solar panel. Then again, you might be “hip” with the latest PV styles (like these PV panels that look like clay tiles) but you think it’s still too expensive. Fret no more!

Many companies, including two here in Massachusetts (SunRun’s MA partners – Alteris, Inc. and groSolar, Inc), offer you a chance to rent solar panels, effectively locking in your electric rate for up to 25 years (the average lifespan of a solar panel). Moreover, you are relieved of any of the hassles involved with purchasing the panels outright (such as obtaining the proper permits, filing for the appropriate rebates, etc.). Some providers may require a “security deposit,” which may be up to $1,000 at the most.

How does it work? The concept is simple – your solar power company purchases and installs the appropriate equipment based on your historical electric usage. You then pay a monthly rental fee to the solar company, which becomes your new “electric” bill. This monthly fee will be equal to, or lower than, your current bill AND will never rise – sun power is free power! Perhaps best of all, you don’t have to worry about maintenance and repairs – the panels are owned and maintained by the solar company, so they have a vested interest in keeping the equipment in top working order.

In addition to the money saved on your electric bill by switching to solar power, you may also be eligible for one or more of the many current state and federal incentives. Find out if your state offers incentives at SunRun’s Solar State Rebate page. If you purchase locally-made equipment, the incentives and rebates get even bigger!

For further information, check out these helpful resources:

Do you know anyone who’s currently renting solar panels? Ask them to share their story here.

Visit CyberGreenRealty.com for a list of some solar vendors in the greater Boston area. If you happen to be in the market for a new home or condo, you may also wish to visit Avenue 3 Real Estate for a listing of current homes and condos for sale in Arlington, Cambridge, and Somerville, MA. While there, search for homes already equipped with solar equipment and start saving money from Day One!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

So You Think You Can Insulate?

House nearing completion

Arlington, MA Home Renovation - Subtle but important changes. The window details hint at the thick layer of rigid foam insulation just beneath the siding

The story starts the same in most cases – you want to insulate your home to save money on energy costs. Sure, you can do it yourself, as long as you put the proper thought into it beforehand. But proper insulation is only one part of the solution. If you really want to save on energy costs, the other, and perhaps bigger, issue is air sealing.

Proper sealing of the home and proper installation of the insulation help to make the home more comfortable year-round. I say “proper” because some people make the mistake that “more is better.” Actually, less might be better if it’s installed properly and applicable to the climate of your area.

This past spring, an Arlington MA home became a test case for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and our regional utility company NSTAR. Rather than adding complex heating and cooling systems to the home, the on-going project focuses on reducing the overall energy consumption of the building. Improving the building’s envelop involved upgrades to both the air sealing systems and the insulation of the home. But even within this project, one of the few mistakes they encountered was the installation of 6-in foam in the attic instead of 4-in foam, as originally planned. The lesson learned, so far, is that the extra time and expense of installing the additional 2-inches hasn’t been worth it. Read more about the project at GreenBuildingAdvisor.com‘s web site and read a diary of the project from the homeowner’s point of view at Massachusetts Super Insulation Project‘s blog.

But not everyone can become part of a test case involving a government-sponsored research project, right? So you might decide to undertake a simpler project, such as insulating your attic or your basement ceiling. There are many more options for insulation than there were even 10 years ago. So if your current insulation is more than 10 years old, you might consider removing the current insulation and replacing it with a more appropriate type, based on your home construction and location.

Where to start? I highly recommend your first stop be to visit the Home Energy Saver calculator, developed and available online at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab web site. This is the most in-depth savings calculator I’ve ever seen, so begin your research there. According to the calculator, the average home in Arlington MA has an annual energy cost of $2008, whereas an energy-efficient home’s annual energy costs are $1175 – a savings of $833 per year!

Still thinking “more is better”? Well, too much insulation in a home, in addition to costing more, can cause moisture problems and may even end up causing poor air quality and health problems. Insulation is measured in terms of “R-values,” so be sure to install the proper r-valued insulation for your home’s design, climate, and the section of the house to be insulated (attic, basement, etc.). Consult the U.S. Department of Energy’s Recommended R-Value map for the proper ratings for the various types of insulation.

If you plan on replacing some old insulation, also consider having it professionally removed instead of doing it yourself. You never know what surprise you might encounter, from skeletons of dead rodents to fresh bat guano! You can read more about the importance of having the insulation professionally removed at the BatGuy’s web site.

If you’re interested in learning more about energy-efficient homes in the Arlington, MA or Cambridge, MA areas, my web site at CyberGreenRealty.com. Also see the list of additional resources below.

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Additional Resources:

What does “building green” mean?

In my conversations with clients who are interested in pursuing green housing options, I frequently find out that people generally have a narrow idea of what “building green” is or what actually makes a building “green.” Making your home or condo “green,” or buying a “green home,” means much more than just using Energy Star-rated appliances and having insulated windows and doors. Outlined here are some of the key elements of what makes a building green (my thanks to Living Structures, Inc. – a green contractor in Jamaica Plain, MA):

  • Operating Energy – measures how much energy is required to heat and cool a house. Some ways to help reduce energy consumption are through the purchase and installation of high-quality, energy-efficient windows and appliances – but also preventing unwanted heat loss by properly insulating the exterior of the building (as well as basement ceilings and attic floors). With new construction, this concept can be taken a step further with proper orientation of the home and windows to take full advantage of the passive heating and cooling effects of the sun and wind.
  • Embodied Energy – measures the amount of energy required to make and deliver all of the components being installed in the home or condo. For example, installing granite countertops made from a local quarry and produced by a local merchant saves more energy than a marble countertop made in Italy and shipped to the U.S. This concept could also encompass materials made through a more energy-efficient process than comparable products. So just by purchasing locally-made products, you’re reducing your carbon footprint!
  • Sustainability – by definition, this means “the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Think of it this way – driving a car that uses lots of gas is not good because it’s using a non-renewable fuel source (oil), that is then unavailable to our children and grandchildren to use in the future. Using sustainable building products (one of my favorites is bamboo flooring) helps to save resources for future use.
  • Waste Generation – eliminating as much waste as possible from the construction or reconstruction process. Much waste is produced during the construction of a new home or demolition of an existing room or structure. New methods have been designed to eliminate as much of this waste as possible or to reuse as much of the existing material/structure as possible. Hiring a contractor who uses these new waste generation practices can make you really green!
  • Health Effects – a green building is a healthier building. New construction methods make current homes much more air-tight, which also requires the home to have better ventilation processes. Make sure to improve the ventilation of your home as you tighten the building envelope – and use low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, chemicals, and other construction materials to prevent unhealthy air from getting into the home in the first place. You can even reduce the amount of radon or the chances for mold growth with proper ventilation of your home.
  • Ecological Footprint – this is a measurement of how much land is required to sustain a single person, group of people, or to power a building. This concept was first introduced in a book entitled Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth. Current research indicates the average U.S. resident requires about 24 acres of productive land to support their lifestyle – but in reality there are only 4.5 acres actually available to each person on Earth. Doing the math, you can see that we can’t continue along our current path without some serious competition for resources.

Implementing these green concepts helps to improve the value of a home or condo, but that doesn’t necessarily imply a higher cost. My previous blog posting outlines some of the rebates and incentives available to consumers for implementing many of these features. Additionally, your local town or city may be offering financial assistance to improve the energy-efficiency of your home or condo. For example, the town of Babylon, NY offers homeowners who are willing to pay $250 for an energy audit, the opportunity to finance the improvements at a below-market rate with a reasonable payback period. Recently, a couple in Babylon had an energy audit completed and they made the recommended upgrades. The amount they now repay to the town is less than the savings on their utility bills, saving them approximately $1,300 per year (New York Times, October 11, 2009).

For more information and other eco-friendly housing options, see my previous blog entries and don’t forget to check out my real estate web site at CyberGreenRealty.com for a listing of eco-friendly partners who can help you achieve your green goals!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC

Saving Money with Energy Star

With the heating season quickly approaching, I thought it would be a good time to pass along some energy-saving tips to help you both indoors and out. Not only can you reduce your energy bill, but you can reduce your carbon footprint by following some simple, easy steps:

  • Energy Star Lighting – Energy Star labeled light bulbs and fixtures are very energy efficient without sacrificing performance or design. Special promotions and rebates are also available at many home improvement and other select stores. You can also visit the Energy Star web site for more information or call 877-378-2748 for more details.
  • Energy Star Refrigerator Rebate – if you’re a Massachusetts resident, NSTAR is offering a $50 mail-in rebate toward the purchase of an Energy Star-qualified refrigerator. For more info on this program, visit the website listed above or call 877-ESTAR-4U.
  • Cool Smart Central Air Conditioning – Now might be a good time to think of having central A/C installed (demand is very low right now!). Did you know that a properly installed Energy Star central air conditioning unit can save you up to 20% on your cooling costs? Think of it as investing for savings next summer! Again, for Massachusetts residents, NSTAR is offering a mail-in rebate of up to $600 for the purchase and installation of high efficiency central air conditioning units. Visit www.mycoolsmart.com or call 800-473-1105 for more information on this program.
  • SmartStrips – Did you know many electrical appliances continue to draw electricity, even when not in active use? SmartStrips power strips sense when the power button turns off TVs and computers and will also automatically cut the power to other devices, such as printers, faxes, and stereo equipment. Neat, huh? Visit www.myenergystar.com for information on instant rebates available toward the purchase of SmartStrips.

These programs are designed to help you reduce your electric bill and help the environment at the same time. Why not give them a try? Visit my web site at Cyber Green Realty.com for more information or check out the following useful links:

Cook with Gas, Save Some Dough

Of all your household appliances, which one do you think uses the most energy? If you said refrigerator, you’re right! Among the other high-usage appliances, dishwashers, washers, and dryers rank right up there (see the Energy Star web site for more info). In fact, up to one-third of a households total energy consumption occurs in the kitchen and laundry areas. But what about your gas stove?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, cooking accounts for only 4.4% of a household’s total energy consumption (Buildings Energy Data Book). It’s so low, in fact, that Energy Star doesn’t even calculate an optimal energy use rating for these appliances. But which is better – gas or electric?

If you’re concerned about lowering your carbon footprint, gas is the better alternative. Not only does the gas come on immediately, producing heat at the moment of ignition, but it also allows for greater control of the cooking temperature. If your stove is electric, the power needs to be generated at the power plant, transmitted to your house, and then turned on to begin heating up the coils. The heat-up and cool-down periods of the coils end up utilizing more electricty than you need. And modern gas stoves don’t use a pilot light that needs to remain on all the time – saving even more natural gas!

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint even more, consider getting an induction stove. Induction creates heat faster by magnetically accelerating metal molecules in steel, cast-iron and some stainless steel pots. With induction stoves, 90% of the energy is transferred to the cooking pot, compared with 35-40% with gas heat and 70% with electric heat (source: NY Times, January 2, 2008). However, the cost of an induction stove is out of reach for most homeowners ($700 – $1300 compared to $300 for an electric or gas stove).

Once you’re cooking with gas, here are a few tips to save even more energy:

* Cover your pots – a covered pot of water will boil in half the time of an uncovered pot
* Use flat-bottomed steel, stainless steel, or cast iron pots and pans – they conduct heat faster
* Clean your burner grates often – the shiny metal will reflect more heat and energy upwards to the pot

If you have more tips on how to save money by cooking with gas, please share them here!

Until next time, Peace!

-TMC