Social distancing did not stop Virginia’s energy efficiency industry from coming together to learn and connect at our first-ever virtual Spring Forum. Over 100 energy efficiency professionals participated in the event, which included three educational sessions, our annual member meeting with Board elections, the fifth annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards, and a virtual networking break. Attendees were treated to topics such as the 2020 legislation, energy data, high-performance buildings, technology, and more. We want to extend a huge thank you to our sponsors for their support and to everyone who attended.
The event started off with the “2020 Legislation” session. Led by VAEEC’s Chelsea Harnish, Sen. Jennifer McClellan, and Del. Rip Sullivan discussed the monumental energy efficiency laws that passed the General Assembly earlier this year, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The VCEA mandates 5% energy savings from the investor-owned utilities by 2025, marking Virginia as just the second state in the Southeast to establish a mandatory stand-alone Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). Additional items discussed included the On-Bill Tariff and the Solar Freedom bills, as well as the election of a new State Corporation Commissioner.
Next, “Virginia’s Energy Efficiency Potential” provided organizational updates and accomplishments, along with the incredible momentum VAEEC and the industry as a whole is gaining. Many of the organizational highlights can be found in our 2019 annual report. Also during this session, Board Vice Chair John Morrill (Arlington County Government) led our 2020 Board of Directors election. VAEEC members re-elected Goerge Barnes (Trane)and elected two new Board members: Maggie Kelley (Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance) and Leigh Anne Ratliff (CPower Energy Management). We are excited to add these new voices to our leadership.
Board Chair David Koogler (Rappahannock Electric Cooperative) recognized winners of the fifth annual Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards. Henrico County was recognized for its LEED Certified buildings, and the University of Virginia (UVA) was recognized for its Delta Force Program. Since 2011, Henrico County has built or renovated 16 government buildings and schools to LEED certification standards. The County is currently pursuing certification of LEED Silver or higher on six current projects. These efforts have reduced energy use by approximately 30 percent and are overseen by Carrie Webster, Energy Manager with Henrico County.
UVA’s Delta Force Program achieves energy efficiency and savings across the university’s nearly 18 million square feet of building space. Since 2009, UVA has invested $17.4 million in energy projects, for a savings of $28.7 million in avoided energy costs and 180,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. The program is overseen by Jesse Warren, sustainability program manager for buildings and operations in the Division of Facilities Management. Congratulations, Henrico County and UVA’s Delta Force Program! Keep up the inspirational work.
During this portion of the event, David Steiner (D+R International) was also recognized for his service to the VAEEC. David joined the VAEEC Board of Directors as a founding member in 2012 and has now stepped into a new role as Director Emeritus. Thank you, David, for your tireless support of the organization.
VAEEC’s annual forums are known for their ability to bring together Virginia’s energy efficiency leaders to make valuable connections. Even though this year’s event occurred virtually, VAEEC wanted to make sure this opportunity was still available. The next session, “Virtual Networking”, went off without a hitch. Participants joined breakout rooms based on different topics: 2020 Legislation, Weatherization Programs, COVID-19 Predictions & Responses, and Innovation & Technology. Lively conversations ensued, and beneficial connections were made. Thank you Community Housing Partners for sponsoring this session.
“Leveraging Energy Data from Start to Finish”, moderated by John Morrill (Arlington County Government), followed. Brandi Frazier Bestpitch introduced the Virginia Dept. of Mines, Minerals and Energy’s new Energy Data Warehouse. Tim Bernadowski Siemens Industry) covered building automation, including the types of data you can collect and how to utilize those data to meet your needs. Scott Dicke (Sustainable Real Estate Solutions (SRS)) discussed how data collection can lead to project origination while rolling out SRS’s new EPIC tool. The group also discussed project opportunities during a global pandemic.
The last session of the day, “Achieving High-Performance Buildings”, focused on EarthCraft and LEED certifications for commercial buildings. Liz Beardsley (US Green Building Council, VAEEC Board) moderated the session and provided an overview of what defines a high-performance building. Matt Waring (Viridiant) and Bryna Dunn (Moseley Architects) covered the differences between EarthCraft and LEED and the best practices for achieving these above-code credentials.
As with all of our work, the VAEEC Spring Forum would not be possible without the continuing support of our remarkable members and sponsors. To everyone who participated in this year’s Spring Forum, thank you for helping us push energy efficiency in Virginia toward an even brighter future.
Presentations can be viewed here:
Virginia’s Energy Efficiency Potential
Leveraging Energy Data Tracking from Start to Finish
Achieving High-Performance Buildings
An audio recording of each presentation has been provided to all participants.
C-PACE finances EE improves for commercial and multifamily buildings
By now, many people in this industry have at least heard of Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE. Across the Mid-Atlantic region, VAEEC and other stakeholders, including the Mid-Atlantic PACE Alliance, or MAPA, have been working diligently to accelerate the implementation of C-PACE programs and projects. Through this work, over $50 million of C-PACE projects have been financed across the region since January 2017.
C-PACE is a voluntary special assessment that is added to a property’s real estate tax bill. It provides building owners with a means to finance energy efficiency, water conservation, renewable energy, stormwater management, and resiliency projects for new and existing commercial, industrial, multifamily (with five+ dwellings), and nonprofit properties.
C-PACE is more advantageous than traditional financing by providing 100% financing, no upfront cash investment, and immediate savings. In fact, many projects are cash-flow positive from day one.
Benefits of C-PACE
- Increased building value
- Reduced utility bills
- More comfortable space with improved air quality
- 100% financing: no upfront cash investment required
- Long-term loans up to 25+ years: lower annual payments, positive cash flow
- Repaid as a Special Assessment on the Real Estate Tax Bill
- Transferable: the loan stays with the property upon sale
- Can fill a gap in the capital stack
- Contributes to economic development, local job creations, and improved public health
How C-PACE differs from traditional financing options
| ||Traditional Construction Loan||C-PACE Assessment
|Purpose||HVAC and Lighting||HVAC and Lighting
25% upfront cash investment required
0% upfront investment required
|Term||5 years, fully amortizing||15 years, fully amortizing
What role does the lending community play?
Funding for C-PACE projects comes from private capital providers, including local, regional, and national banks and investors. Capital providers or lenders approve the financing eligibility and underwriting for the project. They even have the ability to act as the project originator and can assist the owner with obtaining mortgage holder consent.
How does C-PACE benefit the lending community?
- This fairly new financing mechanism provides lenders and capital providers with new funding opportunities.
- C-PACE provides a good fixed rate of return without the property owner needing to refinance or incur additional transaction costs.
- The ability to transfer the C-PACE assessment to a new owner upon sale provides the current owner with an incentive to make building improvements now.
How are mortgage lenders involved?
Since C-PACE is secured by a special assessment, a corresponding lien is placed on the property. This is similar to how localities fund public infrastructure projects, such as sewers. The assessment is senior to all commercial liens, including mortgages. Therefore, property owners must obtain consent from their mortgage lender before the project can be approved.
To date, over 200 mortgage lenders across the nation have consented to C-PACE assessments for a variety of reasons. In partnership with MAPA, VAEEC has put together a directory of mortgage lenders who have consented to C-PACE in the Mid-Atlantic region. If you are looking to utilize C-PACE financing, you can check this directory to see if your mortgage lender is on the list.
Don’t see your mortgage lender listed? MAPA has put together a guide highlighting the top six reasons a mortgage lender would consent to a C-PACE assessment. The Case for Lender Consent: A C-PACE guide for mortgage lenders & property owners is an excellent way to engage your property’s senior lender(s) to assess their receptiveness to C-PACE early on in the project.
Stay tuned to learn more! MAPA will be holding a webinar, Financing C-PACE with Regional and Local Lending Partners, in the near future.
Virginia’s energy efficiency community gathered in Richmond on November 14th for the VAEEC Fall Forum & Awards Luncheon. A big thank you to our sponsors, speakers, awards finalists, and attendees for making this event a great success!
Keynote Speaker: Patrick Bean of Tesla
The event kicked off with an opening presentation from Executive Director, Chelsea Harnish. Attendees were updated on the organization’s newly released three-year strategic plan and 2019 accomplishments and updates. This portion of the event was followed by a keynote address from Tesla’s Patrick Bean. Patrick wowed the crowd by sharing Tesla’s vision for strategic electrification and the role energy efficiency plays in making that vision a reality. For example, Tesla engineers were able to increase the driving range of their Model X by 10% solely through the use of more efficient materials!
Afterward, participants headed to the first breakout session of the day where they could attend an hour-long panel, Energy Efficiency and Emerging Technologies, or two thirty-minute snap sessions, Utility Energy Efficiency Updates and Community Housing Partners’ Heat, Air, and Moisture (H.A.M) House Demo.
Energy Efficiency and Emerging Technologies: Back by popular demand, this session focused on up-and-coming innovations in the realm of energy monitoring, building controls, wastewater concentration, and home performance. Panelists also spoke about how their company works with the organizations in attendance and can help Virginia meet its energy goals. Speakers included Cynthia Adams (CEO and Co-Founder of Pearl Certification), Alexander Bazhinov (CEO and Founder of Lumin), and Karen Sorber (CEO of Micronic Technologies), and Marco Rubin (Senior Investment Director for the Center for Innovative Technology) moderated the panel. This session was sponsored by the Center for Innovative Technology.
Utility Energy Efficiency Updates: During the first snap session of the event, Virginia’s two largest investor-owned utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company (APCo), provided brief overviews on their current and proposed energy efficiency programs. Attendees were able to learn how their businesses can take advantage of these programs. Speakers included Michael Hubbard (Manager, Energy Conservation for Dominion Virginia / North Carolina Power) and Don Nichols (Manager of Energy Efficiency and Alternative Energy for APCo), and Susan Larsen (Director of Business Policy for Columbia Gas of Virginia) moderated the panel. Columbia Gas of Virginia sponsored this session.
H.A.M House Demo: Community Housing Partners’ (CHP) H.A.M House demonstrates how Heat, Air, and Moisture move through a building. Understanding these interactions is crucial in the design, building, and retrofitting of houses for higher efficiency and health and safety. VAEEC staff and Board were wowed by this demonstration last year during a visit to CHP’s training center, so we were thrilled to be able to present this opportunity to event attendees. This session was led by CHP’s Andrew Woodruff.
2019 VEEL Awards Winners
After a plated lunch, twelve Virginia-based projects or programs were recognized in the following categories: Academic, Commercial, Government, Low-Income, Residential, and Programs. We also presented the first-ever Founders’ Award to two of our founding members, Cynthia Adams of Peal Certification and Bill Greenleaf of Virginia Community Capital. This award honored their dedication to our work. For info on each winning project or program, visit our 2019 Awards page.
The second breakout session proceeded the Awards Luncheon. Participants chose to attend either the Preparing People for Progress in the Workforce panel or two snap sessions: 2020 Legislative Forecast and CHP’s H.A.M House Demo.
Preparing People for Progress in the Workforce: Growth in the clean energy industry is often stymied by the lack of available workers. This panel discussed the existing opportunities to foster the necessary skills in our communities, and how these programs can drive further changes. Speakers included Shawn Fenstermacher (General Manager for VEIC’s Mid-Atlantic Region), Mark Jackson (Executive Director at CHP), and Todd Estes (Virginia Community College System), and Carrie Webster (Energy Manager with Henrico County) moderated the panel. The session was sponsored by VEIC.
H.A.M House Demo: CHP’s Andrew Woodruff offered a second demonstration on how Heat, Air, and Moisture move through a building and how they affect our living environment.
2020 Legislative Forecast- What’s Next: During this snap session, attendees heard from two seasoned lobbyists on what the results of November’s election mean for the upcoming 2020 General Assembly session, as well as the probability for advancing legislation to help our industry grow. We were even able to provide attendees with a just-released, exclusive update on the new chairwoman of the Commerce and Labor Committee in the House. Speakers included Carmen Bingham (Affordable Clean Energy Project Coordinator with Virginia Poverty Law Center) and Andrew Vehorn (Vice President of Government Affairs for the Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives), and the panel was moderated by Chelsea Harnish (VAEEC). Old Dominion Electric Cooperative sponsored this session.
Speakers on the Final Panel discussing the relationship between EE and resiliency
After the breakout session, attendees enjoyed refreshments during the Networking and Snack break before heading into the last panel of the day, Exploring Energy Efficiency’s Role in Resiliency Efforts. Due to last-minute, unforeseen circumstances, Shelby O’Neil with Enterprise Community Partners and Joshua Saks from the Office of the Governor were unable to participate on the panel; however, two VAEEC Board members filled-in. The audience was treated to a candid discussion on what Virginia localities are doing in the realm of resiliency and how they can use Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy to help finance resiliency measures. Speakers included Abby Johnson (Executive Director of Virginia PACE Authority and President of Abacus Property Solutions), Bill Eger (City of Alexandria) and Thomas Nicholas (City of Virginia Beach). VAEEC Board member Elizabeth Beardsley (USGBC) moderated.
Thank you to our sponsors, speakers, awards finalists, and event attendees for making this one of our best events to date. Click here to view photos of the event.
Mark your calendars! We hope to see everyone at our Spring 2020 Forum on Thursday, May 14, 2020 in Richmond.
School is back in session! Children across the Commonwealth are packing their bags, readying their clothes, and preparing for a new journey in their educational career. As we enter a new academic year now is a great time to teach and incorporate energy-efficient practices into your child’s everyday learning! Kids are the future and what better way to increase awareness and make a difference than starting with our future.
Virginia Energy Sense’s third-grade energy efficiency curriculum, which won “Committee’s Choice Award” at VAEEC’s 2018 Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards, was developed in partnership between the State Corporation Commission and the Virginia Department of Education and designed to meet the Standards of Learning (SOL). Students go through interactive lessons that teach them how to easily and cost-effectively save energy as well as how to take an active role in promoting change at school and home. These interactive lessons include energy efficiency matching games, crossword puzzles, home and school energy checklists, quizzes and interactive foldable booklets and poster design plans. The knowledge that students gain through these lessons can then be transferred to their parents, friends, family members, and others outside of their classroom. You can read more about the curriculum in Virginia Energy Sense’s official press release.
Outside of the classroom, there are many resources you can use to get kids involved in energy efficiency. Interactive websites such as Apogee Interactive Energy Efficiency Kids Korner, Energy Star Kids, and EIA Energy Kids layout energy efficiency information in a kid-friendly manner and provides interactive games and activities for their entertainment. There are also many kid-friendly videos such as this short titled “Energy, let’s save it!” on Youtube.
Ensuring energy efficiency and environmental protection starts with you and the people around you. Help out our planet by learning more and raising awareness among you, your friends, and your family!
Summer is here and with it comes the opening of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership (VEEL) Awards application. Held in conjunction with the VAEEC Fall Forum, the VEEL Awards Luncheon will be held on Thursday, November 14th at the University of Richmond’s Jepson Alumni Center.
2018 VEEL Awards
For the fourth consecutive year, the awards showcase energy efficiency champions across the Commonwealth. These entities are helping businesses, governments, homeowners, and schools save money on energy bills while reducing energy consumption – all while stimulating Virginia’s job growth and our economy.
This year, submissions will be placed into one of six categories. Submitted projects will be sorted based on the sector served: Academic, Commercial, Government, Low-Income, and Residential. Submitted programs will be placed into their own category. Projects can include, but are not limited to, retrofits, new construction, and innovative technologies or products. Past winning programs include Chesterfield County’s Energy Management Program, Columbia Gas of Virginia’s WarmWise Home Audit program, and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy’s Virginia SAVES program.
2018 Awards Winners
The quick and free online application process opens on Monday, July 15th and will run through Monday, September 16th. Nominate an acquaintance, a colleague, a role model, or yourself! The only criteria are that the project or program is based in Virginia and is reducing energy consumption. Extra points are given for innovation and creativity, the degree of difficulty in overcoming challenges, and scope of work.
Still have questions? To help you submit your application, we have compiled a guidance document, which includes submission requirements, the application of a previous awards winner, the scorecard with rubric, and frequently asked questions.
We look forward to learning about your energy efficiency contributions. Best of luck!
For a recap of our 2018 VEEL Awards, check out this blog post.
We are now one month away from the Spring 2019 Forum! It will be similar to our past events that you have come to enjoy, just with a new name to better represent the content and overall quality that our attendees expect.
Attendees respond to live poll during Spring 2018 Meeting
The Forum will be held on May 9th at the University of Richmond in the Jepson Alumni Center from 1:00 to 5:00 pm. Plan to arrive at 12:30 pm for registration and extra networking time. We will kick things off with a business meeting, where members will participate in our 2019 Board Elections. Then, back by popular demand, we will issue a live poll to get your feedback on how we can make the VAEEC even more beneficial to our members. Not yet a member? That’s ok; we want your feedback too. Let us know what it will take for you to join our membership network.
This year’s breakout sessions are Blending Technologies to Maximize Building Efficiency and Working Together to Increase Efficiency. The technologies panel will discuss how to achieve the right “blend” of old and new technologies to reduce energy use, as well as “future proofing”, or implementing technologies that allow buildings to keep up with the digital era. The working together panel will feature local government representatives and a higher education staff member who will discuss successful interactions between different departments to increase energy efficiency and to bring it into the IT realm. Join either session to learn and brainstorm how energy efficiency can advance even further in Virginia.
Breakout group discusses priorities and strategies for the year
Our final session of the day will be a collaborative, interactive session providing you the chance to influence VAEEC’s work for the coming years. Similar to last year, attendees will self-select and join one of several breakout groups to discuss a variety of topics, such as local government collaboration and data access and smart meters. But new this year, attendees will get to select the topics discussed from a pre-screened list of ideas! Recommendations and goals shared during this time will be used to lay the groundwork for the organization’s three-year strategic plan this summer. We can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
project:HOMES shares the success of their legislative site tour with VAEEC
One of the many benefits of a VAEEC membership is the chance to showcase your successes! During the Remarkable Member Updates portion of the event, all current VAEEC members are invited to speak for up to a minute about any accomplishments you have achieved over the past year. Email email@example.com by May 7th to secure your spot. We also invite all members to display your business cards and marketing materials on our Member Networking table, which will be conveniently located next to registration for all to see.
Finally, don’t forget to register! Registration closes Tuesday, April 30th. The event is free for VAEEC members and $25 for non-members. Interested in becoming a member? Go to our Join page to learn how a VAEEC membership will benefit you and your organization. We look forward to seeing you on May 9th!
We are excited to announce that there has been a lot of C-PACE movement in Virginia over the past couple of months. The summary below provides an overview of the key highlights. Stay tuned for more information coming soon as C-PACE momentum is building across the Commonwealth.
Attorney General Opinion
In response to a request from Loudoun County’s Attorney, the Virginia Office of the Attorney General issued an Advisory Opinion on the Commonwealth’s C-PACE law on February 1, 2019. The opinion clarifies two key issues: 1) local governments may authorize capital providers or third-party program administrators to perform billing and collecting of C-PACE loan payments, and 2) localities may assign rights to capital providers to record and enforce the voluntary special assessment liens that underlie C-PACE deals in the case of defaults. The full letter can be viewed here.
Since the release of the Attorney General’s Advisory Opinion, Loudoun County has been moving ahead at full force. The Board of Supervisors approved the County’s ordinance on February 21st. Now the County is in the procurement process for a third-party program administrator. The RFP is in development and is currently on schedule to be released later this month.
Back in January of this year, the VAEEC participated on the Fairfax County C-PACE Stakeholder Group to provide feedback on the County’s draft ordinance. Since the passage of SB 1559, the County plans to add resiliency measures to this ordinance, which is now scheduled to be considered by the Board of Supervisors on March 19th.
The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council partnered with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, the Mid-Atlantic PACE Alliance, Sustainable Real Estate Solutions (SRS), Viridiant, and the Virginia PACE Authority (VPA) to host a C-PACE workshop for the Hampton Roads region. This was one of our most attended C-PACE events to date, with over 50 people present. The room consisted of representatives from the Cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, along with area developers, property owners, contractors, engineers, and architects.
Speakers included Abby Johnson (VPA), City Councilmember Andria McClellan (Norfolk), Jessica Greene (VAEEC), Rob McRaney (Viridiant), and Scott Dicke (SRS). Topics covered included the value proposition of C-PACE for the Hampton Roads region, a history of C-PACE in Virginia, program administration basics, case studies, and action steps to bring C-PACE to the area. The full presentation can be viewed here.
Along with spreading the word about C-PACE, participants were encouraged to contact their local officials to urge the adoption of a C-PACE program. This includes contacting city councilmembers via phone, email, or by submitting letters of support. The VAEEC has created template letters of support that interested property owners, developers, or contractors can use to send to their local officials. Over the course of the past few years, the VAEEC has seen how constituent support and outreach plays a critical role in getting localities to move forward with developing a program.
If you would like to submit a letter to your local officials, the templates can be found below. Contact Jessica Greene (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
2019 General Assembly: passage of two C-PACE bills
Senate Bill 1559 (Sen. Lynwood Lewis) was introduced to amend the current Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) statute to add “shoreline resiliency” to the list of projects that can be financed using C-PACE. VAEEC members Abby Johnson of the Virginia PACE Authority and Attorney Bill Nusbaum, along with Cliff Kellogg, drafted proposed amendments to expand the bill’s reach to cover all resiliency improvements as well as stormwater management measures. State staff also contributed language modifying the stormwater management reference by adding “with a preference for natural or nature-based features and living shorelines”. Further amendments also clarified the language around the need for a local government to specify a “maximum aggregate dollar amount” financeable under a C-PACE program in a local ordinance. In the amended version, a cap on total dollars allowed by a program would only be required if public funds were utilized. By contrast, if a C-PACE project were privately financed, then only a total project cap would be needed. The House approved the bill 99-0, and it was signed by the President of the Senate on February 22nd as SB1559ER.
Senate Bill 1400 (Sen. J. Chapman Petersen) was introduced to add stormwater management to the list of projects that could be financed using C-PACE. Initially, this bill also authorized localities to establish Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (R-PACE) financing; however, this language was stricken from the bill. By February 20th, the bill unanimously passed the House and the Senate to allow for C-PACE financing of stormwater management.
Both bills are now headed to the Governor’s desk for signature, and the new amendments will become effective on July 1, 2019. We hope that by making financing of resiliency and stormwater improvements available, more localities will adopt a C-PACE ordinance, thus making energy saving and renewable energy benefits of C-PACE more broadly available across Virginia.
We are excited to see such progress happening within these past few months and look forward to seeing more C-PACE programs come online across Virginia. For more information about C-PACE, check out our webpage, vaeec.org/PACE.
There’s no better time for making lifestyle changes and setting goals than the start of a new year. As 2019 approaches, we’re taking some of the most common resolutions and adding an energy-efficient twist. Not only will they help conserve energy, but they will also save you money for years to come.
The typical weight loss resolution, although beneficial to health, can be a big consumer of energy during the winter months. The average treadmill uses between 600 and 700 watts of energy, and aging ones can consume 30 percent more energy than brand new machines. Instead, use Elliptical machines and stationary bikes, as they are generally self-powered or use six to seven times less energy than treadmills. Also, try to partake in outdoor workouts such as running, biking, or walking or performing at-home workouts without equipment when temperatures are extremely low.
Travel, while another popular resolution, is an expensive goal. Yet it can be made more affordable with a few simple steps. Before planning a trip, getting your car inspected and fixing any serious maintenance problems can improve your gas mileage by up to 40% and help you save more than $1,300 a year. If your destination is far away, consider taking a bus or a train instead of flying, as these modes of transportation are generally more energy-efficient and can be more affordable.
One resolution that should be on your list this year is to make energy-efficient improvements around your house or apartment. Energy-efficient upgrades improve your home’s comfort and value. Even better, they pay for themselves over time, and the addition of advanced technology, investments, and DIY projects could mean even more savings. To figure out what improvements will give you the best bang for your buck, consider getting your home inspected by a professional home energy auditor. Often they’ll do a blower door test and thermographic imaging to pinpoint exactly where energy is escaping. Several VAEEC members offer residential energy auditing services, such as the Fifth Fuel, Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP), Think Little, and Viridiant.
Energy auditors provide suggestions on which upgrades would be most beneficial for your home. Suggestions could include sealing air leaks with caulk and weatherstripping, adding insulation throughout, and window treatments such as energy-saving storm panels, window shutters, or blinds. This can also include installing a programmable or wifi thermostat, such as the ones offered by VAEEC members Honeywell and Nest, to control household temperatures and scheduling. These improvements provide fast return on investment.
You don’t have to take on your new year’s resolutions alone; they are easier and more effective when executed with others. Education and awareness are crucial components of successful energy efficiency practices. Serving as that liaison for family and friends will help them adopt such practices while also reinforcing your own actions and providing an opportunity to spend more time with one another. Monitoring progress together can be a fun activity or a competitive game. Resulting savings can even be put towards a fun outing.
As you can see, there are plenty of potential resolutions and goals, big and small, that can make a huge difference in your utility bills and wallets. Educate your loved ones, stay focused, and let’s make 2019 the most energy efficient year yet!
As fall comes to a close and winter’s cold temperatures approach, it is essential to implement energy efficiency tips and technologies in your home to keep you and your family warm without the dreaded spike in your energy bills. There are many tips and tricks below that can be accomplished through simple, quick installations or practices.
Lower the thermostat to save up to 10% on utility bills.
While you may be tempted to increase the thermostat as it gets colder outdoors, lowering your thermostat by 7-10 degrees during colder months can save as much as 10 percent a year on utility bills.
Upgrade your technology.
Replacing your home’s older thermostat with a programmable one can lead to big savings by allowing you to manage energy usage when you’re not home. Other technologies, such as installing automatic timers, motion sensors, dimmers, and solar cells, are also great at conserving energy and are valuable tools that can be used year-round.
Use power strips, install light timers, take advantage of LED technology.
With the holiday season upon us, it’s even more important to be aware of energy consumption. From plugging in decorative lights to playing Christmas carols, a household can see a utility bill increase of $100 this time of year. To overcome this financial burden, consider using a power strip and/or install a light timer to control when the lights turn on and off. Another simple change is to invest in LED lighting. Not only do LED lights consume 70 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands, they also last much longer.
Make smart choices in the kitchen.
Holiday baking and meal preparation can also increase your electricity and gas usage this time of year. Using the right-sized pots on stove burners can save about $36 annually for an electric range or $18 for gas. Also, using the oven light to check on dish’s progress instead of opening the door will prevent heat loss and wasted energy.
Turn down your water heater.
Did you know that water heating can account for 14 to 25 percent of the total energy used in a home? Reducing the preset water temperature and using cold water for laundry are easy ways to decrease those utility bills.
Maintain and check your home’s systems.
Another easy way to keep heat inside is to simply maintain and check your home’s systems. Proper maintenance of your HVAC system, including cleaning or replacement, can help keep those heating costs down. Giving that 30% of your home energy bill is a result of distribution losses when air moves from your furnace to the vents, changing or cleaning your filters regularly will help increase the efficiency while helping you clean up on your energy bills.
With the proper precautions, anybody can enjoy a fun, warm holiday season without incurring the dreaded utility bill increases. These energy efficient life hacks are easy and can save a great deal of money, leaving room for you to treat yourself and your loved ones this holiday season.
Last year, VAEEC member Nest partnered with the Colorado Energy Office to launch a pilot project for their Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to test the incremental energy savings Nest Learning Thermostats have on natural gas furnaces. One WAP agency installed Nest thermostats in 250 homes, approximately half of the homes that were weatherized from May 2016 throughout December 2017, to see its effects on gas savings. The primary purpose was to assess how well the technology functioned for the weatherization program and its clients in terms of installation logistics, acceptance, and operation. A treatment group received standard weatherization services plus a Nest thermostat and a control group received just the standard weatherization services.
Groups were assigned based on the following criteria:
- single family home — site built or manufactured/mobile home
- heated with natural gas provided by Xcel Energy
- only one thermostat in home
- customer was willing to have a Nest thermostat installed
Homes that received both WAP services and Nest thermostats saw a reduction of total gas use from 18% to 11%. Using the Weatherization Assistant National Energy Audit Tool (NEAT), the Nest thermostats were found to be very cost-effective, having Savings to Investment Ratios between 4.3-8.6. For homes that received a furnace replacement, the WAP+Nest group saved an average of 31% of total gas use (39% of heating use) compared to 14% savings (18% of heating use) for standard WAP homes. The incremental savings averaged 169 therms (17% of total, 22% of heating) in these homes. One of the more surprising results was that out of the clients that received a Nest thermostat, 81% had WiFi in the home indicating WiFi as a less significant factor on savings.
It should be noted that because there was no untreated control group in the analysis, the savings results are not adjusted for any trends in gas use beyond weather adjustment. This doesn’t affect the estimated saving from Nest, but it may affect the absolute levels of savings shown.
Overall, there was a strong correlation between the installation of the Nest thermostat and savings. Clients that received a Nest thermostat in addition to standard weatherization services saved an extra 58 therms of gas per year compared to clients that just received standard weatherization services. The total incremental savings equated approximately 7% of total gas use and 9% of gas heating. Based on these experiences, it appears that around half of WAP clients could be ideal candidates to receive Nest thermostats with their WAP treatments.