Women have been at the forefront of energy innovation for over a century. From Katharine Burr Blodgett, who invented the monomolecular glass coatings that make solar panels and LED bulbs possible, to Beatrice Hicks, who developed environmental sensors for heating and cooling systems, the contributions of women in energy efficiency are everywhere.
Here at the VAEEC, the work women do to advance energy efficiency is obvious – we’re an all women team, with five additional women serving on our Board of Directors. In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked several of them – Board Secretary Liz Beardsley, and Board member Leigh Anne Ratliff, and Executive Director Chelsea Harnish, – about their roles in the energy efficiency industry and their views on the industry itself.
How did you get into the energy efficiency industry?
Liz: I was drawn towards environmental issues from my childhood love of nature… and towards engineering from my interest in math and science. So environmental engineering was a natural fit in college. Through my career this eventually led to environmental policy, including using policy to reduce energy consumption and its impacts through efficiency.
Leigh Anne: I got into the energy efficiency industry from working with the PJM energy efficiency rebates. This program afforded me the opportunity to work with owners, contractors, engineers and architects on the many energy efficiency initiatives around the Commonwealth – from LED upgrades to specialized industrial equipment upgrades. I’m lucky – I get a bird’s eye view of this exciting industry.
Chelsea: As a policy manager for an environmental advocacy group, I had a basic understanding of energy efficiency and its benefits for creating a cleaner, healthier world. When the opportunity to lead the VAEEC became available, I jumped at the chance to really dive deeper into understanding this industry and its challenges and opportunities.
What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for women in the energy efficiency field?
Liz: There can still be some unfortunate and inaccurate stereotypes about women in technical fields so perhaps a challenge in some circumstances is being underestimated. By and large however I see many opportunities for women in energy efficiency and each individual, woman or man, will do well to understand and leverage their own strengths.
Leigh Anne: I think the biggest challenge for women in the energy efficiency field is that a good part of it lies within the realm of STEM and women are still only 28% of the STEM workforce. When I went to engineering school it was a rarity for women to be in the classroom – but that was in the 1980’s. I can’t believe that there is still such a disparity. That being said, the smaller numbers of women in this field is an opportunity as well – employers see the value of diversity and women are succeeding in leadership roles in the energy industry. It’s a fun time to watch LinkedIn and see which women in energy are getting promoted to the highest levels in their company.
Chelsea: I think the opportunities for women in this field are endless. Our industry is so unique in that there are a wide range of positions from inventing new technologies or writing code to spending your days in a crawlspace, and everything in between. This industry provides the opportunity to do what you love while helping make someone’s home or workspace more comfortable.
What advice would you offer women entering the industry?
Liz: Work hard, be aware of opportunities, find your voice and use it.
Leigh Anne: Listen a lot and build your skillset. Develop mentors. You’re not expected to know everything so be patient with yourself. Take notes and follow up if you hear something that interests you or you don’t understand. Be curious and brave!
Chelsea: My general advice for young women entering the workforce is to not be afraid to use your voice. You were chosen for your position as the best candidate so don’t feel that you cannot bring new ideas to the table.
What is your number one energy efficiency tip?
Liz: Turning off the lights. My dad drilled this into me as a child in the 70s and I think it creates an awareness and mindset that carries into many other things with a cumulative beneficial impact.
Leigh Anne: If you haven’t installed LEDs yet, run to a store and get them right now.
Chelsea: We love our smart thermostat!
What is one thing about the energy efficiency industry that you would like to see change?
Liz: Breaking down silos! There is a lot of fragmentation. [But] when we work together, we have a stronger message and can achieve more. This is one of the great benefits of VAEEC!
Leigh Anne: I’d like energy efficiency to get more credit for the game changer that it is.
Chelsea: We need more workforce development training to provide more demand for the job creation we are seeing and hope to see further in the future.
The Department of Housing and Community Development Board has finalized the latest update to the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). This update puts us nearly inline with the 2018 model international energy conservation code (IECC). (The international model code comes out every three years with the 2021 update recently being finalized. More details on that below).
The latest update to the Virginia USBC includes some major energy improvements such as:
Increased fenestration, which has been included in the model code since 2012
Blower door testing requirements, which has been included in the model code since 2012
Increased minimum ceiling insulation from R-38 to R-49, which has been included in the model code since 2012
ResCheck compliance updated to 2018 IECC, without Virginia amendments. Previously, a work around had been created for VA amendments that weakened the current IECC.
Energy certificate requirements, which has been included in the model code since 2006
These improvements, in addition to the expanded energy requirements we worked to incorporate into the last USBC update, bring Virginia nearly inline with the 2018 IECC. Along the east coast, only a handful of states have fully adopted the 2018 IECC, and only one southeastern state- Florida- has done so.
The remaining proposals from the 2018 IECC that are not included in the Virginia USBC are:
Increased wall insulation R-value
Changing building tightness from 5 ACH to 3 ACH
There is a 30-day comment period open on the Final USBC in the Virginia Register through March 31, 2021. DHCD anticipates an effective date of July 1st, and will begin the 2021 update once the 2018 update takes effect.
General Assembly Bill Update
The General Assembly also passed a bill in 2021 mandating a review of the most-updated IECC. While the original version of this bill mandated an automatic update to the latest IECC within one year, the final bill does not provide a timeline, nor does it expressly state that an automatic update is to occur. Instead, it requires the state to consider amendments that address the changes made in the model code. Since this is quite vague, it’s unclear how this will affect future update processes.
2020 has been a unique year for sure. However, looking back, VAEEC and Virginia’s energy efficiency industry saw several monumental wins this year. In fact, Virginia had its best year on the ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. For the first time ever, we broke into the Top 25 and Virginia was ranked #1 in the Southeast. This is a reflection of the hard work and efforts of the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency industry throughout 2020. We look forward to continuing to advance energy efficiency even further in the new year.
For our part, the VAEEC worked tirelessly with fellow stakeholders to pass several key pieces of historic energy efficiency legislation, including the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). This landmark law will pave the way for a carbon-free Virginia by 2045, ensuring investments in energy efficiency, solar, wind, and more. 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 laws established mandatory benchmarking for state buildings, enabled an on-bill tariff program for electric co-ops, and added an energy audit to the residential disclosure during homebuying. We also saw the passage of a law permitting the state energy office to develop a statewide Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE, program.
The VAEEC also advanced energy efficiency in the Commonwealth beyond legislation. We identified the need to change Dominion Energy’s definition of low-income eligibility requirements and worked with our members to make it happen. The new definition will allow weatherization providers to serve even more households across Virginia. Three localities passed C-PACE ordinances and one launched a program. Blower door testing and increased ceiling insulation requirements were included in the recently adopted final draft of the Uniform Statewide Building Code.
At the end of each year, the VAEEC completes a program evaluation, which goes hand-in-hand with our Strategic Plan to answer:
What impacts is the organization trying to achieve?
What strategies will help us achieve our goals?
How will we know if our work is successful?
As you might remember, VAEEC staff and Board members met last summer to develop our 2020-2022 Strategic Plan. Taking feedback from our members, we created focus areas for our next three years of work:
Advancement of New Energy-Efficiency Technologies
Utility Programs and VCEA Implementation
Our evaluation focuses on each of these areas, prompts us to think about the goals, strategies, and metrics for each, and assesses whether or not we are on track to achieve our goals. To provide our membership with a snapshot of these goals and whether or not we are on track to achieve them, we are sharing our program evaluation infographics. Take a look below to get a glimpse of all of the EE advancements we were able to achieve in this unprecedented year.
To learn more about the VAEEC’s 2020 achievements, watch our short video below.
Our work would not be successful without the support of our members. Thank you for your dedication to the organization and to Virginia’s energy efficiency industry. We look forward to working with you in the new year to make 2021 our strongest year for EE yet.
Ranks No. 1 in South, Breaks into Top 25 in New Ranking
The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council heralds a new research report, released today, that names Virginia as the regional leader of the South for its energy efficiency practices.
Virginia had its best year on the annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, a nationwide analysis of states based on “their policy and program efforts to save energy and pursue efficiency as a cost-effective, critical tool for slashing emissions and meeting state clean energy goals.”
“We’re thrilled to see Virginia named as a state to watch and break into the Top 25,” said Chelsea Harnish, executive director of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC). “This is a reflection of the hard work that went into passing the Virginia Clean Economy Act and the efforts of the energy efficiency industry in the Commonwealth.”
The annual scorecard is published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and can be found at aceee.org. Among the report’s findings:
“Virginia was among the top energy stories of 2020, creating its first-ever clean energy standard and becoming the first state in the Southeast with a 100% clean electricity goal. The Virginia Clean Economy Act also established an energy efficiency resource standard that sets multiyear electric savings targets for utilities and includes important measures to support low-income customers and reduce energy burdens. The governor also signed HB 981, making Virginia the first southern state to join RGGI, with proceeds going toward energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate mitigation measures.”
A global pandemic was no match for Virginia’s energy efficiency industry, who came together virtually to learn and connect at our Fall 2020 Forum and first ever Trade Show. Approximately 100 energy efficiency professionals participated in the event’s four educational sessions, multiple exhibitor and networking breaks, and a networking reception. A huge thank you to our sponsors and exhibitors for making this event possible, and also to everyone who attended.
COVID-19 looms large over the industry, so it was a major topic of discussion in nearly all the sessions of the day. “Air quality will be non-negotiable” [in a post-COVID-19 world],” said Serene Al-Momen, co-founder and CEO of Senseware. The unique intersection of energy efficiency technologies and strategies, building environment health, and maximizing the safety of both implementers and inhabitants has come to the forefront of many conversations nationwide, including VAEEC’s recent series of articles. Speakers throughout the event discussed the varying approaches to improving energy efficiency before, during, and after a crisis.
The event kicked off with welcome remarks from VAEEC’s Chelsea Harnish, who provided an overview of the state of Virginia’s energy efficiency industry. Highlights included:
Updates on implementation progress for 2020 legislation such as the revised low-income eligibility criteria we worked on earlier in the year, upcoming stakeholder processes for RGGI funds and electric cooperatives’ on-bill tariff program, and the impending RFP for a statewide C-PACE administrator.
Upcoming public comment deadlines – November 13th is the deadline for the draft Uniform Statewide Building Code and November 17th for the Dominion Large General Service customer opt-out proceedings before the SCC.
VAEEC’s new video series, Building the Future, which highlights the incredible energy efficiency work accomplished by our members. The projects featured are Henrico County’s Varina library (with a very special guest appearance by Chelsea’s daughter), the Virginia Beach Aquarium, and Monticello.
Attendees then moved into the first of three exhibitor and networking breaks Thanks to a new event platform called Hopin, participants could step into our first ever trade show, where they could move between interactive “booths” from Community Housing Partners, C-Power Energy Management, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Virginia Energy Sense, and Viridiant. They could also choose to connect with each other one on one or in groups through the “speed-networking” and chat functions. Networking has long been one of the most beneficial aspects of our events, so we didn’t let the virtual nature hold us back.
View the event program for session summaries, speaker bios, sponsor features, and more.
The next session, Advancing Efficiency with Emerging Technologies, has become a Fall Forum tradition. Sponsored by the Center for Innovative Technology(CIT), the panel was made up of innovative technology startups who shared how their product is pushing the energy efficiency industry forward. Speakers included Serene Almomen (Senseware), Jesse Thornberg (Grid Fruit), and Joe Weaver (Ario) and was moderated by Adam Sledd (Dominion Energy Innovation Center).
After a second exhibitor and networking break, attendees choose between two concurrent sessions, Large Energy Users: Efficiency Opportunities & Challenges and Energy Efficiency Implementation in the Time of COVID-19.
The Virginia Clean Economy Act allows customers using more than 1MW of electricity annually to opt-out of utility energy efficiency programs only if they are delivering energy savings via their own programs. Large Energy Users: Efficiency Opportunities & Challenges, sponsored by Schneider Electric, encouraged participants to join the discussion for a chance to help influence the VAEEC’s future work in promoting programs to meet the needs of this diverse customer class. The session started with a brief presentation by Ed Rightor (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) and Chelsea Harnish (VAEEC) before pivoting into an interactive session with participation from attendees. Thank you to everyone who joined and shared their expertise and ideas.
Energy Efficiency Implementation in the Time of COVID-19 ran concurrently with the above session. During this session, speakers shared their personal experiences with how COVID-19 has changed energy efficiency implementation and procedures for their respective businesses. The session ended on a positive note, reflecting on how much has still been able to be accomplished despite the pandemic. “COVID-19 is another constraint — not a progress killer,” said Samuel Ringelberg, Project Development Manager at Schneider Electric, during his presentation. The speakers also included Michael Hubbard (Dominion Energy) and Kerri Walker (project:HOMES), and Willie Fobbs (VA Dept. of Housing & Community Development) moderated the session.
The final breakout session of the day addressed how VAEEC members are using energy efficiency to combat the spread of COVID-19. During Exploring the Intersection of Health & Energy Efficiency, sponsored by VEIC, speakers focused on the technologies, programs, and innovations that are helping to keep our buildings safe through improved air quality. Speakers included Jody Lesko (Vermont), Michele Mitch-Peterson (Siemens), and John Morrill (Arlington County), and Bill Eger (City of Alexandria) moderated. “The measures to improve energy efficiency and to improve ventilation and air quality are the same,” said Lesko.
The VAEEC Fall 2020 Forum & Trade Show would not be possible without the continuing support of our exceptional members and sponsors. To everyone who joined us, thank you for helping us push energy efficiency forward to ensure a smooth transition to an affordable and equitable 100% clean energy future in the Commonwealth.
When facilities managers shut off the lights this spring, they had no idea that months later, the nation would still be in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s no secret that this virus has irreversibly changed the world around us, and continues to do so with every new development. This three-part series will focus on the ways VAEEC members are meeting these challenges head on to keep their customers and their communities safe. You can view part one, ‘Technologies To Keep Us Safe’, here.
There’s something spooky about an empty elementary school. The tiny, untouched chairs in dim, vacant classrooms. The silent playgrounds and echoing hallways. It all evokes the tumbleweed images of an old Western ghost town. While the realities of COVID-19 have made this scene common nationwide, research shows that the virus spreads more easily indoors, and that viral load and exposure time increase the likelihood of infection. This has put a new emphasis on ventilation and indoor air quality across sectors, including school systems.
For some VAEEC members, this makes it the perfect time to get to work. “Clients are making necessary HVAC improvements or replacements to make buildings healthier and safer for the building users,” said Susan Kalergis, Marketing Communications Manager at 2RW Consultants, Inc.
Making the Case
Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) has been an effective way for businesses and localities to make cost-saving energy efficiency upgrades without large up-front expenditures since the late 1980s. It is a budget-neutral approach to implement energy-saving improvements without using funds from capital budgets. These projects offer comprehensive energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, and/or operational solutions that are tailored to the needs of the specific facility, with a guarantee that the energy savings will cover the lifetime costs of these upgrades. Here in Virginia, public bodies and state agencies can take advantage of the statewide Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC) program to streamline their procurement processes.
“As a vendor, we have seen two different approaches as customers attempt to deal with the pandemic. Some have totally shut down all projects and procurement. Alternatively, others have done the opposite and pursued performance contracting as a way to attack COVID-19 and other issues head on. With spaces vacant and interest rates at historic lows, several customers have moved forward with [EPC] projects,” said VAEEC Board member George Barnes, Account Manager for Complex Solutions for Trane.
While EPCs have been used for decades, the combination of low building occupancy, low interest rates, and an increased need for efficient and effective air filtration systems have made them a more attractive option to many businesses, commercial building owners, and institutions. Trane, 2RW, and other Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) are working to balance the needs of their customers with the safety of their staff as projects continue.
“With the restrictions created by COVID-19, we need to closely manage the logistics of integrating our process with [the project],” said Barnes.
Kalergis shared a similar sentiment. “[In response to the pandemic], a fundamental guiding premise was to rely on data to make thoughtful decisions, which could have long lasting implications.”
“As school districts across the country work to respond to the coronavirus, utility and energy efficiency program administrators have an important role to play in delivering solutions,” a representative from VEIC said in a recent statement. VEIC is a nonprofit organization committed to reducing the economic and environmental costs of energy use. As program administrators of the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), VEIC launched a variety of programs to support safe reopening strategies for schools, small businesses, and more.
School systems across the country report that energy costs are second only to personnel in their annual budgets. With many schools either shut down or reopening with significantly reduced activities, the DCSEU developed a School Shutdown Toolkit that identified low-and-no cost ways that school systems can save energy, as well as recommending priorities for often-deferred maintenance.
VEIC also launched an indoor air quality improvement program for Vermont’s K-12 schools. With a high degree of variability across schools, the program takes a customized approach to assess and improve each unique HVAC system, prioritizing efficiency wherever possible. Typically, increases in ventilation and filtration result in an increase in energy use, but by leveraging equipment controls and efficient equipment, these programs help schools keep energy increases manageable.
“For sustainability advocates, the push for improved indoor air quality is not new; and it has always been an important part of [our] designs and equipment specifications,” said Kalergis. “While not every technique and technology may be advantageous for every building, we advise building owners and facilities operators that techniques for [their] specific building types—such as education or healthcare—are proven to be effective and worth considering.”
When business owners shut off the lights this spring, they had no idea that months later, the nation would still be in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s no secret that this virus has irreversibly changed the world around us, and continues to do so with every new development. This three part series will focus on the ways VAEEC members are meeting these challenges head on to keep their customers and their communities safe.
So what does energy efficiency have to do with COVID-19? A surprising amount. Research shows that the buildings where people work, live, and play can dramatically affect their health. A 2019 study from VAEEC member, VEIC, stated that Americans spent nearly 70% of their time in their homes – and that was well before stay-at-home orders and social distancing went into effect. Poor insulation, leaky windows, aging appliances, and improper ventilation all contribute to many of the leading causes of death in the U.S.: asthma, heart disease, chronic respiratory illness, and stroke (ACEEE 2019). While energy efficiency measures have been helping to address many of these problems for years, the new, acute threat of COVID-19 has forced the industry to rapidly adapt to changing – and sometimes contradictory – needs.
While many things about COVID-19 remain unknown, data shows that one thing is clear – the virus spreads faster indoors, and as viral load and exposure time increase, so does the likelihood of infection. ACEEE recently stated that, of 1,500 known superspreader events, only three took place entirely outdoors. This reality has brought ventilation and indoor air quality into laser focus for many businesses and commercial and multi-family building owners as they scramble to meet the changing needs of their staff, customers, and residents.
“If we can take one good thing out of [the pandemic], it’s bringing a focus to the building environment and how healthy that building environment can be for occupants,” said Chris Rawlings, Chief Energy Officer of VeteranLED. In light of the pandemic, experts recommend increasing the number of air changes per hour in a building and running HVAC systems continuously to flush out potentially infectious air. Although outdoor air dilutes contaminants, increasing ventilation rates reduces the energy efficiency of the space, leading to a tricky balance between safety and rising energy costs. To solve this problem, many are looking toward technology.
VAEEC Board member George Barnes, Account Manager for Complex Solutions for Trane said, “the challenge is to complete [measures] in an energy efficient manner. If done correctly, spaces will be safer, occupants will be healthier, and any cost increases will be mitigated.”
Customers aren’t the only ones looking for ways to help keep their businesses afloat. The energy efficiency industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, causing many businesses to adapt to a new set of needs. For Rawlings, this meant a hard pivot into previously unknown territory – installing UVGI systems.
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) has been used for decades to help stop the spread of infectious diseases. It uses shortwave ultraviolet radiation, or UV-C, to damage the microbe’s DNA, which in the case of coronaviruses, causes the outer protein coating to break down and render the virus inactive. Because UV-C radiation is only effective when in direct contact with a pathogen, it has to be correctly implemented to combat COVID-19 and other diseases. There are two common strategies for using UVGI systems: integrating the fixtures into the HVAC system, and using “upper room” systems.
In-Line Duct systems use UVGI lighting inside the ducts of a building, passing air through the radiation and rendering microbes incapable of replicating. These solutions also incorporate HEPA or other high-efficiency filtration systems to remove the contaminants from the air.
Meanwhile, “upper room” systems irradiate the air near the ceiling of a room, above the heads of any inhabitants, and use fans and circulators to move the air in the lower part of the room into the irradiation zone. While UV-C is less harmful to humans than other types of UV radiation, UVGI still must be carefully and correctly implemented to reduce exposure.
VeteranLED has been installing and designing energy efficient building systems since 2014, but incorporating UVGI technology was a completely new challenge. By “really diving into the research” and applying his experience, Rawlings developed an integrated air purification system that uses UVGI lighting in an in-line duct system and hospital grade UV-C fixtures that can sterilize surfaces when the space is not occupied.
“We’ve been able to tap into resources and networks where [health] has been a priority since the get-go, like hospitals and laboratories,” said Rawlings. VeteranLED was hired to install their air purification systems in 20 Silver Diner restaurants across the Midatlantic region.
For other organizations, COVID-19 has meant doubling down on the technologies they already offer. Siemens has been a long time leading provider of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. The question, for them, was how to adapt their existing portfolio to meet the changing needs of Siemens’ customers?
“As a company that diligently practices a ‘Zero Harm’ culture, we had to learn how to protect our employees and our customers while ensuring our communities most important infrastructure assets were operating and available to serve their mission,” said Michele Mitch-Peterson, Ingenuity Consultant for Siemens Smart Infrastructure team. Siemens provides an array of high-performance building systems, including occupancy and temperature sensors, energy performance management systems, and non-ozone producing ionization technology.
Building automation systems, or BAS, is an automated, central control system that manages the HVAC, lighting, security, and other interrelated systems in a building. Automation systems use a variety of tools such as sensors and controls to improve comfort and reduce energy use and maintenance costs. These technologies have been advancing in both complexity and popularity since the early 2000’s, and have been adopted in most new commercial, industrial, and institutional construction. Siemens has been on the forefront of much of this innovation.
“In the midst of all the uncertainty COVID-19 caused, we really sought to find projects and innovations to minimize the impact on our customers and give them certainty around energy savings, especially with buildings not being occupied,” said Peterson. Siemens was able to work with customers to implement specific energy reduction plans based on current usage. Using a variety of their proprietary solutions, they were able to automatically adjust systems due to reduced demand, continuously monitor buildings via Fault Detection and Diagnostics, and analyze sub-meter data to determine the effects of actions taken and identify areas where further energy savings could be achieved.
“It has been an extremely challenging period, but also extremely rewarding as we have found new ways to serve our customers.”
Play all October for a chance to win a virtual home energy audit from Viridiant!
October 1st kicks off National Energy Awareness Month, a time to promote the importance of energy efficiency, discover new ways to become more efficient, and reflect on your own energy consumption. To get everyone in on the fun, the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council will be orchestrating Energy Awareness Bingo! Get rewarded for energy-efficient measures you have already implemented while learning about additional ways to reduce your energy footprint. Winners will be entered into a raffle to win a virtual home energy audit* from Viridiant! The raffle winner will be announced at our free virtual Fall Forum on November 10th.
See official rules and a description of the prize at the bottom of the page. Contact us at email@example.com with any questions.
Once you receive your virtual bingo card, mark any of the squares that contain an energy efficiency measure that you have taken at your home. Marks can be done virtually or by printing out your card and writing on it.
To qualify, all energy efficiency measures must have been implemented within the past three years.
Have fun while learning new ways to make your home more efficient!
If you get “bingo”, take a photo or screenshot of your card and post it to social media. Get creative! Be sure to tag us and use the hashtag #EEbingo.
Register for the virtual Fall Forum on November 10th to see if your name is drawn for the grand prize, a virtual home energy audit from Viridiant.
Tips to Reduce Your Energy Consumption – and Utility Bills
Below you will find a brief description of the measures or habits included on each card. The majority of them are no- or low-cost measures or simple behavioral changes that reduce your energy consumption and save you money on your utility bills.
Use smart power strips. Many electronics produce “phantom loads”, which refers to the electricity used by electronics when they are either in standby mode or are turned off. This wasted energy can cost you up to $200 per year. In fact, estimates suggest that stand by power accounts for over $11 billion in annual U.S. energy costs. Smart power strips shut off the power to electronics when they are not in use.
Install low-flow plumbing fixtures. Along with saving water, low-flow plumbing fixtures reduce the energy it takes to heat the water. Even without new, efficient fixtures, you can save money by making more conscious decisions. For example, turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, and don’t rinse dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.
Add (additional) attic insulation. Attic insulation slows the rate of heat leaving the house in the winter or entering the house in the summer, thus requiring less energy to heat or cool your home. If your older home already has insulation, it might be time to add more. Insulation settles with age, thus reducing it’s R-value. Homeowners typically reduce their heating and cooling costs by up to $200 by adding insulation and air sealing their homes. This includes sealing the entire home’s thermal envelope, such as the foundation, walls, roof, doors, and windows (think anything that separates your living space from the outside).
Use a smart, programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling when you are away from home or asleep. This eliminates wasteful energy consumption without having to upgrade your HVAC system. On average, they save households $180 per year. Many models even include indicators for replacing your air filter or HVAC problems, which improves the efficiency of your HVAC system. Additionally, consider setting your thermostat to 78F in the summer and 68F in the winter. For every degree extra of heating or cooling, you’re increasing your energy usage by 6-8%. Note, setting your thermostat to a lower temperature than normal does not cool your home faster.
Upgrade to an ENERGY STAR appliance. If you need to replace a household appliance, consider upgrading to an ENERGY STAR certified one. Appliances, on average, account for approximately 13% of a household’s energy use. Energy-efficient appliances usually have a higher upfront purchase cost, but their operating costs tend to be 9-25% lower than conventional models. ENERGY STAR labels are a guarantee that the appliance consumes less energy than standard models.
Get an HVAC tune-up. Annual heating and cooling system check-ups keep your system at peak performance and can prevent future problems. The average homeowner spends about $875 a year on heating and cooling costs. Some money-saving measures include using a programmable thermostat, cleaning the area around your HVAC system’s outdoor components, and regularly changing your air filters. Additionally, have your HVAC professional check your ducts for leaks too.
Receive an energy audit. Using specialized tools and skills to evaluate your home, energy auditors and raters recommend the most cost-effective measures to improve its efficiency and comfort. They can also recommend the best sequence for implementing measures to help you take advantage of interactions.
Participate in the Dominion Energy Marketplace. Dominion Energy customers can purchase energy-efficient products at a discounted price through the company’s online marketplace. Products include an array of LED bulbs, smart power strips, and outdoor motion/sensing lights. Orders over $35 ship free.
Switch to LED light bulbs. LED light bulbs use anywhere from 25-80% less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, and they last between 3-25 times longer.
Seal cracks, gaps, and leaks. Weatherizing your home by sealing air leaks is a low-cost, effective way to reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs. Vents, windows, and doors are the most common sources of leaks. Apply caulk or spray foam to seal air leaks between stationary objects. Weather striping can be used for cracks between moving objects, such as doors and windows. These low-cost measures typically offer a return on investment in less than one year.
Upgrade or replace windows. Old, inefficient windows can add up to 10-25% of your total heating bill. Replacing single-glazed windows with energy-efficient models can result in noticeable cost savings. An alternative option is to add interior or exterior storm windows, which can reduce heat loss by 10-20%. If you are already planning on replacing your home’s windows, the typical additional cost of ENERGY STAR-rated replacement windows is modest and can be cost-effective while also boosting your home’s comfort. Depending on your location, ENERGY STAR windows can save anywhere from $20-95 a year on your energy bills.
Insulate your electric hot water heater and hot water lines. Insulating your water heater and hot water lines helps keep the heated water from cooling off as quickly between uses. On average, households spend over $250 a year on water heating. You can also save money by lowering your water heater’s temperature setting.
Wash clothes in cold water, when possible. Using cold water uses less energy because you don’t have to heat the water. About 90% of the energy used to operate a clothes washer is from water heating. To save even more, wash full loads or use lower water settings for smaller loads. Additionally, longer spin times in the washing machine reduces the amount of drying time needed in the dryer.
Use clothes dryers efficiently (if used at all). Dryers account for 6% of residential electricity consumption. Luckily, there are several easy-to-implement tips to make your dryer more efficient. Don’t overstuff the dryer, which causes it to run longer. Lower heat settings use less energy. Use the moisture sensor option, if available, which helps avoid over-drying clothes. Clean the lint trap after every use to improve air circulation to increase the dryer’s efficiency. Use your washing machine’s highest spin time to reduce the amount of drying time needed.
Clean or replace filters regularly. It’s recommended that you check your HVAC system’s air filters monthly, especially during times of heavy use. If it looks dirty, change it. At a minimum, HVAC filters should be changed every three months. Dirty filters make your system work harder by slowing down airflow. For an even greener option with a bigger payback, check to see if your system accommodates a washable filter.
Plant shade trees around your home. Good landscaping can save energy, especially if you live in an older home with relatively poor insulation and windows. Planting deciduous trees on the western side of your home block solar radiation in the summer and lets the radiation through in the winter.
Insulate your HVAC ducts. Most HVAC systems consist of a network of ducts that distribute the warmed or cooled air to different parts of your home. If they are not properly insulated or sealed, the resulting energy waste could be adding hundreds of dollars to your annual heating and cooling bills.
Avoid running appliances during peak hours. Consider using your dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer later in the evening. Not only will this help keep your house cooler during summer months, avoiding peak usage hours (4:00-6:00 pm) will save on your utility bill.
Watch your appliance placement. Placing heat-generating appliances, such as TVs, computers, or lamps, near a thermostat can make your HVAC unit run more than it needs to.
Close the fireplace damper when not in use. Opened dampers allow warmed or cooled air to easily escape from the house. Closing the damper will help keep your conditioned air in the living space. For an even more efficient option, consider a chimney plug or fireplace balloon.
Use your ceiling fan. A ceiling fan can allow you to raise your thermostat setting about 4F while still remaining comfortable. Just remember to turn the fan off when you leave the room; fans cool people, not the room. In the winter, you can reverse your fan to produce a gentle updraft, which drives the warm air near the ceiling down into the living space.
Cook efficiently. If you’re using your stove, avoid wasting energy by covering pots and pans. Trapping the heat also reduces cooking times. In fact, covering your pot when using an electric cooktop can reduce your carbon footprint by roughly 85 lbs of CO2 per year. You should also match your pot size to your burner size. When using the oven, resist the urge to open the door to check on your food, which allows the heat to escape. Every time you open that door, the temperature can drop 25F. Use your oven light and look through the door’s window instead. Finally, use the microwave for cooking. Using the microwave can reduce your cooking energy by as much as 80%. Additionally, by generating less heat than an oven or stovetop, you also save on AC costs.
Defrost refrigerators and freezers. Ice build-up over ¼ inch thick can reduce your appliance’s efficiency. Additionally, fridges and freezers operate most efficiently when they’re full, so keep them as full as possible (without overfilling them). To avoid excessive cooling and wasting energy, you should also make sure to set your refrigerator temperature to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Turn off lights when not in use. Approximately 12% of a typical household utility bill is from lighting. During the day, open curtains and blinds to rely more on natural light than lamps.
Unplug electronics when not in use. As mentioned above, many electronics produce “phantom loads”, or electricity used by electronics when they are either in standby mode or are turned off. This wasted energy can cost you up to $200 per year. Only turn on your computer, monitor, printer, etc. when you need them. And while you’re at it, don’t leave your cell phone plugged in overnight; it only takes 1-2 hours to charge.
*VAEEC is partnering with Viridiant to offer the Energy Awareness Bingo Grand Prize! Announced at the Fall Forum on November 10th, the raffle winner will receive a virtual Home Energy Audit from Viridiant. Conducted via video-chat, Viridiant’s 1-hour audit with a building science expert will provide a whole-house inspection, utility bill analysis, and a prioritized list of improvements affecting energy costs, health, and comfort for your home. Viridiant is a non-profit advancing sustainable, affordable and energy-efficient construction through education and technical support. Learn more about their work and mission at viridiant.org.
No purchase necessary. Promotion begins on October 1st. Entries must be received by October 31st. One (1) winner will receive the following prize: One (1) Virtual Home Energy Audit. Winner will be announced on November 10th during the VAEEC’s virtual Fall Forum. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who live within Virginia and are 18 or older. Prize must be redeemed within 6 months of notice to winner. Sponsor: Viridiant, 1431 East Main Street, Richmond, Virginia 23220.
Dominion’s Energy Efficiency Stakeholder Group met virtually on August 27th. They discussed a number of updates, as well as brainstormed ideas for long-term planning.
The Virginia Clean Economy Act included some changes to the stakeholder process, so two new subgroups were created, focusing on Policy and EM&V. Those groups will meet in the coming weeks.
Additionally, Dominion provided an update on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their DSM programs as well as an update on the improved eligibility definition for low-income programs, which we worked to change earlier this year. While the marketplace has been open the entire time, all in-person programs were suspended last spring. Dominion resumed their Non-Residential programs on May 15th and resumed all of their single-family, residential programs in June. Recently, they allowed multi-family projects to resume in their low-income programs. All low-income program providers are following federal weatherization COVID guidelines.
Following the SCC’s recent approval of all of Dominion’s Phase VIII DSM programs, the Dominion DSM team and their implementation vendors are working on preparation as they prepare to launch them in January 2021.
Dominion also provided an update on their next filing for Phase IX, which will be submitted to the SCC in December. The company received 53 program proposals from ten vendors in response to their most recent RFP. The program categories were: Non-Residential, Residential, Low-Income, Cross Program services (e.g. marketing, call center, rebate fulfillment, etc.) and “open” programs with this last category being used as a starting point for next year’s RFP.
Dominion’s EM&V vendor, DNV GL, gave a presentation on their annual EM&V report, which was filed back in May. The residential marketplace made up 51% of the energy savings from DSM programs in 2019. Through the marketplace program, 3.5 million light bulbs were purchased either online or at a retail store. The Non-Residential lighting program made up 30% of the energy savings in 2019 and the Non-Residential small business program made up 11%. All other programs each made up one percent or less of the total savings accrued in 2019. There was also a brief discussion about the upcoming EM&V proceeding before the SCC, which will take place next May. The VAEEC will be participating as a respondent in this case and has already begun working with our lawyers with the UVA Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic in preparation.
The group concluded the day with a discussion on long-term planning. The company has hired the Cadmus Group to assist with this planning, which will help meet their mandated energy savings targets, which became law earlier this year. If you are already a member of the stakeholder group, and would like to participate in this planning process, be sure to add yourself to the long-term planning subgroup in Trello.
If you would like to participate in the Stakeholder meetings or would like to view materials, please email the meeting facilitator, Ted Knicker at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Yesterday, the SCC approved ALL of Dominion’s Demand Side Management (DSM) programs in their phase VIII filing and the updated programs in their VII filing. All programs- except the Low Income (LI) heating and cooling program- were approved for five years from January 2021-December 2025. The LI heating and cooling program was approved for three years, as stated by law, and will run from January 2021-December 2023. The updated phase VII programs can begin immediately and will end in December 2024 along with the remaining VII programs.
As a formal respondent in the proceedings, the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC) is incredibly excited with the progress shown in this final order. The Commission has also expressly agreed with the VAEEC that the creation of a standardized dashboard for evaluation, measurement, and verification (EM&V) reporting is necessary to determine the true effectiveness of these energy efficiency programs.
The Commission also agreed that the proposed mid-stream program should not split the incentives between the homeowners and the builders. This is a great example of how our involvement in this process is crucial. The company had agreed to the 50% split incentive in their rebuttal testimony and the Hearing Examiner recommended it to the Commission. However, the Commissioners were clearly swayed by our arguments that a split incentive did not enhance energy efficiency gains in this instance.
We’re also pleased to note that Dominion has expressed its willingness to continue working on standardizing the process for qualifying low-income projects and post-construction reporting requirements. The updated eligibility criteria that Dominion agreed to earlier this week are part of this work, though there are standardization needs that still need to be addressed.