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Archive for the ‘Vermont Home Energy Assessment’ Category

How to Get Off the Oil Price Roller Coaster

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

If we’ve learned anything in the first 16 years of the 21st century, it’s that expecting the unexpected is the best way to plan for the future.

If that sounds a little scary, let’s consider heating oil prices. Who would have guessed two years ago when prices were heading towards $4.00 a gallon that we’d now be looking at prices averaging just over $2.00? As a fuel oil dealer, we welcome the budget relief that low prices offer customers, but want to be sure we (and our customers) think a bit about some of the challenges that this extreme volatility can bring.

Source: Tradingeconomics.com

In Vermont, the good news is that fuel prices are currently averaging 19¢ a gallon below the same month of 2015. The bad news is that we’ve seen a steady price increase since March.

Source - Vermont Fuel Price Report, Vermont Department of Public Service

It’s easy to point to several factors that could affect heating fuel prices as we get closer to the cold winter weather:

  • Some weather experts are predicting the that end of the strongest El Nino in recorded history has started to make a transition into a La Nina-like state which could mean colder than average temperatures and more snow in the Northeast this winter. This is a welcome relief for those Vermonters that depend on the snow for recreation or livelihood, but a potential problem for those of us who will use more heating oil.
  • The presidential candidates have adopted different positions for and against climate change action that could eventually trickle down to affect gasoline and heating oil prices.
  • A recent New York Times article quotes OPEC sources who are speculating that a global output freeze could take place in September, when most members, plus non-members such as Russia, are expected to attend an International Energy Forum meeting in Algeria.

What can we do now to help protect our household budgets from future price increases? To use a sports metaphor, “our best defense is a good offense.”

  1. Do everything you can to improve your home’s energy efficiency and reduce the amount of heating fuel you use. Even simple things like adding insulation and regular heating system tune ups can make a big difference.
  2. Consider harnessing renewable energy sources to heat your home and provide your hot water. Rooftop or in-ground solar along with a cold-climate heat pump is a great choice that is becoming more and more popular.
  3. Sign up for price protection to lock in today’s low prices for the rest of the season. Combine this with a budget payment plan and you’ll eliminate those nasty mid-winter surprises when your oil usage spikes during a cold snap.

At the Energy Co-op, our goal is to help our members use less fossil fuel and save money. Don’t let the fuel price roller coaster leave you at the station. Call us today for a free home energy review or to schedule your pre-winter system tune up.

 

Don’t Let Low Fuel Prices Fool You

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

If you’re the type of person who just went out and purchased a large SUV because gas prices are flirting with $2.00 a gallon, don’t read this. On the other hand, if you see low energy prices as an interesting opportunity, read on.

Everyone who drives a car or heats their home with oil, propane or kerosene is aware that prices have dropped dramatically since last year. There are many factors effecting current low oil prices. These include sustained high output from OPEC nations, the ability of American frackers to cut costs and maintain output, and lower demand from China. Like all complex international issues involving markets and energy, it’s anyone’s guess as to when prices will rise again – or whether they have further to fall.

The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association has published these numbers for average Vermont fuel prices as of the end of August, 2015 compared with those of a year ago:

Type of Fuel

Aug 2015

Aug 2014

Change

No. 2 Fuel Oil

$2.45

$3.59

-31.92%

Kerosene

$3.01

$4.10

-26.64%

Propane

$2.30

$2.81

-18.15%

Reg. Unleaded Gasoline

$2.64

$3.66

-27.88%

Diesel

$2.96

$4.01

-26.33%

As an energy efficiency advocate and heating fuel supplier, the question on my mind is, “Will lower home heating costs discourage homeowners from investing in energy saving improvements for their homes?” After all, we’ve all got plenty of things to spend our money on!

We suggest that it makes the most sense to take the money you’re saving on your energy bills and invest it in ways that make those savings permanent. If you do so, you’ll be protected from future price spikes, cut your carbon emissions and make your home more comfortable as well.

A good place to start is with an energy audit from the Co-op. For only $100, we complete a thorough assessment of your home’s energy use, insulation levels, heating system and appliances and provide a written report with our recommendations for saving money and cutting your fossil fuel use.

Fossil fuels are not the only energy source that costs less these days. There’s more good news for homeowners interested in powering their homes with renewable energy. According to a 2014 report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency, electricity from biomass, hydro, geothermal and onshore wind are all competitive with or cheaper than electricity from coal, oil and gas-fired power stations, even without financial support, and despite falling oil prices. Solar is leading the cost decline, with module costs falling 75 per cent since the end of 2009 and the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar falling 50 per cent since 2010.

The bad news is that this also means many current state and federal subsidies and rebates may be phased out, discontinued or not renewed when they expire. The 30% federal tax credit for solar expires at the end of 2016, for example.

The Energy Co-op’s always urges homeowners to start with an energy audit. After that, our approach is three pronged:

  • First, and most important, we make sure that the home is safe and healthy, free from mold, risk of carbon monoxide leaks and things like asbestos and vermiculite. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 400 people in the U.S. die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The National Fire Protection Agency reports that in 2011, faulty heating equipment was implicated in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires.
  • Second, we focus on energy and money saving improvements like stopping drafts and adding insulation.
  • Third, we look into alternatives or replacements for old, wasteful boilers and furnaces.

Our main point is, don’t go the SUV route and rush to purchase a gas-hogging vehicle while gas prices are low, only to regret your decision when prices go up. Instead, take advantage of low energy prices to create a safer and more energy-secure home.

We believe that there has never been a better time to invest in efficiency improvements. Right here in Vermont rebates and incentives are still available – and we’re told that winter – and home heating bills – are on the way!

 

Energy Audits: What you don’t know can cost you money

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Home energy audits can save you moneyPromoting energy efficiency may seem counter-intuitive for a home heating fuel dealer. After all, the more energy efficient our customers’ homes are, the less fuel we sell.

But the Energy Co-op of Vermont is a bit different. Our mission is to help our members save money on heating and cooling their homes while reducing their dependence on fossil fuels.  We encourage our members to begin this process with a home energy audit. Since we began offering energy audits two years ago, more than 35% of those who completed an audit have made at least one of the improvements that were recommended in the Co-op’s audit report.

What’s an energy audit?

An energy audit is a thorough evaluation of your home’s energy use performed by a qualified contractor. If your home’s heating system is more than 15 years old, the audit should also include a heating system inspection and evaluation. A complete energy audit also addresses related problems such as mold, dampness, drafts, ice dams and indoor air quality. The audit results in a list of recommended improvements. Typical recommendations include sealing air leaks, adding insulation and improving ventilation.

How do I choose an energy auditor? 

A good place to start is the Building Performance Institute website. This resource can help you find companies and individuals in your area that have been trained, tested and certified to BPI’s standards. These standards include using the “house-as-a-system” approach to improve the performance of existing homes – an approach proven to reduce home owner’s energy bills by 20 percent or more. Working with a certified energy auditor also provides the assurance that the improvements you decide on will result in real energy savings, be code compliant and installed safely.

Efficiency Vermont’s web site includes a searchable, state-wide list of certified, home performance contractors and energy auditors. The Energy Co-op of Vermont is on the list.

How do I pay for the improvements?

Many energy efficiency improvements are inexpensive and relatively easy to install. For more costly projects, there are a variety of options for financing and rebates. For major improvements like home heating system replacements, check with your local lender or credit union for home equity loans or special energy efficiency financing.

Two great energy improvement financing options in Vermont are the Heat Savers Loan Programs from  VSECU and Opportunities Credit Union.

Efficiency Vermont offers up to $2,100 in incentives per household to help Vermonters pay for energy efficiency home improvements completed by a certified Home Performance contractor.

What’s my payback?

It is easy to calculate the short-term savings from most improvements by measuring your reduction in heating fuel usage year to year. Many projects pay for themselves quickly, while major improvements can demonstrate a reasonable payback over a longer period time.

But the real rewards come in less tangible ways like a more comfortable and secure home and the benefit to the environment of burning less fossil fuel. What starts with an energy audit can result in cleaner air for the planet and more money in your pocket.

 

Winter Heating Tips: Attic Heat Loss

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

It may be obvious to some but many folks don’t realize just how much heat they lose through their attics. Poor attic insulation and sealing can result not only in higher energy costs during the winter, but also during the hot summer months when you’re trying to keep your home cool. For this reason, how your attic is constructed  and insulated is the most important part of saving huge amounts of money on energy bills year round.

As warm air pushes up to the top of your home it allows colder air to be pulled in from below from your basement, leaky windows, or just poorly insulated walls. As the warm air leaves it heats and melts snow on your roof, creating icicles and ice dams in the eaves. Since there’s very little heat along the eaves of your roof, the melted snow refreezes. Icicles and ice dams are the most obvious sign that you’re losing heat out of your attic and that better insulation could keep you more comfortable AND save you energy dollars. These are what are typically called, “shell improvements” in the energy business, and represent the easiest way Vermonters can make a significant impact on their home energy efficiency.

The first and easiest step is to figure out exactly just how much heat you’re losing through an energy audit for your home. We have an established step-by-step system beginning with some simple math and ending with a comprehensive plan that allows you to decide how best to proceed. Our Energy Audit will tell you exactly how efficiently your home is, where improvements should be made, and recommend some simple steps you can reduce your energy use and save money on your fuel bills. Some of these improvements you may want to make right away, while others would be better to hold off for the future. We also will help you choose the right contractor to make energy upgrades to your home.

Whatever you choose to do, with each season that goes by know that the earlier you make an investment in your home’s efficiency the more money you’ll save. As a first step, we can help you decide whether an Energy Audit makes sense for your home, with only TWO pieces of information from you:

  • Total heated area of your home (square feet)
  • The amount of heating fuel you use each year (oil, kerosene, pellets, etc.)

With this information we can quickly figure out whether an energy audit makes sense for your home. Give us a call! (802) 860-4090.

Here’s a great (short) video of what attic heat loss and necessary improvements looks like:

Better together

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Most of us in the northerly reaches of the country are always looking for ways to save money on our fuel and energy bills, especially during days like today (high of 16 degrees?). The Co-op has joined a partnership with Efficiency Vermont and fuel dealers statewide to help Vermonters do just that. Now, fuel dealers like the Energy Co-op and efficiency contractors will be working together in the Efficiency Excellence Network to save homeowners money on their fuel and energy bills.

Co-op members Herb and Barbara Kessel provided their home as a backdrop for the press conference earlier this month, highlighting the launch of the new Efficiency Excellence Network and we couldn’t be more proud.

The Kessels were able to reduce their oil consumption by at least 300 gallons per year, over the past two years. They also jumped on board the heat pump wagon purchasing four of the energy efficient heating and cooling systems strategically placed around their home. Combined with the air sealing done throughout the house, Herb and Barbara expect to see even larger savings by the time the final calculations are made after their next oil delivery in six or seven months.

Some folks have asked why fuel dealers would want this sort of arrangement as it would clearly result in less profit for their businesses. But we, and others, understand the value of our relationship with our customers and members. Our goal is to keep helping homeowners here in Vermont save money on their fuel bills and if that means our customers and members value our business that much more, it’ll be worth more than any additional short-term profit we might be losing.

We can help you make your home more efficient with a free home energy assessment. Give us a call (802-860-4090) if you’re ready to invest in energy savings like the Kessels!

For more on this new partnership, checkout Vermont Digger’s piece by John Herrick.

How Energy Efficient is Vermont?

Monday, November 11th, 2013

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is a quiet policy heavyweight on all things energy efficiency. Not only do they inform policymakers around the country about the latest in efficiency measures and technology, but they also regularly review and rank state efficiency programs in their State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The scorecard serves as one of the more important benchmarks for state efforts on energy efficient policies and programs. This is important as more and more states figure out how they can save millions of dollars tomorrow by investing in efficiency programs and technology today.

This year,Vermont was ranked at #7 in the country when it comes to energy efficiency. Some might ask, “why so low?” The main reason is related to transportation, which of course is related to the fact Vermont, a rural state, doesn’t have much capacity for public transportation. Yet, while we Vermonters didn’t score high on transportation efficiency, we ranked in the top five in utility efficiency thanks mainly to the outstanding work of Efficiency Vermont. You can checkout the one-page summary of Vermont efficiency programs here.

We at the Energy Co-op have always made energy efficiency a priority. Since the co-op model is focused on delivering the best possible service and support to our members and customers, instead of worrying about the bottom line, we can spend more time working on our energy efficiency goals. Lucky for us, Vermonters have a long history of respect for the co-op model – and for using resources wisely. Click here for stories about Co-op members who have made efficiency improvements to their homes.

The Energy Co-op is not only helping homeowners button-up their homes, service their heating equipment and get low prices on heating oil, we’re also introducing new and efficient ways to heat and cool your home. Pellet stoves, heat pumps and solar hot water heaters are three examples of these new technologies.

We hope next year, when the ACEEE scorecard comes out,Vermont ranks a bit higher, maybe because of the some of the work we’re committed to doing here in the Green Mountain State.

Heating and Fuel Assistance for Energy Co-op of Vermont Members

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Vermont’s famous January thaw is done. The February freeze appears to have set in … perhaps a bit early! The last week has seen the lowest temperatures of the heating season. And that means heating bills are on the rise. We don’t like to see anyone trying to get through the winter without staying warm enough. So every year, the Energy Co-op works with several state agencies, as well as other organizations to help more than 170 Co-op members who may be challenged, financially or otherwise, to stay warm all winter long.

Every heating season we deliver more than 90,000 gallons of  kerosene and heating oil to the Energy Co-op’s members, in large part, with funds provided by Seasonal Fuel AssistanceCrisis Fuel AssistanceGlobal PartnersCitizens Energy and the Co-op Oil Bank.  For every $12 Co-op membership, we put $2 into the Co-op Oil Bank to help pay for fuel oil deliveries and heating services for Co-op members having trouble paying their bills.

Of course, if your heating equipment isn’t working, then fuel assistance won’t do much! Furnaces and boilers need regular maintenance and servicing to operate efficiently. If you’re having trouble paying for maintenance or a repair on your furnace or boiler, help is available from Crisis Fuel Assistance, the Weatherization Program and Efficiency Vermont.

And even if fuel is in the tank and the heating system is working properly, many Vermont homes are leaky and poorly insulated.  This means money is literally going out the chimney! Fortunately, Vermont’s Weatherization Program helps low-income Vermonters by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. Weatherization typically produces energy savings of at least 30%. According to a recent report by Vermont’s Thermal Efficiency Task Force (TETF), a typical Vermont household could save $1,000 a year with the completion of proper weatherization techniques, such as adding insulation, sealing air leaks, and replacing or repairing heating systems.

The Energy Co-op of Vermont is also proud to offer Free Home Energy Check Ups for our members. This is a great, simple way to see how efficient your home is. If you or someone you know needs financial help with a fuel delivery, repair or maintenance issue, or weatherization, please call the Energy Co-op at (802) 860-4090 or visit any of the resource links above.

Member: Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Renewable Energy Vermont, Local First Vermont

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