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Archive for the ‘Energy Audit’ Category

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:

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

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