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Archive for the ‘Financing options for energy improvements’ Category

New Year’s Resolution – Cut your Fossil Fuel Use

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

As we ring in the new year, we can celebrate some good news for homeowners looking to cut their fossil fuel use in 2016. At its final session in December, the U.S. Congress passed an extension for many of the most popular tax incentives for wind and solar. This provides a healthy boost to the development of new renewable power sources and will speed up replacement of fossil fuel and nuclear electricity generation with cleaner sources.

The economic advantages of extending the wind and solar tax credits go beyond price. A recent article in Bloomberg New Energy Finance states, “This is exactly the sort of bridge the industry needed. The costs of installing wind and solar power have dropped precipitously—by more than 90 percent since the original tax credits took effect—but in most places coal and natural gas are still cheaper than unsubsidized renewables. By the time the new tax credit expires, solar and wind will be the cheapest forms of new electricity in many states across the U.S.”

What does this mean for the average Vermont homeowner? It’s wonderful news because in 2016, many Vermont homeowners will qualify for credits and rebates for:

  • Making home energy improvements such as new windows, adding insulation, envelope and duct sealing.
  • Installing efficient air conditioners and heat pumps.
  • Purchasing gas or oil furnaces and furnace fans; and gas, oil, or electric heat pump water heaters.
  • Purchasing hybrid gasoline-electric, diesel, battery-electric, alternative fuel, and fuel cell vehicles.
  • Installing qualified solar water heating and photovoltaic systems, small wind and geothermal heat pump systems.
  • Installing qualifying fuel cells and microturbines, although these systems are not widely available for homes.

Many of these incentives are available for new construction as well. So if you are building a new home in 2016 be sure to talk to your builder about getting your house Energy Star® rated.

There’s no doubt that with so many different programs, credits and rebates, the average Vermont homeowner may be confused about where to begin. Start by checking these on-line resources:

For low-income Vermonters there are additional options for low-cost loans and subsidies for home energy improvements. Check the LIHEAP Clearinghouse website for more information.

Don’t forget about low-cost loans for efficiency upgrades that are widely available for all homeowners in Vermont through the Heat Saver Loan program. Also, VSECU offers a number of energy-related loans.  In many cases, the cost for your loan payment is more than covered through immediate savings on heating fuel and electricity costs.

Our core mission at the Energy Co-op is to provide our members with information, incentives and services that help to reduce their fossil fuel use. That’s why we’ve established our business model as a one-stop shop for home energy efficiency. Our service and installation teams are all NORA certified and because we are a non-profit Co-op, you can rest assured that the price you pay for service and upgrades will be fair and competitive. We’ll help you navigate through the maze of options for rebates and incentives and prioritize improvements that will offer the best return on your investment.

Why not contact us today?  We’ll be happy to help you make a New Year’s resolution that will improve the safety and efficiency of your home, keep more money in your wallet and help save the planet at the same time.

How to be a Climate Change Hero

Monday, December 21st, 2015

The Paris Climate Action agreement signed last week has given new hope to those of us who are concerned about climate change and want world  leaders to join together to find ways to help. At home, President Obama has announced that by 2025 he wants the United States to reduce its total carbon footprint by up to 28% of 2005 levels.

While we applaud the global agreement and think that government goals and promises are a good start, we know that change must also take place from the bottom up, starting in our own homes and backyards.  These changes give new meaning to the old adage, “Think global, act local.”

Most experts in climate change science agree that increasing efficiency is the low-hanging fruit for reducing our carbon emissions.  In fact, many sources including the Natural Resources Defense Council, continue to put efficiency at the top of the list for consideration by both individuals and businesses.

Energy Efficiency 101

Being energy efficient doesn’t mean going without a comfortable and well-lit home or making painful sacrifices. Many energy efficiency measures are low cost and easy to implement. With the many attractive financing options now available, some upgrades can even save you money from day one. Consider these five options:

  1. Upgrade your home energy systems.  Consider a new energy-efficient furnace, cold-climate heat pump, or roof top solar panels.
  2. Weatherproof your home. Install storm windows and close curtains at night to reduce heat loss and energy use. Upgrade insulation in walls, basements and attics to save up to 30% of your energy bill. Not sure where to start? Get an energy audit to provide guidance and to set priorities.
  3. Install low-flow showerheads and wash your clothes in cold or warm water.
  4. Change your lights. Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs to eliminate 150 pounds or more of CO2 per year for each bulb you replace.
  5. Plant trees and shrubs. Trees absorb CO2 and give off oxygen. One tree will absorb over a ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

What About Conservation?

If you aren’t willing or able to spend money on efficiency improvements, consider conservation. Often confused with efficiency, energy conservation involves behavior changes that don’t cost anything extra but can have a big impact on your home energy use.

  1. Drive less. You save one pound of carbon dioxide for each mile of driving you eliminate.
  2. Stop idling. Turn off your engine when you are picking up your children at school or waiting in a drive-through line.
  3. Cut hot water use. Turn your hot water heater thermostat down to 120 degrees. Run your dishwasher and washing machine with full loads only.
  4. Adjust your thermostat. Moving your thermostat down just two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer could eliminate about 2,000 pounds of CO2 a year for an average household.
  5. Turn off “ghost “power. Plug televisions, computers and other appliances into a surge protector and switch off the surge protector after you turn off the appliances – or use an advance power strip.
  6. Recycle and reuse. Recycle your old newspapers and magazines, cardboard, glass, metal, and recyclable plastic containers. Find creative ways to reuse items instead of discarding them.
  7. Be green in your yard. Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  8. Shop smart. Buy products with less packaging and reusable or recyclable packaging in the first place.

Calculate your household’s carbon footprint

Before you upgrade or conserve, you can check the EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to estimate household greenhouse gas emissions arising from your home energy use, transportation and waste disposal. This tool helps you understand where your emissions come from and identify ways to reduce them. It can also give you a way to measure your progress.

Spread the word

Don’t be afraid to tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for their homes and good for the environment. The small steps each of us take today to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce air pollution will add up to a livable planet for our children and grandchildren.

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.

 

Creative Financing for Home Energy Efficiency – Save Now, Buy Later

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

“What is my pay-back?” is the question homeowners often ask when they are considering an investment in home energy improvements.  In the renewable energy community, we like to think that the real pay-back comes in the form of saving fossil fuel and improving the planet.  However, we know that financial considerations are most often the driver for these important homeowner investments.

Green Mountain Power’s recent announcement of their On-Bill Energy Improvement Loan program is a real boost for homeowner s seeking to improve their home’s energy efficiency while keeping their monthly budget intact.  This program allows homeowners to keep their average monthly electric and heating fuel payments stable while adding value to their homes with solar, thermal and energy efficiency improvements.

Unlike leasing, GMP’s program allows homeowners to benefit from federal and state tax credits and rebates.  Over the long run, this reduces the pay- back time for these improvements and also allows homeowners to build equity in their home.

The PACE Program (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is another attractive financing program for Vermont homeowners.  PACE finances energy efficient home improvements and links the payments (through property tax assessments) to the property rather than the homeowner.  This way, financing can be transferred to a new homeowner whether or not the assessment has been paid off.  This ensures that homeowners make an investment that will serve them in the short term and serve future residents of the home through lower energy bills and improved comfort.  PACE loans can also be paid off in full at any time.  Assessment payments for PACE financed improvements are repaid with low fixed payments for a period of up to 20 years.

Efficiency Vermont has more info and a list of towns in Vermont that are eligible for PACE financing.  Towns that adopt PACE financing options benefit from the improvement of the overall energy efficiency for the town’s housing stock while promoting local job growth in the energy efficiency sector.

Of course, traditional home equity loans are also a great resource for financing energy efficiency.  Many homeowners do the math on projected monthly energy savings vs. their monthly loan payments for the equity line and find themselves with positive cash flow right from the start.  Home equity loans have other advantages:  homeowners can include a variety of improvements that might not be approved by other energy-related programs, such as major appliance upgrades, window replacement and landscape improvements.  VSECU has an attractive range of home energy loan products .

No matter which way you slice it, lowering your heating fuel and/or electricity usage brings benefits to your home’s value, your bottom line and most importantly, the planet.  At the Energy Co-op of Vermont , we have a variety of programs and services that can help jump start your path towards an energy efficient home.  Call us today at (802) 860-4090 or send an email to info@ecvt.net.

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

© 2008–2017 Energy Co-op of Vermont, P.O. Box 111, Colchester VT 05446 | Tel: (802) 860-4090 - Toll Free: (866) 626-4328 - Fax: (802) 951-9157