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Posts Tagged ‘home energy savings Vermont’

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.

Why should home heating fuel dealers help homeowners use less fuel?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

As homeowners embrace energy efficiency and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels for heating their homes, heating fuel dealers have an opportunity to move to a new, more profitable business model . This new model is designed to  offset lower heating fuel revenues by offering new efficiency services and products.

According to statistics compiled by the Thermal Efficiency Task Force , heating oil usage in the average Vermont home has declined from a high of 1,400 gallons per year in 1973 to a low of 764 gallons per year in 2011.  We see a similar trend with Energy Co-op members. After allowing for changes in winter weather, our members and customers have cut their oil use by an average 23% over the past 13 years.  Good for the planet, not necessarily good for business.

What are the key steps that fuel dealers must take to capture the opportunity within this shrinking market? The new model builds on the trust that fuel dealers have established by providing their customers with reliable fuel deliveries and 24/7 service for their heating equipment. This gives fuel dealers a competitive advantage for offering new services, provided some key strategies are in place:

Partnerships are key

The Vermont Public Service Department has supported the creation of the Efficiency Excellence Network (EEN) which encourages strategic partnerships between members of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, Efficiency Vermont, and Home Performance Contractors. The Efficiency Excellence Network is designed to encourage fuel dealers and home performance contractors to work together to promote energy efficient equipment, energy audits and home energy upgrades.

As a founding member of EEN, the Energy Co-op now partners with several home performance contractors to make efficiency improvements in members’ homes.

To promote these partnerships, the Vermont Public Service Department worked with CEDF (Clean Energy Development Fund) and VLITE (Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity) to create the Heat Savers program to provide funds to support up to $7 million in low-interest financing of clean energy measures. The Heat savers program is available only to EEN members working with Opportunities Credit Union and VSECU to offer attractive loans to their customers.

Opportunities and challenges for the new fuel dealer business model. 

Changing consumer behavior is never an easy task. Neither is it easy to change the way fuel dealers do business. But both are critically important to grow the home performance and energy efficiency sectors of the Vermont economy and cut our carbon emissions.

Fuel dealers must find innovative ways to expand their offerings in a wider competitive environment that includes electricians and HVAC contractors.

According to the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, only 28 of the 47 home heating fuel dealers within a 50 mile radius of Burlington offer heating system service and installation. This is clearly points to the opportunity for expansion.

Roadmap to new business model

We are fortunate that Vermont’s policies and programs provide support to utilities and fuel dealers that want to innovate. To capture new business opportunities fuel dealers should:

  • Create or build service departments that serve as a resource (consultant/coach) for questions about heating system efficiency. Be sure that the people staffing this department are not just reacting to problems, but are also recommending pro-active solutions.
  • Use National Oil Heat Research Association (NORA) certification to support service technician training and build consumer confidence.
  • Create working partnerships to finance and install energy efficiency improvements. For example, the Energy Co-op of Vermont has completed 40 energy audits since the spring, resulting in home energy upgrades for 17 customers. It’s a modest but important beginning.
  • Offer high-value incremental services such as heat pump installations, BioHeat deliveries, pellet heating equipment, solar hot water heaters, and other clean technologies.
  • Provide easy-to-access information (across multiple communication channels) for turn-key financing options, rebates and incentives.

The Energy Co-op of Vermont has embraced many aspects of this new business model since its founding in 2001, combining our role as a fuel supplier with a sustained campaign to educate our members and build their understanding of the value of all kinds of energy efficiency services. We realize that the ability to offer effective, comprehensive solutions will depend on maintaining strong partnerships, providing great service and continuing to earn the trust and confidence of our members.

 

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.

Home grown heating – why wood pellets beat fossil fuels

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

At the Energy Co-op of Vermont, we are encouraged to see the recent positive trend in the use of wood pellets for heating fuel.  Across the country, there are a wide variety of incentives, rebates and initiatives feeding this trend.  In a rural state like Vermont, where the price volatility of traditional heating fuels like oil and propane can be a real hardship for homeowners , this “home grown” solution is particularly appealing.

Many states are awakening to the benefits of wood pellets, not only for cost savings vs. fossil fuels, but also for lower emission ratings.  Says John Ackerly of the Alliance for Green Heat during an August 6th Biomass Thermal Energy Council webinar, “Residential wood heat has risen dramatically in recent years, especially in Northeast and Great Lakes states, in some cases, by 100 percent… incentive programs are guiding consumer purchasing and steering people to cleaner and more efficient appliances.”  Ackerly added that he sees programs requiring professional installations and home energy audits as additional new trends.

The “secret sauce” of wood pellets is made with ground wood, waste wood, paper, bark and other combustibles and turned  into bullet‐sized pellets that are uniform in size, shape, moisture, density and energy content.  Here’s how the Pellet Fuel Institute describes the benefits of wood pellets:

  • Moisture content of pellets is substantially lower (4% to 8% water, compared to 20% to 60% for cordwood or chips), increasing burn efficiency and allowing for more fuel to be transported in a given truck space, and more energy stored at your home.
  • The density of pellet fuel is substantially higher than cordwood (40 lbs. per cubic foot vs. 23 lbs. for cordwood).
  • Uniform shape and size allows for a smaller and simpler conveying system that reduces costs compared with fossil fuels?
  • Pellet burners feature the lowest particulate matter emissions of all solid fuel burners, and since pellets burn so efficiently (system efficiency averages 80 percent), emissions from pellet burners meet even the most stringent EPA requirements.
  • Once the ash is emptied periodically, it can actually double as a fertilizer.

There are some incentives available to assist Vermonters who are interested in transitioning to wood pellet boilers.  Efficiency Vermont currently has a pellet boiler incentive program which offers rebates to qualifying homeowners who want to replace their oil or propane furnace with a pellet boiler.

In some cases, the transition can be very simple.  Pellergy is able to replace your old oil burner with a new wood pellet burner simply by screwing and unscrewing about six bolts.  In other instances, old oil and propane boilers are replaced by new pellet boilers, like those that Pellergy offers .

There are a lot of good reasons to switch to wood pellet heating systems. Wood pellets can be locally sourced, and are clean-burning, stably priced, and abundant.  Furthermore, if you switch from fossil fuels to wood pellets you can cut your fuel bills by 25% or more every year!

At the Energy Co-op of Vermont, we have been delivering wood pellets to our customers since 2008.  We are proud to feature premium pellets from Vermont Wood Pellet Company which burn hotter and create less ash than other pellets.  The Co-op  is also the only wood pellet provider in Vermont that offers an EASY PAY (replace with Easy Pay) budget payment plan so that our members can spread the cost of their pellet purchases over ten months of the year.

Interested?  Just stop by the Energy Co-op’s office to learn more about our delivery program and pick up your free bag of wood pellets.

 

 

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.

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

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