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Posts Tagged ‘saving energy vermont’

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.

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!

 

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.

Energy Co-op Receives Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for Co-op Solar Program

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The Energy Co-op of Vermont’s Co-op Solar hot water heating program has received the Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for it’s contributions to protecting the environment, conserving energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The Vermont Governor’s Awards were established in 1993 to “recognize the actions taken by Vermonters to conserve and protect natural resources, prevent pollution, and promote environmental sustainability.”  In 2012, the innovative solar program led to the installation of over 40 solar hot water systems in Chittenden County, keeping an estimated 70,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and saving Vermonters approximately $500,000 over the lifetime of the systems.

Energy Co-op General Manager John Quinney and Program Coordinator Ben Griffin accepted the award on behalf of the Vermont residents, business owners and partners who participated in the 2012 program.  Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, presented the award at UVM’s Davis Center on Tuesday evening, May 14th saying, “The Co-op Solar program was designed to make solar simple and affordable by forming strategic partnerships, negotiating volume discounts, and providing cost-effective financing to reduce the overall cost.  Others are now using this model to promote solar installations around the state.”

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

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