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Better Alternatives for Your $$$

half time report

Almost every home has some type of energy waste – energy that is being used when there are ways to pre­vent it. Whether the home­owner has unin­su­lated pipes or is using flu­o­res­cent light bulbs, the energy waste adds up, and that costs you — the res­i­dent — real cash.

You may be think­ing to your­self that your win­dows may not be as well-insulated as they could be. What you most likely don’t know is what impact that leak­age is hav­ing on your energy bill. Is it $2 per month, or $20 per month? And what’s your thresh­old for throw­ing cash away? Bet­ter yet, what’s your dis­com­fort thresh­old — are you tired of being chilly in your house even on the mildest days?

And now we inter­rupt this blog­cast for spe­cial half-time cov­er­age from our news desk:

The Howard County Home Energy Audit kicked off this past June with star play­ers on both teams. Since that time County con­trac­tors have com­pleted an amaz­ing 422 home energy audits for res­i­dents. These audits assess how much energy your home con­sumes and eval­u­ates what mea­sures you can take to make your home more energy effi­cient. Sound like a game win­ner? We think so.

Res­i­dents have pro­vided a lot of pos­i­tive feed­back regard­ing the audits, and many are tak­ing advan­tage of cur­rent home per­for­mance and energy effi­ciency rebates from the util­i­ties. Here’s what a few of our star play­ers have said about the audit game:

Kathy True: Thank you so much for your time. The report is very com­pre­hen­sive and easy to understand.

Nii and Theo J-Q: Thanks for the visit yes­ter­day and your very prompt report I received this after­noon. As with your audit, the report is very detailed and spe­cific; it’s going to help. My wife and I will pri­or­i­tize each and every oppor­tu­nity to upgrade the energy effi­ciency of our home. Some are quite sim­ple and can be done on our own and oth­ers, includ­ing pur­chase of appli­ances, will have to be per­formed by professionals.

The pro­gram is now in full swing, with approx­i­mately 90 audits awarded every week. This will con­tinue through the end of the year until the pro­gram total of 1,600 audits is met.

Once all of the audits have been com­pleted, the County will have a data­base of energy audit reports and stats which will pro­vide the ground­work for putting together a game plan of best prac­tices for rec­om­mended energy upgrades based on a wide vari­ety of hous­ing types.

Karen Tow­son of Colum­bia had one of the first home energy audits, and has since had seal­ing and insu­la­tion work done. Her pro­jected annual energy sav­ings of $350 was con­firmed upon test­ing of the work, with a sig­nif­i­cant decrease in the air leak­age in her home – and she is happy to be liv­ing more com­fort­ably as well!

Don’t just sit on the side­lines and watch it hap­pen – jump in the game! Enter the lot­tery by fill­ing out the appli­ca­tion pro­vided on the home energy audit page.

And now back to our reg­u­lar blogcast:

Here are some ideas for the cash you can save on your energy bills: a karaōke night out; buy­ing sports para­pher­na­lia; dying your hair green in the spirit of “Live Green;” tak­ing a jujitsu class; etc. Let us know what you’re going to do with the money you save!

Laura Miller
Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sustainability
Sep­tem­ber 2011

Where do you think it all comes from this powerful… Electricity, Electricity” – School House Rock

As you may remem­ber, last year we pub­lished a Howard County Cli­mate Action Plan which, among other things, had a com­pre­hen­sive green­house gas inven­tory which mea­sured the green­house gas emis­sions for our entire com­mu­nity. The inven­tory showed that the gas and elec­tric­ity res­i­dents use to power and heat/cool their homes cre­ates 1.1 mil­lion CO2e. Co2e is car­bon diox­ide equiv­a­lent. There are six green­house gasses each with a mea­sur­able effect. For con­sis­tency, we con­vert all of their effects into the equiv­a­lent co2 effect. For exam­ple, every met­ric ton of methane has a 25 met­ric ton co2 equiv­a­lent. That num­ber is over 25% of the County’s over­all “car­bon foot­print.”
With this in mind we cre­ated a free energy audit pro­gram for Howard County res­i­dents. I will start with a bit on why and what we hope to accom­plish then the logis­tics of how one applies and how we will select “win­ners”. So the first and most obvi­ous rea­son we cre­ated this pro­gram is because almost every home wastes energy. Out-dated appli­ances, no weather strip­ping, insuf­fi­cient insu­la­tion, leaky win­dows, the list is lit­er­ally end­less and we all have some­thing. The biggest bar­rier to home­own­ers mak­ing deci­sions to improve effi­ciency is knowl­edge. When one learns where the inef­fi­cien­cies are in his/her home and how quickly one he/she can “earn back” the money invested in upgrades many peo­ple go ahead and make the upgrades. This will improve the monthly expense for liv­ing here, improve com­fort, and reduce the County’s foot­print.
More impor­tantly to us, how­ever, is that we will be doing close to 1,700 audits through­out Howard County. When we are done we will have a com­pre­hen­sive cross sec­tion of every type of home in Howard County (more on how we will be mak­ing sure of that in a moment). So we will be able to develop fact­sheets and in the future you could say to us:
“I live in a town­house in Elkridge built in the 90’s” and we could say “we did 30 audits of homes like yours and the top three things they could do were x,y, and z. It cost about x and they got a y return on their investment.”

We will be select­ing “win­ners” through a lot­tery sys­tem but please don’t get too caught up in the word lot­tery. We will be tak­ing a “strat­i­fied sam­ple”. As peo­ple apply, their homes will be put into “buck­ets” (excuse the tech­ni­cal term). Buck­ets will con­sist of homes from like geog­ra­phy first (ele­men­tary school dis­trict) age of home, type of home, build­ing mate­r­ial, and size of home. We already have the sta­tis­tics on what the entirety of the hous­ing stock is for Howard County and we will pick ran­domly (com­puter gen­er­ated ran­dom num­bers to guar­an­tee “ran­dom­ness”) a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple for every bucket. One last thing, par­tic­i­pants must agree to some con­di­tions. First and fore­most, you must under­stand that the County owns the audit report. You, of course, will get the report and hope­fully imple­ment the find­ings, but it is our inten­tion to use the reports for edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties and while we will pro­tect your spe­cific name and address, we will likely be let­ting your neigh­bors know what the audi­tors found. Sec­ondly, once you are selected, you have 48 hours to get energy data for the last 12 months in your home. This is rel­a­tively easy to do – if you are in BGE’s area just go to their web­site, get an online account and you can get the energy data to enter into our sys­tem. To those of you apply­ing for an audit … good luck. The audits are free; it could save you money and help the envi­ron­ment. To find out about apply­ing, here’s the link.

JD Feld­mark

June 2011

Green Tip

Turn off water while brushingTurning off the water between rinses can save at least two gallons in one brushing session.