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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

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