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.