No Cost/Low Cost Solutions
Energy conservation can begin at home. Small behavior changes and relatively inexpensive household upgrades can result in saving energy and money.
Manage use of appliances—Household appliances such as ovens and clothes dryers are significant sources of heat. Using heat-generating appliances during cooler hours decreases the need for air conditioning. Consider air-drying clothes and dishes during the summer months.
Efficient lighting—Incandescent lighting generates noticeable heat and uses significantly more electricity than compact fluorescent bulbs. Switching to a CFL light bulb will save you money all year long.
Home sealing and insulation—Adding insulation to your home and sealing to prevent leaks in ducts, windows, and doors reduces the amount of conditioned air that you “lose” to the outside environment.
Intelligent cooling—Heating and cooling accounts for approximately 45 percent of household energy use. Programmable thermostats save energy year-round by adjusting the temperature on a schedule. Studies show that using a programmable thermostat for your air conditioner can save you approximately $200 per year. Setting your air conditioner 5 degrees higher will save up to 20 percent on cooling costs. You can also reduce air conditioning costs by using fans, keeping windows and doors shut, and closing drapes, shades, and blinds during the day. Ceiling fans are very efficient, frequently using less energy than a light bulb.
Plant trees—Mature trees provide shading that can reduce air temperature by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Shrubs and small trees reduce heat absorption and provide a temperature buffer around a house.
Purchase efficient appliances—When upgrading appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR® label, which indicates up to 40 percent greater efficiency. Consider replacing old appliances before they break. Air conditioners that are more than 10 years old are only half as efficient as newer models.
Home Performance Upgrades
Energy efficiency is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. In order to maximize a home’s energy efficiency, the New York State Energy Research and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) helps fund home-specific retrofits. The Home Performance with Energy Star program is a residential energy audit program that allows homeowners to hire an independent contractor who provides a comprehensive assessment of the home. The auditors, who are certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), assess the heating and cooling systems of the home, as well as the building’s insulation and windows. The auditor provides a detailed report, that outlines suggested improvements
The report includes a cost estimate and approximate payback period for each improvement. After the audit is completed, the homeowner is eligible for either a 10 percent rebate of up to $3,000 for money that is spent out of pocket or can elect to take advantage of NYSERDA financing. There is also an income-eligible component to the program with cash incentives for those who qualify.
Green Jobs/Green New York
Last September, the New York State Senate passed the Green Jobs/Green New York bill. This program, which will take effect this fall, authorizes the creation of a $112 million revolving loan fund to finance eligible energy efficiency projects. This NYSERDA program will include energy audits and energy-efficiency retrofits for residential, small business, and not-for-profit property owners. The program will provide energy audits on a sliding scale. Middle-income applicants (earning less than twice the median county income) will be eligible for free audits.
After receiving an audit, homeowners will be eligible for funding for projects such as the repair and replacement of heating and cooling systems, water heaters, windows, appliances, light bulbs, health and safety improvements, and weatherization. Financing will take the form of loans. Residential customers will be able to borrow up to $13,000. Retrofits are expected to save between 30 and 40 percent of energy use, resulting in savings that are greater than the associated loan.
For more information about Home Performance with Energy Star and Green Jobs Green New York, please visit: getenergysmart.org and nyserda.org.