RACHEL DICKERSON LONG SUSPECTED SOMETHING WAS NOT QUITE RIGHT with her recently built Lancaster house. Comfort levels inside the home she shares with her husband Jimmy, son Rick, daughter Emily, and 5-month-old granddaughter Cadence were chronically inconsistent, and energy bills were high.
“We were always hot in the summertime and cold in the winter,” Dickerson says. The contractor who originally installed the system serviced it several times, insisting that nothing was wrong. Dickerson found a new contractor, who began trying to patch up her existing HVAC system.
But when another $600 electric bill arrived last January, Dickerson decided it was time to reach out to specialists at her local energy co-op for help.
After a call to Inter-County Energy Cooperative’s Dan Hitchcock, assistant Customer Service manager, who verified Dickerson’s energy usage, he suggested that she work with her new contractor to determine the actual cause.
Dickerson had a blower door test and an infrared scan to identify air leaks, and the contractor examined her HVAC system and its installation. Among other problems, he discovered that unsealed ductwork was allowing outside air to infiltrate the house, and some parts of the HVAC system had been installed incorrectly. In the end, he discovered that the 2-1/2-ton HVAC system installed by the home’s builder was too small to effectively heat and cool its 2,400-square-foot space.
Dickerson later replaced the HVAC equipment with a larger 4-ton system and made sure ducts and all other air infiltration locations were sealed and ducts enlarged where appropriate. Her energy costs have gone down and they are a lot more comfortable, but the true test will come when she receives her energy bills this winter.
“I wish I had known to do this sooner,” she says. “I could have saved a lot of money.”
According to Hitchcock, Dickerson’s story is not unusual.
“Most people do not think about making energy-efficiency changes to their homes until they realize they’re paying more for electricity,” he says. “Then they start looking for ways to save.”
There are many ways owners can make their homes more energy efficient, he says, and to save energy and spend less cash on energy bills as well.
Check out the top 10 ways homeowners can save energy and spend less cash on energy bills, too.
TOP 10 WAYS TO SAVE ENERGY
There are hundreds of energy-saving ideas, but we believe these are the top 10 ways to save energy. Tackle them in this order for the best return on investment:
1. CONTACT YOUR ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE Discuss your specific house situation and questions on
improving energy efficiency.
2. CFL LIGHT BULBS Replace existing light bulbs with CFLs to save 75 percent on lighting costs.
3. WEATHERIZATION Seal holes and leaks. Use weatherstripping/gaskets around doors. Add insulation in the attic. You should have 1 foot of insulation. Plastic over windows in the winter is a good temporary fix and will save on energy bills. There are people who can analyze your home, then weatherize and seal leaks and ducts if it is something you cannot do.
4. APPLIANCES Replace older refrigerators/freezers first, then dishwashers. Find out how much that old, second fridge is costing you.
5. WATER SAVINGS Insulate your electric water heater by adding an insulating jacket to the outside to save more than $30 a year. (A covering for a gas water heater requires a special design.) Change over to low-flow showerheads and faucets.
6. PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT The average U.S. family saves about $180 a year using a programmable thermostat. But it will only save you money if you learn how to properly program it; otherwise, it could cost you money.
7. HVAC SYSTEM If your unit is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable, it is a good time for an HVAC professional to evaluate it. Weatherize and seal first, then perform a Manual J calculation to determine the size needed. Buy an ENERGY STAR model at minimum.
8. WATER HEATER Replace your old water heater with a high-efficiency one.
9. WINDOWS Unless your windows have severe leaks, they may not be your source of excessive energy usage. Windows add value to the house and improve comfort and functionality, but the payback for energy savings could be long.
10. ALL OTHER APPLIANCES Analyze the energy efficiency of other appliances in your home.
1. WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
So how can homeowners locate reputable contractors qualified to perform energy-related improvements to their homes?
Your local electric co-op is the best place to start if you are having problems or thinking about making major changes that will affect your energy bill.
Co-ops cannot recommend contractors, but they may be able to provide a list of contractors within their service areas, analyze your energy usage, as well as point you in the right direction.
Rachel Dickerson has some definite opinions about how to identify qualified, experienced contractors to install HVAC equipment or perform other improvements. That’s because it took Dickerson several attempts to find a contractor who was able to properly install and service the heating and air-conditioning systems in her home.
She recommends that homeowners interview more than one contractor, ask for written cost and work completion estimates, and a list of previous customers.
“You definitely have to talk to other people the contractor has worked for,” Dickerson says.
Dickerson also advises homeowners to ask contractors’ previous clients whether they have been satisfied with the product or the service. Then she says they should ask an even more telling question.
“You have to ask people if they would hire this contractor again,” she says. “You’ll be surprised at some of the answers you’ll get.”
Says Russ Pogue, manager of Marketing and Member Relations at Big Rivers Electric Corporation in Henderson, “Use an HVAC professional who will perform a Manual J or heat loss/heat gain calculation, and if you are not sure how to interpret the results (the numbers can easily be skewed or misinterpreted), contact your electric co-op for assistance.”
Professional associations are another good source for locating local contractors. Homeowners seeking contractors for plumbing, heating, and cooling can contact the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors at www.phccweb.org. Click on “Find a Contractor” for a listing of member contractors near you. You will also find “How to Hire a Contractor” under the same tab. Or go to www.energystar.gov and search for “Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor” for 10 tips.
2. ILLUMINATING CFL FACTS
Many energy-conscious consumers already know they can reduce energy consumption and save cash simply by replacing standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs in lighting fixtures throughout their homes.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, consumers can save as much as $30 in energy costs over the lifetime of a single CFL bulb. At the same time, CFLs use 75 percent less electricity than standard incandescent light bulbs, and generally last approximately 10 times longer.
How CFLs differ from standard incandescent light bulbs, why they are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and how they are best used still remain mysteries to some.
Jim Crowcroft, vice president of Marketing for TCP Inc., an Aurora, Ohio-based CFL manufacturer, sheds light on those and other CFL subjects.
How do the differences between CFLs and standard incandescent bulbs create energy savings?
The CFL’s fluorescent design uses less energy to achieve the same lumens—the measure of light output—as standard incandescent bulbs. A 100-watt standard incandescent bulb produces about 1,600 lumens. The best incandescent bulbs are rated to last 1,000 hours. A 23-watt CFL is comparable to a 100-watt standard incandescent bulb in terms of the light it produces. However, the typical CFL is rated to last 8,000 to 10,000 hours, and uses one-third to one-fourth the energy to produce the same amount of light.
But don’t CFLs cost more to purchase than standard incandescent bulbs?
They do. A standard 100-watt incandescent light bulb costs about 50 cents. A comparable 23-watt CFL costs between $1 and $1.50.
So where are the savings?
Lighting represents about 20 percent of a household’s electrical usage. To calculate savings, we typically assume there are 40 lamps per household. Of those, some will be specialized fixtures for which CFLs are incompatible.
If CFLs replace incandescent bulbs in three-quarters of those fixtures, the savings will be between two-thirds and three-quarters of energy off the electric meter. The payback for the price differential between CFLs and standard incandescent bulbs is three to four months. At the same time, CFLs generally last five to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs do.
If a 60-watt incandescent bulb is used in a light fixture, which wattage CFL should be used to replace it?
A 13- or 14-watt CFL provides illumination comparable to a 60-watt standard incandescent bulb. As a general rule, wattage is roughly 3 or 4 to 1. CFL packages are labeled with wattage comparisons to help consumers purchase CFLs to replace standard incandescent bulbs.
In choosing CFLs to replace standard incandescents, consumers should also consider where the lamp or light fixture is located. CFLs are manufactured in various light spectrum categories: cool light, soft white, and sunlight. This allows consumers to choose a CFL appropriate to room use. For example, sunlight may be best for a basement or other space where a lot of light is desired. Cool light is best for home offices, and soft white for living rooms, dining rooms, and other residential spaces.
Why do CFLs require special disposal handling?
CFLs contain less than 1.5 milligrams of amalgam mercury. That’s less than the tip of a pencil. The mercury is in a solid state until the cathode heats it up to a vapor. As soon as the electricity to the CFL is turned off, the mercury returns to a solid state. The small amount of mercury contained in CFLs requires special disposal handling, especially if a bulb breaks.
When CFLs fail too soon
Occasionally CFLs do fail. Buying good-quality bulbs will improve the odds.
When an ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL fails before package labeling indicates it should, return the CFL to the retailer where you purchased it for a refund or replacement according to store policy.
Write the date you installed it on the base of the bulb and keep your original receipt (store with spare CFL bulbs for easy reference). If a bulb burns out, check the manufacturer rating and if you get less than one-fourth the rated time, it is worth the effort to return it.
If you don’t have a receipt, go to more Kentucky Living 2010 Energy Guide, WHEN CFLs FAIL, for more information.
Whenever possible, we recommend you recycle CFLs instead of sending them to a landfill.
• Many retailers who sell CFLs offer free CFL recycling, including The Home Depot.
• Some local electric cooperatives offer free CFL recycling.
• Go to www.waste.ky.gov and type “Solid Waste Coordinators” in the search box for a list of contacts by county.
• Refuse collection companies in most Kentucky communities can also recommend CFL recycling stations. Call your local company for suggestions.
• Waste Management offers online help at www.thinkgreenfromhome.com or call (866) 699-6466 for details.
• Go online to www.earth911.com and type “CFL” in the “Find recycling centers for” box, then enter your zip code for a list of recyclers in your area.
Clean up broken CFLs safely
Be sure and follow the instructions for the safe cleanup of broken CFL bulbs as given by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Go to more Kentucky Living 2010 Energy Guide, CLEAN UP BROKEN CFLs SAFELY for details.
Indoor comfort, not utility savings, prompted Jay Nolan to add insulation to noninsulated and underinsulated spaces in his 11-year-old East Bernstadt home following an energy audit performed by experts from Jackson Energy Cooperative in McKee.
The audit revealed several air leaks throughout the home Nolan shares with his wife Claudia, daughter Nicole, and son James Andrew. It also identified spaces within the house where insulation was either inadequate or nonexistent.
“Every morning, I’d walk into the bathroom and the floor was ice-cold,” Nolan says. “The auditors found that there was no insulation above the shower. Also, the garage door was not insulated. Now it is. And I had an outside basement door that didn’t have weatherstripping. Now it does.”
(Note that 99 percent of garages are not heated and cooled, so it is not necessary to insulate the outside garage door unless you have a conditioned space.)
All told, Nolan spent $1,000 on changes, which have added up to the comfortable environment he envisioned for his home.
Energy experts suggest two major causes of energy loss in homes is due to poorly sealed and insulated attics, specifically the knee wall (any wall in the living space that backs up to the attic) and the attic hatch. Taking simple steps to insulate these areas can bring you big savings and comfort. To learn more, go online to www.simplesavings.coop, click on Simple Savings Information Bulletins/Residential for files and videos on weatherization and other ways to save energy.
Create a barrier
Applying proper and adequate insulation to attics and other spaces where air leaks may lurk continues to be a first line of defense against home energy loss. Radiant barrier materials are also joining the fight against high home-energy costs.
Radiant barriers are thin sheets of highly reflective material, usually aluminum, applied to one or both sides of another material such as plastic film. Radiant barriers work to diminish heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter because they deflect heat transfer rather than absorb it as conventional insulation does.
In most applications, they are put down under the shingles; they can also be put under the roof inside the attic.
Barriers can be placed over existing shingles when homeowners replace roofs of their existing homes, says Chris Church, general manager for Meridian Metal Roofing in Lexington. In new construction, the barrier is placed on roof decking before the roofing is applied.
In homes where roofing is not being replaced, radiant materials may be installed at the bottom of attic truss chords or rafters.
The cost of radiant barrier material and installation is typically included when doing a roof replacement, Church says. The cost for professional retrofit radiant barrier, including labor and materials, is $2,500. Depending on conditions that existed previously, this can result in significant savings.
“The beauty is that you install a barrier once: it’s a lifetime product,” Church says.
Do-it-yourselfers can also purchase radiant barrier material online or from home improvement retailers. Costs vary.
Find out why cellulose is recommended for the do-it-yourselfer and learn about other types of insulation. Go to more 2010 Energy Guide. Find an Energy Checkup at KentuckyLiving.com. Type “2009 Energy Guide” in the Article Search box to download it.
For most Kentuckians, purchasing a home is the largest investment they will ever make. So it makes sense that making home improvements not only enhances quality of life for owners and their families, but also increases the home’s quality as well. With energy costs on many homeowners’ minds, the Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) is not only encouraging homeowners to make energy-wise improvements, it is lending a hand as well.
The agency’s Kentucky Home Performance Program is designed to help homeowners make necessary energy-saving improvements by providing customized energy audits, lists of whole-house certified KHP auditors and contractors on their Web site, and grant and loan opportunities to pay for improvements. Anyone in Kentucky can apply; there are no income requirements.
The agency offers homeowners a total of $350 to cover part of pre- and post-improvement audit costs and rebates of 20 percent ($1 for every $5 spent) on making recommended improvements up to $2,000 in total rebates. The program also offers a low-cost home improvement loan program for owners who qualify.
According to manager Andrew Isaacs, the Kentucky Home Performance Program is aimed at homeowners who are interested in increasing energy efficiency and adding “green” improvements to their homes. It is also aimed at helping people who need financial assistance to replace a heat pump or other critical household equipment.
“As a long-term investment, a home is the largest investment a family will ever make,” says Isaacs. “Making home repairs or energy-efficiency improvements should help protect that long-term investment, maximize efficiencies, and increase comfort.”
Go online to www.kyhomeperformance.org or call (800) 633-8896 to learn more about this program or the Weatherization Assistance Program, which is for low-income individuals and others who qualify for energy-efficiency help.
The appliances you should consider replacing are refrigerators/freezers first, then dishwashers.
An average ENERGY STAR refrigerator costs $30 more than the comparable standard efficiency refrigerator.
For a high-efficiency dishwasher, you can expect to pay only $12 more for an ENERGY STAR model over a low-efficiency dishwasher. The high-efficiency models save a tremendous amount of money by saving water and energy.
As a rule of thumb, if your refrigerator or dishwasher is more than 10 years old, you are usually justified in replacing it for better energy savings. Replacing an older refrigerator could save you about half the energy cost to run it.
Better yet, consider getting rid of that old, second refrigerator for a lot more savings. You could save $170 over five years. Go to more 2010 Energy Guide for “The real cost of that old fridge.”
What’s the payback
Reducing the cost of energy bills is a prime motivator when it comes to making energy-related home investments. Some of those savings can be realized within as little as a month. And, as energy costs rise, those savings can continue over time.
But there’s another benefit derived from energy-saving improvements. In fact, putting money into energy-related home improvements can be better than putting cash in the bank.
* If $2,000 is spent on energy-related improvements and
* Savings total $200 in one year
* The savings represent a 10 percent return on the investment.
That’s 8.7 percent higher than the 1.30 percent savings account interest rate offered by some banks.
5. WATER SAVINGS
Want to save 4%-9% in water heating costs?
According to the EnergySavers.gov Web site, you can reduce standby heat losses by 25%-45% by wrapping your electric water heater in an insulating jacket.
This is recommended for older water heaters with less than an R-24 insulation value. Unsure of your tank’s R-value? If it’s warm to the touch, it could benefit from additional insulation.
If your showerheads and faucets are older, you can save money on water by replacing them with low-flow versions. Aerators for faucets are inexpensive to replace and are one of the most cost-effective water savings measures. Consider replacing showerheads if they pre-date 1992, which had flow rates of 5.5 gpm.
New kitchen faucets come equipped with aerators that restrict flow rates to 2.2 gpm, while new bathroom faucets have ones that restrict flow rates from 1.5 to 0.5 gpm, says EnergySavers.gov. They recommend for maximum water efficiency you purchase aerators that have flow rates of no more than 1.0 gpm, and select showerheads with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm.
Don’t forget to fix dripping faucets, which can add up quickly in savings.
6. PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTATS
The average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills—more than half of which goes to heating and cooling. Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.
Spend some time with the manual to understand how to program it. Otherwise, a regular thermostat will be more cost-efficient for you. Consider having an HVAC professional install your programmable thermostat.
For people with heat pump thermostats, you should set it at a moderate temperature at the beginning of each season and leave it there. If you change these types of thermostats up and down constantly, particularly in the winter, it kicks on the system’s more expensive auxiliary heat.
7. HVAC SYSTEM
Heating and cooling represent about 56 percent of household energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So if a Kentucky family used 2,200 kWh in one month, and heating or cooling consumed 56 percent or 1,232 of those total kilowatt-hours, at Kentucky’s average per-kilowatt-hour rate of $0.0763, heating or cooling costs accounted for $94 of that month’s total energy bill of $167.86.
The remaining 968 kWh used for cooking, bathing, household appliances, and operating TVs and other electronic equipment represents a cost of $73.86 of the total bill. That’s why it’s important that homeowners choose a system that makes the most of their energy dollars.
Saving money on energy bills is important to Chilton Neal Jr. So when his utility costs began to rise, he sought Jackson Energy Cooperative energy advisor Roger Medlock’s energy-saving advice.
Medlock suggested that Neal replace his home’s electric baseboard heating system for a more modern, efficient system. Last November, Neal took the advice and installed a geothermal system to heat and cool his Estill County home. Since then, he and his wife, Carol Faye, have been reaping multiple benefits from the investment.
Remember to always weatherize or seal your home first, then get a Manual J analysis to ensure proper sizing when replacing your HVAC system.
The system cost the couple around $9,000, Neal says, for equipment and installation. But between November 2009 and June 2010, the Neals have seen savings of more than $600 on their utility bills. “When you’re on a fixed income, you notice things like that,” Neal says.
At the same time, the couple has noticed that the system has increased the comfort level in their home by delivering more consistent heat and cooling. “My wife, Carol Faye, was always warm, but I’m always cold,” he says. “Now we’re both more comfortable.”
Neal has other reasons for liking his geothermal system, including the fact that it conserves energy, is more efficient, and uses the earth to keep them warm in winter and cool in summer. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t use what God gave us,” Neal says. “It’s a blessing.”
What size HVAC do I need?
“More commonly in the industry, we find that HVAC systems are oversized in homes, but being either too large or too small can result in being uncomfortable and/or higher bills,” says Pogue.
“The emphasis should be on properly sizing the unit for the house. Always make sure your HVAC professional does a heat loss/heat gain calculation when installing new equipment. The unit cannot be sized based on a general guideline of square footage alone.”
This calculation is often called a “Manual J” residential load calculation. To read more about it, go to More energy saving tips.
Pogue says it is critical to weatherize and seal your house, ductwork, and add insulation prior to planning a new HVAC installation, as this will affect the size and cost of the unit your house will ultimately require based on the calculation. “You could save substantial money on both the unit as well as future energy costs if you weatherize and seal your house before installing a new unit,” says Pogue. However, if your unit goes out, you may not have the option of doing the work in advance.
Once you receive your Manual J calculation, do not hesitate to contact your electric cooperative’s Member Services department to help you interpret the report.
8. WATER HEATER
A water heater lasts on average 10-15 years. If yours is more than 10 years old, don’t get caught with the mess when it fails. Consider replacing it now and your energy savings begin right away. Buy the highest electric Energy Factor (EF) water heater you can find. Incremental cost isn’t that high, and the dollar savings benefits are continuous. Don’t forget to insulate it, then turn the thermostat down to 120°.
They are a very visible part of your home and will increase the value of the house if you replace windows. They will also give you better comfort and function. However, new windows will not do as much for your energy savings as other projects, and may take several years to pay back your investment in energy dollars alone.
According to the EnergySavers.gov Web site, homeowners in the eastern south-central region of the country—which includes Kentucky—can save between $126 and $465 annually by replacing single-pane windows. For example, installing the cheapest ENERGY STAR low-emissive window at $300 per window for 10 windows at a cost of $3,000: payback would be in 23 years at $126 savings a year or as little as 6-1/2 years at $465 savings a year.
First-time homeowners Becca and Jarrod Richardson of Grayson knew the outdated single-pane windows in their home were responsible for significant heat loss in winter. The couple had planned to replace them with double-pane low-E energy-efficient windows, so they were delighted when Jarrod’s dad, Ron Richardson, did it for them, as a gift. Becca says the gift continues to pay dividends.
The Richardsons’ window replacements contributed to energy savings and lower electric bills as well as increasing their home’s comfort. That’s why window replacement should be a consideration on a homeowner’s list of energy-saving improvements.
10. ALL OTHER APPLIANCES
Do an analysis to find out how much energy other appliances are using compared to new models, and determine if you should replace any based on the energy savings. Consult the energy guide in your owner’s manual for energy usage. Make sure to replace them with ENERGY STAR energy-efficient models.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve completed the Top 10 Steps to Saving Energy. By now you’ve probably noticed a definite savings on your energy bill.
TAX CREDIT, TAX DEDUCTION, REBATE?
The federal tax credit, up to $1,500 for certain energy-efficient items, expires December 31, 2010, so you need to purchase and install quickly if you plan to take advantage of it.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was some energy-conscious consumers’ first introduction to the concepts of tax credits, tax deductions, and rebates. That’s because the legislation established rebate programs designed to help consumers make major appliance choices, and established tax credits to encourage owners to make other purchases useful in making their homes more energy efficient.
But understanding the difference between tax deductions and tax credits can be confusing.
Here’s the difference:
TAX CREDITS are dollar-for-dollar reductions of the amount of money individuals pay for their income taxes. The government uses tax credits to reward taxpayers for taking desired action, such as adding insulation or replacing inefficient HVAC equipment to save energy. For example, if a person spends $1,000 in improvements that qualify for a 30 percent tax credit, they would receive a $300 reduction in their income taxes. If that person owed $2,000 in income taxes, they can deduct the $300 from their income taxes, reducing the amount of tax they owe to $1,700. People who do not pay income taxes do not benefit from federal tax credit programs.
Income tax-paying homeowners who purchase and install energy-saving items such as HVAC, insulation, metal and asphalt roofs, nonsolar water heaters, windows, and doors for their primary residences during 2009 and by December 31, 2010, may qualify for tax credits of 30 percent of costs up to $1,500.
For example, homeowners may spend up to $5,000 on one single item or several energy-saving items put into service in their primary residences during the two-year period of 2009 and 2010, and receive 30 percent of the $5,000, or $1,500, as a tax credit. Homeowners can take the entire tax credit during a single tax year, or divide it between the two tax years.
For example, if a homeowner spent $2,500 on improvements placed in service in 2009 and received a 30 percent tax credit of $750 for 2009, he or she could spend another $2,500 on improvements and receive another tax credit for $750, reaching the maximum tax credit of $1,500 for the two-year period.
Tax credits for products placed in service in 2009 would be applied to 2009 taxes that were payable on April 15, 2010. Tax credits on products placed in service in 2010 would be applied to 2010 taxes payable on April 15, 2011. However, homeowners who took the full $1,500 tax credit in 2009 would receive no tax credit for 2010.
Homeowners who purchase geothermal heat pumps, residential small wind turbine systems, and solar energy systems for primary residences and second homes by December 31, 2016, may qualify for tax credits of 30 percent of costs.
Go online to www.energystar.gov and type “Federal Tax Credits” in the search box to learn more about energy-related tax credits.
TAX DEDUCTIONS are expenses such as state or local taxes that can be deducted from a person’s adjusted gross income to reduce the amount of income taxes they owe.
REBATES are direct payments made to you after a purchase and are not connected in any way to your taxes.
The Tax Incentives Assistance Project (TIAP) offers help for consumers interested in participating in energy incentive programs. Sponsored by a coalition of public interest nonprofit groups, government agencies, and other organizations in the energy-efficiency industry, TIAP gives homeowners and business operators information necessary to make use of federal income tax incentives contained in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and its amendments. The act established incentives for energy-efficient products and technologies.
Go online to www.energytaxincentives.org to learn more.
Find incentives online
Homeowners seeking incentives for adding energy-efficient equipment, insulation, and other energy-saving household upgrades can find them as close as their local electric cooperative. Several co-ops offer everything from utility rebate programs to special loan opportunities for customers who make their homes more energy efficient.
Homeowners can call their local co-op to learn about specific incentives offered in their service areas. They can also view incentive programs offered by Kentucky energy co-ops by visiting www.dsireusa.org. Locate the U.S. map on the site’s home page and click on Kentucky. A list of incentives and assistance programs will follow. The site also offers information about obtaining personal tax credits connected with energy-focused home improvements.
BONUS: MORE WAYS TO SAVE
Look up for more savings
Grayson resident Alice Book knew the 100-year-old house she purchased was in need of a new roof. So when the time came, she replaced the old metal roof with a new one of similar material.
“There’s a reason old-time Kentuckians put metal roofs on their houses,” Book says. “It’s an energy-saving thing.”
In fact, now that homeowners are more conscious about their energy use and the bills connected to it, metal roofing material is enjoying new popularity. That’s because metal roofing—which can be made from steel, copper, or aluminum—has a low heat absorption rate.
That means metal roofing materials deflect the sun’s rays away from the roof top, lowering roof temperatures significantly and helping to keep inside spaces cooler in summer. And the cooler those spaces, the less air-conditioning systems must work to maintain desired indoor temperatures. Ask your contractor for the reflectivity rating of the material before you make your choice.
Combined with adequate and appropriately installed insulation in attic spaces, the reflectivity factor can help reduce the amount of air conditioning during peak periods by between 10 and 15 percent (compared to a poorly insulated attic). The reduction can mean lower summer energy costs, too.
On the decorative side, manufacturers are now producing metal roofing that mimics a variety of other materials, including granite, slate, tile, and wood.
When Alice Book began renovations on her 100-year-old house, she never imagined that her local electric co-op would help out with the project. But right about the time Book’s contractor had removed the home’s century-old wood siding and was ready to re-insulate the entire building, she learned about Grayson Rural Electric Co-op’s Button Up program.
The Button Up program pays Grayson RECC members up to $400 for insulation upgrades—primarily insulation, windows, and doors—that homeowners make to reduce their residential energy usage. To qualify, a home must be at least two years old and use electricity as the primary heat source. At 100 years old and electrically heated, Book’s home was well within the program’s qualification guidelines. The incentive covered half of Book’s $800 insulation costs.
“I applied for the program, bought the insulation, and had it installed,” she says. “After co-op personnel inspected what we had done, I received the payment.”
She received something else, too. One day while leaving the co-op office, a customer service agent handed her a case of caulk.
“It was extremely helpful because while we had the siding off we caulked every joint or other place air could infiltrate the house,” she says.
All told, Book says she’s already seen 50 percent savings on her electric bill simply from applying insulation and caulking ductwork joints, seams, joints between duct sections, air handler supply plenums, flexible duct connections, and around windows and doors.
For more information about the Button Up program and other Grayson RECC incentives for their members, visit www.graysonrecc.com.
Be sure to talk to your local electric co-op before doing anything. Some will have different incentives and programs to help you.
Before you build a new home, consider building an ENERGY STAR or Touchstone Energy home. Call your local electric co-op for incentives and suggestions for how to build a house that will use 20-30 percent less energy.
Most homeowners reach out to experts for energy-saving advice when their electric bills rise sharply, says Dan Hitchcock. Some act quickly to make at least some of the changes their electric co-op specialists recommend.
Others lose interest in making additional energy-saving changes when they see their energy costs decline.
“When we follow up with some people and ask if they did the things we recommended, many say, ‘No, we haven’t had a chance yet,’” he says.
“If they don’t do the things we recommend, people are not going to see all the savings they could.”
That’s why it’s critical, Hitchcock says, for homeowners to stay committed to energy-saving strategies for the long term. If you have questions, contact your local electric co-op or visit their Web site. You can find a lot of energy-saving information online and most co-ops have energy advisors you can talk to.
You can locate an energy calculator (sometimes called “Residential Calculator” or “Home Energy Calculator”) on each of Kentucky’s electric co-op’s Web sites. The calculator will provide you with an estimate of energy use costs.
“All energy-saving strategies play together. If people just start with something simple, such as changing to CFLs that use less energy, they’re going to save money,” he says. “But they also need to know that saving energy is a work in progress. It’s not all going to happen overnight.” KL
KEYWORD EXCLUSIVE: ONLINE ENERGY GUIDE
We have many additional tips online to help you save energy. Go to more 2010 Energy Guide.
• Electric co-op contact information
• CFL usage tips and cleanup safety
• Weatherization assistance programs
• Heating and cooling choices
• Why insulate?
• Energy-saving solutions for manufactured homes
• Heat pumps and maintenance
• Green housing
• The cost of that old fridge
• Snow melt, icicles, and energy loss
• Energy myths, new products, and much more