energy star

Home Energy Audits are Easy and Worth Your Time

By Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator

I had a great visit recently with a couple of eager young energy consultants sent by my electric utility, and I’m feeling rather good about the results. I learned that all in all, my 2,500-square-foot colonial home is reasonably energy efficient. And I learned that I can invest just $1,000 to make improvements that will more than pay me back in three years.

Since EPA New England is encouraging residents across the region to take advantage of home energy audits, I asked my utility, National Grid, to audit my house. I wanted to find out first-hand what happens in these audits, which, by the way, are often offered for free.

Even though I am the regional administrator at EPA’s New England office, my experience was pretty much what any homeowner could expect – if you ignore the two suited, but very polite executives that trailed me and the consulting engineers eagerly checking on everything from my boiler, insulation and wiring to my refrigerators, stoves and windows.

The entire visit was actually quite fun, but then, I love this kind of stuff. And in just two to three hours I found out that the areas where I thought I was doing well with energy efficiency were not always that great. I learned that my 93-year-old four-bedroom colonial could use a bit more insulation, and that it hosts an attic fan that turns on when it shouldn’t. I was also surprised to hear that the high-priced, energy-efficient air conditioner I so proudly purchased was installed wrong. The installers hadn’t connected the duct work correctly, so I’ve been cooling a 100-degree attic, in addition to our living space.

If I correct these issues, about 60 percent of the $2,500 cost of improvements will be paid for by tax credits and government subsidies, leaving me with just a $1,000 bill. Oh and, they also gave us 10 free LED light bulbs to replace less efficient ones.

Subsidies and programs already in place in New England put us ahead of the curve of national policy. The US Clean Power Plan, which EPA expects to finalize this summer, will require all states to draft a plan to help cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. EPA suggests states look at using less fossil fuel, using fossil fuel more efficiently, cutting back on demand and increasing the use of low emission, no–emission or renewable resources. Every state can tailor its own best plan based on their needs.

Each state has its own incentives, and many provide free audits. EPA also offers the ENERGY STAR Home Advisor, an online tool to help consumers save money and improve their homes’ energy efficiency through recommended home-improvement projects. Simple actions, like upgrading a bathroom showerhead, can save thousands of gallons of water a year, which translate to lower water and energy bills.

I asked for a utility audit because I wanted to take part in a program EPA encourages. I wanted to see what is was like to have a home energy audit. It was so satisfying I felt compelled to wander over to neighbors, utility folks trailing behind me, and share with them the lessons I had learned from my audit. I know the improvements I make may only be a tiny difference in the nation’s emissions, but if each of us makes a few recommended changes, it quickly adds up to a big deal.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Topping Off Asthma Awareness Month with Health Advice for Those You Care About

By Becky Weber

Imagine that you’re spending a quiet day at the beach. You get warm and the crystal clear, blue water looks so inviting, you decide to go for a swim. You venture out into the calm water, but before you know it, waves start rolling over your head. You push up from the sandy ocean bottom and take a big gulp of air before another wave knocks you back over. You finally make it to shore and now you’re exhausted, but your heart is racing like you just ran the Boston Marathon and you can’t make it slow down no matter how many deep breaths you take…

Becky Weber

Becky Weber

This is eerily similar to an asthma attack that adults can experience. An attack can come out of the blue and before it’s over, they might spend time in an emergency room with doctors getting the attack and the resulting rapid pulse under control with asthma medication.

May is Asthma Awareness Month, and I’d like to cap off the month by reminding everyone that adults have asthma, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are just under one million adults in the Heartland living with asthma, or seven percent of the population. These asthma sufferers are moms, dads, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, employees, etc. When they have an attack, it takes time away from their families, jobs, and activities. In EPA Region 7’s Air Program, we work closely with our state and local partners to educate the public about asthma and the common triggers for asthma attacks.

The most common triggers for asthma in both adults and children are:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Molds
  • Cockroaches and pests
  • Pets
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Chemical irritants
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Wood smoke

Having healthy indoor and outdoor air is important for every citizen, but it can mean life or death for people with asthma. Our Air Program is doing its part to protect air quality in the Heartland via the regional indoor and outdoor air programs, closely working with our Public Affairs and Environmental Justice experts on education campaigns and with our state and local partners. We hope our efforts result in fewer missed school and work days, less missed time with families, fewer hospital visits – and most of all, a better quality of life for our citizens living with asthma every day.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Is there anything I can do?” Yes, there are several things you can do to help those with asthma around you. Carpool more or take public transportation to reduce air pollution. Use green products when cleaning your home or office space. Buy Energy Star or energy-efficient products. And educate yourself on asthma trigger prevention. We can all do our part to help prevent asthma attacks!

For more information on asthma, triggers, and prevention, please visit EPA’s Asthma page.

About the Author: Becky Weber serves as the Director of EPA Region 7’s Air and Waste Management Division, and has worked over 20 years at EPA managing a variety of programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in meteorology from Texas A&M University. Becky enjoys cooking, reading, walking, and spending time with her family and friends.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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#EarthDayEveryday

This Earth Day, let’s commit ourselves, our families, and our communities to work toward a brighter environmental future. I’ll be taking part in a service learning project tomorrow with Washington, DC’s Earth Conservation Corps to help clean up the Anacostia River, and I encourage you to serve at an Earth Day event in your community.

But there’s no need to wait until Earth Day—there’s a lot we can do every day to help protect the environment and the climate, while keeping our families healthy and saving money.

Here are just a few ideas:

Reduce food waste. The average family throws away $1,600 a year on wasted food, and rotting food in landfills releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This toolkit can help your family save money and reduce their climate impact with some basic planning and organizing. And by composting food scraps, you can help feed the soil and keep your plants and gardens healthy.

Look for EPA labels when you shop. EPA’s Energy Star, WaterSense, and Safer Choice labels help Americans choose products that save them money, reduce energy and water use, and keep their homes safer from harmful chemicals. Products that carry these labels are backed by trusted EPA science.

 

Wash your clothes in cold water. 90 percent of your washing machine’s energy goes toward heating water, while just 10 percent goes toward running the motor. Consider switching to cold water—along with cold-water detergent—and save your family money on your electric bill.

 

Make your home more energy efficient. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program goes beyond labeling energy efficient products. Our new Home Advisor tool can help you create a prioritized list of energy efficient home improvement projects tailored specifically to your home.

 

 

Learn how to fix water leaks. The average family loses over 10,000 gallons of water each year to leaks. This guide will show you how to find and fix leaks in your home so you can conserve water and save on your water bill.

 

 

 

E-cycle your electronic waste. Spring is a great time to clean and de-clutter. If you’re looking to finally get rid of that old TV, computer or mobile device, this guide can help you find safe ways to recycle it in your state.

 

 

 

Green your commute. To get exercise and limit your carbon footprint, walk, bike, or take public transportation whenever you can. Leaving your car at home just 2 days a week can prevent 2 tons of carbon pollution every year.

When you drive, look for gas containing biofuel to help reduce carbon pollution from your vehicle. To maximize gas mileage, get regular tune-ups, and keep your tires fully inflated. And if you’re in the market for a new car, consider making your next vehicle a fuel-efficient, low greenhouse-gas model and save money on fuel.

EPA is taking national action to fight climate change and protect the environment, but we can all take small steps to keep our families healthy, make our homes safer, and save money. When we do, we help protect the one planet we’ve got.

What will you do? Let us know at #EarthDayEveryday

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Just Released: Top 25 U.S. Cities with Most Energy Star Buildings

By Jean Lupinacci

Did you know energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change, at a cost of more than $100 billion per year? That’s significant. That’s why EPA’s new Energy Star Top 25 Cities List, which ranks cities with the most Energy Star certified buildings, is so important.

Energy Star certified buildings are verified to perform better than 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide. They use an average of 35 percent less energy and are responsible for 35 percent fewer emissions than typical buildings. Many common building types can earn the Energy Star, including office buildings, K-12 schools, hotels and retail stores.

The cities on this list demonstrate that when facility owners and managers apply EPA’s Energy Star guidelines for energy management to the buildings where we all work, shop and learn, they save energy, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This work is vital because in most cities, commercial buildings are the largest source of carbon emissions.

Since 1999, more than 25,000 buildings across America have earned EPA’s Energy Star certification, saving nearly $3.4 billion on utility bills and preventing greenhouse gas emissions equal to the emissions from the annual electricity use of nearly 2.4 million homes.

Did your city make the cut? If so, use the hashtag #EnergyStar and share this year’s Energy Star Top 25 Cities List with everyone you know.

About the author: Jean Lupinacci is the acting director of the Climate Protection Partnerships Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She has been with EPA for 20 years with primary responsibilities for developing and managing voluntary energy efficiency programs.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Recién publicada: Las principales 25 ciudades de EE.UU. con el mayor número de edificios ENERGY STAR

032515 FINAL SP_EnergyStar_buildingmarch_all25-3

 

¿Sabía que el uso de energía en edificios comerciales representa el 17 por ciento de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, que generan el cambio climático, por un costo de más de $100 mil millones por año? Esto es significativo. Es por eso que la nueva Lista de las Principales 25 Ciudades ENERGY STAR de la EPA, que clasifica las ciudades por las que tienen el mayor número de edificios certificados ENERGY STAR, es tan importante.

Los edificios certificados ENERGY STAR son confirmados por tener un rendimiento mejor del 75 por ciento que edificios similares a nivel nacional. Usan un promedio de 35 por ciento menos de energía y son responsables por tener 35 emisiones menos que los edificios tradicionales. Muchos de los tipos de edificios comunes pueden ganarse la certificación ENERGY STAR, incluyendo edificios de oficinas, escuelas K-12, hoteles y tiendas al detal.
Las ciudades en la lista demuestran que cuando los dueños de las instalaciones y gerentes aplican las directrices ENERGY STAR de la EPA en los edificios donde todos trabajamos, compramos y aprendemos, ellos ahorran energía, ahorran dinero y reducen las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero. Esta labor es vital porque en la mayoría de las ciudades, los edificios comerciales son la principal fuente de emisiones de carbono.
Desde el 1999, más de 25,000 edificios en todos los Estados Unidos se han ganado la certificación ENERGY STAR de la EPA y han ahorrado cerca de $3.4 mil millones en facturas de electricidad y servicios públicos, y han prevenido las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero equivalentes a las emisiones del uso anual de electricidad de unas 2.4 millones de hogares.
¿Acaso su ciudad figura en la lista? De ser así, use la etiqueta #ENERGYSTAR y comparta la Lista de las Principales Ciudades ENERGY STAR de este año para que todos lo sepan.

 
Acerca de la autora: Jean Lupinacci es la directora interina de la División de Consorcios sobre Protección Climática en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. Ella ha laborado en la EPA por 20 años y sus principales responsabilidades se centraban en el desarrollo y la gestión de programas voluntarios de eficiencia energética.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Slowing the Spinning Wheel

electric meterby Ken Pantuck

Whether we live in houses or apartments, we all probably share the same sense of hesitation when we open our monthly electric bill…especially after some frigid winter months.

Keeping the environment and our household budgets in mind, it makes sense to consider ways to reduce these bills with more efficient appliances, and conservation measures to use less energy whenever possible.

Just like homeowners and renters, most operators of large water and wastewater treatment plants are always looking for ways of lowering energy consumption and the costs that come with it, and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in the process. The difference is that their power requirements are enormous.

Did you know that nationally, electricity accounts for 25 to 40 percent of the operating budgets for wastewater utilities and approximately 80 percent of drinking water processing and distribution costs? In fact, drinking water and wastewater systems account for nearly four percent of all the energy use in the United States.

EPA’s Net Zero Energy team is helping utilities to lower their costs by reducing waste, conserving water, and lowering power demand.

I recently attended a meeting at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the regional planning group for in the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia where energy conservation and reductions were the chief topics. Each authority had used experts in the field to assist them in examining energy saving actions, and estimating the costs of implementing them.

While many of these energy projects involved little or no cost, others carried a more significant price tag. Each authority selected what actions would get them the biggest “bang for the buck” within their capital improvement budgets, and would pay for themselves within one to 10 years in energy savings.

While many large water and wastewater authorities are already benefiting from these energy saving measures, some of the smaller ones are just starting to learn about them. A couple of EPA publications entitled “Energy Efficiency in Water and Wastewater Facilities” and “Planning for Sustainability: A Handbook for Water and Wastewater Utilities” can provide the necessary first steps for a community or authority to begin such an effort.

Why not encourage your local utility to check out the savings?

About the Author: Ken Pantuck is the team leader for the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Innovative Technologies Team.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greening the Game

Millions of Americans across the country tuned into the big game a couple weeks ago, which was played for the first time under energy-efficient LED lighting. Why the switch? These lights use at least 75 percent less power than incandescent, saving the venue money on its energy bill and energy, which helps reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

The NFL isn’t alone in its journey to fight climate change by becoming more sustainable. Last week we highlighted a number of leading sports teams, organizations, and venues across the industry who are taking action, including our work with greening collegiate sports though the Game Day Recycling Challenge and the collegiate sports sustainability summit. Recycling conserves vital resources, saves energy, and, in 2012, reduced greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 33 million cars off the road for a year. Recycling also creates green jobs and provides essential resources. And during her recent visit to the X Games in Colorado, our Administrator Gina McCarthy, heard first-hand from athletes and the businesses that support them how they are working to protect their winters from climate change.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Score a Touchdown with ENERGY STAR!

By Latosha Thomas

You don’t have to be an NFL Hall of Famer to know that the Super Bowl is more than just a game… It’s an experience (we all know that the commercials are the real champions)! There’s nothing quite like sitting in the stands and watching two teams fight for the glory that comes with winning that game. However, the majority of us will be tuning in from the comfort of our homes. Want to make that Super Bowl experience even better by saving some energy and money while also helping to protect the climate? Then kickoff your Super Bowl with the following tips!

  • More and more people are watching the game online- an average of 528,000 viewers per minute streamed the game last yesuper bowl imagear. [Source: Foxsports.com] Streaming with electronic equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR uses 25-30% less energy than standard equipment. If possible, avoid streaming through a game console. Streaming through a game console uses 10 times more energy than streaming through a laptop or tablet.
  • Optimize your TV settings- Make sure your TV’s automatic brightness feature—if it has one — is enabled. Reducing the brightness of a TV by employing ambient light control features can reduce power consumption by up to 30 percent. Also, keep in mind that out of all settings on your ENERGY STAR qualified TV, keeping default picture settings guarantees energy savings.
  • Look for ENERGY STAR certified products – Many people buy new TVs or sound equipment in time to host Super Bowl parties. If you’re in the market for some new A/V gear or a TV, look for the little blue label! A home equipped with TVs, set-top boxes, a Blu Ray player and a home-theatre-in-a-box that have earned the ENERGY STAR can save more than $280 over the life of the products.
  • When the game is over, turn off your TV and cable box – Cable boxes can be a particular drain: today’s boxes operate at near full power even when the consumer is neither watching nor recording a show. As a nation, we spend $2 billion each year to power cable boxes that are not being actively used.
  • Use power strips – Plugging devices into more advanced, or ‘smart’ power strips lets you designate “always on” status for products that need to maintain a network connection, like your modem/router or pay TV set-top box. While these other products are on, the strips cut power off from devices like speakers and TVs when they are not in use.

So before you write your list of people to invite and what food to buy, consider taking simple steps to reduce your energy consumption on this night and every night. You’re sure to score big by saving dollars and the environment. What do we say to that? Touchdown!

Latosha Thomas works in communications for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. In her spare time, she enjoys Hitchcock films, anything related to the beach, and debating the impact that strawberry shortcake has made on the world.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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This Dallas Habitat for Humanity Home Is Energy Efficiency in Action

R6-curry

Last week, during our Energy Efficiency Week of Action, I had the pleasure of visiting an energy efficient home in a Dallas neighborhood. The home I visited was being built as part of last year’s commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Texas Section of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and together with Habitat for Humanity they built a great home that is green and affordable.

These homes include many energy efficiency features including passive lighting, high efficiency windows and doors, spray foam insulation, tankless water heating, low volatile organic compounds paint, and ecofriendly materials. Some even have solar panels and rainwater harvesting. Because of these construction methods, these homes have received the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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America’s Water Future: Smart, Green, Distributed

By Charlotte Ely

I was raised with the saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” To save water, I started making changes in my own home. Following the advice I’ve given to drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities through my work with EPA’s Sustainable Water Infrastructure program, I assessed our use, identified ways we could save water, and made improvements.

I replaced inefficient fixtures and appliances with WaterSense and Energy Star models. I fixed leaks. Most recently, I installed a graywater system. Residential graywater is water from showers, baths, bathroom sinks or washing machines. Graywater can be used instead of drinking water to safely and beneficially irrigate gardens. The graywater system meets much of our outdoor water needs. Since installed, our household consumption has dropped to an average of 19 gallons per person per day — 60% less than the San Francisco average of 49 gallons per day and 80% less than the national average of 100 gallons per day.

 

The graywater system in Charlotte’s house in San Francisco. Water from one shower and one sink flows into six mulch basins, providing water to a planter bed, four jasmine bushes, a lemon tree and a maple tree.

The graywater system in Charlotte’s house in San Francisco. Water from one shower and one sink flows into six mulch basins, providing water to a planter bed, four jasmine bushes, a lemon tree and a maple tree.

 

As California enters its fourth year of drought, I’m struck both by the immensity of the challenges ahead, and the incredible potential to re-think how we manage our water resources. Innovative water management practices, such as residential graywater and on-site commercial re-use are examples of the kinds of investments that will help communities adapt to water scarcity. One good example is San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s headquarters building which uses 60% less water than similar sized buildings by reclaiming and treating all of the building’s wastewater on site.

I’m especially encouraged by organizations helping to re-envision our water infrastructure as a smart, green and distributed network:

  • Smart: Uses data analytics to optimize utility management.
  • Green: Use strategic landscaping to capture rainfall for reuse or recharge.
  • Distributed: Has onsite treatment and reuse.

Organizations, like Imagine H2O, are cultivating innovative concepts, technologies and entrepreneurs to help communities adapt—not only to climate change impacts such as drought, but also to an escalating need to invest in our nation’s drinking and clean water infrastructure. This year, Imagine H2O’s annual challenge will honor scalable, cost-effective solutions that improve water and wastewater infrastructure. I’m excited to see what the contestants come up with!

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” If we could change how we manage water, could we also change the ‘tendency’ of the water? Would it be less scarce? Less polluted? How do you think we can make our water infrastructure smarter, greener and more distributed?

About the author: Charlotte Ely joined EPA’s San Francisco office in 2006. She works for the Sustainable Water Infrastructure program, helping communities throughout the southwest increase the water and energy efficiency of their water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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