energy

College Students + EPA = a Win for Local Communities

By Michael Burns

The College/Underserved Partnership Program (CUPP) develops long term partnerships between local colleges and universities and underserved cities and communities. Through the program, the schools provide technical support to communities at no cost to them. I’ve had the opportunity to work on this program for several years, and to help expand it in the southeastern region of the U.S. With my coworkers, I’ve travelled through this area of the country and found that small, underserved communities are in need of resources to improve their environment and quality of life. However, they often lack the required technical expertise in engineering, transportation, and infrastructure planning to pursue these initiatives in a progressive and sustainable manner. We use our CUPP program to provide the support they need. Then communities are able to address these important issues – like energy savings projects, land reuse, and economic development – that will support their long-term viability.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve developed partnerships with nine colleges and 16 communities. Two new colleges will be joining this fall. (And, eight of these nine schools were already providing these services with no federal funding for support!) It’s been great to see our academic institutions place such a high value on the need to help others, and work to make a visible difference in communities that really need the help.

The schools have already done great work. Here’s some of the completed and planned projects in my region:

  •  A completed project between Darien, Georgia and Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia involved using solar stills to dewater sewage sludge. The dewatered sewage sludge was reduced by 30 percent, making the waste easier to handle and less costly to dispose of at a permitted facility.
  •  A pilot agricultural project between Shorter, Alabama and Tuskegee University will provide economic opportunities for underserved and underdeveloped lands.
  • Tuskegee University is also working to create solar panels to power sewage lift stations, thereby reducing operation costs to the city and reducing electrical usage.
  • Tennessee State University is providing Pleasant View, Tennessee an engineering analysis of their stormwater system so the city can address problems with the system.
  • In the fall, Clark Atlanta University will help Lithonia, Georgia develop a proposed private/public partnership for a brownfield site in this town.
  • Savannah State University will develop a coastal sustainability plan to anticipate and address potential issues caused by climate change for two cities in Georgia, Midway and Riceboro. This plan is required by the Regional Coastal Commission of Georgia.
  • Tuskegee University and Alabama State University are developing an alternate transportation project which will reuse brownfield sites, and address issues of lack of access to healthy food and lack of access to medical care in Alabama.
  • And, we’re also asking our federal partners, such as the National Park Service and USDA Rural Development, to expand this collaborative effort.

About the author: Michael Burns works on the College/Underserved Partnership Program (CUPP). Previously he worked for, where he served as the Acting Superintendent of the Tuskegee Institute Park and worked with communities in Alabama

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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Top 5 Ways to Chill out this Summer with ENERGY STAR

By: Brittney Gordon

Even when the temperature goes up, your utility bills can still stay low. With help from ENERGY STAR you can keep your cool, tame those bills, and help fight climate change. The secret is to keep your cooling system from working too hard. Discover these Top 5 Ways to Chill Out with ENERGY STAR, so that you and your cooling system can both enjoy the summer!

1. Keep the heat out

Insulation_graphic (1)

Take advantage of shades, blinds, curtains, awnings and even trees to  keep the sun out during the day, especially on the south and west side of your house. If you are upgrading your windows, consider ENERGY STAR certified windows, which will keep even more heat out. Find and seal leaks (the biggest ones are in your attic and basement) – this will also help reduce humidity and keep out pests and pollen.  Consider adding attic insulation so less heat radiates down into your house from your hot attic.  Sealing air leaks and improving your home’s insulation could save you up to $200 a year in cooling/heating costs (or about 10 percent of your annual energy bill).  Finally, if you’re replacing your roof, you can reduce the effects of the hot sun by installing ENERGY STAR certified roof products.

2. Keep the cool in

Seal and Insulate 2

You’re paying for your AC’s cool air, so don’t let it leak out of your ducts before it gets to the vent and the rooms you want to cool. That’s YOUR air!  In most homes, 25 percent of air that flows through air conditioning ducts leaks out before it gets to you. So get a contractor to test your ducts, seal them, and insulate them so you’re not paying for cool air you don’t get to use. You could reduce your cooling energy bill by about 20 percent.

3. Maintain Your Cooling System

Thermostat

A simple tune up of your HVAC equipment can do wonders.  Make sure you also change your air filter regularly – EPA recommends every three months at a minimum.   And, if you do not have a programmable thermostat – install one and program it around your family’s summer schedule. Setting the thermostat up by seven degrees when you’re away from home and up by four degrees when you’re asleep can save more than $180 a year.

4. Be a fan of fans

ceiling fan

If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan instead, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Use bedroom fans on those cooler summer nights when you might be able to turn off your central air conditioning and naturally cool your home for a lot less. Plus, don’t forget to use your ENERGY STAR certified vent fans to get rid of that unwanted humid air in your bathroom after a shower.

5. Look for the ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR Logo

If your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR certified model could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent. In the market for a new room air conditioner? Find one that has earned the ENERGY STAR and use about 15 percent less energy. ENERGY STAR certified dehumidifiers also use 15 percent less energy than a conventional unit.  One last easy tip is to change out those old, hot, incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified CFL and LED bulbs–they produce 75% less heat!

Looking for more great tips? Head to www.energystar.gov/cooling.

About the Author: Brittney Gordon-Williams works on the ENERGY STAR communication’s team. Her summer cooling project will involve trying out ENERGY STAR certified LEDs in her new home.

 

 

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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How Does Your Home Compare to Your Neighbor’s?

Yardstick

By: Brian Ng

It’s springtime! Now that the dark, cold days of winter are gone, it’s time to do things to tidy up the outside of your home. After all, who wants to be the “messy” house in the neighborhood? Now is also the perfect time to tidy up your home’s energy efficiency, especially compared to your neighbors’ homes. After all, who wants to have the highest utility bill in the neighborhood? Plus, reducing our energy consumption at home helps fight climate change since using energy means having to produce energy, which typically involves the burning of fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gases and cause climate change.

But short of knocking on their door, how do you find out how your home’s energy use compares to your neighbor’s home? The ENERGY STAR program offers a free, online tool called the Home Energy Yardstick, available here. It allows you to compare your home’s energy use to similar homes across the country. By entering your home’s annual energy use, the number of occupants, conditioned square footage, and its ZIP code, the Yardstick computes a score between 0 and 10, indicating the relative energy consumption of your home compared to a nationally representative sample of single family homes.  On the Yardstick scale, 0 is the most energy-consuming household and 10 is the least energy-consuming household. An “average” home scores a 5 on the Yardstick. So the higher the Yardstick score, the better! You can even print a certificate and brag to your neighbors if your score warrants bragging rights.

To use the Yardstick, you’ll need the last 12 months of utility bills for your home.  Typically you can find a 12-month usage summary on your most recent bill or through the utility’s web site.  It only takes about five minutes to enter the information and get a score.  Some utilities provide customers with the ability to download a “Green Button” file that provides detailed information about energy usage for their home.  If your utility participates in Green Button, you can simply upload your home’s utility data directly into the Yardstick. To find out if your utility offers Green Button, visit:  www.greenbuttondata.org. For those whose Yardstick score is less than brag-worthy, fret not. ENERGY STAR’s Home Energy Advisor provides recommendations for energy-saving improvements for typical homes in your area.

Although these tools provide good insight into your energy consumption and how to reduce it, they are not meant to replace a professional’s help. So if you need an expert opinion on how to improve the efficiency and comfort of your home, a good place to start is with a local Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers a whole-house approach to improving the efficiency and comfort of your home. A participating Home Performance contractor will evaluate your home using state-of-the-art equipment, recommend comprehensive improvements to yield the best results, and help you get the work done.

So while you’re doing your spring cleaning this year, take a moment and begin cleaning up your home’s energy use as well.

About the Author: Brian manages communications activities for the ENERGY STAR Residential Branch, which forms voluntary partnerships to promote greater energy efficiency in new and existing homes. He enjoys trying to improve the energy efficiency of his own home when he’s not busy keeping up with his two kids.

 

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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Earth Month Tip: Wash your clothes in cold water

Washing your clothes in cold water is an easy way to save energy and prevent carbon pollution. Hot water heating accounts for about 90 percent of the energy your machine uses to wash clothes — only 10 percent goes to electricity used by the washer motor.

Depending on the clothes and local water quality (hardness), many homeowners can effectively do laundry exclusively with cold water, using cold water laundry detergents. Switching to cold water can save the average household as much as $40 annually.

Much like running the dishwasher with only a full load [link to dishwasher post], washing clothing in full loads can save more than 3,400 gallons of water each year!

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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In Communities across America, Buildings Save Money and Cut Carbon Pollution with Energy Star

Did you know that the energy used in commercial buildings accounts for nearly 20 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions? That adds up to more than $100 billion in energy costs per year! More companies across America are recognizing that energy efficiency is a simple and effective way to save money and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. With help from Energy Star, facility owners and managers are improving the energy efficiency of their buildings and businesses, while at the same time increasing their property value, providing better service, and making their communities more desirable places to live. In fact, since 1999, ENERGY STAR certified buildings have saved more than $3.1 billion on utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to the annual electricity use from 2.2 million homes.

April is Earth Month, a great time to showcase the importance of energy-efficient buildings by announcing EPA’s Top Cities for Energy Star certified buildings and the winners of our annual National Building Competition.

More

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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Earth Month Tip: Try Energy Star's Home Energy Yardstick

Energy Star’s Home Energy Yardstick provides a simple assessment of your home’s annual energy use compared to similar homes. Plug in a few details about your home to get your home’s energy score and learn how to improve your score and cut carbon pollution.

By answering a few basic questions about your home, you can learn:

  • Your home’s Home Energy Yardstick score (on a scale of 1 to 10);
  • Insights into how much of your home’s energy use is related to heating and cooling versus other everyday uses like appliances, lighting, and hot water;
  • Links to guidance from Energy Star on how to increase your home’s score, improve comfort, and lower utility bills; and
  • An estimate of your home’s annual carbon emissions.

With recommendations from Energy Star, you can save as much as 20% annually on your energy bills and cut carbon pollution.

Learn more: https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=HOME_ENERGY_YARDSTICK.showGetStarted

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

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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Earth Month Tip: Plug electronics into a power strip

Even when turned off, electronic and IT equipment often use a small amount of electricity. U.S. households spend approximately $100 per year to power devices while they are in a low power mode — roughly 8 percent of household electricity costs.

Nationwide, it is estimated that standby power accounts for more than $11 billion in annual U.S. energy costs! Using a power strip for your computer and all peripheral equipment allows you to completely disconnect the power supply from the power source, eliminating standby power consumption and cutting carbon pollution.


More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

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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Earth Month Tip: Give your car a break

Using public transportation, carpooling, biking or walking can save energy and reduce carbon pollution on your way to and from work. Leaving your car at home just two days a week can reduce carbon pollution by an average of two tons per year.

Do you hate getting stuck in traffic jams? It may seem bold, but consider telecommuting (working from home via phone or the Internet), which can reduce the stress of commuting, reduce pollution, and save money. Even small life changes, like combining your errands and activities into one trip when using your car, make an impact.

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

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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Earth Day and the President’s Climate Action Plan

The arrival of Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the work EPA does to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Early last summer, the President announced his Climate Action Plan calling on the federal government to work together with states, tribes, cities, industries, consumers and the international community to address one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Over the past year, one of our top priorities has been addressing our changing climate, so let me fill you in on our progress so far on the many important steps we are taking to cut harmful greenhouse gas pollution.

Power Plants – Last September, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants .  Based on current trends in the power sector and available pollution control technology, the proposal will protect public health and address climate change while ensuring reliable, affordable, and clean power for American businesses and families. It will also ensure that power companies investing in new fossil fuel-fired power plants – which often operate for more than 40 years – will use technologies that limit emissions of harmful carbon pollution. The agency is now taking public comment on the proposal until May 9. More

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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Spread The Word: Cutting Your Costs from Climate Change

Green For All and The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Few of us can afford extra expenses. And yet every day we all are paying a high cost for the effects of climate change, and likely don’t even know it. More and more often, what we used to call “natural” disasters aren’t natural at all. They are the costly results of man-made decisions that allow pollution to adversely affect our planet’s temperature, atmosphere and weather. An issue that once seemed of little consequence in our daily lives is now hitting closer to home.

When you’re paying more for heat and air conditioning to stay comfortable during “record high or low” temperatures, you’re paying for climate change. Or when the cost of fruit, vegetables and other food staples goes up because of severe droughts and floods in America’s agricultural zones, you’re paying for climate change. And those of us who’ve had the devastating misfortunate of losing loved ones and homes even to hurricanes, super storms and other natural disasters that seem to occur more frequently know that the costs of climate change are far too high. More

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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