Cutting Energy Waste from Commercial Buildings Just Got a Little Easier

Lauren Hodges Pitcher

Lauren Hodges Pitcher, EPA

By: Lauren Hodges Pitcher

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that it’s hard to do without regularly stepping on the scale. That little instrument doesn’t lie—it tells us if we weigh more or less than we’d like to. It tells us whether our impressive showing at the gym last week was enough to counteract the effects of Saturday night’s four-course meal. And in some cases, a big drop or gain can indicate when something in our body is not working properly.

But did you know that every month, more than 300,000 commercial buildings also step on a scale to make sure that they are in good shape, energy-wise? Before you start picturing a scale the size of a football field, I’ll tell you that this is a virtual scale, available from ENERGY STAR through our online Portfolio Manager tool. Through Portfolio Manager, any building can measure and track its energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and water use in a secure online account–for free.

Nearly 40 percent of the commercial building space in the country is currently “stepping on the scale” every month through Portfolio Manager. That’s great news because although commercial buildings use about 18 percent of our nation’s energy, and contribute about 18 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions, they don’t have to. On average, about 30 percent of this energy is wasted! And here’s more good news: A recent study of buildings that consistently used Portfolio Manager over a three-year period showed that they cut their energy use by an average of seven percent (or 2.4 percent per year)!

blog portfolio manager

So let’s get more buildings on the scale, and let’s do what we can to help them save energy and trim down their energy “waste”-lines! Here are a few things you can do to help:

  1. Approach leaders at your workplace, your children’s school, your congregation, your favorite stores, and any other buildings in your community. Suggest that they start stepping on the scale and managing their energy use with help from ENERGY STAR. Send them to energystar.gov/PortfolioManager to learn more.
  2. Bring your green to work! The same simple steps you take at home to save energy can make a big difference in buildings, too. Turn off lights in empty rooms, shut down your computer at the end of the day, and use blinds to block the hot summer sun. Find more tips, plus fun interactive games and quizzes here, on the ENERGY STAR website.
  3. Set a goal to encourage one building in your community to earn EPA’s ENERGY STAR certification. Yup, just like a refrigerator, buildings can also earn the ENERGY STAR if they are among the most energy efficient in the country! Learn more here.

And did we mention that we just launched a complete upgrade to Portfolio Manager? Now it’s easier than ever to use, with new wizards, reports, graphs, and sharing features. With President Obama calling for a 50 percent cut in the amount of energy that commercial buildings waste, there is no better time to encourage the buildings in your community to take Portfolio Manager for a test drive at energystar.gov/NewPortfolioManager. Who knows how much energy and money you may help them save?

Lauren Hodges Pitcher directs communications activities for the ENERGY STAR program for commercial buildings and industrial plants. She is proud to work in an ENERGY STAR certified office building, and her favorite stores all track their energy use in Portfolio Manager. 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

More than Just the Cars: Building a Better Dealership

 

NADA

NADA launches new Energy Ally program to help dealers complete ENERGY STAR survey

By: Lauren Bailey, National Automobile Dealers Association

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is always looking to help owners create a better business. What’s an easy way to do that? Find places to save money without compromising a quality experience for our customers. One place we have found huge potential is in increasing energy efficiency. In view of our longstanding partnership with the U.S. EPA, NADA has launched a new program to help new-car and -truck dealerships reduce their energy consumption through the agency’s ENERGY STAR certification program.

In many other sectors of the commercial buildings market, there are national data sets detailing how buildings use energy. These data enable EPA to develop 1 – 100 ENERGY STAR scores, which rank individual buildings relative to other similar buildings across the country. A score of 50 represents median energy performance, whereas a score of 75 means that a building is more energy efficient than 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide. These scores provide building owners and managers with the critical information they need to assess performance, prioritize investments, and verify improvements over time.

Currently there is no national data set on how new car dealerships use energy. As a result, new car dealerships are not currently able to earn a 1 – 100 ENERGY STAR score on EPA’s online energy benchmarking tool, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. For this reason, NADA and EPA are encouraging dealerships to complete a brief survey, available at www.nada.org/energystar. By completing a brief survey, we can help establish some guidelines to help dealerships cut energy costs and reduce emissions. The survey asks dealers to share their yearly utility bills, square footage—inside and out—and different types of equipment used at the dealership, among other questions.

We need to be sure the survey process is thorough, so before we can begin the ENERGY STAR certification process, we need to benchmark the energy usage of at least 500 dealerships. To encourage participation, NADA has launched a new program called Energy Ally, which is a way for outside organizations, such as accounting, consulting and energy management firms, to partner with dealers to get the survey completed. Any business that helps five or more dealerships complete the survey earns an NADA Energy Ally designation. You can apply here.

Dealers are already doing many great things to reduce their buildings’ energy use in communities across the country. One such dealer, Shelor Motor Mile in Christiansburg, VA, has made some simple and cost effective fixes, like installing ENERGY STAR certified CFLs and purchasing high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, that will save money and energy. After all, as Shelor Motor Mile’s Energy Manager John Jordan says, “The bottom line is: it’s about the bottom line. And if you save energy, you’re gonna save money.” Learn more about what Shelor Motor Mile is doing to improve energy efficiency by watching the video found here.

Lauren Bailey is an attorney with the National Automobile Dealers Association where she works on environmental and labor issues.  She received her law degree from the Catholic University of America and her undergraduate degree from the Pennsylvania State University.

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

EPA’s Biggest Energy Loser Wins Big…Can You?

Battle of the BuildingsBy: Alena Hutchinson

A few weeks ago, EPA announced the winners of its 2012 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition. For the third year in a row, we were blown away by the results. Out of more than 3,000 competitors, all of the top 15 finishers reduced their energy waste by more than 30 percent. In addition, more than 85 buildings in the competition had a 20 percent reduction. Altogether, the competitors saved a combined total of more than 3 billion kBtus of energy and $50 million on utility bills.

Many were winners. Only one was the biggest loser.

So, who won? Demarest Elementary School in Bloomfield, NJ, emerged victorious by cutting its energy use by more than half and achieving a whopping 52 percent reduction in one year. And they did it mostly through no- and low-cost changes, like turning off and unplugging equipment when it wasn’t in use and practicing “toast and coast” heating — the turning off of boilers once the building had reached outside temperatures on nice days.

While the big savings numbers always get the most attention, perhaps even more impressive is what the average competitor accomplished. Buildings that reduced their consumption during the competition saved an average of nearly $25,000 and reduced their energy use by 8% from the previous year.

Small changes make a big difference.  

The results aren’t all that different than what we often see on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, which was the inspiration for this competition. Buildings across the nation compete to work off their energy waste with help from ENERGY STAR. At the end, the building that cuts its energy use the most is declared the winner.

And just like on the TV show, there are ups and downs for every building. Sometimes, drastic measures are needed, but often it just takes small changes everyday that add up to big savings. Just like it’s not always necessary to take extreme measures to lose weight, buildings don’t always need to implement expensive technology upgrades to start cutting energy use. Likewise, adopting small lifestyle changes like eating healthier and exercising can make all the difference. Changing behaviors, whether it’s by turning off lights that aren’t being used, not heating or cooling empty spaces, and unplugging energy-wasting equipment, can make a huge impact when it’s done regularly and becomes a lifestyle.

Step on the scale. Repeat.

Of course, one of the most important steps in an energy waste-loss program is stepping on the scale. For buildings, that means entering monthly energy data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, EPA’s energy measurement and tracking tool. By continuing to monitor and track the ups and downs of energy use, building owners and managers can find out where they stand…and where they need to go.

Join the fun next year. Sign up by May 31!

So who really won this year? The short answer: we all did. When buildings use less energy, the plants that power them emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in a cleaner, healthier environment for all of us.

Want to be a part of the solution? Ask your management to enter your building in the 2013 competition. The fourth season brings all new twists, including new ways to win and more ways to compete. Perhaps the biggest change this year is that tenants can compete! So whether your organization occupies all of a building or part of one, you can compete to become the next biggest energy loser.

Learn more and register at www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings

Alena Hutchinson is a member of the Commercial and Industrial Branch for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

After Tragedy, Joplin, MO Rebuilds with ENERGY STAR Certified Homes

By: Ramona Schwartz

In May 2011, a deadly tornado ripped through the community of Joplin, Missouri, tragically killing 161 people and destroying a third of the city. Thousands of structures were destroyed or damaged, including many homes. Over a year later, the community is still rebuilding. But the people of Joplin have the true American spirit and are determined to rebuild and to rebuild better.

This rebuilding effort includes a project called Building Joplin. Building Joplin is an initiative by natural gas distributor Missouri Gas Energy. Under this initiative, we are working with local home builders, contractors, and major manufacturers to rebuild Joplin’s homes to be ENERGY STAR certified. ENERGY STAR certified homes are more efficient than most other homes, saving owners money on their utility bills, which is something residents of Joplin can really benefit from.

We are committed to training builders and sub-contractors on the best practices contained within ENERGY STAR’s requirements with the goal of rebuilding a more energy efficient and sustainable community. Our first home is under construction and will be completed in early April 2013. We believe that the Building Joplin project will grow public awareness about the importance of energy efficiency in Joplin and beyond.

One of my favorite movie quotes is, “If you build it, they will come.” This quote embodies the spirit behind the Building Joplin project. We believe that once the community sees and lives in ENERGY STAR certified homes, they will understand the efficiency, comfort and durability benefits of these homes, and they’ll want all of Joplin’s homes to be ENERGY STAR homes. For more information on ENERGY STAR certified homes, click here.

About the Author: Ramona Schwartz is a contractor working in support of Missouri Gas Energy’s Building Joplin project. She is very passionate about helping people in need and saving energy.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Value of Checklists

By: Ga-Young Choi

I was driving around the other day and listening to the radio when a commercial for certified used cars came on.  The announcer was enthusiastically talking about how these used cars are practically new because they undergo a 160-point checklist to ensure that they are in top-working order.  I usually change stations when ads are on, but I found myself paying attention to this one.  It made me realize how great it is that ENERGY STAR is pioneering the use of checklists in the construction of new homes.

While this radio ad was just a sales pitch, I found myself agreeing that checklists are important. I have learned this in both my personal and professional life. To be fair, builders have always used various checklists during construction. They use material checklists to check that they have the right amount of lumber and windows. They compile punch lists during construction to note anything that was left undone by a subcontractor.  The difference with ENERGY STAR checklists is that builders are now using a checklist to ensure that the home is not only built to be energy efficient, but also comfortable for the homeowners and their family.

Homebuyers generally assume that their new home will be comfortable simply because it’s new. However, building a home is complicated, and even the smallest of mistakes can greatly impact the home’s efficiency and family’s enjoyment.  The ENERGY STAR checklists involve nearly all of the subcontractors playing a part in the construction of a home – the framers, HVAC contractors, and even the drywall installers. All of them have an important role in building a home that is energy efficient and comfortable, and the checklists give home builders an opportunity to verify that their subs are doing their job properly.

Since I began working for the ENERGY STAR Certified Homes program, I have a new appreciation of checklists. I use them frequently in my everyday life – when I go grocery shopping or pack for a trip. I’ve especially found them to be important in planning special events; I planned my wedding this year, which would’ve been a disaster without my trusted checklists.  With how busy we are nowadays and the amount of ever-present distractions, having checklists helps me to organize priorities and confirm that I’m getting tasks done on time.

Understanding how important checklists are in my life makes me even more aware of how important they are for homeowners and builders across the country. When someone buys an ENERGY STAR certified home today, they know that their new home has gone through a rigorous process that ensures that it lives up to EPA’s stringent requirements for energy efficiency, quality and comfort. Now that is what I call peace of mind.

Ga-Young Choi has been the Program Manager of Partner Support on the ENERGY STAR Certified Homes team for the past four years.  Prior to joining the EPA, she consulted for a variety of federal agencies on environmental policy and management.  She holds a Master of Environmental Management degree from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. To learn more about ENERGY STAR for New Homes, go to the ENERGY STAR website.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Just Beyond the Ivory Tower

McGlynn Elementary School, Medford, MA

By: Cammy Peterson

Ever since returning to academia as a graduate student at Tufts University’s Medford, Massachusetts campus, I have reentered both the glorious exchange and isolating vacuum engendered by the ivory tower. I have learned gobs about clean energy innovation and climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. And, I’ve loved it. Yet, I was unaware of the impressive energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) efforts being implemented in my own backyard by Medford’s public schools.

I had no idea that five Medford schools had avoided over 1,300 metric tons of carbon pollution since 2007. Though I’d heard whisperings of a wind turbine at a Medford school (which turns out to be McGlynn Elementary School), I was unaware that the town is currently installing 700 kW of solar panels. These initiatives have all occurred since Medford joined the EPA’s Community Energy Challenge in 2007.

Currently, I am serving as an intern in EPA Region 1’s Energy and Climate Unit. I have been fortunate in this position to gain insight into some exciting municipal energy endeavors. Many of these have been spurred by EPA New England’s Community Energy Challenge, a program unique to the region. As the EPA New England website describes, the Challenge “is an opportunity for municipalities across New England to identify simple and cost-effective measures that increase energy efficiency and renewable energy use while reducing air pollution and saving money.” Communities that seek to undertake the challenge and attain EPA recognition for their efforts embark on a four-step process. They pledge to assess municipal energy use and set a baseline and reduction targets. They track this assessment using the free Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. Lastly, communities like Medford are encouraged to collaborate with utilities and organizations like Clean Air-Cool Planet to explore EE and RE opportunities, and to let EPA know when they succeed.

Medford’s motivation to make a difference helped them to secure funds from National Grid and a federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block grant to support their energy saving programs. EPA has recognized the schools for finding efficient ways to upgrade lighting and remote Energy Management Systems, and to shut off computers and the heat after the school day ends, among many other initiatives. EPA and Medford are obviously proud of all they have accomplished. I’m proud of Medford too, and plan to make sure my classmates know of the energy revolution happening right under their noses.

About the Author: Cammy Peterson is an intern with the Energy and Climate Unit in the Office of Ecosystem Protection at EPA New England. She is a graduate student in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning focusing on climate change and clean energy policy at Tufts University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, and previously worked on environmental legislation for the New York State Assembly.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The 2012 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: It’s On!

Today, nearly 3,300 buildings are stepping on the scale and kicking off a national competition to see who can reduce their energy waste the most. That’s right – EPA’s ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings is back and bigger than ever! Now in its third year, the competition pits buildings across the country against each other in a “Biggest Loser”-style battle to work off their extra energy and water “weight” through efficiency improvements.

The weight-loss analogy has always worked well for this competition since the steps involved in healthy weight-loss are the same steps as those to strategically work off energy waste. Competitors measure their starting weight, set goals, make improvements following a strategic approach (not a crash diet), regularly weigh-in throughout their journey, and celebrate successes. On average, 30 percent of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted, which leaves plenty of opportunities for savings.

This year’s participants also come in all shapes and sizes. They represent more than 30 different types of buildings — including retail stores, schools, hotels, and even baseball stadiums — and hail from all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. This year’s competition includes a strong showing of buildings from the public sector, including nearly 600 federal buildings, nearly 300 state and local government buildings, 225 public schools, and four buildings owned by the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. The competitors also include a Kmart store on the island of St. Thomas and crime lab in Phoenix.

Of the initial pool of nearly 3,300 competitors, the building that demonstrates the greatest percentage-based reduction in energy use intensity will be crowned as the winner in April 2013. In addition, the competition will recognize the top finishers by building type, as well as all buildings that reduce their energy use by more than 20 percent.  And, for the first time, ENERGY STAR is partnering with EPA’s WaterSense program to recognize the buildings that achieve the largest water use reductions. The 245 buildings in the 2011 competition saved a total of more than 240 million kBtus of energy and $5.2 million on annual utility bills. Given that there are 13 times more competitors this year, the final savings should be enormous!

Visit www.energystar.gov/BattleOfTheBuildings to follow the efforts of the buildings throughout the year. The competition site features an interactive map to find buildings near you, a live Twitter feed where competitors will post updates on their progress, and a user-generated photo stream where competitors will upload pictures of their energy- and water-saving efforts.

Good luck to all of the competitors, and may the best building win!

Alena Hutchison works for the Commercial and Industrial Buildings Branch for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Today’s ENERGY STAR Certified Home: Better is Better

By: Brian Ng

Earlier this month, the new, more rigorous guidelines for homes to be certified as ENERGY STAR® became effective.  In recognition of this milestone, we’re reflecting on the history and work behind the new guidelines, and highlighting the major features and benefits of homes built to these new guidelines that are the basis for our “Better is Better” outreach campaign.

In 1995, EPA first offered a labeling program for homes constructed to be significantly more energy efficient than prescribed by code.  Since then the program has been adopted by more and more builders, who’ve constructed more and more ENERGY STAR certified homes.  In fact, in 2011, nearly one in three new homes constructed in the U.S. has earned the ENERGY STAR label.  That’s an amazing accomplishment by our partners and a tremendous benefit for homebuyers – and the environment.

Over the years, EPA has updated its guidelines in response to improvements in national building codes and equipment standards, changes in the marketplace, and to incorporate lessons learned from previous iterations of the guidelines.  We began developing our latest set of energy efficiency guidelines, commonly referred to as”Version 3,“ back in 2008, issued the first draft for public comment in 2009, and released the final requirements in 2010. Since then, we’ve continued to make refinements and adjustments in response to stakeholder feedback and market factors.

Today, when a home earns the ENERGY STAR label, it means that it’s at least 15 percent more energy efficient than one built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code, and includes additional features that make it up to 30 percent more efficient than a typical new home.  All ENERGY STAR certified homes are now constructed with:

  • A complete Thermal Enclosure System with comprehensive air sealing, quality-installed insulation, and high-performance windows to deliver comfort and low utility bills;
  • A Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling System designed and installed for optimal performance, comfort, and lower bills; and
  • A comprehensive Water Management System to protect roofs, walls, and foundations from moisture damage.

These features are inspected using a set of quality assurance checklists that can dramatically reduce the chance that critical details are overlooked and that can greatly improve the efficiency, comfort, durability, and quality of homes that earn the label. That’s why we say that an ENERGY STAR certified home is built better from the ground up.

Together with stakeholders, we’ve put a lot of effort into developing and deploying a host of new training materials, webinars, and other resources to aid builders, trades, and Home Energy Raters so that they can successfully implement the new guidelines.  Many builders, including some who initially expressed concerns about increased costs to build to the new guidelines, are reporting significant cost decreases as they become more familiar with best practices for implementing the new guidelines.

We’re excited to continue supporting our partners, including more than 6,700 home builders in designing, constructing, and promoting the next generation of ENERGY STAR certified homes. We know that the new guidelines are challenging. But they are also critical to ensuring that the bar is continually raised so that the promise of the ENERGY STAR brand is delivered. Simply put: Better is better.

Mr. Brian Ng is the communications manager for ENERGY STAR’s Residential Programs. Mr. Ng has been with the U.S. EPA for 15 years supporting a wide range of initiatives related to the protection of human health and the environment, including the improvement of energy efficiency in new and existing low-income housing.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Leak Hunter

By: Danny Orlando

It’s funny how some leaks concern us and we will fix the problem right away.  Suppose you walk up to your car and a tire seems really low or you check your hot water heater and see water leaking.  These are the type of obvious leaks we repair everyday.  But, what about the heated or air-conditioned air in your home?  These leaks are elusive and require a ‘hunter’ mentality.  And so where do you start?

My house is a 1985 cedar ranch with a finished basement.  I purchased the house in 1991 and I quickly saw the energy bills increasing.  At the time, I was only concerned that everything worked and I didn’t know as much as I do now.    An event that stands out in my mind and one that made me realize I had more than a minor problem occurred one cold winter morning.  The temperature approached zero degrees (unusual for Atlanta) and the windows in my kitchen had a considerable amount of ice forming on the inside of the aluminum window frames.  Even if you don’t know much about energy efficiency, this should get your attention because ice inside your house is not a good thing unless it’s in the freezer.  There were other signs of inefficiencies, too.  Back bedrooms were hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  I would dust one day and have to dust again the next day.  A visit to the garage was a pleasant experience because it was often more comfortable than some of the living areas.  And, there was insulation that was turning black.  Time to get busy and start the hunt!

A great way to begin is to have an energy audit performed on your home.  Select a company that specializes in testing your home and finding the big problems.  They will use specialized tools that will reveal what you can’t see.  This type of audit will really open your eyes and will be worth every penny.  It will provide you with the treasure map that you need to move forward.   Since 1991, I have had four of these done and the air leaks in my house are now few.

Be warned!  Leak hunting is addictive.  You will need some cans of foam sealant (there are two types – water-based and expanding), duct sealant (mastic), and some electrical outlet gaskets.  Some places to look for leaks are under sinks, tubs and toilets, the dryer exhaust area, the fireplace damper, wiring holes, electrical sockets, air-conditioning ductwork, and holes on the outside of the house.  If you replace flooring, you also have an opportunity to foam or caulk under the baseboards.

Since I started my hunt, I have reduced my electricity usage by nearly 37 percent, or $600 dollars per year.  I’m still hunting and I do find unsealed holes/penetrations that I missed. For a leak geek this is an exciting moment.  Leak hunting will improve the air quality in your home, reduce dust and allergens, and you will probably see fewer bugs in your house.  Let the hunt begin!

Danny Orlando joined EPA’s Atlanta office in 1991 and oversees the ENERGY STAR program in the Southeastern states.  His family’s quest for lower energy bills has inspired him to become an avid leak hunter. For more information on home improvement with ENERGY STAR, click here.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Bringing Green and ENERGY STAR to My Work Environment

By: Melissa Franolich, Sustainability Manager, LG Electronics USA, Inc.

CREATING A MOVEMENT

Generally, I find that when I mention energy efficiency or sustainability to friends and colleagues, it makes their eyes glaze over, and they think that I’m out to push a green agenda.   But, what they don’t realize is that being “green” can do so much to change people’s lives—it can shrink monthly energy bills; it can reduce health damaging pollutants; and it can even create and inspire innovation.  And in my work world, it can create a movement!

I’ve seen remarkable results with programs such as “Bring Your Green to Work with ENERGY STAR®” right in my own office.  For the past several months, LG Electronics USA has been promoting energy efficiency and other sustainability topics with monthly “Live Green at LG” email blasts.  As part of this campaign, we’ve been sharing ways to make our offices greener by making more informed choices.   From changing the power management settings on our computers to unplugging electronics when they are not in use or fully charged, to remembering to turn the light off when you’re the last one leaving conference rooms and offices—these tips are really catching on!

INSPIRING BEHAVIOR CHANGE

Just as health studies have found that adapting healthy habits can motivate others around us to do the same, the best motivation for inspiring behavior change when it comes to being environmentally friendly is seeing others adapt green behaviors.

Making this green transition in the office means getting our operations team to order recycled content printer paper and encouraging double-sided printing.  It means removing paper coffee cups in favor of LG branded recycled corn-based plastic mugs.  It means using ENERGY STAR qualified equipment everywhere at the office (and at home!). And, it means constantly coming up with simple and easy steps to make our corporate culture even greener.

In the coming months, LG will undertake an internal Eco-Challenge whereby employees will be asked to make individual commitments to reducing their own carbon footprint.  This initiative will support our industry-leading goal of reducing greenhouse gasses in LG’s U.S operations by a whopping 50 percent by 2020.  Plus, as a proud 2012 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year, LG believes it has an obligation to help educate employees and keep them excited about their role in a sustainable workplace.

We all know the adage: actions speak louder than words. Working with my colleagues, I want to show how together we can make a positive difference to improve energy efficiency and protect our environment.  And it’s not hard to do; small steps add up to giant leaps forward.  ENERGY STAR provides me with ample resources to help make this happen.

Melissa Franolich is the Sustainability Manager for  LG Electronics USA, Inc.  LG Electronics is a 2012 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year award winner.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.