Posts Tagged ‘Energy Efficiency’

Ways to Reduce Your Need for Heat

Keeping your home warm throughout the winter is always a cause for concern. If there is an exceptionally bad month, your heating bills could be unbelievably high. Although there are eco-friendly ways to produce heat, such as wood or solar heating, there are some cost-effective ways to reduce how much you need. How do you combat the cold in the winter by reducing your need for heat?

1. Weather Strip – There are many homes that have gaps in between doors or windows and their frames. It is common for older homes to have these gaps from simply regular use and age. For a few dollars, you can go to any hardware store and pick up a role of weather stripping. This strip of foam sits in between the door or window and the frame. This strip fills the gaps that are allowing cold air to seep into the home. Most hardware stores sell a variety of styles, so you can easily find the right size for your needs.

2. Windows – During the winter, your home will lose a great deal of heat through its windows. Today’s double-paned glass can greatly reduce the amount of heat that escapes the house. If you are unable to afford the installation of double-paned glass, then there are plastic sheet kits that you can buy for relatively cheap. These kits work very well in protecting your home from the cold-producing window while allowing light to pass through. Once winter is over, these sheets can be safely removed from the window and stored for future use.

3. Insulation – Adding insulation to the walls and ceiling of your home will keep your home warmer. Perhaps the biggest impact can come from adding insulation in your attic, reducing the amount of heat that is lost on cold winter days. Try adding some insulation over rooms where you spend the most time and you will see the difference immediately. Another creative idea is to use a thermal barrier paint additive such as Insuladd. Paints like these reflect heat back into the room, greatly increase the efficiency of your existing insulation.

4. Living Wall – The use of foliage and plants is an increasingly popular way to shield your home from the heat of summer and the cold of winter. If done properly, a living wall will create a layer of natural insulation during the winter months. Although the vines may die or hibernate, they still provide extra protection for the home and create a windbreak reducing the effects of winter storms on the insulative characteristics of your walls.

Although many of these ideas are very easy to implement, some make take a bit more effort. Small steps, like those mentioned here may reduce the amount of power and/or gas you consume. Although this may not concern those with eco-friendly heating systems like a wood boiler, it is still a good idea to practice efficient methods to keeping your home from losing heat during the winter.

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger. She may be reached at: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

$300 Tax Credit Reinstated for High Efficiency Wood Boilers

With the passing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the tax credit for biomass stoves (i.e wood furnaces and wood boilers) has been retroactively renewed through the end of 2013. So, any qualified equipment purchased from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2013 is eligible for this credit. The tax credit is now set at $300 for high-efficiency biomass stoves that use “plant-derived fuel available on a renewable or recurring basis, including agricultural crops and trees, wood and wood waste and residues (including wood pellets), plants (including aquatic plants), grasses, residues, and fibers)”.

To learn more about the tax credit and what is eligible please visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE). The tax credit is also limited to a $500 “lifetime limit”, so you will want to consult with your tax preparer. The federal tax form required is located here.

It may be helpful to understand the differences between a tax credit and a rebate. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the difference is use an example:

Let’s say that you purchased a wood furnace that cost $10,000 and the appliance had $300 rebate. Rebates are often provided at the time of sale, so your effective price would be $9,700. Contrast this with a $300 tax credit for the same $10,000 appliance. You would pay the full price for the appliance and then complete form 5695 and send it with your federal tax return. The $300 would be applied against your tax bill, increasing your return or reducing the amount you need to pay the IRS.

Either way, it is more money in your pocket.

Finding and Repairing Home Air Leaks

Over  the past winter, you likely noticed that there were some spots in your house that were a bit cooler than you would have liked. These drafts are often most noticeable around windows and doors, but don’t think these are your major sources of wasted heat and energy. Rather, in most homes, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and the basement.

Where do air leaks occur in your house?

You may already know where some air leaks occur in your home, such as an under-the-door draft, but to find many of the smaller culprits, the Department of Energy recommends that you get an energy audit that includes a blower door test. A blower door test, depressurizes your home and reveals the location of many leaks.

If you don’t want to opt for a professional energy assessment or blower door test, the DOE suggests a number of less costly approaches that also provide meaningful and actionable results:

  • DIY Depressurization Test – On a cool windy day, turn off all fans, blowers, exhausts, furnaces in the house and shut all windows and doors. Use a wet hand (cool with a draft) or an incense stick (wavers in drafty area) near suspected leak areas.
  • Flashlight Test – At night, shine a flashlight over potential gaps while someone observes the house from outside. Large cracks will show up as streams of light. This method does not work well small cracks.
  • Paper Test – Shut a door or window on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper out without tearing it, you’re losing energy. This method does not address other air leak culprits.

Once you find air leaks many are rather straightforward to repair. Energy Star provides a good DIY guide to repairing common home air leaks including, recessed lighting,  plumbing vents, and wiring holes.

The nice thing about energy-saving investments is that they can show results quickly and can often pay for themselves in two heating seasons or less.

Residential Retrofit Guidelines

The Department of Energy announced the release of the new Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades.  Energy improvement programs and homeowners can adopt these guidelines to increase the consistency and effectiveness of energy upgrades, and training providers can use them to improve course curricula and training materials.  These guidelines were developed through a collaboration between energy efficiency contractors, building scientists, health and safety experts, technicians and trainers in the weatherization program, and other professionals in the building and home energy upgrade industry.

The Workforce Guidelines include standard work specifications required for high-quality work, a reference guide for technical standards and codes, analysis of the job tasks involved in completing various energy efficiency improvements, and the minimum qualifications workers should possess to perform high quality work.  Identifying the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform efficiency upgrades represents an important step in developing a nationwide framework for training program accreditation and worker certification.

No More Easy Green for Homeowners

Anyone contemplating a big home improvement project to make their homes more energy efficient has missed a rather significant window. Beginning January 1st, the federal government slashed the tax credits for energy efficiency home upgrades from 30 percent to 10 percent and reduced the total available credit to $500. For more check out the 2011 Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency.

As a manufacturer, we like to stay on top of these developments and are also interested in how these changes in incentives will change buying behaviors. Suzanne Shelton, a contributor to Fast Company magazine, summarizes the impact as, “approximately one third of the population who made their home more energy efficient would likely not have acted or would not have purchased the more efficient unit if it weren’t for the incentives offered.”

I guess that leaves it to creative marketers, manufacturers and local utilities to create the proper motivation for purchasing greener appliances.

10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Energy Use in Half

Green America recently published a list of ten ways that a homeowner can reduce their energy use by 50% (and thereby also cut their energy bill as well). The list includes some obvious choices — turn off your lights, wash your clothes with cold water and using a programmable thermostat.

Click Here to See Green America's List for Cutting Home Energy Use

What makes the list more interesting is that also includes “the easy” fixes, but also more “advanced” fixes for those that want to really attack their energy use. Unlike other lists of this type, the Green America list also provides a sense of how much energy you will be saving by making the recommended improvements.

One that stood out for me was. “Install Ceiling Fans” — I would not have imagined that running a fan would save 19% of my home energy use. Thinking about it more, it does make sense, but I had not connected the dots.

Take a look at the poster that summarizes the list and see if you are also surprised by what small changes can do for your pocket book.

Let’s Talk Home Energy

Have you ever wondered what uses more energy in your home — heating, cooling, lighting, or powering electronics like TVs, computers, and refrigerators?

No surprise it is heating. I bet you are not too surprised, after all, Greenwood is a renewable heating company. However, what may surprise you is to what extent it outpaces other energy use in your home.  As a homeowner, the U.S. Energy Information Administration presents a rather compelling picture for home improvement.

Two-thirds of the energy used in your home is for heating. Time to upgrade the windows, add insulation, pull out the caulk gun and (here it comes) look at cheaper forms of heat like a high-efficiency wood boiler. Sales pitch aside, the biggest dent you can make in your monthly energy bill is take a bite out of the heating gremlin.

Happy caulking!

Time Running Out on 30% Tax Credit

December 31st, 2010.

That is the date that federal tax credit is scheduled to expire for the purchase of new energy efficient products, including high-efficiency wood boilers. With the purchase of a qualifying product, the government will credit you 30 percent of the cost (and installation), up to $1,500.

So, why is this a big deal? Well, a tax credit is much more valuable than a tax deduction.

A deduction is an amount you can subtract from your taxable income. However, a tax credit lowers your actual tax bill dollar-for-dollar, in this case by up to $1,500. So a tax credit has a bigger impact on the money left in your pocket at the end of the day.

So, whether you are considering a wood gasification boiler, air conditioner, water heater or windows time is running out.

For more information, BuffaloNews.com has a great article.

EPA Offers Cooling Tips for Every Budget this Summer

It is August and it is still hot out there. In case you are still trying to figure out how to deal with the heat, the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program offers some great advice on low- and no-cost energy-efficient cooling tips.

Some things to consider include:

  • Pulling curtains or blinds
  • Changing the filter on your air conditioner
  • Seal your air ducts

For a complete list visit the Energy Star site.

A typical household spends almost 20% of its utility bill on cooling, and by taking steps this summer to improve energy-efficiency; you can save energy, save money, and help fight climate change.

Department of Energy: Green heat is often most cost-effective option

US Federal agencies purchased or produced 2.3 TWh of electricity from renewable sources in FY09, representing 4.2% of the Government’s electricity and surpassing the goal of 3% set by EPAct 2005. This represents a 2x increase over 2003. The goal increases this year to 5% of total electricity from renewable sources, and increases again in 2013 to 7.5%.

Perhaps what is most fascinating is that this figure does not include non-electric renewable energy purchased or consumed by the Federal government — sources like bio-thermal space heating or solar thermal hot water. However, according to a Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) testimony, “The renewable sources of non-electric energy are often the most cost-effective means to displace fossil energy,” she explains.

With that acknowledgment, what steps can be taken to insure the adoption of these cost effective sources?

One way is increase subsidies to promote adoption, much like those in H.R. 5805: Thermal Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act of 2010. Unfortunately these are only focused on large scale applications. An alternative would be to look to other countries where these alternative technologies have been employed and implement their approach — incentives targeted at residential heating.

The State of New Hampshire’s Wood Pellet Boiler Rebate program is an example of such a program. It is narrowly focused on wood pellets, but removes much of the upfront cost of implementing a system that makes a homeowner energy self-sufficient.

 
 
 
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