Posts Tagged ‘cash for caulkers’

As a country, we have the technology to make our homes more energy efficient. What we lack is the will to do it.

August 3, 2010

I think Harold Orr, a pioneer in practical deep energy-efficiency in homes from Saskatchewan, summed it up very nicely three years ago at the ACI Deep Energy Retrofit Summit, when he said that with respect to serious energy-efficiency savings in homes, we don’t lack the technology, we lack the will.

Harold was right then.  And the same holds true today.  We do have the technology.  We routinely save 20-30% in homes.  We often save more than 50%.  And even without getting into renewable energy like PV or wind, we could in many cases chop 80% of the energy a home uses.    The technology exists today.  Most of the technology has existed for decades.  We have the skills.

But as a country we lack the will.  The political will.  We find it easier to ignore the problem.   We strip our mountains for coal and fill in the streams with dirt.  We damage our oceans.  We use our farmland—the land we don’t allow to erode into the sea—increasing to grow fuel, not food.  And we argue about global warming. 

And we don’t do anything to address our energy security, our economic vitality, protect the environment.  As a country, we don’t seem able to institute a sound energy policy.

This is epitomized by the energy bills (or “oil spill bill” if you prefer), Democratic and Republican alike, stalled in the Senate right now.  “Energy” policy—or lack thereof—today seems to have more to do with making the “other side” look bad than with helping the whole country.  Home Star, a bill that would create jobs across the country, help make millions of homes more energy efficient thereby saving homeowners money, and protect the environment, is stalled along with everything else.  It would be downright silly that this isn’t moving forward immediately…if it weren’t such a shame.

We can make homes much more energy efficient—and more comfortable, with better indoor air quality, and a safer environment!—today.   But to do this at scale and in a way that makes sense for the country, in a way that makes broad economic sense for the country, we need a coherent energy policy.

While partisan bickering keeps the country from moving forward, we the people are going to have to lead on this one.  We do have the technology.  We’d better find the collective will.  And soon.

Thanks,
Mike

Attic air-sealing gets attention

July 4, 2010

From an article “5 Common Habits That Cost You Dearly“, including things like credit card debt and smoking, is “Keeping a drafty attic”.   Their recommendations to fix leaky attics fall a bit short, but they’ve got the right idea.  See DIY attic insulation and air-sealing and sealing small air leaks for more information about how to do this right.

Thanks,
Mike

Home Star Act Passes the U.S. House

May 6, 2010

By a vote of 246 to 161 the House of Representatives today voted to approve the HOME STAR Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5019), which authorizes creation of a national energy retrofit program for American homeowners.

The program is designed to spur home energy retrofits by providing direct incentives to install American-made, energy-saving products and conduct whole-home retrofits. The legislation would help three million families save an estimated $200-$500 a year on their utility bills, saving homeowners close to ten billion dollars in the next decade.

GreenHomes America applauds the U.S. House on the bipartisan passage of the HOME STAR legislation.  HOME STAR would create good American jobs in construction, manufacturing and related industries. It would help American homeowners improve the efficiency of their homes and save money. And it would provide a solid foundation for our country’s energy policy and energy security. We encourage the Senate to act quickly to get the HOME STAR bill to the President’s desk and get our workers back on the job.  Until the Senate takes action, though, this is still just a good idea, not reality.

Congratulations to House Republicans and Democrats alike who showed that they can come together for the good of the country–something that hasn’t been easy of late.

Thanks,
Mike

A “Gold Star” Audit

May 6, 2010

What does a “Gold Star” energy audit look like?  It looks just like the audits that GreenHomes provides.

Audit Image

The idea behind a Gold Star audit is an accurate and actionable.

To be accurate, the audit needs to include a good inspection and a range of diagnostics including combustion safety, infiltration (using a blower door), duct leakage testing, and an infrared scan.  If the person conducting the audit is making cost-effectiveness recommendations, then they need to have a firm understanding of local installation costs by a quality contractor—if they don’t know these exact prices they can’t talk about cost effectiveness!  And only by accurately determining how your home is operating, can we determine how much you can save.

To be actionable, any recommendations for improvement need to be easily understood by you and easily communicated to an installation contractor who can fully execute the recommendations.  For example, if the recommendations are for attic air-sealing and insulation (you shouldn’t do the insulation without the air-sealing), the person doing the work needs to understand exactly what needs to be done and be able to deliver (assuming the recommendations are accurate—see above!).  

A simple “clipboard audit” or home energy rating won’t cover both of these for you, so make sure you get what you need!  And don’t waste your money on what you don’t!

For a bit more background and additional links, see my earlier posts, our website, or the video description above.

Thanks,
Mike

Bipartisanship in DC? Can energy-efficiency bring us together?

May 5, 2010

Spence Abraham, the former Secretary of Energy under Bush 2 and a former Senator from Michigan, and John Engler, the former (R) governor of Michigan and current President of the National Association of Manufacturers, penned an op-ed in The Hill today endorsing Home Star, the energy-efficiency home retrofit bill.  And they summed up the merits by quoting the President.

“This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea; this is a common-sense approach that will help jumpstart job creation while making our economy stronger.”

And “common sense” is a phrase often used by Peter Welch (D-VT), who is the lead sponsor of the bill in the House, a bill that made it out of committee with bipartisan support.

Here’s hoping that common sense and bipartisanship can prevail for the good of the country.   It should.  Quoting Messrs. Abraham and Engler, “Support for jobs, homes and energy efficiency naturally crosses party lines.”

Reason to be hopeful.

Mike

Congressman Welch Leads Home Star Job Creation Initiative

March 15, 2010

Congressman Peter Welch hosted an event today in Williston, VT at the home of some Vermonters investing in energy-efficiency in their own home–and expecting to save 30% doing so.  The Congressman spoke about the pending Home Star legislation, and local contactors, builders, retailers, energy experts, and home owners joined in supporting the proposal.

Remarks by Mike Rogers, Senior Vice President, GreenHomes America

Williston, VT — March 15, 2009 — My name is Mike Rogers. I’m the Senior Vice President at GreenHomes America.  And today we’re here to talk about jobs.

First, let me say what a privilege it is to be here with Congressman Welch.  I’m thoroughly impressed with the Congressman’s work on this issue.  He has shown time and time again the ability to reach out across the aisle and across different segments of his own party to hammer out good, common sense solutions.  I’ve had the opportunity over the last few months to work with a broad group representing contractors, manufacturers, labor, environmentalists, and energy experts from across the political spectrum to provide real-world input into the Home Star concept.  And I’m here to tell you that because of the way Peter focuses on the common sense and practical approach, Home Star has good bi-partisan support.  We in Vermont are lucky to have such leadership.

But let’s get back to jobs, jobs, jobs, because that’s what Home Star is about.

Home Star would help create jobs in the construction industry, perhaps the hardest hit sector of our economy, and a sector in which recovery is lagging even as we show signs of emerging from the recession.  Nationally, more than 25%, that’s 1 in 4, construction jobs have been lost over the past couple of years.  In Vermont, that’s almost 6,000 jobs.  6,000 people out of work.  Home Star would help turn that around.

Home Star means jobs for contractors, the insulators, window installers, heating guys and plumbers.  People in our own communities that we can get back to work, in jobs that can never be exported.

Home Star also means jobs at our local lumber yards and supply houses where we get the materials to make homes more energy-efficient.

Home Star means manufacturing jobs.  And well over 90% of the products and materials used in these home improvement projects are made right here in the U.S.

I can’t speak for the industry, but at my company, these are good paying, year-round jobs, with full benefits, vacation and holiday pay, health insurance, 401(k)s, and more.

The jobs created get people back to work, off unemployment, and get money flowing through our communities.

Home Star does this not by providing a hand-out, but by encouraging private sector investment.  That’s homeowners investing in their own homes.  And private sector businesses investing in their own companies to stand up an industry that will thrive for decades to come. 

That is good economics.  Good home economics.  Good Vermont economics.  And good economic policy for our country.  As Peter would say, it’s good common sense.

Home Star is the right policy for right now.  It’s a bipartisan policy.  I’d like to thank Congressman Welch for his leadership and his willingness to look at this not from a Democrat or Republican perspective, but from the perspective of what’s best for our state and our country.

Home Star Hearing in the Senate

March 11, 2010

If you CSPAN types would like to watch the discussion in action, a video of the Home Star hearing today is available on the Senate website.  Skip ahead 21 minutes to get to the start of the hearing.

The testimony is also available, with great written testimony by Larry Laseter on behalf of the Home Star Coaltion.

Senate Hearing Puts HOME STAR’s Job-Creating Potential in the National Spotlight

March 11, 2010

Exciting developments on the HOME STAR front with bills being drafted in both the U.S. House and Senate. GreenHomes America is proud to be supporting these efforts with input based on our real-world experience delivering improvements to homeowners in New York, New Jersey, and California, improvements that not only help them stop wasting money and energy, but more them more comfortable in their homes.

And, as Brett Knox, the President of GreenHomes said, “New jobs are desperately needed in America and HOME STAR will provide them by accelerating the growth of an industry focused on making homes use less energy. HOME STAR is based on established quality assurance standards so homeowners can be confident they are getting quality improvements installed and they will start saving money on their utility bills immediately.”

In Washington DC, the HOME STAR Coalition today applauded Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for holding a hearing on the need for bi-partisan, job-creating legislation such as the proposed HOME STAR legislation.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to testify before the Senate to voice support for the Home Star program on behalf of the entire HOME STAR Coalition. HOME STAR is a win-win-win as it will put our nation’s skilled construction force back to work, benefit homeowners through comfort and energy efficient improvements to their existing homes, and result in long term energy efficiency gains. On behalf of the entire Home Star Coalition, I urge Congress to act quickly to commence this program,” said WellHome President Larry Laseter in his remarks before the Senate Committee.

HOME STAR is a market-driven, low-bureaucracy program that would create jobs fast by scaling the existing home energy efficiency improvement industry. HOME STAR would use incentives to spur more Americans to start making their homes more energy efficient. It would establish a $6 billion rebate program to encourage immediate investment in energy-efficient appliances, building mechanical systems and insulation, and whole-home energy efficiency retrofits. Consumers nationwide would embrace HOME STAR because it will be imple, accessible and help them save money.

“We believe the HOME STAR program will deliver both economic and environmental benefits,” said Andrew N. Liveris, Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company. “Economically, it will stimulate the construction sector, among the hardest hit in the recession, while also giving relief to homeowners, who count energy as their largest cost after their mortgage. HOME STAR has the additional benefit of offering immediate consumer relief through direct rebates rather than tax credits to be accrued in a distant future.”  

“Home Star is an essential step to help Americans save on their energy bills while spurring the creation of good jobs and new industries that drive economic recovery and help our country achieve energy independence,” said Chris Chafe, Executive Director of Change to Win. 

HOME STAR would help to kick-start the comeback of our country’s hard-hit construction industry. It’s estimated the legislation would create 168,000 new jobs in construction and related industries over the next two years. This would have a big impact because one out of four construction workers is currently out of a job. President Obama highlighted HOME STAR’s ability to create jobs for construction workers and contractors during a speech on March 2 while visiting Savannah Technical College in Georgia.

“HOME STAR is the right investment for the country at the right time. Energy efficiency is not a partisan issue, as it helps move us toward greater energy independence and enhances our national security. This program is targeted at the largest marketplace in the country, existing homes, and will be create jobs in a new industry that will thrive for decades,” said Tracy Price, CEO of The Linc Group. 

The HOME STAR Coalition represents over 500 construction contractors, building products and mechanical manufacturers, retail sales businesses, environmental and energy efficiency groups and labor advocates from all 50 states who want to see the job creation and energy savings benefits of federal HOME STAR legislation realized.  A draft of the proposed legislation is on the Senate Energy Committee website.

Window Season is Here

March 7, 2010

As Spring approaches, people start thinking about new windows.  [Actually, replacing windows is possible along winter long without much disruption.]

replacement windows video
Visit the GreenHomes library for videos on replacement windows and other energy-efficiency topics.

Replacing your windows can have a lot of benefits.  Newer windows can boost comfort, reduce maintenance hassle and expense, address lead paint issues, reduce fading of upholstery and carpets, eliminate the need for swapping storm windows and screens twice a year, and the list goes on.  And if you’re replacing you’re windows for any reason, choosing the right energy-efficient window AND installing them properly will help you save energy, too!   Choose the right window–and ENERGY STAR qualification is the minimum standard you should consider–generally windows that significantly exceed ENERGY STAR are readily available (including those that qualify for tax credits) and make a lot of sense.

Note that regarding energy-efficiency, replacing windows is often one of the first things that comes to mind.  The reality is that replacement windows by themselves are using one of the least cost-effective things you can do to save energy–and “payback” can be 20-30 years or more.  Insulation, air-sealing, duct-sealing and lighting usually provide a lot more bang for the buck.  Most window installers probably won’t give you the real story on that!

Replacement windows can make a lot of sense.  They have a host of benefits.  Just make sure you chose the right windows for the right windows.  And go ahead and save some energy while you’re at it.

DIY—Do it yourself attic insulation and air-sealing

February 18, 2010

With winter still hammering parts of the country, the mid-Atlantic states being plagued by ice dams, and people being interested in good home economics in today’s tough national economy, a lot of people are insulating their attics now.  This is a great step, if done correctly.  We think there are big advantages to using a well-trained professional to do the job properly. But some handy folks are inclined to handle it all their own—and that’s a reasonable approach. If you’re doing it yourself, however, it’s important to use the right details not just to save energy but also to stay safe!

DIY Done Right–The Short Version

  • Do NOT just roll out batts of insulation in the attic.  You need to air-seal first. The best resource guide for homeowners that I’ve come across is ENERGY STAR’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to ENERGY STAR Home Sealing.  And do this safely.  You don’t want to fall through ceiling.  And improper installation causes problems, like moisture issues and fire risk.
  • Be prepared to stay the course—this isn’t a fun job. It’s generally dirty, cramped, and uncomfortable—but you need to do it right if you want to see results. With some guidance from the ENERGY STAR guide, a friend and neighbor recently completed an insulation and air-sealing project. He’s very glad he did because he’s saving energy and his house is more comfortable. But he did say he’d never do it himself again. The hassle isn’t worth it and he’d rather hire someone. Check out his fun video on his DIY attic insulation project below.
  • After you’re done, make sure a professional checks the safety of all combustion equipment—furnaces, boilers, water heaters, etc.—in your home.

DIY Done Right–The Longer Version

Do NOT just roll out batts of insulation in the attic.  You’ll get very little benefit with fiberglass batts without rigorous attention to air-sealing.  Think of wearing a lose sweater or fleece on a windy winter day.  That fleece is a good insulating layer.  But when the wind blows through it, the heat gets sucked right out.  The same thing happens in your home as wind and the “stack effect” allow heat to escape through leaks in your home and blow right through the insulation.  (The stack effect:  warm air rises, and in the winter you whole house acts like a big chimney with the warm air rising out the top—unless you stop it)  This is a reason why you’ll see stained, dirty insulation in the attic.  It has essentially been filtering all of the air escaping your house–air that you paid to heat and cool and that you’re losing to outside. 


In fact, not adding insulation without air-sealing can lead to moisture and mold problems in the attic as the warm, moist air hits cold surfaces in the attic and the water condenses out just like it does on a glass of iced tea on a summer day.  Over time, this can lead to structural failure and other issues! 

Thus, it’s important to air-seal the attic.  This can be tricky as you need to use different materials and techniques depending on the type of holes and leaks.  For example, you can’t use foam against chimneys and flue because of the fire risk.  I can’t get in to all of the variations here.  The best resource guide for homeowners that I’ve come across is ENERGY STAR’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to ENERGY STAR Home Sealing.

Attics aren’t usually fun places, but you need to spend the time finding the holes and leaks.  And be careful up there!.  You don’t want to fall through the ceiling, you need to be on the lookout the electrical wiring, you need to watch out for protruding nails and screws, and you need to use the right techniques.

After insulating and air-sealing, it is very important to make sure that your combustion equipment—furnaces, boilers, water heaters, etc.—are operating safely and venting properly.  Most homeowner don’t have the equipment or skills to do this, so I won’t describe it here.  Your fuel company, a home performance specialist, or a good heating contractor should be able to do this for you.  As I’ve mentioned previously, carbon monoxide is not something to take lightly. 

All-in-all, this job may be more than most people want to handle.  If you hire someone to do this, make sure they are willing and able to do it right, with proper air-sealing and combustion safety testing.  If the contractor you’re talking to balks or doesn’t understand, walk away and find a contractor who can deliver what you need.


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