Category Archives: Home Electric Usage

New York State Residential Home Energy Improvement Programs

PathStone serves as the Community Based Organization for NYSERDA’s Green Jobs Green  NY Program in the Finger Lakes area.  They offer free assistance in applying for these programs, advice on how to make your home more energy efficient, and technical knowledge to help individuals communicate with local contractors participating in these programs.  PathStone is your “Energy Coach!”  Here is a summary of the programs:

  • Home Performance with Energy Star:  Helps homeowners start saving energy with a free or reduced cost energy audit, low interest loans (3.49-3.99%), and a 10% rebate on eligible measures.
  • Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star:  Provides income eligible families with matching grants of up to $5,000, as well as a free energy audit and low interest loans.
  • EmPower New York: Offers income-eligible families and individuals Free cost-effective electric reduction measures.  Some homes may also be eligible for free heating reduction measures as well.  EmPower NY assists families and individuals who fall below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
  • NY-Sun (Solar Electric): Multifaceted approach aims to lower energy costs for all New Yorkers by increasing solar power capacity and the efficiency and reliability of the electric grid.  Public-private partnerships help make installing solar technology more affordable for all New Yorkers while scaling up New York’s solar industry.

PathStone can also offer small business owners and local governments assistance in finding the right energy efficient program to suit their needs.

More info:  To participate in these programs or for more information, contact: Scott Oliver, 400 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607.  (585) 442-2030, ext. 204.  Contact by email saveenergy@pathstone.org.  Also see the Pathstone Website.

Power Strips That Auto-Turn Off And On

Technology is a cool thing. These power strips will automatically turn off whenever a 10%+ drop in current to the main outlet is detected, and automatically turn on when an increase of 7 watts or more in power to the main outlet is sensed. In other words, plug your computer into the main outlet, and its peripherals into any of the other six. When you shut down your computer, all of the peripherals will also turn off. When you turn on your computer, the peripherals will all turn on. You can buy it from the Energy Federation Inc. web site and other places.

Light Bulbs: Small Investments Can Pay Big Dividends

Buy energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs for your most-used lights. Although they cost more initially, they save money in the long run because they use only 1/4 as much energy as ordinary incandescent bulbs, while lasting 8 to 12 times longer. And fluorescents put out an equivalent amount of bright, attractive light.

Only 10 percent of the energy consumed by ordinary bulbs generates light; the rest just makes the bulb hot.

If every U.S. household replaced one standard light bulb with a compact, energy-efficient fluorescent, we could save the same amount of energy as a large nuclear plant produces in a year. In a typical home, one compact fluorescent bulb can prevent the emission of 200 pounds of CO2 per year.

Do Not Buy Oversized Equipment

When it comes to heating and cooling, smaller is better!

Oversize your furnace and it will turn of and on a lot. These things run most efficiently when warm. I know it is counter-intuitive, but sizing them so they will run and run is most efficient, and is also most comfortable. New furnaces pull so much of the energy out of the fuel that they don’t blow very warm air.

Sizing can create huge problems for your A/C. In humid climates one of the big advantages of A/C is they remove humidity. This has dramatic indoor air quality benefits. Reduced humidity reduces the potential for mold problems. To effectively remove humidity lots of air needs to run across the cold coil. An oversized A/C unit cools the air so quickly it doesn’t have time to remove much humidity. By cooling things quickly you have colder indoor surfaces with a high humidity environment. This can actually increase mold risk as the risk of condensation on solid surfaces has been increased.

When replacing equipment it is a good idea to get an energy audit. This process will determine missed insulation and air sealing (Envelope) opportunities, and make sure you don’t oversize your new equipment. By performing improvements to your Envelope at the time of equipment replacement you can often move to smaller equipment.

Turn Your Refrigerator Down

Refrigerators account for about 20% of household electricity use.

Use a thermometer to set your refrigerator temperature as close to 37 degrees, and your freezer temperature as close to 3 degrees as possible.

Make sure that the energy-saver switch is turned on; also, check the gaskets around your fridge-freezer doors to make sure they are clean and tight-sealed.

When It Is Time To Replace Old Appliances…

When you decide to replace old appliances, be sure to choose the most energy-efficient new models available. Look for the “Energy Star” label, so that you may be assured that what you buy saves energy and prevents pollution.

In addition, be careful to buy models of the right size for your needs—not the biggest available.

Be aware that front-loading washers can cut hot-water use by up to 60 to 70%.

Replacing a typical 1973 refrigerator with a new, energy-efficient product saves 1.4 tons of CO2 a year; a solar water heater can save 4.9 tons of CO2 annually.

PV (Photovoltaic) Solar Power Generation

Solar PV systems take energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. They produce no air pollution, hazardous waste or noise and require no transportable fuels. Benefits of installing a PV system:

  • Has very little impact on the environment, making them one of the cleanest power-generating technologies available.
  • Government incentives to reduce costs for installation. Net metering programs from utilities to provide power back to the grid affect life cycle costs of the system.
  • Produced domestically so the industry strengthens our economy and reduces our dependence on foreign sources of fuel.

Get An Energy Audit

This thorough diagnostic test takes a whole house approach to analyze where you are losing the most energy. A good analysis will also give a good indication of return on investment for various improvements. Remember, money saved on energy bills is after-tax money—so $100 annual savings on a $1,000 investment is like earning 10% tax free! And that savings grows and energy prices go up!

Beware of auditors that only have one solution!

While you may love those new windows—NYSERDA has them very low on the list of things that will save energy. If your auditor has a limited arsenal of solutions don’t be surprised by disappointing energy savings.

Fiberglass insulation

This material works very well at filtering air, but not so well as insulation. Air moves very easily through it. Any air movement quickly reduces its insulation value. In walls there are convective currents that reduce fiberglass’ effectiveness. In attics there is wind-washing from vents and stack effect up through plumbing and electrical penetrations. Furthermore, fiberglass is widely recognized as “the next asbestos.”

Sometimes the incremental investment gets the best return.

Remember the adage: “You’ve got to spend money to make money?” With energy savings,  you have  to invest money to get a return on investment. When spending $4,000 on a new furnace, that small additional investment in a variable speed motor can dramatically increase efficiency and comfort. Spending a little more for air sealing insulation instead of air permeable insulation will pay back at current energy prices—so when prices go up that incremental investment gets a geometric return. Don’t spend a bunch of money and miss the real opportunities for return on investment!