Category Archives: Home Heating and Cooling

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.

Furnace Airflow

Don’t use pleated air filters! You wouldn’t drive your car towing a hundred pound block around—don’t do that to your furnace! Overly restrictive filters slow airflow through your furnace—usually well below what the furnace requires for efficient operation. Reduced airflow leads to higher energy bills and durability issues, (overheating the furnace, over cooling the A/C coil, overworking the blower motor). Have your furnace’s airflow tested next time you have it serviced! A/C requires 400 cfm per ton for maximum efficiency. Cheap filters don’t restrict airflow and can be sprayed with a treatment to improve dirt collection.

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!

Turn Down Your Water-Heater Thermostat

Such thermostats are usually set to 140 degrees, although 120 is usually enough.

Every ten-degree reduction saves 600 pounds of CO2 per year for an electric heater, or 440 pounds for a gas heater.

If every household in the U.S. turned down its water-heater thermostat by 20 degrees, we could prevent more than 45 million tons of CO2 emissions per year—an amount equal to the total annual emissions from, for example, Kuwait or Libya.

Cellulose Insulation

Cellulose is a material used as loose-fill insulation made from recycled wood fiber, primarily newsprint. The wood fiber is shredded and pulverized into small, fibrous particles that pack tightly into closed building cavities, inhibiting airflow. This provides a thermal resistance of R-3.6 to R-3.8 per inch.

Cellulose insulation is considered a green building material because recycling paper has a big impact on the environment.  Paper and paper products make up the largest percentage of material deposited in municipal landfills, up to 38% material deposited in landfill!  For every 1 ton of paper recycled and reused,  3 cubic feet of landfill space and  17 trees of lumber are saved.

Cellulose insulation is a blown product, so it is easily blown into irregular or hard-to-reach spaces, but contains no harmful emissions during or after installation, contains no formaldehyde, and is mold-resistant.  It is not water resistant, but it has water wicking characteristics.