Monday March 25, 2013

Now is the time to increase the efficiency of your home. Well, technically it’s ALWAYS the time for that, but now is the time when it really makes sense, for a variety of reasons. We all know that energy prices are not going down. It is well understood that humans’ use of fossil energy (oil, natural gas, propane, coal) is contributing to global climate change. Prospective buyers are beginning to pay much more attention to the energy consumption of homes they’re interested in. And we all would like to achieve more comfort in the buildings we occupy. These things are fairly universal, but what makes "now" any better than next month or next year?

Now is better because the sooner you start increasing the efficiency of your home, the sooner you can start reaping the rewards through lowered energy bills. Now is better because the sooner you get started, the sooner our efforts will begin to pay off in stemming the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Now is better because the value of your home will likely increase the moment you install energy efficiency measures. Now is better because the sooner you start increasing the comfort of your home, well, the sooner it’ll be comfortable. But you know what really makes "now" the best time in recent memory to undertake to increase the efficiency of your home? The Home Energy Challenge, sponsored by Efficiency Vermont, VECAN, your local town energy committees, among others.

The Home Energy Challenge is an effort to get towns and localities to compete against each other (good-naturedly, of course!) to see which can get the most greatest number of participants (homeowners and renters alike) to pledge and follow through with energy efficiency improvements. The winning towns will receive grants to fund improvements on a townwide basis, such as insulation of town buildings or new energy efficient street lighting. More efficiency in town buildings and other expenditures can mean lower taxes, more comfortable town workers, and a lot less waste. So it’s a win/win/win here: you get greater efficiency, comfort, and value in your home. Your town (can) get greater efficiency, comfort and efficiency in its building and infrastructure. And the environment benefits because we, as a society, will be pumping fewer pollutants into the atmosphere on a yearly basis.

And this may be a good time to insert this snippet, for those of you who may not buy into the concept that human energy consumption habits are contributing to global climate change: so what if it IS false? The movement toward greater efficiency and lower consumption is asking that we treat our planet better, be better neighbors to the species with whom we share the planet, and to preserve the resources we have. What’s the downside? No, energy efficiency improvements will not cost jobs; who’s going to install the materials, develop the infrastructure, provide the expertise? Energy efficiency improvements do not, in the long run, require additional investment. The vast majority of the improvements undertaken in this effort will pay for itself through lowered energy bills. One downside that this effort may reasonably be said to have is that it will cost jobs in the sector that has been providing our energy needs to date. The ultimate truth to the matter, though, is that in order to survive and thrive, societies must adapt to changing technologies all the time. This is not a bad thing, overall.

Back on the subject immediately at hand: as part of the Home Energy Challenge, a group of dedicated and trained volunteers will be making the rounds, asking for pledges of decreased energy use and arranging for free home energy assessments: a brief walkthrough of local homes to identify simple and easy ways to start saving energy. Efficiency Vermont will be offering free energy efficiency kits (including low-flow aerators, CFLs, smart power strips, and more) that you can order through these volunteers. Efficiency Vermont is also offering instant incentives toward the cost of a comprehensive energy audit performed by certified professional contractors to get to the deeper energy savings opportunities in homes and apartments. Local contractors have banded together in the effort, agreeing to offer even further discounts off the cost of an audit, and internal rebates of the entire cost should you move forward with the work recommended. And best yet, Efficiency Vermont continues to offer generous incentives for approved energy efficiency improvements done under the guidance of these contractors, up to $2,000 per home ($5,000 per apartment building). Approved energy improvements can include insulation improvements, draft reduction, heating plant replacements, distribution improvements, and more. The more you undertake to improve the efficiency of your home, the more you stand to receive in the form of incentives from Efficiency Vermont. Additionally, just about every improvement you put into place in 2013 through the Home Performance with Energy Star Program through EVT will qualify for federal tax credits (consult your tax adviser for the details).

Back on the subject immediately at hand: as part of the Home Energy Challenge, a group of dedicated and trained volunteers will be making the rounds, asking for pledges of decreased energy use and arranging for free home energy assessments: a brief walkthrough of local homes to identify simple and easy ways to start saving energy. Efficiency Vermont will be offering free energy efficiency kits (including low-flow aerators, CFLs, smart power strips, and more) that you can order through these volunteers. Efficiency Vermont is also offering instant incentives toward the cost of a comprehensive energy audit performed by certified professional contractors to get to the deeper energy savings opportunities in homes and apartments. Local contractors have banded together in the effort, agreeing to offer even further discounts off the cost of an audit, and internal rebates of the entire cost should you move forward with the work recommended. And best yet, Efficiency Vermont continues to offer generous incentives for approved energy efficiency improvements done under the guidance of these contractors, up to $2,000 per home ($5,000 per apartment building). Approved energy improvements can include insulation improvements, draft reduction, heating plant replacements, distribution improvements, and more. The more you undertake to improve the efficiency of your home, the more you stand to receive in the form of incentives from Efficiency Vermont. Additionally, just about every improvement you put into place in 2013 through the Home Performance with Energy Star Program through EVT will qualify for federal tax credits (consult your tax adviser for the details).

To get more information, become a volunteer, or arrange for a home energy assessment, contact Paul Cameron at 251-8135 or pcameron@brattleboro.org, or visit www.brattleboroenergychallenge.org. Indeed, now really is the best time to begin. Your neighbors are participating. Citizens in other towns are participating. The incentives are waiting. What more are you waiting for?