Energy saving tips for winter

Each winter, approximately 57 percent of American homes become their own power plants as they burn natural gas for space heating. By taking a few simple steps around your home, you can reduce your energy consumption, improve comfort, and protect the environment.



The DOE estimates that homeowners can reduce energy usage by up to 9 percent through proper usage of a programmable thermostat. This requires setting back your thermostat 8 to 10 degrees when you are away from home. Unfortunately, only 30 percent of American homes actually have a programmable thermostat installed. Of those homes, a majority of the thermostats have not been installed or programmed properly. The Energy Alliance has a great article on thermostats and the role they play in energy efficiency.


Air sealing

Reducing the amount of air that leaks into your home is a great way to cut heating costs. Most homes have gaps and penetrations to the outside that when taken together can be the same as leaving a window open all winter. The stack effect allows cold air to enter your home near the foundation and forces warm air out through your attic plane. While insulation can help, sealing these penetrations is the best way to prevent warm air from escaping your home. The DOE and ENERGY STAR both have helpful resources outlining do-it-yourself tips for air sealing.


Each winter many people look forward to sitting around the fireplace with family and friends. However, when not used properly, fireplaces can contribute to significant heat loss. Lower the temperature on your thermostat when you have a fire to prevent warm air from being pulled out of your home. Make sure that the fireplace damper is closed and sealed tightly when the fireplace is not in use. If you do not use your fireplace, then it is a good idea to have the chimney plugged and sealed.


Winter brings with it shorter days and more time spent inside. Installing energy efficient lighting is a great way to reduce electricity consumption. LED bulbs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs while providing the same amount of light. LED prices have dropped significantly over the past several years and there are now a variety of options from which to choose. ENERGY STAR has a great infographic that explains everything you need to know about light bulbs and can help you make smart decisions the next time you venture down the lighting aisle.


Home Energy Assessment

The best way to determine how your home is using and losing energy is with a home energy assessment. It provides a comprehensive overview of your home and identifies opportunities to reduce energy consumption and improve comfort. The Energy Alliance offers basic and advanced home energy assessments for homeowners. In addition, many private companies are also beginning to offer energy assessments. Make sure whoever you select is certified by the Building Performance Institute or another certifying body to complete energy assessments. If you are feeling adventurous and want to conduct your own assessment, then the DOE has some great guidance on performing do-it-yourself energy assessments.

In addition to these tips, there are a number of other simple things you can do around your home that can help you save even more energy. By reducing the amount of energy you use, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money without sacrificing comfort this winter.



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Energy Efficiency on and International Scale: Egypt

On October 2nd, we had an opportunity to speak with visitors from Egypt about Greater Cincinnati’s successes with energy efficiency and renewable energy.

This was our second presentation to international visitors as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Leadership Program hosted locally by the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council.

Andy Holzhauser, our CEO, and Chris Meyer, our Energy Program Director, spoke about how energy efficiency and renewable energy can be a tool for transformative economic development. Andy and Chris also presented an overview of the Energy Alliance, our programs, and our impact on the region.

An impromptu tour of the basement

“We got to talking about variable frequency motors and most of them had never seen one before. They have them in their country, but they don’t use them. So I said, we have some in the basement, why don’t we go take a look?”
– Chris Meyer

A basement tour isn’t usually a part of the itinerary for our guests, but the day unexpectedly concluded in the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s (GCF) basement to look at the energy efficient variable frequency drives on the HVAC equipment.

Older HVAC motors operate at two speeds, either full on or full off. Newer variable frequency drives offer improved efficiency by attaching a computer ‘brain’ to the motor that allows it to vary its output to the amount of torque required. These drives usually pay for themselves through energy savings after just a few years. Since the group consisted mostly of engineers, they were interested to see a variable frequency drive in action.


The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council and The International Visitor Leadership Program

The Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) is an organization whose mission is to be the “leader in preparing the region and its citizens, individually and collectively, to thrive in the 21st century global environment by promoting international understanding, education, engagement, and cooperation.” GCWAC is the local host organization for the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

The IVLP was developed to help “current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.” An overview of its 75-year history is summarized in this YouTube video:


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Solarize Cincy Campaign

Jumpstarting Greater Cincinnati’s Solar Industry

Solar power is going mainstream. Our Solarize Cincy campaign is intended to help grow the demand for solar in Greater Cincinnati by getting residents, businesses, and local governments excited about the new, modern solar. Solar prices have dropped 73% in the past 10 years, so we believe now is a great time to help the region understand the benefits solar power can provide.

Our Short Term Goal: 50 Solar Installations

Our goal is to install 50 new solar projects by the end of June 2016. If each of these 50 projects only installed a very modest solar array of 3 kW, they would collectively:

  • create $14,100 of energy annually
  • create $352,500 of energy over the panels’ 25-year lifespan
  • save 2,920 tons of CO2 over 25 years

$1,500 City of Cincinnati Incentive

To make solar even more accessible, we’ve partnered with the city of Cincinnati to offer an incentive to Solarize Cincy participants who are also Cincinnati residents. Under the partnership, city of Cincinnati residents can receive $300 per kW, with a maximum incentive per home of $1,500. Funding is limited and available on a first come first served basis. (Click here to see how we’re doing.)

The Launch Event

We launched our campaign on October 1, 2015 in the Duke Energy Go Green Garden at the Cincinnati Zoo. City of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, Thayne Maynard of the Cincinnati Zoo, and Andy Holzhauser of the Energy Alliance all spoke about the benefits that solar power for homeowners and the region. In addition to a great response from our local media, the event was a great opportunity to bring together the region’s solar influencers, from installers to government leaders, to fellow nonprofit partners.

Below are some pictures from our launch event.


Andy Holzhauser, Energy Alliance:
“We believe the time has come for solar to be an impactful, economically feasible and meaningful energy source for homes in our area. Solar is truly at the tipping point.”



Mayor John Cranley:
“It’s good for the environment and it’s good for your pocketbook… …this is a win-win.”



Thayne Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo:
“It is possible to thrive and live sustainably and solar is a big part of that for the Cincinnati Zoo.”



Attendees at our launch – from left to right: Josh Brooks, Brewster Rhoads, Michael Forrester, Sue Magness, Andy Holzhauser, Dane Ervick, Chris Meyer, Jeremy Faust, Thayne Maynard, Beth Robeson, Josh Moore, Steve Schumacher, Mark Wiley, Mark Fisher, Larry Feist, Toni Winston, Chad Yelton, Yancy Deering, Larry Falkin, and Sophia Cifuentes.

Photos by Brad Robeson


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In the News: Solarize Cincy Launch at the Cincinnati Zoo

We’ve been in the news lately due to our Solarize Cincy launch event at the Cincinnati Zoo on October 1st.

A special thanks to our local news outlets for sharing our story with their viewers. Below is coverage of the event from WLWT 5, WKRC Local 12 (and an additional nuts-and-bolts talk between Local 12’s Dan Hurley and Energy Alliance CEO Andy Holzhauser on its Newsmakers show), and FOX 19.

WLWT 5: Solarize Cincy Launch Event Coverage

WKRC 12: Launch Coverage


WKRC 12: Newsmakers: Andy Holzhauser Interview
(Our Segment starts at 16:44)

FOX 19: Launch Coverage

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Cincinnati’s Greening of the MLS: Increasing the Value of Energy Efficiency Homes

The Cincinnati Multiple Listing Service (MLS) manages housing information for real estate professionals throughout the region. When you search for houses online, all the data about the home, from lot size to number of bedrooms, is tracked by the Cincinnati MLS.

Greening the MLS

The Cincinnati MLS recently announced an important milestone in the enhancement of local green and energy related home buying tools. Homeowners and their agents are now able incorporate a number of new energy features into the MLS systems via an Energy Efficient/Green Features form.

With this form, a homeowner can identify a comprehensive set of enhancements to a home, including specific building rating information such as LEED ® and Home Energy Score ®. The form is then uploaded into the MLS system and available for prospective homebuyers to review. In addition, the presence of the form is searchable, allowing homeowners interested in energy saving homes to quickly and easily identify where those homes exist. In the years ahead, the MLS team hopes to develop further green resources to enhance the value of local real estate.

Why Add Green Features to the MLS?

Home energy costs are typically greater than the combined costs of homeowners insurance and property taxes, yet there is no easy way to report on and compare a home’s energy value. Home sellers can experience similar frustrations. Those homeowners that have made investments in home energy improvements (such as insulation/air sealing upgrades, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, and other elements that can significantly reduce a home’s operating costs), are often unable to recoup their investments when selling due to the inability to effectively communicate these benefits. Incorporating this information into the MLS system is thus crucial in creating value.

A Need For Green

National research has identified a growing consumer interest in green [1] and energy efficient homes. Of more than 120 features rated in the National Association of Home Builders 2012 Annual Survey, energy efficiency now ranks among the top two most wanted features, favored by more than 85 percent of respondents.[2] Indeed, home energy costs can make up a sizeable portion of a homeowner’s annual home expenses. Analysis from the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook highlights that home energy costs are typically larger than either property taxes or homeowners insurance.[3] Yet despite the continued interest from homeowners and the significant cost considerations, there is often limited information available for a home buyer to understand a home’s energy or utility profile.

Studies conducted in markets throughout the country have shown that homes with green features have increased value, transact more quickly, and experience lower rates of foreclosure, compared to similar homes without these features. A 2012 study conducted by a pair of UCLA economists found that green labeled homes were selling for a 9% premium compared to non-labeled homes.[4] A 2013 study from the University of North Carolina Center for Community Capital and the Institute for Market Transformation found a 32% lower risk of default for energy-efficient homes.[5]

Where are Green Homes in Greater Cincinnati?

Like much of the country, the Cincinnati region has experienced a rapid growth of green rated homes in recent years, exemplified by significant transformation in the new home market. A recent Smart Market Report from McGraw Hill Construction noted that within five years, half of builders expect more than 60% of their new home projects to be green, nearly double the number of firms that are currently building green. ENERGY STAR® has more than 7,800 certified homes in the Cincinnati region, the Energy Alliance has directly supported more than 1,800 home energy upgrades in recent years, and the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is on pace to continue to rate more than 1,000 regional homes per year. When combined with new market entrants from new home sales, the number of green homes in the regional market is expected to reach a critical mass in the years ahead. Now is a opportune time to take advantage of this growth.

How the MLS Became Green

Back in 2013, the Energy Alliance began a community dialogue about the value of energy efficient homes in the Cincinnati market. Studies from across the country had revealed that homes with energy efficiency or other green features are more valuable than there non-energy efficient counterparts. In addition to savings homeowners money, these homes have been shown to increase value by nearly 10%.

The Energy Alliance suspects that similar value exists in the local market and is committed to helping homeowners who have made these investments gain the most value for their homes. To help grow this dialogue, the Energy Alliance joined together with some of the region’s leading voices for energy efficiency, including the City of Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati’s Green Umbrella network, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Cincinnati Chapter, and Efficiency First Cincinnati.

To test its assumptions and explore options to grow the industry, these partners convened a series of stakeholder discussions that included a diverse array of local real estate agents, appraisers, home builders, planning officials, and mortgage bankers. The purpose of this dialogue was to discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with increasing transparency of green and energy efficient homes. Out of these conversations a consensus began to emerge around the potential value of green homes and the group developed a series of recommendations to the Cincinnati MLS to help incorporate more green building information into the local MLS database.

The Energy Alliance is committed to working with the local real estate community in support of their new initiative. The implementation of green fields will require ongoing training and outreach (among agents, appraisers, homebuyers, and even mortgage bankers) to ensure proper understanding and implementation of these new tools.

What’s Next?

The Energy Alliance is committed to working with the Cincinnati MLS and other partners to broadly shre these important new resources and support homeowners seeking to gain value for their homes. The Energy Alliance is in the process of developing a series of training sessions and informational materials to share with homeowners and members of the local real estate community.



Contact Jeremy Faust at the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance:




[1] Green homes can include a variety of different features. Most green home certifications focus primarily on a home’s energy usage. Some also include consideration of s home’s indoor air quality, water efficiency, durability, and building materials, among other features.

[2] National Association of Home Builders Annual Survey (2012).

[3] Info provided through the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook (2013), the American-Community Survey (2010), and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Annual Homeowner Insurance Report (2010).

[4] The Value of Green Labels in the California Housing Market (2012). UCLA Environmental Economics Series. Matthew Kahn and Nils Kok. The study included a hedonic pricing analysis of all single-family home sales in California between 2007 and 2012. Study focused on homes labeled with ENERGY STAR, LEED, or Greenpoint Rated, transact for a premium of nine percent relative to otherwise comparable, non-labeled homes.

[5] Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks (2013). Institute for Market Transformation and UNC Center for Community Capital.

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Energy Consumption: Back to the Future

How Much Energy Do We Use? Back to the Future Edition!

We’re spotlighting some energy-usage comparisons developed by the Department of Energy (DOE) in their interactive online infographic – How Much to Energy do you Use? While some people may prefer to think about energy usage in terms of cars off the road or trees planted, the DOE has a little more fun with the concept. How about time-travelling DeLoreans?

2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the movie Back to the Future. In the movie, Marty McFly needs 1.21 gigawatts of power, (approximately the power of a lightning strike), to send himself back to the future.

With that in mind, the Department of Energy infographic takes a look at how much energy we consume on an annual basis and puts it in terms of the number of trips we could make back to the future with all that energy.

Ohio, Lowest Regional Energy Usage Winner

The average Ohioan uses about 154,400,000 kBtus annually (close to the national average). This is enough energy to send Marty 30 years back to the future a total of 121 times.

Taking the idea one step further, if he used all that energy for one big trip back in time, Marty would land in 1645 BC, when pharaohs ruled Egypt .

Kentucky, In a Close Second Place

The average Kentuckian uses approximately 185,800,000 kBtus annually, which is enough energy to send Marty 30 years back through time a total of 151 times.

If he used all that energy on one trip back in time, then he would land in 2545 BC, just a few hundred years before Stonehenge was constructed.

For Comparison:

Alaskans use the most energy nationally, about 334,200,000 kBtus annually. That’s the equivalent of sending Marty through time a total of 271 times, or back to the year 6,145 BC, when wine and cheese were first made.

New Yorkers use the least energy, about 106,00,000 kBtus. That would send Marty through time a total of 86 times, or back to the year 595 BC during the Roman Empire.

What will our energy usage hold for the future?

October 21, 2015 is the official “future” date that Marty travels to in Back to the Future 2. While the 2015 depicted in the movie is very different from the 2015 of today, there have been a lot of exciting developments in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energy that will continue to change the ways we use and make energy. Whether or not the “Mr.Fusion Home Energy Reactors” will be part of that mix or not remains to be seen, but who knows what the next 30 years will bring.


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Avoid Thermostat Battles!

Avoid Thermostat Battles! Set It and Forget It

Thermostats: One of the keys to a happy home

We recently came across an entertaining commercial that our friends at Michigan Saves put together that focuses on the idea of fighting for control of your thermostat.

The commercial, along with an article in the Washington Post (check out the article’s great video), got us thinking about the significant role that thermostats play in energy efficiency.

Half of Us Don’t Use our Thermostats Properly

According to the Department of Energy, home heating is the largest source of energy usage in the home while home cooling comes in third. That means taking control of those systems can lead to big savings on our energy bills. In fact, the DOE estimates that homeowners can reduce their energy usage by up to 9 percent through proper usage of programmable thermostats.

Unfortunately, only 30% of homes actually have programmable thermostats installed. Of those, a majority have not been programmed properly. You don’t have to be a mathematician to understand that such a low percentage translate into a lot of wasted energy.

Why Thermostats Aren’t Being Programmed

If programmable thermostats are so good, why aren’t more people using them? The Washington Post outlines three reasons why the vast majority of Americans have not embraced programmable or smart thermostat technology:

  1. Many older style programmable thermostats are too difficult to use so homeowners keep them in manual mode. In fact, research shows that less than half the people that own a programmable thermostat actually use it correctly.
  2. We often inherit thermostats when we move into a house, condo, or apartment. We didn’t choose the thermostat and we have no idea how to use it.
  3. A large portion of the general public has bought into the myth that setting back your thermostat at night or when they are gone requires more energy when it is time to heat or cool their home again. The DOE has conducted extensive research debunking this myth.

The Solution: Knowledge is Power. And Savings.

If you already own a programmable thermostat but aren’t sure how to use it, ENERGY STAR has some great resources:

A programmable thermostat isn’t always the right choice, especially if your system uses a heat pump, so make sure you know what technology is compatible with what you already have.

The Alternative Solution: Upgrade by Getting Smart

There are plenty of options out there for individuals who want to upgrade their existing thermostats to the latest technology. The next generation of smart thermostats like Nest, ecobee, and Lyric have easy to use interfaces and can be controlled remotely through an app on your smart phone. Smart thermostats offer a range of benefits from ensuring that your heating or cooling system ramps up in an efficient manner to knowing when you are within a certain distance of your home so it can bring it to your desired temperature. Before purchasing a smart thermostat, do your research and make sure that the one you select is compatible with your heating or cooling system.

The Result: Comfort, Savings, and Cool Heads

Whether you have an old programmable thermostat or a new smart thermostat, remember that taking the time to learn how to use it effectively can result in significant energy savings, and keep your household from thermostat battles.




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Solar in Cincinnati? Yes! #4

Can Greater Cincinnati support a solar industry?



These 26 organizations listed in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) database include manufacturer/suppliers (like Enerfab Inc. in Winton Place), installers (like Dovetail Solar and Wind), and other related solar services (financing, project development, consulting, and nonprofits).

See the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) interactive online map for a view of Cincinnati, and the rest of Ohio’s solar industry:


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Dishwashers vs. Sinks!

Can you wash 8 full place settings of dishes with only 2 minutes of running water?

We were recently inspired to reconsider our dishwashing practices by an article in The Washington Post entitled, “Why you shouldn’t wash your dishes by hand”. The article challenges a common perception that hand washing saves energy and water.

Here’s the big picture:

  • modern dishwashers are optimized for efficient water and energy use
  • are able to save 230 hrs (10 days) annually that would otherwise be spent hand washing
  • are very effective at cleaning
  • are able to sanitize dishes with 140 degree water


“Scrape, Don’t Rinse”

According to the article, the most egregious water waste commonly occurs when dishes are pre-rinsed with continually running water before they go into a dishwasher. Modern dishwashers are more than capable of cleaning residue on eating-ware, so simply scraping dishes can adequately prepare them for washing.

If the article’s recommendations aren’t enough to convince you, it provides a number of other consumer and efficiency-minded organizations that have also weighed in on the scraping-versus-rinsing debate and the role of the modern efficient dishwasher:


The Clear Loser: Old Dishwashers

The Post concedes that while the most frugal and strategic of hand washers might be able to compete with modern dishwashers, older models finish last place concerning energy and water efficiency. Combine an inefficient dishwashing machine with in-sink pre-rinsing, and the problem is compounded.

The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that a dishwasher from 1991 uses up to 3-5 times more water and 1-2 times more energy than modern efficient models. Paired with an estimated 20 gallons of water wasted annually from pre-rinsing, an appliance update starts looking worthwhile.

Update and Save Energy, Water, Effort, and Money

Even if you don’t agree that it’s better to use a modern dishwasher than to hand wash, the main takeaway should be that an old dishwasher is costly. Like most energy efficiency measures, an investment in an ENERGY STAR certified machine pays back through energy, water, and time savings.

ENERGY STAR has an array of resources on its website that provide a potential buyer with everything they need to make a wise purchase:

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us either online, or by phone (513-621-4232), and we will be happy to talk with you.

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