Over the past 30 years, national appliance efficiency standards have helped households across the U.S. reduce their utility bills and the impact they have on the environment. The standards cover a wide variety of appliances and equipment that account for about 90 percent of a home’s annual energy use.
$62 Million in Annual Savings
While the first system for establishing standards was passed into law in 1975, it wasn’t until 1987 when the first federal law establishing minimum efficiency standards for household appliances was passed. Since that time, the number of products subject to standards as well as the standards themselves have continually been updated to push for additional energy savings. The standards are estimated to save consumers more than $62 million a year.
1980 Refrigerator = 2 Modern Refrigerators
This graph from our friends at ACEEE, a national non-profit for energy efficiency, demonstrates the remarkable impacts that efficiency standards have had over the years. While it only focuses on four of the 65 different products that have standards, it is easy to appreciate the impact it has had in other areas as well. It also demonstrates quite clearly why it is a great idea to get rid of that old refrigerator in your garage or basement and replace it with a newer ENERGY STAR model. ACEEE has an article that looks at the amazing decline in home appliance energy use in more depth.
Taking Standards to the Next Level
Now that you are equipped with a basic understanding of federal efficiency standards, it’s time to add ENERGY STAR into the mix. Most people know to look for the ENERGY STAR label when they purchase anything from a refrigerator to a computer, but they don’t know what it means. Products that qualify for the ENERGY STAR label go above and beyond the national energy conservation standards. To give you an idea of what this means, take a look at the comparison of the federal standards and ENERGY STAR standards for dishwashers:
The amount of energy savings attributable to appliance and equipment standards will continue to grow in the future. The Department of Energy is expected to begin work in 2016 on standards that will further improve the performance of one of the major sources of energy use in households, heating and cooling equipment. In addition, a number of revised standards for many common household products are also expected to be released in 2016.
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.
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.
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  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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact Rob McCracken at the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org
DOWNLOAD THE ENERGY EFFICIENCY/GREEN FEATURES FORM:
 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.
 National Association of Home Builders Annual Survey (2012).
 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).
 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.
 Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks (2013). Institute for Market Transformation and UNC Center for Community Capital.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- an interactive online thermostat to teach you how to use a programmable thermostat
- guidelines for setpoint times and temperatures that can help you program it properly
- thermostat buying guidance
- installation tips
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.
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:
- Consumer Reports
- ENERGY STAR
- American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) Smarterhouse.org
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:
- Benefits, Specifications, and Best Practices of ENERGY STAR dishwashers
- Comparisons of ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers
- Finding the nearest store
- Similar information about other ENERGY STAR appliances, building products, electronics, heating and cooling equipment, lighting and fans, office equipment, pool pumps, and water heaters
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.
Cincinnati, OH – May 16, 2013 – Two of the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (Energy Alliance)’s Home Performance Contractors, Arlinghaus Heating & Air Conditioning (Arlinghaus) and Arronco Smart Home Energy Solutions (Arronco), have been recognized as national market leaders in the home performance industry. They are recipients of the ENERGY STAR® 2012 Century Club Award.
Arlinghaus and Arronco are two of only ninety-seven Century Club Awardees in the United States. ENERGY STAR bestows this award when a participating Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor completes 100 or more whole-home energy efficiency upgrades within a calendar year.
The award recognizes contractors who have dedicated themselves to helping homeowners improve the comfort of their homes, reduce energy costs, and protect the environment. The success of these contractors has led to the creation of thousands of local job hours, improved air quality for our region, and thousands of dollars in savings annually for homeowners in our region.
Brian Arlinghaus, co-owner of Arlinghaus Heating & Air Conditioning, was very honored by this award. Arlinghaus believes in home performance, as does every member of his team. In his words, “Everybody here believes in it. That’s what makes it work.” Eighteen members of the Arlinghaus team had a home energy assessment completed for their own homes. The results were surprising. “It was an eye opener for me,” admitted Arlinghaus. “My house wasn’t performing the way it should, and I have high end, efficient systems. I had seven gas leaks in my own home, and I had no idea. And I have four children.”
Mark Toy, the sales manager for Arronco, called the award a tremendous honor for the company and its staff. Toy contributes the company’s success to the effort and time spent to shift the mindset of its employees, the ability to engage customers and ask the right questions, and the practice of value partnering. Toy emphasized, “We have our strengths centered on HVAC and energy ratings, and other contractors have their strengths, such as air sealing and insulation. We value partner with other contractors to tap into their knowledge in order to create a strong network of home performance service for our customers.”
At the founding of the Energy Alliance, there were few Home Performance Contractors in the Greater Cincinnati area. Out of less than one hundred contractors nationwide, two deliver Century Club level of service in the Energy Alliance’s network; this gave cause to celebrate for the Energy Alliance. Andy Holzhauser, CEO, commented, “We are very proud to partner with contractors such as Arlinghaus and Arronco. Their contribution to our program has helped transform the public perception of energy efficiency in our region. Without their dedication to customer service and education, we would not be where we are today.”
Arlinghaus and Arronco received their Century Club Awards at the Energy Alliance’s Annual Contractor Meeting Wednesday, May 15th, 2013, at Cincinnati State Technical & Community College.
About Arlinghaus Heating & Air Conditioning
Arlinghaus Heating & Air Conditioning built their family-owned company by creating relationships with every customer, treating each one fairly, taking the time to listen to their needs and responding with the highest quality products and services. www.arlinghausair.com
About Arronco Smart Home Energy Solutions
Arronco is a full service home performance company focusing on smart home energy solutions including high efficiency, heating and air conditioning while specializing in geothermal technology. www.arronco.com
Strange as it seems, summer is almost here. It’s time to schedule your annual air conditioner service now.
Whether you have an old, inefficient system that you haven’t yet been able to replace or a new, efficient, ENERGY STAR® rated HVAC system, performing regular maintenance is vital to extending the life of your system and keeping it running as efficiently as possible.
Dirty filters cost more to use, overwork your system, and compromise your indoor air quality. So, after you’ve scheduled your tune-up this week, invest in a few spare filters to be prepared for the summer, set some reminders on your calendar to replace the old filters, and stay cool this summer.