Monthly Archives: August 2010

Energy Efficient Mortgages

Ray Hall has been doing efficient energy work in California for many years. Here is a link to his video on Energy Efficient Mortgages.

These can be FHA, VA or Conventional types. They allow the cost, of qualified energy improvements, such as additional insulation, other improvements to the building shell and newer more efficient heating and cooling systems, to the mortgage amount. This applies to your first loan on the property or a refinancing loan. The concept of a qualified energy improvement is one that shows enough cost savings to support the additional cost of the mortgage payment.

If you qualify for a loan, you probably qualify for an Energy Efficient Mortgage.

See what Ray Hall has to say in the video. Ask your mortgage lender about an Energy Efficient Mortgage. Efficient Energy Savers can provide the audit and the calculations for the EEM.

Here is the link to

Energy Efficiency from Around the Country – Crayola to knowledge

The Crayola solar farm became fully operational this week. Ten children from around the country, known as the “Crayola Green Team,” helped dedicate the newest addition to the Easton, Pa.-plant.

“This year, it’s the greenest back-to-school ever,” says Stacy Gabrielle of Crayola. The 107 year-old company is tapping into the sun’s energy to make 1 billion crayons using power from the 1.9 MW solar farm behind its Easton, Pa., plant.
About 26,000 “thin-film” solar panels — manufactured by First Solar in Perrysburg, Ohio — are providing enough power to make a third of the 3 billion crayons the plant pumps out per year, representing 10 percent of the facility’s total energy consumption.  Greenhouse gas emissions are being cut by 1,900 tons annually.

City officials in Glendale, Ariz. had a problem.

Citizens were constantly asking them for information on how to reduce home energy consumption, but they did not have a staff member to answer the questions. That changed in June 2009, when the city hired Nancy Schwab to be the official energy education specialist. “We had so much demand for information that we could no longer afford to ignore it,” says Jo Miller, Glendale’s environmental program manager.

Fulton County, Georgia is an example of how large-scale energy upgrades can save local governments millions of dollars and develop a new green workforce. Under the program, more than a dozen county facilities are being upgraded with equipment such as occupancy sensors, digital thermostats and LED exit signs.  County workers will also be trained on how to conduct the upgrades and keep buildings energy efficient.

One such worker is Robyn McNeil-English, a plumber who enrolled in Gwinnet Technical College’s green program to learn about topics such as geothermal technology and energy efficiency.  The course provided a bonus for McNeil-English. “It also has helped me with my own energy efficiency at home and how to conserve and save money,” she says in the video.

The Unglamorous Conservationist

This article is a Guest Posting. I read this yesterday and thought it was very timely and appropriate with our current heat wave!

Originally Published: August 13, 2010 by kathrynkfletcher

Going green is trendy. Everyone is doing it. ‘Green collared’ jobs are the way of the future. Even oil companies are spending millions to convince us that they are green at heart. So we should all jump on the bandwagon, right?

Right.

But Scott’s post last Friday (Pruis vs. Home Energy Retrofit) brings to light an important issue – the best ways to go green are not necessarily the sexiest ways. Sure it is cool to drive around in a shiny, sleek new hybrid vehicle, but if you haven’t done the basics around your house it just doesn’t make sense. Which brings me to the unfortunate paradox when it comes to energy and water efficiency…

Even though it is fashionable to be environmentally friendly, some of the friendliest things you can do for the environment aren’t fashionable.

You can’t show off the new insulation in your attic to your friends, and I’m guessing that your neighbors aren’t going to find your on-demand water heater a particularly fascinating topic of conversation. Unfortunately, unplugging electrical devices when they’re not in use isn’t going to help your public image one iota, but all of these examples are very green… unglamorous, but green.

But there is an up side to energy efficiency that flies under the social radar … $ in your pocket, and I’ve never heard anyone argue that money isn’t sexy!

Dr. Kathryn Fletcher is with GreenHomes America [http://greenhomesamerica.com], a leading home energy retrofit company.

Heat Wave Continues – My Air Conditioner Never Quits!

For the past two weeks, temperatures here in South Central Kansas have been hot! It is August in Kansas, what are we supposed to expect? Yep! The red heat advisory notice on my Weatherbug App has been flashing every day!

Starting July 17th here are the daily highs at Mid-Continent Airport:

99 100 101 99 98 99 100 102 92 95 93 95 93 101 100

100 108 109 100 94 94 97 105 103 103

That said, I really am glad for my Air Conditioning! I grew up in Southern Nevada, the desert! You know, 115 degrees F and 20% humidity. August in Kansas is not like that! 103 today and 70% humidity. You must know, I’m really glad for my Air Conditioning! Oh, I said that before – can you tell, I am really glad for my AC. I have heard on FB and Twitter all week about others that are also glad for their AC. Especially when it is not working and you are waiting on the HVAC Tech to come service the AC! Cooking brownies, or cookies, or a large cold lemonade for the Technician – Go for it! Anything that helps get the AC going again.

How about a count of hands?

How many people have their AC units running 24/7? So, what does that mean? Your AC runs all the time! The unit does not start and stop. Which is better? Running more is better – here is why.

When your HVAC contractor plans your unit – they start with design temperatures. If you live in Maine your summer and winter design temperatures are different from Georgia or from Kansas. Caribou would use design temperatures of -18 and 81 ; Atlanta would use 18 and 92 ; Wichita would use 5 and 98 .

A design temperature will cover 97.5% of the daily highs or lows for summer and winter that occur in that area.

Since the Wichita summer design temperature is 98 degrees F; any day with a high temperature approaching or over that, is going to require your AC unit to run 24/7. It will be keeping up or trying to catch up, depending on other factors, such has household routines and the effectiveness of the energy saving features in the house.

But the AC unit is running all the time! Will it break down!

The mechanical design of many machines is to run at a constant speed. Think about your TV – it runs at the same speed, full volume or muted, the TV does the same thing, at the same speed. A chain saw is designed to run at a constant speed. The washer or dryer rotation is constant. The electric motors in these run at the same speed, the slower wash cycles actually gear the speed down using a belt and transmission; the motor is still running the same speed. And so is your AC. It is designed to do that.

Does it need a rest? No! It is a machine. Machines need periodic maintenance. Oil changes on your car are one example. If you have your AC unit serviced each Spring before it gets very warm, you can look forward to a trouble free summer.

What can you do to help now?

First, change your filter. That will allow the proper air to flow through your system. The proper air flow across your coil will result in more comfort in your house. The filter is attached to the furnace on the return air side. You can buy them at a local hardware or building supply store.

Second, Check the outside unit. Is anything blocking the air flow in and around the unit? High grass, weeds or flowers? Dead grass, trash, leaves or other stuff? You can pull that away.

If the outside looks clean what about the coils? Turn the AC off. There is usually a switch (fuse box or circuit breaker) near the unit. You turn the unit off, so the fan would not spray the water back in your face.

Use your garden hose to force water through the coils (the piece around the outside that looks like a car radiator). Spray from the inside out, because the fan pulls air (and dirt) from the outside in. Good job for early in the morning. Then turn the unit back on.

Oh! You are not that mechanically inclined! Don’t feel bad, many people are not, or do not have the time. So, call your HVAC Service Company and schedule them for a filter change and coil wash. Tell them specifically, they may have a specific employee to send out for those short jobs. Hire a handy man. Ask a handy neighbor. There are many ways to get that done.

What about a larger AC unit?

A unit larger than specified for your house will use more electricity, it may provide some additional initial cooling, depending on several factors. A unit larger than specified will not remove as much humidity. If the unit cools the air faster, it will shut off. A properly sized unit will run longer to cool and take the humidity out of the air, increasing your comfort. All this for a larger electric bill. Yesterday, 8-10, the Wichita high temp was 103 with a high relative humidity around 70. If your ac unit is oversized and the relative humidity is around 90%. You will have a cold, clammy, always wet feel to your house.

References on this topic and additional reading can be found on the federal Department of Energy website, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) website, and home performance contractors around the country. Sizing of AC units is done using ACCA Manual J calculations.

http://www.doe.gov for the Department of Energy
http://www.acca.com for the ACCA website
http://www.kcc.state.ks.us/energy/index.htm for the Kansas Energy Office

Energy Mortgages Part V

Q: What are the bid requirements for improvements made from an Energy Improvement Mortgage?

A: While competition between vendors can result in a cost savings for the consumer, there are no specific requirements to use a bid process or to take the low bid. A consumer may choose to obtain only one price on a recommended improvement, or to issue a Request for Proposal to more than one contractor.

Competition is also available for HERS Ratings Services. Some Raters work for a contractor, some work independently. Using a Rater that is employed by a contractor may or may not reduce the choice you have in selecting contractors for that specialty. An independent Certified HERS Rater does not have a financial incentive to limit your choice in contractors. All Certified HERS Raters will provide a RESNET Standard Disclosure concerning payment for services, employment, and the products or services, if any, they or their employer can supply or install.

Q: Which homes are not candidates for an Energy Mortgage.

A: A home originally built to the Energy Star Standard should be financed with an Energy Efficient Loan. This home has a HERS Rating and is efficient. The Seller should receive credit on the price of the home for the energy efficiency built into the home.

A home that needs energy efficient upgrades is a great candidate for an Energy Improvement Loan. The cost of the improvements can be included in the mortgage and the cost savings covers the increased cost and may allow the new home owner an extra cushion.

Any home the buyer would like to improve would be a candidate for an Energy Improvement Loan. For example: An Energy Star Rated Home is listed four years after construction. A potential buyer is interested in adding a renewable energy source. This home with a HERS Rating of 82 in 2006, would be a candidate for a new Audit and an Energy Improvement Loan to cover the cost of a renewable energy source.

Q: How do I determine if a home was built to Energy Star Standards.

A: The seller will probably share the information with you. They would be thinking of this rating as an added selling feature. If not, check the Circuit Breaker Box. A HERS Rating Label is usually placed on the box, by the original Rater. This would also demonstrate an older home that had been audited and improved after construction.

Q: How would a homeowner, or realtor determine if a home without a HERS Rating Label is worth the time investment to pursue an Energy Improvement Loan. Is there an age, or amount of insulation, or other indicator?

A: The best indicator for an existing home’s need for an energy improvement loan would be to obtain an Annual Utility Usage Analysis. The seller can obtain from his records or from the utility company the past twelve months of usage and amounts from both electricity and gas or propane, a certified HERS Rater can apply the Analysis and the amount of use could be pinpointed.

Energy Mortgages Part IV

Q: What training is required for certification as a HERS Rater?

A: The written standards are available on the RESNET website. Training includes principals of thermodynamics; evaluation of purchased energy amounts and usage; evaluation of building components such as walls, ceilings, roof, floors, fenestrations (doors, windows, skylights), crawl space and basements, ventilation standards, HVAC equipment efficiency determinations, and other types of building science. Diagnostic Testing includes Air Pressure Testing of the building using a Blower Door, and pressure testing of ductwork using a duct fan.

Q: Are there other National Organizations that can offer the type of HERS Rating required by Lenders?

A: RESNET is the national organization for certifying a standardized HERS Rating accepted by the Home Mortgage Industry, the IRS, the DOE and the EPA.

Representatives from the National Association of State Energy Offices and the Home Mortgage Industry formed RESNET in 1995 to standardize energy measurements and energy improvements to homes. Prior efforts had resulted in varied programs in some states and not others, and some municipalities.

Q: How is an improvement to a home calculated by the software as a cost effective improvement?

A: The software compares the projected cost of the improvement to the calculated annual cost savings. If the cost of installation and materials result in a favorable rate of savings in energy cost, the improvement is generally recommended. For example, the cost of $2,000.00 to insulate the walls of a 1960 era home and add insulation to the attic resulting in R-13 in the walls and R-50 in the attic could show an $800.00 savings annually. This shows a payback of the improvement in 30 months. Many simple improvements such as insulation, shell sealing, installation or replacement of weather stripping can show immediate results. After calculating these changes, it may become cost effective to replace the HVAC equipment with newer more efficient models that are correctly sized for the improved house.