Drafts? Icicles? Frozen pipes? Nasty heating or electric bills? If the answer is yes, you may be a prime candidate to participate in the 2013 VT Home Energy Challenge.
Officially kicked off on February 21 by Governor Peter Shumlin, the challenge is designed to help the state meet its energy and climate goals by making homes more energy efficient. “Dollar for dollar, we know that energy efficiency is one of the best investments there is,” said Governor Shumlin. “It cuts energy bills, keeps more money in our state’s economy and creates jobs for builders and contractors around the state.” Heating costs comprise the single largest home energy cost in Vermont: 40 percent for space heating, 20 percent for water heating, 25 percent for lighting and appliances, and 15 percent for A/C and refrigeration. It’s obvious that we can do a lot for our pocketbooks, for the state conservation program and even a little for the planet by becoming more energy-aware.
The four Valley towns, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield and Warren, have joined more than 70 other Vermont municipalities to lead local grassroots efforts encouraging friends and neighbors to weatherize their homes through Efficiency Vermont’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Organized through Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN), the effort includes volunteer training sessions, myriad resource materials, a yearlong calendar of goals and events, plus rewards at year-end for the towns that meet or exceed their goals. The big prize is $10,000 cash to be used by the winning municipality for an energy conservation project.
The underlying goal statewide is to see 3 percent of the year-round residences weatherized by the end of December. Based upon previous years’ experience with Efficiency Vermont’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, this has the potential to save individual homeowners an average of $1,000 per year on heating costs. That 3 percent equates to 16 to 24 homes in each of The Valley towns, which seems a reachable goal. To get there requires volunteers: those interested in helping out for a few hours making phone calls or knocking on neighbors’ doors, and those willing to undergo a few hours of very informative training in order to make informal home visits to help homeowners identify potential areas for energy savings.
There are multiple levels of involvement in the challenge. First comes the kickoff. In The Valley, that began last week with a hands-on “Button-Up” seminar held at Harwood. Middle School students, the “Energy Militia”, led by science teacher Brian Wagner, attended a hands-on session with local contractor Brad Cook. High School students, teachers and interested community members also learned “Building Science 101” from Cook. A student-led mini-challenge at Harwood will be a great catalyst for parents to get on the bandwagon at home.
Town Meeting Day will see a Valleywide kickoff, with presentations during “Other Business.” Volunteers manning tables with materials explaining the program will be available that day, as well. That’s where homeowners may signal their interest in learning more by signing on to volunteer, by signing a pledge that they will take at least one step to curb their energy use (like installing CFL or LED light bulbs), or by signing up to be contacted by a member of the Energy Committee for a free home visit.
Homeowners who ask for a free hour-long home visit will learn, from a community volunteer, where some potential areas of energy savings may be found. It will then be the homeowner’s decision whether or not to engage the services of a certified efficiency contractor to conduct a thorough, professional home energy audit. The audits, if done by a contractor certified through Efficiency Vermont, will make the homeowner eligible for a variety of rebates for work done, including $100 off the cost of the audit. Many contractors are also offering additional rebates. The final audit cost may be in the neighborhood of $200 to $250. Some contractors are willing to contract with do-it-yourself homeowners to guide them through needed renovations and perform the initial energy audit and the final tests that certify a job well done. Efficiency Vermont will rebate up to $2,000 on the cost of renovations done that improve efficiency by at least 10 percent. Many Vermont banks and credit unions are also on board with low cost energy loans. Efficiency Vermont maintains a data base of contractors, banks and credit unions involved in the challenge.