Home Energy Efficiency

By Josie Garthwaite

Published on: February 2, 2010
Source: earth2tech.com

Tools and services for improving a home’s energy efficiency — things like Energy Star appliances, home energy audits and green roofing materials — often lack the glitz and gadget-appeal of solar panels and other highly visible signs that a homeowner has “gone green.” But according to a new report out today from Pike Research, energy efficiency retrofits, products and services for the residential building market are poised to see a wave of growth as the U.S. pulls out of recession over the next five years.
    (Image by flikr user obskura)

In particular, Pike forecasts that the home energy auditing market will nearly triple to $23 billion by 2014, up from $8.1 billion last year. The market for efficiency improvements along the lines of roofing and window replacements and upgrades for HVAC systems and appliances will increase to $50.2 billion by 2014, up from $38.3 billion in 2009, the firm predicts. And Energy Star refrigerators and clothes washers could generate revenues of $21.9 billion to $33.2 billion between 2009 and 2014.

After what Pike describes as “a long period of obscurity” for energy efficiency — not to mention a major slowdown in new home sales and remodeling — what’s driving this growth? A big part of it comes from federal, state and local governments offering incentives, tightening building codes (one of our 4 Green Building Trends to Watch in 2010) and developing new green building requirements.

But there’s more to it, says Pike managing director Clint Wheelock. “A number of factors are converging to make energy efficient residential products and services a hot sector over the next several years,” he notes in today’s release, including environmental awareness among consumers and new offerings and rebates from product makers. And As Geoff Chapin, chief executive for home energy retrofitter Next Step Living, told us recently, rebates from utilities for homeowners to get energy audits, install insulation or take other steps to reduce their energy use are also helping to boost business for energy efficiency companies.

But Pike voices concern that the residential efficiency market could see short-lived growth if government programs like President Obama’s so-called “cash for caulkers” initiative supporting home energy retrofits comes to an end at some point. However, regulations like California’s new green building code, adopted last month and taking effect next year, have staying power. And there’s nothing like the simple progression of time to spur interest in some of these technologies and services: Pike anticipates that the aging U.S. housing stock, along with rising utility prices in coming years, will help buoy demand for energy efficiency products.


'Home Star' Program to Plug Home Energy Retrofits

By Martin LaMonica

Published on: January 29, 2010
Source: cnet.com

You heard of Cash for Clunkers. Get ready for Cash for Caulkers, a proposed multibillion program designed to create jobs and give homeowners lower energy bills.

Representatives from building efficiency advocacy groups on Friday held a "Webinar" to outline the Home Star program--nicknamed Cash for Caulkers--and said that its prospects for becoming a law should be known within several weeks. A Home Star Coalition has been formed, which includes large retailers Home Depot and Lowes, equipment suppliers such as Dow and GE appliances, along with energy-efficiency contractors, labor groups, and environmental advocacy groups.

For homeowners, the proposed legislation provides incentives to weatherize home and upgrade to more efficient lighting or heating and cooling systems.

It will be structured on two levels--silver and gold--depending on the level of investment made, said Matt Golden, the chair of the EfficiencyFirst advocacy group and the CEO of home energy-efficiency company Recurve, on Friday.

To get up to $2,000 in tax credits for an energy efficiency retrofit, a homeowner needs to do at least two approved improvements and work with contractors that meet certain "basic standards," said Golden, adding that Home Star is designed to fit with the EPA's Home Performance EnergyStar standards and state programs.

The gold level involves having a building's energy "performance" rated by contractors accredited by the Building Performance Institute. The more stringent performance goals, which could reduce a building's energy consumption on the order of 20 percent, would be eligible for up to $4,000 of tax credits, according to the description on the EfficiencyFirst Web site.

(Image by Martin LaMonica/CNET.)
Part of a comprehensive energy audit is a blower
door test, which measures how air tight a home is
by measuring air flow at a given air pressure.

The intent of Home Star (click for PDF) is to create jobs in the short term, either through training or creating demand for home efficiency products and services. But given the amount of money being discussed and its standards-based approach, Home Star has the potential to be "transformative" in the building efficiency industry, Golden said. "This is a moment in time where we are going to have a foundation to drive a strong industry," he said.

President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which includes venture capitalist and green-tech investor John Doerr, has endorsed the plan as it meets economic and environmental goals, Golden noted. There's also the potential to create demand for green building products: among some of Home Star Coalition members is Serious Materials, a Silicon Valley company that makes energy-efficiency building products, including windows and sheet rock that's manufactured in a relatively low-polluting way.

Golden cautioned that Home Star is not yet law. But it does have clear support from President Obama, who has touted the benefits of home weatherization many times and called insulation "sexy" during a Home Depot visit last month.

Martin LaMonica is a senior writer for CNET's Green Tech blog. He started at CNET News in 2002, covering IT and Web development. Before that, he was executive editor at IT publication InfoWorld.


Jobs for Energy Auditors Gain Momentum Nationwide

By Patricia Leiser

Published on: January 2010
Source: HomeEnergy.org

Austin, Texas, is one of the first cities in the country to require energy audits on buildings at their sale. The Austin City Council approved the Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) ordinance to improve the energy efficiency of Austin homes and commercial buildings that receive electricity from Austin Energy. It is anticipated that most, if not all, large U.S. cities will adopt similar energy efficiency programs.

The momentum for home energy audits— and the demand for auditors—is growing nationwide. Here is just a sampling of programs across the United States that will give home energy auditors a steady flow of work. Not listed here are the programs in the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.

Montgomery County, Maryland: In 2007, The County Council for in Montgomery County introduced an act to require that a home energy audit be conducted as part of a home inspection completed in connection with the sale of a single-family residential building.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: In 2006, Executive Order 20 established green building standards for city projects, including requirements to meet or exceed LEED Silver ratings. In 2007, volumes 1 and 2 of the Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code were signed into legislation. This is the first comprehensive energy conservation code in the state of New Mexico; it reflects a concerted effort on the part of local government and the building and building-related industries to develop a code acceptable to all.


Alexandria, Virginia: As part of the 2008 Eco-City Charter, the first of its kind in the region, the city adopted a new and progressive green building policy for commercial and residential buildings. The charter outlines essential environmental sustainability principles and core values.

Babylon, Long Island, New York: In 2006, Mayor Steve Bellone founded the Babylon Project and the Long Island Green Homes Project, which together have completed 120 deep retrofits of existing homes, with another 96 audited in the queue. The pilot program of 275 homes will be completed by the end of the year. Next year, the project will be targeting 1,200 homes and aims to have them retrofitted by the end of 2010.

Miami, Florida: November 2009, Miami will launch a Home Energy Challenge/Reduce the Use program in partnership with the local nonprofit Dream-in-Green for 50 homes.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Released in April 2009, Greenworks Philadelphia is a comprehensive strategy to lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of life for all Philadelphians. It includes 169 separate initiatives, one of the most important of which is the ongoing effort to weatherize and install more-efficient heating systems in homes. It calls for the weatherization of 100,000 homes over the next seven years.

Pleasanton, California: In 2005 Pleasanton established a collaborative partnership with the local utility to provide energy efficiency audits and a retrofit program; rebates are provided to make this more cost-effective. The city has established a Green Building Ordinance, and is creating a special financing district that allows residents and business owners to finance energy efficiency upgrades, including solar, and have it added to their property taxes.

Cape Light of Barnstable, Massachusetts: Since 2009 this utility has offered a home energy audit for residential customers. This audit lists potential energy-saving home improvements and encourages customers to install these improvements with the help of generous program incentives. All audits come with a three-page report summarizing the findings, and a list of recommended mitigation measures.

New energy-efficient activities are emerging every day. The United States is already experiencing a surge in building performance improvement programs that will result in a smaller carbon footprint. One of the keys to almost every residential program is an energy audit that scientifically identifies every aspect of a building’s energy performance, and then makes recommendations to improve any identified shortcomings.

Patricia Leiser is CEO Executive Assistant, Administration, PR, and Sales & Marketing for HVACReducation.net.

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