Resources for Energy Savings
Vermont already has a proven track record of saving energy: statewide, Vermont met 2% of its electricity demand in 2009 through energy efficiency, rather than new energy production. Continuing to improve efficiency in buildings can make it easier to keep homes, municipal buildings, and business/commercial spaces affordable and usable well into the future. Below are resources that can help save even more energy and money.
Resources for building improvements
Only 9% of households nationwide use fuel oil for home heating, but the number in Vermont is more than six times that: 59% (source: US Energy Information Administration). In addition, Vermont has many older homes, sometimes with poor or incomplete insulation and air sealing. These factors, along with the rising cost of oil, mean that many homeowners are interested in finding ways to button up their homes to save energy and money.
Incentives, rebates, and financing opportunities: In the short term, the up-front cost of weatherizing your building or replacing more appliances may seem even more daunting than $4.00/gallon heating oil. Fortunately, there are incentives and rebates available to lower the cost and reduce the payback period on your investment.
- Efficiency Vermont (www.efficiencyvermont.com) has rebates for weatherization projects, appliances, and more.
- The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org) summarizes state and federal incentives available.
Do it yourself weatherization: (in progress)
Energy audits: An audit can help you target the areas that need the most attention and, just as importantly, give you a sense of what will yield the best return on your investment. (Some rebate programs also require that you have one to qualify.) A walk through audit can identify basic opportunities for improvement (weatherstripping, compact fluorescent light bulbs, etc.). A more detailed audit will evaluate your building as a system with a blower door test and thermal imaging (infrared photography).
Energy retrofits: Retrofits, which are generally based on an energy audits, may lead to basement, attic, and wall insulation, and should always include air sealing, which regulates air and moisture leakage. Materials commonly used for new insulation projects may include soy or petroleum based foam sprays, loose or dense-packed cellulose, foam board (pink/blue board). Urea-formaldehyde foams and vermiculite are generally no longer in use. Fiberglass batts or chopped fiberglass remain available but it should be noted that these do not stop air from moving in and out of a building. A retrofit can be done by a contractor, who may be able to help you obtain incentives, or using your own experience.
- Efficiency Vermont has several good resources when it comes to energy retrofits. The Efficiency Vermont website has information on what to look for in an audit (click here) as well as how to proceed with a weatherization retrofit (click here). The website also has a search engine for finding an auditor certified by the Building Performance Institute, and information on Efficiency Vermont Rebates. Finally, for municipal buildings in particular, the following resource has been developed for getting started with a weatherization project: Guide to Improving Energy Efficiency in Vermont Municipal Buildings (link to PDF).
- SEVCA (Southeastern Vermont Community Action) offers audits and retrofits at no cost to residents who meet the income guidelines; higher income households can get the same service at a reasonable rate from the Best Energy Saving Technologies (BEST) fee-for-service program (www.sevca.org/weatherization/best-energy-savings-technologies).
Resources for towns
Towns can use the information above to improve their schools, fire stations, town halls and offices, and other town buildings. In addition, certain buildings may qualify for a rebate of up to $7,500 through Efficiency Vermont’s Building Performance Program (click here).
For towns interested in pursuing savings more broadly, there are programs (many of them free) that can help benchmark energy use in order to target savings.
- Weatherizing historic buildings can present challenges but helps the buildings continue to be used. The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation has a brief that discusses building science in general, and historic buildings more specifically (click here).
- Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, and Historic Preservation is a guide for approaching weatherization in historic buildings (click here).
- Small Town Carbon Calculator - this calculator offers a way to measure energy used by a town.
- Community Energy Challenge – The Community Energy Challenge (CEC) is a program of EPA Region 1's Energy and Climate unit. This is a free, voluntary, non-binding program where EPA works with municipalities on improving energy efficiency in their town. Towns set their own goals and timelines. Periodically, EPA has interns available who can help the town benchmark its energy use, at no cost.