New and Notable

November 01, 2013
November/December 2013
A version of this article appears in the November/December 2013 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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NYSERDA’s HPwES Program Completes 50,000 Projects

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) recently announced the achievement of a major milestone for its Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) program, with the completion of the program’s 50,000th project.

NYSERDA’s HPwES program, founded in 2001, provides free comprehensive home energy assessments, incentives, and low-interest loans to help homeowners reduce home energy use and costs.

The 50,000th project was at the Rochester area home of Joe and Christina Morabito and their three children, where Christina runs a family day care program registered through the Childcare Council. The Morabitos have lived in their 1940s two-story, four-bedroom home for six years. The inside temperature of the house varied—it was cold in some areas, and hot in others—and the Morabitos wanted to lower their energy bills. They had a free home energy assessment conducted by Home Comfort Heating & Cooling (a division of All Star Energy), a participating contractor in the NYSERDA HPwES program.


After receiving a whole-house energy assessment to identify opportunities for energy savings, the Morabitos decided on energy improvements that included insulation, air sealing, a high-efficiency variable-speed furnace, a high-efficiency tankless water heater, and a programmable thermostat.

“The project worked out great,” Joe Morabito says. “We had our basement sealed with full insulation, which has helped with heat. Before the work was completed, we paid $171 every month through budget billing. Our first month off budget billing, we were billed $130; a savings of $41. It is much more comfortable in our home, which is very important, having our home day care.”

“It’s rewarding to reflect on how far the HPwES program has come in helping New Yorkers uncover opportunities and realize energy savings,” says Francis J. Murray Jr., president and CEO, NYSERDA. “While achieving this milestone is certainly commendable, it is the thousands of New York homeowners who have benefitted from this program that makes this accomplishment so rewarding. The savings achieved through this program demonstrate why New York is a national leader in energy efficiency under Governor Cuomo.”

HPwES uses a whole-house comprehensive approach to reduce home energy usage. Through funding from Green Jobs-Green New York (GJGNY), established by New York State to encourage energy efficiency, home energy assessments through the HPwES program are free for most New Yorkers.

The assessments are conducted by a HPwES participating contractor trained in building science and accredited by BPI. The contractor measures the home's overall energy performance, especially its insulation and air infiltration levels, and the efficiency of heating and cooling equipment, appliances, and lighting. Contractors also test ovens, water heaters, and other equipment to make sure that CO and other dangerous combustion gases are not leaking into the home. The homeowner receives a comprehensive home assessment report that includes recommendations for home improvements that will save energy. The homeowner decides which work to move forward with, and the contractor can then make the energy improvements.

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Get more information on NYSERDA’s HPwES program.

NYSERDA also provides help in paying for the energy improvements through cash-back incentives and low-cost financing, including On-Bill Recovery Financing, a signature part of Governor Cuomo's Power NY Act of 2011. On-Bill Recovery Financing enables homeowners, small businesses, nonprofits, and owners of multifamily buildings to pay for their energy improvements through their utility bills. With affordable financing and energy bill savings, many homeowners find they can make significant improvements to their home that increase comfort and save energy and money for years to come.

State Fact Sheets on Residential Energy Consumption Published

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has recently published state fact sheets highlighting interesting aspects of residential energy consumption and housing characteristics based on data released earlier this year in EIA's Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS).

The RECS gathers information through personal interviews with a nationwide sample of homes and energy suppliers. The latest RECS (with data for 2009) includes detailed statistics on home energy characteristics, average consumption and costs, and energy end uses, along with a detailed microdata file for in-depth analysis.

The 2009 survey was the largest RECS to date, and the larger sample size allowed for the release of data for 16 individual states. The state fact sheets show key energy statistics for each state, allowing for state comparisons and benchmarks. For example, the average home in Massachusetts consumes 59% of its total energy for space heating, compared to 15% in Arizona and a national average of 41%.

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Download the state fact sheets as PDFs.

Fact sheets are currently available for the following sixteen states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

SMUD Board of Directors Approves Rate Restructuring

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District Board of Directors unanimously approved plans for residential rate restructuring to phase out residential billing tiers. This move clears the way for time-based rates to become the standard for the utility in just a few years. The SMUD board also approved a general rate increase in 2014 and 2015.

The residential rate restructuring is part of an ongoing effort to better align SMUD’s charges with the true cost of serving customers. Under current rates, kWh pricing for Base energy use does not cover the full costs, while the pricing for Base Plus use covers more than the full costs.

To address the issue, SMUD will reduce the price difference between Base and Base Plus energy use from 2014 to 2016. While the price per kWh for Base use will increase, the impact of this increase on the bill will be offset by increasing the amount of energy a household can consume before being charged the higher Base Plus price.

The Base and Base Plus tiers will be eliminated at the start of 2017, setting the stage for time-based residential rates. A separate rate action and board approval would be needed before time-of-use rates become standard for residential customers in 2017 or 2018.

SMUD and other utilities adopted tiers many years ago to encourage energy conservation. But in any given billing period, customers had no way of knowing when their energy use crossed the threshold from a lower-cost tier to a higher-cost tier.

Transitioning to time-of-use will continue SMUD’s decades-long commitment to energy efficiency. While the current California-mandated goal is 10% energy reduction over ten years, SMUD’s stated goal is 15% energy reduction over the same ten years. Time-of-use and critical-peak pricing will have the potential to significantly reduce peak demand in the summer by sending price signals encouraging customers to shift their energy use to off-peak hours. Asking customers to reduce their use between 4 pm and 7 pm is a simple, easy-to-understand message.

“For SMUD, reining in peak-time summer usage is paramount,” says SMUD Board President Bill Slaton. “It’s the costliest power to purchase.”

With the installation of smart meters throughout SMUD’s service area, residential energy use is recorded in hourly increments and the meters’ wireless network allows two-way communication with customers.

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Get more information and news updates from SMUD.

In addition, rate increases of 2.5% will go into effect for both business and residential customers at the start of 2014 and again at the start of 2015. The increases will cover rising costs, which are being driven largely by the need to increase state-mandated supplies of renewable energy and by high enrollment in SMUD’s discounted rate for low-income customers.

Next year’s rate increase will be the first since January 2011. The impact of the rate changes on customer bills will depend on how much energy they use. Most residential customers will see bill increases of $2–4 a month through 2015.

Valuing Energy Efficiency Improvements in Real Estate Transactions

Often when homeowners make improvements to an existing house, the most important aspects of home performance—including safety, comfort, energy efficiency, durability, and environmental impact—are literally invisible during key steps of any subsequent home sale or refinance transaction.

One result is that energy efficiency investments are overlooked or inaccurately valued when the house is sold. The key to making these investments visible to everyone involved in a home sale—including appraisers, Realtors, buyers, and sellers—is standardized documentation and consistent communication across the energy efficiency and real estate industries.

A  new paper  from CNT Energy and National Home Performance Council shows how proper documentation, verification, and standardization of energy efficiency improvements can add value to a home that owners can recoup at sale.

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View a PDF of the paper.

The paper outlines seven steps the energy efficiency industry must take to unlock the value of efficiency in the real estate market:

    1. Consistently document energy efficiency improvements.
    2. Ensure that data are incorporated into the appraisal process.
    3. Work with the real estate community to reflect these improvements in local for-sale listings.
    4. Capitalize on existing education and training opportunities.
    5. Report on the growing inventories of energy-efficient homes.
    6. Develop standardized information technology solutions.
    7. Work with partner financial institutions.
    8. The outcome is that energy-efficient features become visible and can be accurately valued when a home is sold. This lays the groundwork for a virtuous cycle in which homeowners are eager to invest in energy efficiency improvements because they know that they can recover some or all of their investment when they sell the home.
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