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Archive for the ‘Energy Conservation’ Category

No Foolin’ – Commerce Recommends an Advanced Home Energy Assessment before Making Major Home Improvements, Upgrades

Friday, April 4th, 2014

From the Minnesota Department of Commerce

Before embarking on home energy improvements or remodeling, especially major projects, the Minnesota Department of Commerce strongly recommends having an advanced home energy assessment. An assessment, or energy audit, of how your house is functioning can help you decide what needs fixing or replacing. A follow-up inspection after the work has been completed can help document the energy savings.

An energy assessment will identify some simple low-cost measures you can take, such as weather-stripping doors, and it can help prioritize more expensive but cost-effective measures, like adding insulation and air-sealing or replacing a heating system. Analyzing the operation and interactions of the various components of the home upfront can save in the long run. For instance, consider an energy assessment before replacing major equipment such as a furnace or boiler. Determining and addressing air leakage, insulation, and other issues can help to correctly size a new heating system and ensure that it will work as efficiently as possible.

An advanced energy assessment should include the following:

  • A review of energy bills to help assess home performance and identify savings opportunities.
  • A blower-door test to determine air leakage.
  • Infrared scans to detect insulation levels and sources of air leaks.
  • Efficiency and safety testing for combustion appliances.
  • A thorough visual inspection for attic, wall, crawlspace, foundation, basement, window, door, and roof problems.

Contact your gas or electric utility to arrange an advanced energy assessment. More comprehensive assessments are available from private contractors specializing in comprehensive home performance reviews. Advanced energy assessments range in cost from about $100 to several hundred dollars, depending on the level of detail. An energy assessment will be your first step to saving energy and saving money on your utility bills.

For more information on home energy assessments and energy-saving improvements, check out the “Home Envelope” consumer guide on the Division of Energy Resources website.

Minnesota Energy Tips is provided twice a month by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Contact the division’s Energy Information Center at energy.info@state.mn.us or 800-657-3710 with energy questions.

Department of Commerce, BBB warn of salespeople pitching energy savings from radiant barriers

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources and the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota have issued an alert to consumers who are considering the purchase of radiant barriers in their attics. Both Commerce and the BBB have received numerous reports of salespeople pitching the radiant barrier product at free dinners throughout Minnesota.

“We want consumers to know that radiant barriers are not a cost-effective way to reduce heating or cooling loads in Minnesota,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Radiant barriers in attics may be valid for homes in southern states, but they save very little energy in Minnesota homes. They are a dubious energy investment—a bad deal for Minnesota homeowners.”

Radiant barriers consist of a reflective film, usually aluminum, laid over the top of attic insulation in existing homes. They are sold as an energy-saving product, with claims of significant reductions in both heating and cooling costs. However, their potential benefit is primarily in reducing air-conditioning cooling loads in warm or hot climates and in buildings with little or no insulation.

A Radiant Barrier Fact Sheet compiled by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy shows that the benefits of radiant barriers decrease significantly as one travels north. In southern cities like Miami, Fla., or Austin, Texas, radiant barriers could reduce one’s utility bill by as much as $150 per year using average residential electricity prices. But by the time you reach colder climate states such as Minnesota, where air-conditioning loads are considerably less, savings drop to only $10 to $40 a year. If there are no ducts or air handlers in the attic, the savings are much less.

If the price to install the radiant barrier is $2,500 or more and the consumer only saves $25 per year, it would take at least 100 years to pay back the investment. It’s also important to note that radiant barrier products have negligible benefit in reducing heating costs. It is unlikely that most Minnesota consumers would realize any measurable energy savings from radiant barriers in attics.

Buyers beware, know what you’re getting

“We strongly urge all consumers to be cautious, conduct due diligence, and explore other proven means to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient,” said Rothman. “Don’t be misled by ‘deals’ or ‘pilot programs’ available for a limited time only. Get input and bids from at least three contractors, and make sure those contractors are reputable.”

The U.S. Department of Energy and Minnesota Department of Commerce agree that, in Minnesota, implementing air sealing and adding conventional attic insulation would be considerably cheaper and much more effective for saving energy than installing a radiant barrier. In fact, as attic insulation levels increase, the potential benefits from a radiant barrier decrease. Getting a home energy assessment through your gas or electric utility is encouraged as a first step to identifying cost-effective energy improvements. Consumers can contact their utility to arrange an energy audit.

Before purchasing any energy-saving product, the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota advise you to:

  • Always research the business at bbb.org.
  • Ask for references and proof the company can substantiate their claims.
  • Do the math and figure out how long it will take to recoup your investment.
  • Verify a working address, phone number and website to ensure that you can contact the business with any questions or concerns.
  • If you have an unresolved issue or concerns about a questionable sales pitch regarding energy-saving devices, be proactive and file a formal complaint with the BBB at: the Federal Trade Commission, as well as with your state Attorney General’s Office.
  • Check energystar.gov to be sure the business or product is Energy Star approved.

The BBB also offers the following tips to consider before attending a free luncheon seminar:

  • Be aware that in most cases presenters will promote their products or services. Typical products sold at these seminars include energy-saving products, self- help materials, investment plans or websites for home-based businesses.
  • Do not be pressured into signing a contract or making a purchasing decision. Take as much time as you need to evaluate the company’s claims and/or the promotional materials you receive.
  • Read and understand all materials carefully before signing anything. Be sure to look for information on guarantees, warranties and refund policies.
  • Remember the FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel a contract if you sign it in your home or at a location other than the contractor’s permanent place of business, such as a restaurant or hotel/motel room.
  • Be sure to note any differences between the product at the luncheon and the product received if purchased.

For more information on insulation and other energy-efficient measures to improve your home, contact the Division of Energy Resources at 800-657-3710 or 651-539-1886 or visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce – Energy Division site. The website offers home energy guides, including the “Home Envelope” (.pdf) consumer guide that includes information on a wide range of energy efficiency topics (including air sealing and insulation) and choosing a contractor.

Still Time to Sign Up for a Neighborhood Energy Challenge Workshop!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

The next Neighborhood Energy Challenge is coming up on Tuesday, October 15 at 6:30 at Cascade Meadow Wetlands & Environmental Science Center. Attend this FREE workshop on how to save energy in your home. Follow the link for more information about the Neighborhood Energy Challenge, view future dates, or to sign up. Space is limited!

2012 “Be Bright” ENERGY STAR CFL Rebate Campaign

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Be Bright this fall! Starting October 8 and going through December 31, 2012 (or while supplies last), our residential electric customers are eligible for reduced pricing on ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). We’ve partnered with these participating Rochester retailers to offer CFLs for as little as 99 cents each!

·         Arrow Ace Hardware

·         Home Depot

·         Hy-Vee

·         Lowes

·         Menards

·         Mills Fleet Farm

·         Walmart

ENERGY STAR-rated CFLs use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs, but less watts doesn’t mean less light! Today’s CFLs produce bright light at less cost to consumers and businesses because they use less electricity and last longer than incandescent bulbs – saving time and money on replacements.

By replacing the five most used bulbs in your home with energy-efficient CFLs, you can save about $35 in energy costs during the first year alone. CFLs also produce about 75% less heat than incandescent – improving safety.

With the wide range of CFL shapes, sizes and styles now on the market, consumers can find an energy-efficient bulb for every situation and enjoy reduced energy costs all year long.

While these financial savings are a big draw for consumers, CFLs also offer environmental benefits to help make our community a little greener.

Remember, supplies are limited so get your discounted CFLs before they sell out! Discounted CFLs purchased during this promotion are not eligible for our CFL rebate program.

 

 

Two new Neighborhood Energy Challenge dates just announced!

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Sign up now for a neighborhood Energy Challenge workshop on Monday, September 17 or Monday, October 15. Learn how you can save energy in your home and how to be more efficient with the energy that you need.

Click here for more information or to sign up today!