Monday, December 3, 2012

Living Better Electrically AND Efficiently – Elevations Credit Union and the Denver Energy Challenge Team Up

It's almost unimaginable that consumers would have to be encouraged to use electricity to make their lives easier - but that's where we started.  To explain, we can look to the visionary known as the Wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison.  It was Edison's vision to create a system to deliver electric light into private homes in the late 1800's and ultimately, his vision revolutionized our way of life.
During the postwar era of the 1950s and 1960s, the power industry's growth transformed America and the American way of life. The opportunities provided by electricity seemed endless.  Remarkably, in 1956, to keep demand high and increase public awareness, General Electric launched its "Live Better Electrically" campaign.  The campain, supported by 300 power utilities and 180 electrical manufacturers across the nation, was designed to extol the benefits of "better living by living electrically!"  The result was a revolution in the quality and ease of domestic life.  Consumers now had electric-powered vacuum cleaners, clothes dryers, toasters, refrigerators, televisions, raido and even air conditioned movie theaters.
Decades have passed since the “Live Better Electrically” campaign and with it remarkable changes to our energy landscape. First and foremost however, today, a campaign to encourage use is unnecessary. Indeed, our energy use has grown exponentially.  For Americans, electricity is both pervasive and essential. We love it and our appetite for it keeps growing. The average household today owns 26 electronic gadgets. Electricity consumption doubled since 1980 and is expected to grow by another 25 percent by 2030. We take for granted that when we flip a switch a light will come on and when we plug in those gadgets they will recharge.  One way to keep up with demand, however, is to reduce our energy use and luckily, we can save money and live more comfortably at the same time.  That’s the beauty of energy efficiency upgrades.  After all, the cheapest energy is the energy that we don’t use.
Gone are the days of Jimmy Carter and his red cardigan.  Welcome to a new world of efficient buildings that manage energy use and integrate new technologies to achieve huge energy savings and vastly improved comfort.  An added bonus, potentially huge money savings to the bottom line for homeowners and business owners alike.
It’s no secret that I’ve taken steps to reduce energy use in my home.  I talk about it on ICOSA Driving Force radio and on this blog.  For example, I have all of our electronics on power strips so that they can be turned off at the strip to prevent “phantom power” or the power drawn by gadgets and electronic devices when they’re switched off or not in use.  I installed a clothesline and hang our clothes to dry outside in the sun (thereby also earning the nickname of Laura Ingalls Wilder from my husband.)  I’ve installed skylight blinds for the summer months and honeycomb blinds to help insulate the windows.  As my old “Edison” light bulbs burned out I replaced them with energy efficient ones – which as I explain below should have been expedited.  But what else can you do and what if there are upfront costs?
These challenges: the upfront cost associated with energy efficiency retrofits and identification of the changes that will make the biggest impact, are two key hurdles for consumers.  Luckily, the Denver EnergyChallenge provides education, free support services through an energy advisor, along with financial assistance to residents and businesses in the City and County of Denver. 
The Denver Energy Challenge was created to expand energy efficiency services to residents and businesses in the City and County of Denver and its funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Program (under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).  The fact is, decisions on energy efficiency and investment can be time consuming and can be confusing.  To address this, Elevations Credit Union has teamed up with the Denver Energy Challenge and Energy Smart in Boulder County to bring Elevations Energy Loans to eligible homes and businesses in Denver City and County and Boulder County. This team of experts provides access to energy advisors to help assess the business needs and make retrofit recommendations, connect them with qualified contractors to make the improvements and loan specialists to provide low interest loans (2.75% for homes and 3.75% for businesses).  Under this program, Elevations Credit Union is committing $35M in financing for energy efficient and renewable energy upgrades for eligible homes and businesses in Denver and Boulder Counties. 
In-line with the “Live Better Electrically” campaign, we each have some control over our energy use even without implementation of smart grid programs or smart appliances.  I enlisted the help of the Denver Energy Challenge and Elevations Credit Union to find out how.  What I learned was that I can make small changes to my energy use and make a big impact.  Some of these fixes require minimal up-front costs like the following three examples. 
1.      Lower the temperature of your water heater.  Why?  It reduces standby energy loss.  The report recommended setting the water heater to deliver at 120F or the lowest practical setting for your preferences.  “A good measure is if you can take a shower using only hot water (not adding cold water).”  Estimated savings in my home: $60/year. 

2.      Replace lighting with CFLs or LEDs.  Why?  They use less energy and heat output is much less which equates to less cooling required for hot summer months.  According to the report, “Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) use ¼ of the energy of regular incandescent light bulbs and last 8 to 15 times as long.  Replacing them with CFLs will save significant energy and replacement costs over time.”  Installed cost is estimated for my home at about $60 and the savings estimated at $124 per year.  I made these changes in the basement and my kids say it now looks like a stadium!  Brighter light and less energy use. Can’t beat that. 

3.      Sealing air leaks can make a big difference and it’s an inexpensive fix.  Caulk between the object and the drywall on all of the penetrations of walls and ceilings where you can see gaps.  In my home we found gaps in the outlets and switch plates on exterior walls, bath fans, duct boots in the ceiling and the exhaust vent over the microwave. According to the report,” air sealing is typically the most cost effective improvement you can make to your home. To properly seal out air leaks, a contractor will use a large fan called a blower door to depressurize your house. When this happens, the contractor can easily find the air leaks and take corrective measures. A good air sealing job will dramatically increase the comfort of your home and help you save significant energy.” 

Overall, it was estimated that with simple fixes alone I could save about $220 per year.  That’s $220 of warmer living with brighter more natural light in the winter and cooler in the summer.  That doesn’t even include my other Laura Ingalls Wilder type habits!   

Thank you to Elevations Credit Union, the Denver Energy Challenge, and Logan Faser (aka, “Saving Slick” from the Comfort Cowboy video seriesfor the thorough education, money saving tips and the increased comfort! 











1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with that we all have some control over our energy use even without implementation of smart grid programs or smart appliances. "Elevations Credit Union" is committing $35M in financing for energy efficient and renewable energy upgrades for eligible homes and businesses in Denver and Boulder Counties is really great work done by credit union.

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