Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

A Worldwide Energy Transition

November 6, 2014

energy

Last month, as we celebrated Energy Action month, we took a look at the Residential Energy Consumption Survey.  It showed that we are using more energy than ever before.  Efforts are being made not only nationwide, but worldwide to improve that number.  The Energiewende is what they are calling it and Germany is leading the push.  The New York Times writes, “Germany will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources.  Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era.  It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.”

It sounds like we have some catching up to do and we, at GreenHomes, couldn’t agree more.  There’s no better place to start saving energy than our homes.  Making your home more energy efficient whether that’s through proper air sealing and insulation, a right-sized AC or furnace, or even solar panels, can all help decrease our energy consumption.  And, if it helps, saving energy in your home will leave you more comfortable and lower your utility bills.

Read the full New York Times article referenced above, here:  http://goo.gl/5wYV37

Thanks for stopping by!

-April

Low Hanging Fruit and Big Watermelons

April 18, 2014

That was how Philippe Benoit, the head of the International Energy Agency, described the perception of achieving energy efficiency versus what it’s often like. Suggesting that people feel they are not plucking a ripe apple off a tree but having to lift a heavy watermelon when it comes to fixing their homes in order to make them energy efficient. Alfred_Sisley_031
The BusinessWeek article also quoted him as saying “It’s perceived as boring and intangible, and the combination of the two makes it more difficult to understand. It’s much easier for people to understand putting solar panels on their roof and seeing the kilowatt-hours they generate than putting insulation in their home and noting the savings in energy consumption.”
My great grandfather was a farmer in the Midwest. As a kid, my father would visit the farm with siblings and cousins and they would all go out to the fields with grandpa where the watermelons were. I imagine it seemed like quite a walk when you were young. The mission was to bring melons back for later, to share with the family, but somehow, my great grandfather managed to drop every time on the walk back. “Well…” I can imagine him saying, “guess we’ll have to eat that one here.”
Solar panels are a great technology and for many make sense, but they are only part of a larger solution for you at home. At the risk of adding another food metaphor, they should be the icing on top of the cake, the cake being a well insulated and air-sealed home, designed to provide the fresh air you need, and having efficient heating and cooling systems inside.

Watermelons are only big and unwieldy when they are whole. Breaking them up makes light work of what seemed like a big task. And there’s nothing more satisfying with sharing the rewards of your labor with your family immediately. Maybe we can’t make energy efficiency flashy and exciting, but the fruits are worth the effort, GreenHomes can help.

 

Thanks,

Jason

Image of Alfred Sisley painting from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred_Sisley_041.jpg

The Heart of the Matter

February 14, 2014

Since this month is  American Heart Month and it seems an appropriate metaphor for our homes. I’ve mentioned some of the similarities already, but here is a big one…
512px-BuscemiHeart

Think of your heating and cooling system as your home’s heart. The ductwork or piping can be like arteries and when it all works well, you stay comfortable.
But there’s a lot more to it than that, the body is a system where all the parts work well together. Homes are like that too. Heating, cooling, distribution, ventilation, roofing, siding, air sealing and insulation all come together and when it works great things can happen. We stay warm or cool comfortable and healthy.
Clearly it can be a complicated system, and I won’t say our advisors are doctors, but they sure know homes and how to make them work at their best. One thing’s for sure, we make house calls!

Thanks,
Jason

Image By Chernface141 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Energy Tax Credits for 2013: Available again!

January 9, 2013

greenhomes evergy infographic

One good result from the end of the year fiscal cliff hanger is an extension of the residential energy tax credit.

If you haven’t used it in the past, all the way back to 2006, there is a $500 tax credit for material costs of certain energy efficiency measures done to your home.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act extended the tax credit through 2013, making it retroactive from January 1, 2012. This means last year counts as well.

10% of the cost of materials, such as insulation, exterior windows, and doors that meet Energy Star requirements, can be used. Credits for window expenses are limited, as are AC units and furnaces, so a combination of improvements will help maximize what you can get, just perfect for home performance work on your home.

Check out http://www.irs.gov/ for more information. Or see the entire American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 here. Ask us we can help!

Thanks,
Jason

Don’t wait for Congress. Start SAVE-ing now.

November 8, 2011

Earlier this year, we featured a post from Laura Stukel on the total cost of home ownership.  Historically in the mortgage industry, this has included—or I should say been limited to—“PITI”, Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance.  Laura wisely argues that misses several costs, including the non-trivial cost of utilities.  While the average homeowner may pay $2,000 in utility costs, some people pay 2-3 times that amount, and those electric, gas, or oil bills can take a huge chunk out of the family budget.

As Consumer Reports highlighted yesterday, a new bill introduced in the Senate would change the underwriting and appraisal guidelines used by the mortgage industry to add to PITI the cost of heating and cooling a home.  (Maybe we’ll call it PITIU?).  This would help prospective buyers avoid budget-busting homes where they’ve get into trouble and have to choose between mortgage, utilities, or food on the table.  It would also reward more efficient homes.

Of course, readers here know that you don’t have to wait for an act of Congress to more your home more comfortable and energy efficient.  You can start today with a good energy audit, make the improvements that make sense for you, and start SAVE-ing right now.  Go figure!

Cheers,
Mike

Nuclear Power and Energy Efficiency

July 22, 2011

Ever since I got the ping from Aaron Goldfelder that this article was up, I’ve been meaning to share the link and add a few thoughts.  I think the folks at EnergySavvy, in their piece on nuclear power and energy efficiency, have done an excellent job laying out some of the advantages of putting energy-efficiency at the core of a sound energy policy.  The applies not just as the national and regional level, but all the way down to our individual homes, where part of the GreenHomes mantra is “reduce before you produce”.

For half the cost of replacing one nuclear power plant, we can retrofit 1,600,000 homes for energy efficiency and create 220,000 new jobs–that’s more than 90 times more jobs than you’d get from a power plant replacement.  –EnergySavvy.com

The following graphic that the Savvy folks put together illustrates a couple of great points.  For an equivalent base load impact, energy-efficiency is cheaper AND it has a bigger economic impact in the form of job creation–jobs that mean more more dollars for families to spend on pizza, college, or a day at the lake, or generally just more money flowing around our communities.

This mirrors the findings of the much-heralded McKinsey report which pointed out that, go figure, reducing energy use actually saves money!  It saves money in the aggregate–and it saves money in your home.

My point is not an anti-nuclear one.  We do, though, need to look at energy policy overall.  Unless we descend into silliness, this shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  Left and right can agree because energy-efficiency–along with the benefits of greater energy independence, national security, and economic security–makes sense.  And thus efficiency should be the cornerstone of any good energy policy.

Cheers,
Mike

Oil prices fall back below $100

May 8, 2011

With oil prices falling back below $100/barrel, I guess we don’t have to worry about energy prices any more!  [Yes, that was sarcasm.]

Home values increase with energy-efficiency and renewables

May 2, 2011

A NY Times article this week pointed to some less than good news for those with equity in their homes:  Home prices fall again.   

But there are ways to increase the value of your home.  Laura Stukel touched on this in her post a couple of weeks ago.  And a study released by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) this week points to solar—in addition to energy efficiency—as boosting home value. 

This is good news, and it reflects the obvious-sounding anecdotes we’ve been hearing for a long time from our customers.

With the benefits aligning (and energy prices rising), the question has increasingly become how can you afford not to make your home more energy-efficient?

Cheers,
Mike

How to Make Your Business Greener–as in More Profitable

February 5, 2011

While we usually focus on homes here, a couple of business articles in the NYTimes on Thursday took me back to a post from a couple of years on Amory Lovins and his common sense approach to saving energy.  The whole post is worth revisting, but I’ll sum up with one quote from Amory:

It doesn’t matter what the climate science says, or even whether it’s right, because we ought to be purchasing energy efficiency anyway just to save money.

 

It’s just good business to cut costs by adopting energy-saving actions for lighting, equipment, heating, air conditioning, transportation and water use.  And energy-efficiency can offer an excellent ROI.  Check out the two articles:

Thanks,
Mike

Unrest in Middle East causes concerns about oil. Homeowners would be advised to take action.

January 31, 2011

First Tunisia.  Now Egypt.  Many are concerned about instability moving to other areas.  Unrest in the Middle East is adding uncertainty in oil markets–and higher prices.  Prices jumped a few percent on Friday.  Talk radio this morning had a couple predictions of oil moving as high as $150/barrel in the next couple of months.  That seems like pure speculation to me, but I don’t think it’s crazy to expect oil prices to climb.  They nosed up to near $100/barrel already today in London.

This is certain to increase talks of energy policy in Washington.  I got “news” for homeowners, though.  We’re not going to drill ourselves out of this one.  That may help, but by itself, it’s not a solution.  And if you’re a homeowner who heats with fuel oil (like many in the Northeast or Upper Midwest in particular), a decision to start drilling in every possible location in the U.S. probably doesn’t help you for at least a couple of years if at all.  It won’t take a lot of perturbation in the market to see fuel oil price to spike to $4-5/gallon.  And that could devastate homeowners, with monthly energy bill perhaps even exceeding mortgage payments. 

I may sound like a broken record on this, but your household’s security is tied to energy-efficiency.  Collectively,  so is our national security.  You should take a hard look at making improvements right now.  Don’t panic.   But take the right steps, make smart investments in air-sealing, insulation, furnace, boilers, etc. and protect yourself  and your family from instability in the world markets. 

Thanks,
Mike


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,084 other followers

%d bloggers like this: