Archive for the ‘Rebates’ Topic

Energy Upgrades are Always in Season

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Summertime looms, and for us Pacific Northwesterners, there are still plenty of cool days until we get to midsummer. Regardless of the time of year, You can make your home or business more energy efficient when you undertake projects aimed at improving lighting, weatherization, and home ventilation. The Community Energy Challenge (CEC) is all about improving our energy use, and took direct aim at saving energy and money.

In 2015 alone, the CEC helped with 38 energy upgrade projects affecting 26 homes in San Juan County. Homeowners took advantage of everything from duct sealing, weather stripping, new ductless heat pumps, ventilation improvements, and wall, attic and floor insulation. The homes and businesses were able to realize an average annual utility bill savings of $520.

The whole program was made possible by more than $76K in CEC incentive contributions, OPALCO energy savings rebates, and San Juan Conservation District non-electric grant funds. Also, the CEC commercial program, operated by Sustainable Connections, completed energy upgrades for 9 county businesses. Those improvements tackled lighting, heating, and weatherization.

Who paid for all this? CEC contributed $10,780 in project incentives and OPALCO rebates added another $3,647.

Need to know more about how these programs can help our low-income members? Call ……. And we can help you find programs and incentives that fit your home or business.

May I have the Envelope, please?

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

Why you should consider weatherizing your home now

Home EnvelopeA building envelope is what separates conditioned and unconditioned space.  It performs the important job of keeping heat, cold, and moisture from transferring directly through your walls, foundation, and roof.  Like a cozy coat, hat, and socks for your home, appropriate levels of insulation and properly sealed air leaks will reduce your heating requirements and improve overall comfort level.  Paired with an efficient heating and cooling system like a ductless heat pump, you’ll cut down significantly on energy waste.

But wait…it’s summertime. Why think about heating, coats and hats when it’s warm outside?

Here are 3 good reasons to consider weatherization home improvements now:

1) Residential rebates for weatherization are going down October 1, 2015

OPALCO offers rebates funded by BPA’s Energy Efficiency Incentive program.  BPA constantly evaluates the region’s energy savings potential and adjusts incentives accordingly.  Effective October 1, 2015, the current rebate levels for insulation, windows, air sealing, and duct sealing will be cut nearly in half.  If you’re already thinking about making these upgrades, act now to benefit from the higher rebate levels.

2) Gains in improved comfort also apply to warm temperatures

Have you ever spent an extended amount of time in an unconditioned space like a garage, shed, or barn?  In the summer, it was probably warm and stuffy in there.  This is true for your home, too.  Improving the building envelope of your home helps keep you cooler and improves ventilation and moisture levels year round – even when temperatures are high.

3) Supply and demand

Many people wait to take action when their house feels drafty, their energy consumption is higher, and the temperatures are already dropping.  If you get ahead of the winter rush for weatherization work, you can prevent energy waste before it happens.  You may also have better access to lower costs of materials and higher availability of qualified contractors.

To create a plan for reducing your home’s energy waste or for more information about OPALCO rebates, visit our website or contact our Energy Savings staff (Lindsay) at 376-3500.

Amy Saxe, OPALCO Manager of Member Services & Energy Savings

Annual Report – Win a $50 Bill Credit

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

OPALCO’s 2015 Annual Report is ready for your reading pleasure. We want you to know who we are and what we are up to. So much so, in fact, that if you read the report and take the Treasure Hunt quiz, we’ll enter you to win a $50 bill credit. Go for the gold!

Energy Upgrades on a Budget

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

OPALCO energy rebates

Worth replacing? One of the old single-pane windows that energy auditors have recommended replacing. The homeowner wonders where to put that on his priority list.

If your intention is to improve the comfort and energy efficiency of your home, but your house is old, has little insulation, drafty windows, poor heating…and you are on a budget…where do you begin?

This was the question posed by reader Christian Rodriguez at Green Building Advisor, and here is their answer:

Christian Rodriguez has taken an important first step in improving the energy efficiency and comfort of his 1880s home by arranging for an energy audit. With the results in hand, his first step was to air-seal the attic and add 20 inches of cellulose insulation. This made quite a difference both in comfort and heating bills.

Now comes a difficult decision: what to do next?

The audit has identified four additional things Rodriguez could do to further improve the energy efficiency and comfort of his old home:

  • insulate the walls of the house with dense-packed cellulose
  • insulate the crawl space with closed-cell spray polyurethane foam
  • replace four drafty windows that are original to the house
  • install a high-efficiency air-source heat pump

Green Building advisor notes: “Unfortunately, there is only enough [money in the] budget for one of the four options (all estimates within $200-$300 of each other).

The experts all agree – the best thing to do next is improve the building envelope before spending any money on upgrades to the mechanical systems. Read their detailed suggestions here: An Energy Upgrade On a Budget.

If you’re ready to start looking into energy upgrades for your home, call us at 376-3500 to schedule a $25 Home Snapshot Assessment.

Learn More

Big Savings on Heat Pump Water Heaters

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Water heaters are one of the biggest sources of energy consumption, second only to energy used to heat your home or business.  Over the past few years, a new type of water heater, using Heat Pump technology, cuts water heating energy use by about 60% compared to standard electric storage water heaters.

If you’re thinking about replacing your water heater, or want to reduce your energy usage, now’s the time to consider a heat pump water heater.  Now through December 3rd, 2014, you can save a total of $700 on the price of a new GE GeoSpring Hybrid Heat Pump water heater.  This includes a $400 instant rebate at the time of purchase and a $300 rebate from OPALCO after installation.

A conventional electric water heater costs about $440 a year to heat water for a typical home.  It can cost even more, depending on the size of home and family and water use habits (baths versus showers, etc.).  In the same home, with a heat pump water heater,  it would only use $167 in electricity – a savings of $272 per year, or over $3,000 over the lifetime of a typical water heater. If your water heater uses propane, the savings should be even greater.

To find out if a heat pump water heater is right for you, click here for helpful tools and resources.  To learn more about the rebates, see information on the OPALCO rebate and the GE rebate, then check out the water heaters at Sears, Lowes, or any of these dealers.  Make your best deal, and once installed, fill out and submit the OPALCO rebate form to receive $300 cash back.

Check out the GeoSpring water heater website to learn more about how heat pump water heaters work, locate a dealer, and calculate savings.  Here’s a helpful video that explains how the GeoSpring water heater works.

What’s More Important, Air-Sealing or Insulation?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Infrared image showing heat leaking from a house

Infrared image showing heat leaking from a house

A recent analysis of San Juan County homes and businesses showed that most can substantially reduce their energy bills and wasted energy by improving their energy efficiency. Air sealing and insulation are two of the best ways to make your home or business more comfortable, durable, and energy efficient.

To our question – What’s more important, air sealing or insulation? ­– Green Building Advisor (GBA) senior editor Martin Holladay says the answer is clear, “Air sealing always comes first.”

Air Leaks Waste Energy and Rot Houses

GBA estimates a whopping one third of the energy you pay for probably leaks through holes in your house. Air leaks can also cause moisture and indoor air quality problems. Stopping unwanted airflow is an important job of a building enclosure. Air leaks through walls, roofs and floors can have the biggest effect on the durability of a house. Uncontrolled air flow through the shell not only carries moisture into framing cavities, causing mold and rot, it can account for a huge portion of a home’s energy use and cause indoor air quality problems as well.

Doug Poole

Doug Poole

Doug Poole of Sage Building on Lopez Island agrees. He explains, “Air enters and leaves the home through stack effect and wind pressure.  Stack effect turns your house into a chimney and is constantly drawing air from the low points of the home and sending it out through the high points. This is called infiltration and exfiltration.”

Poole lists the benefits of air sealing a home as:

  • Savings on energy costs
  • Improved comfort through reducing drafty areas of the home
  • Better indoor air quality by reducing the air entering the home through the crawlspace
  • Lower threat of mold growth in the attic
air sealing your home

How a leaky building wastes energy. (click to enlarge)

Plugging the Leak

As winter approaches we are more likely to notice our home’s air leaks or “drafts,” especially when the winter winds are raging. Often these drafts are around windows and doors and we think these leaks are our major source of wasted energy. Experts agree however, that in most homes, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and basement. These are the leaks that significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable. As Poole said, in cold weather, warm air rises in your house, just like it does in a chimney. This air, which you have paid to heat, is wasted as it rises up into the attic and sucks cold air in all around your home—around windows, doors, and through holes into the basement.

Hand in hand with air sealing comes proper ventilation.  Poole says, “This can be as simple as a bath fan on a timer, or as complicated as a Heat Recovery Ventilator for super tight or high performing homes.  The tightness of the home can be tested with a Blower Door and then the appropriate home ventilation system should be installed.

A popular Home Performance slogan is:  “Seal tight, ventilate right!”  Poole’s own well sealed home has a bath fan that is always on at a low speed so its constantly bringing in fresh air from outside and getting rid of stale, moisture-laden air.  Opening windows high and low in the house can work too, but that wastes a lot of energy and it puts Mother Nature in charge of how much fresh air we get.

Caulking and weather-stripping are two simple and effective air-sealing techniques that offer quick returns on investment, often one year or less. Caulk is generally used for cracks and openings between stationary house components such as around door and window frames, and weather-stripping is used to seal components that move, such as doors and operable windows.  For some good information and tips on how to air seal you home or business, see Energy Star’s excellent A Do-It-Yourself Guide To Sealing And Insulating With Energy Star.  It’s loaded with good how-to information and illustrations.

Pressurizing the House

Blower Door

Blower Door

Poole agrees that door seals can sometimes be a big air leak in a home, and that properly sealing dampers on dryer vents, bath fans and kitchen hoods is good to do as well. That said, Poole finds the biggest culprits tend to be in the dark places. As a Home Performance contractor, his focus is on the high and low leaks in the house.

Donning protective gear and heading into the crawlspace to seal gaps around pipes and wires, under tubs, duct penetrations, etc. will improve air quality, save energy and reduce drafts.”

The attic is a little more technical.  We typically use the Blower Door to pressurize the house and help us find the air leaks in an attic.  These include the plumbing and electrical penetrations, as well as interior wall tops and drop soffits.  If you have a vaulted ceiling with no attic access, then looking for dusty cobwebs in cracks around beam ends, at blocking, etc… can yield results.  Air sealing high in the home saves energy and takes the stress off roof venting, reducing concerns around creating mold conditions on the underside of the roof-deck.

To check the energy efficiency of your house, the Home Energy Snapshot Assessment from OPALCO is a great place to start.  At $25 it is an excellent value, and includes 2-3 hours of consultation with a Building Performance Institute (BPI) certified contractor (Doug Poole or David Meiland of Bailer Hill Construction on San Juan Island), free energy efficient light bulbs and low-flow shower heads. To learn more about the Home Energy Snapshot, energy saving, rebates, or to schedule an Energy Snapshot appointment check out the links below.

Learn More

 

Come to your local Energy Fairs in May and June!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

OPALCO is asking all members to understand the sources of electric power and to be aware of their personal energy usage habits and savings options.  Please join the OPALCO Energy Savings team, the M.O.R.E. (Member Owned Renewable Energy) committee, and Islands Energy at upcoming local Energy Fairs.  Participate in solar home tours, efficiency and conservation workshops, kids activities, raffle prizes, and more!  Here are the details:

San Juan Island: Saturday, May 17th; 10am to 3pm @ 95 Nichols Street

Lopez Island: Saturday, May 31st; 10am to 3pm @ Lopez Center for Community and the Arts

Orcas Island: Saturday, June 7th; 10am to 3pm @ Eastsound Village Green

Other highlights include:

  • Free energy savings kitsIslands Energy Logo
  • Demonstrations of electric vehicles
  • A presentation about planned Community Solar projects
  • Information about home energy audits and locally generated power
  • Information about OPALCO efficiency rebate programs
  • Local contractor booths
  • Energy keynote speakers
  • Live music by The Field Boats, a Lopez Island band

These fairs represent launch events for the newly-formed partnership between OPALCO and the San Juan Islands Conservation District.

The Conservation District serves as an umbrella organization for other local and regional nonprofits joining the efforts to increase energy and conservation education and to pilot a Community Solar program in San Juan County.  The collective group has adopted the name Islands Energy.

Due to limited availability and anticipated demand, reservations for the Home Energy Conservation Workshop and the Solar Home Tours are recommended. To reserve a spot, please call the Conservation District at 360-378-6621 or email energy@sjislandscd.org to pre-register.

 

 

Friday Harbor Labs Reap Big Savings with Lighting Upgrades

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

The University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs is receiving a rebate check for $46,230 after completing a substantial lighting efficiency upgrade project in late March.  This retrofit was a component of a larger ESCO project to “green up” facilities.  The lab upgraded to high performance linear bulbs and ballasts and replaced incandescent lighting with LEDs.  This will result in an estimated energy savings of 101,333 kWhs annually!

OPALCO Energy Savings Specialist Elisa Howard will present the rebate check at 4pm on Friday, May 2nd to Lisa Graumlich, the Dean of the UW College of the Environment.  The public is welcome to attend the presentation at the labs to learn more about this exciting project.

OPALCO’s rebate program is funded by Bonneville Power Administration to help incentivize energy efficiency upgrades in San Juan County.  Since 10/1/13, the OPALCO Energy Savings staff has issued a total of $241,115 in rebate checks to members with a collective estimated annual kWh savings of 825,089.

Have you claimed your share of energy efficiency rebates?  Click here for more information or to learn about other OPALCO efficiency and conservation programs.

UW FH Labs

UW Friday Harbor Labs

Cash in on OPALCO Rebates!

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Spotlight on Energy Rebates: Meichelle Roberts, San Juan Island

Meichelle Roberts

Meichelle Roberts,
OPALCO Member

 

Member Meichelle Roberts of San Juan Island noticed her high electric bills and knew it was time to take action. She called OPALCO to learn more about available efficiency rebate incentives to help offset the cost of home improvements she was considering. The payback was huge! Meichelle replaced windows, installed a ductless heat pump, and upgraded her insulation. This made her home significantly more efficient, and Meichelle received checks from OPALCO totaling $6,163.

To further reduce her out of pocket costs, Meichelle joined the Opportunity Council’s Community Energy Challenge and received an additional 30% off the cost of these upgrades. The estimated energy savings for these upgrades totaled 17,871 kWhs!

Meichelle is very happy with the final outcome. “Through the collaboration of OPALCO and the Community Energy Challenge, these improvements to my home were affordable and reduced my long-term utility expenses. I am absolutely satisfied with the results. The program process was also very easy.”

When asked why energy efficiency is important to her, Meichelle responded “Everyone should take an active role to participate in conserving energy. I liked doing my piece as a part of the big picture goal. Saving resources is always important. It’s more than avoiding waste, it is a financial responsibility as well. “

Join Meichelle in the effort to reduce energy waste! To claim your incentives while making your home more energy efficient, call the OPALCO Energy Savings team at 376-3586 or contact us via email.

 

Let’s Go Custom – Local Energy Efficiency Projects Create Big Savings

Friday, April 12th, 2013

This past week OPALCO handed out rebate checks totaling $22,184.00.  The two custom designed energy efficiency projects are expected to save 137,075 kWh per year.  That is equivalent to taking approximately 11 average houses off the grid.

The first project was at Friday Harbor Elementary School where United Energy Engineers installed two variable speed drives for the heat pump circulating system. This project was measured post-install by BPA and is saving more energy than estimated!

The second project was at the Orcas Emmanuel Episcopal Church where local contractors, Greg Reboulet and Sage Building, installed weatherization measures in the shell of the building. The old water-facing windows were replaced.  Insulation was added to the attic and the crawlspace after a great deal of air sealing was performed.

George Garrels (l) and Bishop Craig Anderson(r) receive their check in front of the new windows.

Rick Thompson, Superintendent of San Juan Island School District, receives their rebate check.