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Note to home performance professionals: current heating and cooling degree days tables available by state (scroll down to 1.9 and 1.10 on the Official Energy Statistics website)

Get the specifics about the Dept of Energy Recovery for your state! This site provides Recovery Act announcements and news releases relevant to your state.

The Dept. of Energy has an informative website detailing Recovery Act funding. For example, of the $16.7 billion authorized for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, $5.7 billion has been awarded, but less than 1% had been spent as of 9/18/09!

The most important news as relates to energy audits, home energy efficiency and improvements will revolve around the ENERGY RECOVERY ACT OF 2009 for the near future.

Cool Roofs
White or "cool" roofs are riding a growing wave in popularity across the country thanks in part to Steven Chu, the new U.S. Department of Energy secretary who is championing the idea as an easy way to increase energy efficiency and fight global warming.
Cool roofs achieve energy efficiency gains by reflecting the sun's rays and blocking heat, which reduces wear and tear on an air-conditioning system and lowers utility bills. Read the full story...

A landmark energy and environment bill was passed in the The U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 219-212 on June 26, 2009. Referred to as the 'Waxman-Markey Bill,' the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) is intended to provide incentives for reducing energy consumption, establish limits on U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and create a trading system for GHG emission permits. To read more about the bill and follow it's passage...

$154 Million awarded for State Energy Programs in California, Missouri, New Hampshire and N. Carolina. The announcement was made by U.S. Dept. of Energy Secretary Steven Chu on 6/25/09. Under  the Recovery Act, the DOE expanded the types of activities that are eligible for State Energy Program funding, including energy audits, building retrofits, education and training efforts.

Google hopes to roll out it's Google Powermeter later this year. Currently being tested with utilities, the plan is for a connection between your utility and a smart meter in your home, to give customers access to their electricity usage by viewing your personal igoogle homepage. 11/09 Update: available in the UK, but not yet in the US

A "living building" w hich sustains itself, slated to open mid-June, should be the first to complete the Living Building Challenge, considered the most stringent green building rating in the world...

 Federal Tax Credits for Residential Energy Efficiency:

According to Part III-Energy Conservation Incentives, Sec. 1121 of the American Recovery Act of 2009:

Individuals are allowed a tax credit in an amount equal to 30% of the sum of: 1)the amount paid or incurred for qualified energy efficiency improvements, and, 2)the amount paid or incurred for residential energy property expenditures. The aggregate (total) amount of the credits allowed under this Sec. for 2009 and 2010 shall not exceed $1,500 for any taxpayer. The residence must be located in the U.S. and owned and used by the taxpayer as a primary residence. To view the full Department of Energy website, please visit www.energy.gov/recovery

To qualify, equipment and improvements must have the following ratings:

  • water heater (natural gas, propane, or oil): energy factor of at least 0.82 or a thermal efficiency of at least 90%
  • natural gas furnace: achieves an annual fuel utilization efficiency rate of 95% or higher
  • propane furnace: achieves an annual fuel utilization efficiency rate of 95% or higher
  • oil furnace: achieves an annual fuel utilization efficiency rate of 90% or higher
  • natural gas, propane or oil hot water boiler: achieves an annual fuel utilization rate of 90% or higher
  • exterior windows, doors and skylights: to qualify, these items must be at or below a U factor of 0.30 and an SHGC of 0.30
  • insulation:
  • central air conditioners: must achieve a SEER rating of 16 or higher
  • advanced main air circulating fans:
  • biomass stoves: that use plant-derived fuel available on a renewable or recurring basis

Federal Tax Credits for Residential Renewable Energy:

Visit www.DSIREusa.org website for credits available for:

  • solar-electric systems
  • solar water heaters
  • wind turbines
  • geothermal heat pumps
  • fuel cells

State Deductions and Credits:

Visit www.DSIREusa.org to locate your state information




Cool Roofs:
By Kim McGuire

A study last year by the National Center for Atmospheric Research also indicated that if every roof were painted white in the world's cities, the urban heat island effect could be reduced by 33 percent. Heat islands occur in large urban areas where the natural landscape has been lost to roads, sidewalks and parking lots, which can raise surface temperatures. Some urban areas have heat islands that are 2 to 10 degrees higher than nearby rural areas.

It can be grueling work — temperatures on traditional asphalt roofs can soar up to 200 degrees in the summer. But seeing customers reap the benefits of the work makes it all worthwhile, said Miller who estimates some homeowners experience a 20 to 40 percent reduction on their summer cooling costs. "Usually, they tell me that within 48 hours they can tell a difference because it's noticeably cooler in the upstairs," Miller said.

That was the case with Marsha Matthews, who hired Miller last year to apply a reflective coating to the roof of her home. She estimates her summertime utility bills have decreased by 10 percent and expects an even bigger savings if St. Louis experiences a hotter summer than last year. "Although my roof was in good condition, it was covered in black tar," she said. "That was wrong on all kinds of levels."

Cool roofs have fewer benefits in a cooler climate. That's because they reflect solar energy year-round and can reflect away wintertime heat gains. The net effect, however, is usually positive in most U.S. cities, according to the EPA.

Cool roof coatings, which have the consistency of thick paint, cost between 75 cents and $1.50 per square foot for materials and labor, according to an estimate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If applied properly, coatings can last up to 20 years. Washing dirt and other material off a coated roof helps boost solar reflectance.

Roofing professionals generally do not recommend applying reflective coatings over shingles on steep-sloped roofs because doing so can cause water damage. But that doesn't mean there aren't "cool" options for steep-sloped roofs. "Cool" colored tiles, metal shingles and some asphalt shingles can help lower temperatures for steep-sloped roofs.

The Cool Roof Rating Council ranks several kinds of roofing products based on their solar reflectance and thermal emittance, or how readily a surface gives up heat. Traditional roofing materials have a solar reflectance of 5 to 15 percent, meaning they absorb 85 to 95 percent of the energy that reaches them. The "coolest" roof materials have a solar reflectance of 65 percent.

The council has given good marks to several products manufactured by TAMKO Building Products Inc, a Joplin, Mo.-based commercial and residential roofing products manufacturer. Jerry Hannah, specialty roofing products manager for TAMKO's central district, said demand for "cool" roof materials like the company's metal shingle line has increased in recent years — a trend he attributes to both improved aesthetics and customers' desire to achieve energy efficiency gains. "Over the last five years, in general, consumers are becoming much more environmentally aware," Hannah said. "I don't think they're driven just by the Energy Star tax credits. I think it's more about being energy-efficient."

She also hopes the city of St. Louis will begin promoting white roofs much like Philadelphia is doing with a new contest. There, residents are vying to be named the "Coolest Block" in the city. The block with largest number of homeowners willing to have a white coating applied to their roofs will get that service for free, plus insulation and an energy audit. "It just makes so much sense," Miller said. "With just a little bit of education, I really think we could make a difference here."
Washington University's "living" building sustains itself


EUREKA — Jonathan Chase bristles when you call the new Living Learning Center at the Tyson Research Center a "green" building.

Sure, it's got solar panels on the roof, and it's surrounded by native plants.

But the 2,900-square-foot, one-story building goes way beyond green. In fact, it's on track to become the nation's first "living" building, a new designation that basically means a structure is self-sufficient, producing all the energy it consumes.

The center was built from trees on the property and with recycled materials and will generate its own electricity. Its water supply will come strictly from rainwater. "What this is really about is trying to have the softest carbon footprint one can have."

The $1.5 million building, slated to open next week, should be the first to complete the Living Building Challenge, an initiative launched three years ago by the Cascadia Green Building Council and considered the most stringent green building rating in the world. There are 60 projects in the pipeline pursuing certification from the Seattle-based group. To be certified, the building must be operational for a year.

"The Tyson Living Learning Center is one of the first two of these projects completing construction in May, and there are many people throughout the country and continent watching with eager anticipation," said Eden Brukman, the Cascadia Green Building Council's research director. Tyson, in Eureka, is 2,000 acres of woods, prairies and ponds where Washington University students conduct environmental research. "We knew we wanted to do something really bold, and we really wanted to put our money where our mouth was," said Chase, who teaches biology.

Something bold turned out to be pursuing the Living Building Challenge, a certification process that is more rigid than the more commonly sought-after designation by the U.S. Green Building Council, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. There are more than 2,400 LEED-certified projects in the world.

The Living Learning Center was designed to be a zero net energy and zero wastewater building — both among the challenge's 16 certification requirements. The solar panels provide enough energy to fill all of the building's electrical needs, including running computers, air conditioning and lighting.

The building's water supply will come from rainwater, which will be collected, purified on site and stored in a 3,000-gallon underground cistern. School officials don't expect supply to be a problem because the building uses so little water. Helping on that front are composting waterless toilets, which collect waste in a bin below the building. After about six months, that waste will be used as fertilizer for the surrounding grass. Fumes from the toilet are funneled outside, making the bathroom seem less like an outhouse.

One of the major differences between the Living Building Challenge's guidelines compared with LEED's has to do with building materials. The challenge, to reduce the pollution associated with transportation, restricts the distance materials can be brought to a construction site. For example, "heavy" building materials such as wood must come from within a 250-mile radius. For the Living Learning Center, that meant the cedar siding came from downed trees on the Tyson campus.

The center also needed to use recycled or salvaged materials. So doors were salvaged from the Danforth campus, and classroom chairs were made out of recycled car batteries. "Living buildings really get you thinking about everything — every screw, every nail," Chase said. "Finding a light fixture that's made near St. Louis is more challenging than you can imagine."

One of the consequences of going that green is the escalation of construction costs. Chase estimates it cost three to four times as much to construct the building under the Living Building Challenge guidelines. "I don't think any of us knew the challenges this would bring, including Washington University, our design team, the contractors or the folks at Tyson," Hellmuth said. "But throughout the process, we have continually met" those challenges.



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