Energy tips for businesses and homeowners
By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Tue., Mar. 12, 2013
Since forming in March 2010, the all-volunteer Stafford Energy Advisory Committee has concentrated its efforts on reducing energy costs and conserving energy on town and school buildings, but its members say there are many energy-saving opportunities for businesses and homeowners to take advantage of, as well.
The group has provided a summary of considerations for energy conservation and savings in new home construction and remodeling, which can be obtained from the town’s Building Department. The summary sheet also lists several useful websites such as Connecticut’s Clean Energy site, www.ctenergyinfo.com, Energy Star at www.energystar.gov, and www.eia.gov.
Arguably the best site listed on the summary is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, www.dsireusa.org, which lists state, federal, local and utility incentive programs that can help businesses and homeowners with the up-front costs of energy-saving upgrades.
“We practice what we preach,” said Peter Kovaleski, P.E., an electrical engineer on the committee. SEAC Chair Gary Fisher has a solar electric system, a geothermal system, and a heat pump hot water heater installed in his home, and Kovaleski has a geothermal system. Other committee members including Gene Julian and Ella Ingraham also have solar electric arrays.
Co-chair Leonard (Butch) Clark, however, has - to his knowledge - the first and only house in Stafford that is completely energy-independent.
In 1990 Clark had purchased a 1922-built, 1,200-square-foot house that needed a total renovation. Most of the renovations, he said, have been made in the past three years, and they include adding blown-in insulation to the walls and attic, Tyvek house wrap, and 1-inch foam insulation board on top of the Tyvek and foam-backed vinyl siding. He also installed a 9.8-kwh solar array and a two-ton geothermal heating system.
“I haven’t paid an oil or electric bill in 18 months, with the exception of a $16 per month fee to CL&P to be connected to the grid,” said Clark.
During the summer months, Clark said his system produces more electricity than he uses, thereby building up energy credits with CL&P.
“Electricity is constantly moving back and forth to and from the grid,” Fisher explained. “The utility company meters how much electricity [Clark] puts back to the grid, so he can draw on the credit he’s earned when he uses electricity at night and during the winter months,” he said.
Kovaleski described geothermal heating systems as simply moving the heat in the earth up to heat your home. Likewise, in the summer, geothermal systems move the cooler temperatures in the earth up to cool your home. “You’re never buying fuel oil or propane. You’re just moving energy out of the earth and getting efficiency of between 250 percent and 400 percent, compared to the typical 83-percent-efficient oil burner,” he said.
Clark said that while a geothermal system does not use oil or propane, that movement of energy does require electricity to run the system, but the extra electricity his solar PV system generates during the warmer months exceeds the electricity draw from the geothermal system, so he comes out ahead.
“One reason I did all this was to prove it can be done,” said Clark. “Right now I’m saving about $4,000 a year on energy costs and I’m not paying for electricity or oil, and I don’t use any other source of heat. Anyone who has to replace their heating system should investigate installing a geothermal system. Just be sure to contact a certified geothermal installation contractor,” he said.
Fisher said homeowners who heat their hot water with electricity should investigate installing a heat pump hot water heater. “With the ones they have for residential use, you can get up to $700 in rebates and tax credits right now, which makes them competitive in price with traditional hot water heaters,” Fisher said, adding that they are more efficient and can save homeowners up to 60 percent on their electricity to heat their hot water.
With so many of the SEAC’s energy-saving projects completed and/or in the works, it would be easy for the committee to rest on its laurels, but that’s not part of the plan. Presently the committee is investigating some hydroelectricity projects for the town, which residents can expect to hear more about in the future.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final in a series of articles detailing energy- and cost-saving measures undertaken by the Stafford Energy Advisory Committee.