Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Air Filters vs. Air Purifiers: One Keeps You From Sneezing, The Other From Getting Sick.

Understanding the difference can help protect your family’s health this season.

A guest blog post by Tony Valentino, Director of Sales and Marketing, with Webb Supply, and the second article in our two-part series on home indoor air quality.

Once again another winter falls upon us and with that we start to close up our homes, at least in most parts of the country. Either way it’s time to start thinking of our heating systems to get ready for the season. If you’ve been thinking about your heating system at all (many do not), you’ve probably been thinking of changing the filter and maybe getting a proactive ‘tune up.’ 

Why do we do these things?  First, to help the system run optimally/efficiently.  Second, to preserve the unit’s lifespan.  And third, to help remove ‘bad stuff’ from the air in our home.  It’s this last dimension I’d like to focus on today.

Now that subject “indoor air quality” can be taken into many directions and can mean a number of different things to the average homeowner but, for this conversation I’m going to break it down into two areas: Air Filtration (aka Air Cleaning) and Air Purification.  Most people think these are the same thing, but they are very different.

Air Filtration (aka Air Cleaning) Methods

Let’s start with the most common, air filtration. A typical home or apartment has a forced air heating & cooling system, blowing conditioned air through ductwork and out air vents located in various rooms of the home. All these systems have some sort of air filter, whether it is the most basic filter you buy for a couple bucks at the local hardware store or, a more efficient air filter such as a media style or electronic air cleaner.
The primary purpose of any filter is to keep your heating and cooling system cleaner internally, maximizing it’s efficiency and in the process  will also help in reducing airborne particulate (dust, dander etc.) from being recirculated throughout the home.

No matter how efficient the filtration or, regardless of the cost to install, these units will only clean what the heating and cooling system brings back through it via the duct system.

Air Purification Methods

Air purification systems on the other hand, are designed for a different purpose with different results. Most common among these is the UV Light (Ultra Violet). Installed in the system ductwork, these units can be very effective at killing bacteria, molds and fungus but, will only destroy these organisms when in very close contact to the UV light for a determined amount of time.

One alternative to the standard UV light are units that use advanced oxidation technology (Photohydroionization). This utilizes a type of UV light technology to produce “friendly oxidizers” (Hydroperoxides) that travel through the air ducts to kill or reduce microbes and gases in the conditioned space. The best analogy to describe the difference is a mouse trap verses a cat: one waits for the mouse the other goes out and hunts for it.

The latest UV air purifiers that use this technology literally go throughout your home and ‘hunt down’ the bacteria, mold and fungus that can be making your family sick.

It’s difficult to describe in this short blog all of the different products on the market today but, what I can provide you is my personal and professional preference for indoor air quality. On typical forced air heating and cooling systems I recommend a media style air filter with a high Merv rating (this measures the filters effectiveness, the higher the number the higher the efficiency). In addition to this filter I would add a unit that utilizes photohydroionization to proactively kill microbes and purify the air in my entire home while keeping my ductwork free of these microorganisms.

Question for Tony?  Feel free to contact him at 216-289-7400 or tony.valentino@webbsupply.com


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fighting Sickness This Winter Begins At Home

A Two-Part Series on Indoor Air Quality for Healthy Lungs Month

In the battle to keep ourselves and families healthy, we often focus on the outward foes.  We scrub our hands like we’re prepping for surgery and use the paper towel to turn the faucet off.  We awkwardly use our shirt sleeves to open public doors.  We bathe ourselves in hand sanitizer throughout the day. And yet, despite these valiant efforts, many of us and our children will have respiratory illnesses this winter.

Because you spend most of your time in your home, according to the EPA and thousands of research studies, it’s very possible that it’s your home that’s making you sick.  As the doors and windows close up for the season, the impact of poor indoor air is magnified without the influx of fresh air.

Children are especially prone to the health effects of poor indoor air quality.

The rise in childhood respiratory issues is documented, growing, and alarming.  As we’ve reported previously, children are especially susceptible due to their developing systems and they breathe in more air per breath than we do.  The really scary part:  not only are the effects short term, like getting sick, but the impact can be long term, manifesting in asthma and other chronic issues.  For more details, check out this previous post from our blog titled "Children & Indoor Air Quality."

You can’t see, smell, taste or feel indoor air quality problems.

Well, at least not the real serious ones.  Sure, certain odors can be red flags but the most dangerous culprits are the ones you can never detect without professional testing. Chances are that you won’t know there is an air quality problem until someone in your family is suffering from persistent sinus problems, develops allergy symptoms, has difficulties breathing or some similar ailment. These are the tip-offs that there is an air quality problem lurking in your home.

Is your family’s health and your peace of mind worth a few hundred dollars?

Many people think indoor air quality testing is too expensive to be practical. Some types can be. But certain methods are non-destructive and can be done for less than $400. Pro Energy’s testing method falls in this category and tests for more than 400 air borne contaminants and mold VOCs.  Not only is there an increase in homeowners doing testing, but potential home buyers are now asking for air analysis prior to purchase.

Next Edition: What’s the difference between an air purifier and an air cleaner?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wrapping Up Energy Awareness Month, October 2013

Once again we used the power of social media to focus on daily education (and sometimes amusement) in
support of October being National Energy Awareness month.  This is just one way we seek to fulfill our Mission to Save Energy, Save Money and Save The Environment. Looking back over the month, here are the top insights.

You are worried about the impact of winter on your home energy bills and comfort.

There is still time to prepare for the coming frigid winter
Our most popular posts were around the frigid winter weather predictions ahead, and how NOW is the time to prepare for Mother Nature and the rising heating costs.  While many people may contemplate a new high efficiency furnace as the solution, remember that may NOT in fact be your problem.  Prevent yourself from wasting thousands of dollars by having your home tested first to really figure out what’s going on.

Insulate yourself from energy loss.

Our two-part series on understanding the role of insulation and the different types of insulation available was a hot item.  Missing insulation is consistently one of the top 3 issues we find during our home energy audits.  To minimize the cost of your insulation – and maximize your benefit – you first need to know exactly where the insulation is missing from, and if there are related issues that need addressed beforehand.

You like animals in sweaters.
'Sweater Weather' included Scottish ponies in sweaters 

Hmmm….we won’t judge!  Our Friday Facebook ‘Sweater Weather’ feature was such a hit, we’re thinking of running a contest where you can vote for the Sweater Champion – stay tuned!

And remember, you can always look back on our energy saving tips anytime – it doesn’t have to be Energy Awareness Month.

Be sure to Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and check us out our videos on YouTube
Our social media links are also listed below.
Thank you for being part of our growing community!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Colder Temperatures and Higher Bills Predicted – Time to Plan Ahead! Issue #2    

Last month Caleb Weatherbee, The Farmers’ Almanac pseudonymous weather forecaster, alerted us to some dire predictions for the coming winter season. Mr. Weatherbee stated that in the coming months we should anticipate a combination of both low temperatures and high utility bills.
Pro Energy Consultants took that prediction as an opportunity to present a two-part series about the importance of insulation. In September’s blog post, we covered the ways in which insulation can reduce heat loss or gain while saving you money on energy bills. This month we are sharing further details on the various types of insulation and the R Value system that home-owners should consider.

Do the Research Before Spending Money on Insulation

Which type of insulation is the best choice for your home depends on a variety of factors including the following:   How much insulation is needed and where specifically it needs to be applied; R-value based on the climate and location of the home; design of the home; is this a remodel of an existing home; how much do you plan to spend; and how much do you plan to save on energy costs over what period of time. Other considerations involve the installation. Are you adding insulation as a DIY project or do you plan to hire professional installers?
A professional energy assessment of your home will provide UNBIASED insights on most of these issues. (Sometimes you may even learn that your problem is not related to insulation at all.) It will also tell you if, and where, you have air leak issues. If you do, these should be addressed first before making any other investments.

Types of Insulation

·        Batts and Roll Insulation is the most common type of insulation. It comes in long rolls of pastel-colored fluff and is easy enough for DIY installation in open areas such as unfinished attics and basements. This low cost insulation is made from glass fibers or rock wool and is already sized to roll out between the studs and beams in your home.
·         Loose Fill Insulation comes in loose fiber form or fiber pellets and is usually made from cellulose, fiberglass or rock wool. Loose fill material is pumped or blown into a wall cavity by a machine, so this is not typically done by a DIY homeowner. This is a good solution if you are remodeling your home and need to insulate inside existing walls and fill in empty nooks and crannies to eliminate cold spots.
·         Spray Foam can be blown into walls, onto attic surfaces or under floors by professionals. Consumers can buy a similar spray foam product in small aerosol cans that can be used to reduce air leakage in holes and cracks such as window and door frames, and electrical and plumbing penetrations.
·         Rigid Foam looks like large sheets of Styrofoam and is very effective for exterior wall sheathing, interior sheathing and for basement walls and attics. The R-values for Rigid Foam is up to 2 times greater than most other insulating materials of the same thickness is typically more expensive than other types of insulation.
·         Reflective Insulation (Radiant Barrier) reflects heat away from your home to reduce cooling loads. This is used for homes in extremely hot, sunny climates.
·         Green Insulation is an example of what’s old is new again. This includes natural materials such as cotton, sheep’s wool, straw, hemp and other materials made from plant-based substances.


Regardless of the type of insulation you choose for your home, all varieties are rated by R-values. This rating system measures levels of thermal resistance with the higher R-values providing greater insulation effectiveness for both summer and winter temperatures. To determine your insulation needs, use an insulation calculator that factors your geographic location and climate.

Insulation is just one element to consider in your winter-weather preparations. The important thing to remember is that NOW is the time to act! Stay tuned and connect with us for more information. Please see the links below to find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Colder Temperatures and Higher Bills Predicted – Time to Plan Ahead! Issue #1

Caleb Weatherbee, The Farmers’ Almanac pseudonymous weather forecaster, has dire predictions for the coming winter season. The predictions indicate that New England, New York and Pennsylvania should prepare for a “bitterly cold” and snow-filled season. Illinois and the surrounding states will have “biting cold” temperatures and the Midwest can look forward to "piercing cold" weather. Other parts of the country will simply be cold, damp and blanketed in snow. If Caleb Weatherbee’s predictions are accurate, it sounds like most of us should be bracing for a miserable winter.

Welcome to Insulation 101

Now that summer has come and gone, it’s a perfect time to start seriously thinking about getting your home ready for the winter. Beyond clearing your gutters and getting the storm doors ready, when was the last time you thought about your home’s insulation? Out of sight, out of mind - right?

Insulation reduces unwanted heat loss or gain and decreases the energy demands of your home’s heating and cooling systems. Insulation helps maintain consistent comfort levels in your home while saving money on energy costs throughout the year. Without proper insulation, the money you spend on heating and cooling literally goes right out the window. Or perhaps, right out the door or through the roof, and out the walls!

Missing or failed insulation is one of the top three most common issues our home energy audits uncover. It is a major contributor to comfort issues within the home and to energy waste. 

Infrared Image of Missing Insulation
The primary problem for homeowners is not knowing exactly where the insulation is missing or has failed. So, they either guess – and therefore typically waste a lot of money – OR – they feel overwhelmed or assume it costs too much to improve and do nothing. Both are bad approaches. 

The truth is, when you have quality insulation placed exactly where it’s needed, it’s a very cost effective improvement with proven return on investment and comfort impact.

What’s the other big mistake homeowners make? That is waiting until the thick of winter to decide they’re going to combat Mother Nature (typically after that first seasonal energy bill). By that time, you’ll be on a waiting list behind other desperate homeowners and you’re more likely to make spur of the moment, uninformed purchase decisions.

Get the jump on Caleb Weatherbee and discuss your game plan now!

Next Issue: Understanding R Values and Types of Insulation

Friday, July 19, 2013

My $15,000 Mistake Led Me to Start My Own Business

Several years ago, my family and I relocated to Salem, Oregon from Southern California. Salem is a beautiful, family-friendly area, but the weather was a big adjustment. It’s a combination of extremes with heavy rains in the winter and hot summers. While the weather was a bit of a challenge, the difference in the real estate values was a highly desirable benefit of the move to Oregon. We were able to move into a much larger home with three-levels for the family to spread out and enjoy.

Although beautiful and spacious, we started having comfort and health concerns – and the utility bills put us into shock each month!  At that time, I was working from home and using a room on the upper level as a home office. The rest of the house could be comfortable, but my office would be stiflingly hot in the summer, making it nearly impossible to concentrate. The basement became an icebox in the winter, we had dust build-up no matter how much we cleaned and mold was growing on the family room wall.
The Pro Energy mantra of  'we don't guess' really clicked
with my personal frustrations involving our new home

I concluded that there was something wrong with our HVAC system. I contacted three different HVAC companies who came to the house, inspected the system and submitted their bids for repairs, upgrades and new equipment. The general consensus was that the HVAC system wasn’t of sufficient size for the scale of our tri-level house.  The solution to the problem was to upgrade the existing HVAC system and install an additional system for the upstairs floor. Two separate HVAC systems sounded like an appropriate solution, so we spent over $15,000 on this strategy. 

Unfortunately, I guessed wrong and it was an expensive guess. The situation actually got WORSE as our energy bills nearly doubled with only minor improvement in comfort.  For most consumers, it’s tough when you suddenly have to re-adjust your budget to accommodate an unexpected up-tick in monthly energy bills. Our comfort level changed very little and we still had dust and mold issues.

The HVAC company didn’t do anything wrong, but they deal exclusively in HVAC systems. In reality, the problem was that we had other performance issues with the house that we just didn’t realize at that time. This is definitely a case of “if I knew then, what I know now.” I should have arranged for a home energy audit at the onset of the problems and not wasted time and money on guess-work.

Through the use of infrared, we were able to pinpoint the exact
places repairs were needed, saving significant time and money
But, things happen for a reason…

After some soul-searching, I decided that working in the electronics industry was no longer the best career fit for me. I really wanted to leave the rigid corporate culture behind, take control of my life and gain greater personal satisfaction from having my own business. I felt that buying a franchise would be a good investment because of the established infrastructure and I wouldn’t need to build something from scratch. I actually considered a wide variety of franchise businesses ranging from mosquito abatement to food service concepts.  I researched Pro Energy Consultants and was impressed with what I read about their team and business model. They were clearly the most well established green franchise opportunity.  And, the Pro Energy mantra of ‘we don’t guess’ really clicked with my own personal frustrations involving our new home.

I’m happy to say that I opened a Pro Energy Consultants franchise in Salem at the beginning of June 2013.  Diagnostic testing of my own home revealed that missing insulation and massive air leakage were two of the root causes of our problems. Through the use of infrared and other tools, we were able to pinpoint the exact places repairs were needed, saving significant time and money.

I have been genuinely impressed with Pro Energy Consultant’s support.  In addition to home energy audits, I’ve already expanded into offering indoor air quality testing services and solutions, and commercial energy assessments as well. It’s been an interesting turn of events that these frustrating problems with my own home ultimately led me to a new business venture. We’re proudly dedicated to bringing Pro Energy’s mission of Saving Energy, Saving Money, and Saving the Environment to the communities of Salem, Albany, Corvallis, McMinnville, Wilsonville and surrounding areas. I’m looking forward to helping home and business owners avoid making the same costly ‘guesses’, while truly solving their problems. 

To contact Kenneth Low:

P: 503-409-4894 or 800-977-6363
E: klow@proenergyconsultants.com

Monday, July 8, 2013

Chilling Out: Tips for Air Conditioner Efficiency

The “dog days” of summer are upon us. Especially in the Western states where record-breaking triple digit temperatures and a long-term drought continue to make daily life very difficult for many Americans. During the last week of June, extreme heat warnings and health advisory alerts were posted in eight states. Temperatures reached 119 degrees in Phoenix and even Death Valley hit a new record of 127 degrees.

Fortunately, air conditioning is no longer a luxury item but a fairly standard component of most residential and commercial properties. Air conditioners range in variety from window models, wall models and portable air conditioners to central air conditioning, ductless air conditioners and split air conditioners.  It’s possible that you don’t even remember exactly what version you have in your home. As long as it works – you probably don’t think about it. Until it stops working – then you remember the genuine misery of a sweltering heat wave without air conditioning. 

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting Checklist

Here are five of the most common problems with air conditioners:

Refrigerant Leaks: Leaks can leave your system struggling to function and can be harmful to the environment. Don’t simply add more refrigerant. A trained technician should repair the leak and charge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant.
Electric Control Failure: Compressor and fan controls can wear out, especially when the air conditioner cycles on and off frequently, as is common when a system is oversized. Corroded wires and terminals can also be a problem. Have a professional check the electrical connections and contacts.
Sensor Problems: To keep a room comfortable, window air conditioners have a thermostat sensor behind the control panel, which measures the temperature of air coming into the evaporative coil. If the sensor is knocked out of position, the air conditioner can cycle on and off too often or otherwise behave erratically. The sensor should be near the coil but not touching it.
Drainage Problems: When it's humid, make sure the condensate drain isn’t clogged and is draining properly. Window air conditioners may not drain properly if they aren't level.
Inadequate Maintenance: Dirty filters and air conditioning coils can cause the air conditioner to underperform. Also, overtaxing the unit can cause the compressor or fans to fail prematurely.

Cool Tips: How to Efficiently Get the Most Out of Your Home’s Air Conditioner

After the annual maintenance check-up, here are some tips on how to efficiently use your home’s air conditioner to its best advantage:

Energy Star: If you are replacing an old air conditioner, install an Energy Star rated model for superior energy efficiency.
Correct Size: Similar to using the right tool for the job, coordinate the size of the air conditioner to the scale of the room. You don’t want to overtax a small unit trying to cool a large room or waste money with a large air conditioner for a small space.
Install a Programmable Thermostat: A perfect solution for people with set schedules throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save on energy costs and keep you comfortable when you are at home. Understand your real comfort level and program accordingly.
Utilize Blinds, Drapes, Fans and Common Sense: In the morning when it starts to heat up, close the windows and window coverings on the South side of your home. Close the doors to rooms that you are not using. If it cools down at night, open the window instead of using the air conditioner. And yes – turn on a fan.
Summer Weatherizing: Weatherizing isn’t just about icicles, it’s also necessary for hot summer temperatures. Caulk around doors and windows to save on energy usage and stop air leakage. Replace worn door sweeps to keep cool air inside and hot air outside. Insulate areas around switches and outlets to prevent air leaks from traveling to attic or basement.

Summer Can Be a Good Time for an Energy Audit
During the blistering heat of summer, the effectiveness of your air conditioner may become a concern. How are the comfort levels in your home compared to your energy costs? Summer can be the perfect time to consider an energy audit. This process will involve an on-site detailed evaluation of your home’s performance, to determine the specific causes of high energy bills and/or comfort issues. Again, many people associate an energy audit with winter weather when in fact it’s a summer time issue, too. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Save Energy. Save Money. Save a Life ...?

Scary, Real-Life Story Highlights Health & Safety for National Homeownership Month

Today everyone is concerned about home energy efficiency – which is good.  People are primarily driven by a desire to lower their outrageous energy bills and/or fix some kind of comfort issue (these are typically interrelated).  What many homeowners don’t understand though, is that serious health and safety issues can also be the outcome of a home that is ‘under-performing’ (the term us building performance folks use). 

For National Homeownership Month, I want to share a very personal story with you about the truly life and death importance of applying a comprehensive, holistic approach to understanding how our homes work.

On a hot Saturday, I was called to a home for an emergency visit by the owner of a great local HVAC company I frequently work with on projects.  His HVAC technicians were dealing with a critical situation that no one could figure out the solution to, and they wanted to see if I could help.  

By the time I arrived at the house there were fire trucks and an ambulance parked in front.  Not a good sign. Even worse, the family’s six month old baby was on a stretcher in the ambulance receiving emergency oxygen.  The parents were frantic.

The HVAC service technician quickly conveyed the basic details: a new furnace had been installed the previous year and it had been functioning perfectly and was currently turned off due to the scorching summertime temperatures. The air conditioner was running and the basement was quite chilly. For no apparent reason, the home’s carbon monoxide detectors went off sounding the alarm that there was a problem. The family fled the house and called the HVAC company demanding immediate service. The service technician carefully reviewed the HVAC system but was perplexed about the build-up of fumes.

As I began diagnosing the home, it was clear to me that the furnace and its installation were not the problem.  After some careful analysis, I finally discovered the “perfect storm” of factors that created this household nightmare. The gas water heater and the furnace were linked together through a single vent which is not uncommon. Although, what was uncommon was that the extreme summertime heat outside was forcing the vented fumes from the gas water heater back into the chilly basement.

The drastic difference in temperatures made it impossible for the fumes to vent to the outdoors. This build-up of carbon monoxide in the basement drifted upstairs into the house (CO is lighter than air, so this is why all levels of the home should be protected and why duct work should be sealed, particularly the return). The fumes eventually reached a dangerous level that activated the alarms and sent the family fleeing out the front door.

The good news is that the baby and parents are fine. The other good news is that solution was fairly simple and cost effective. The gas water heater was replaced with an electric water heater.

Temperature differentials between levels of a home (such as this really chilly basement) are a common complaint of clients’ but many don’t realize that temperature differentials can be the manifestation of a potentially serious problem.  Truth is, you just don’t know until an assessment is done.

It’s important to be informed about how your house functions. Your home is a major financial investment and should be a source of comfort, happiness and safety.  When you’re an informed homeowner, you can make smart decisions about maintenance and improvements, and protect the health of your family.

Happy Dwellings,

About Mark Cannella:

Mark Cannella is a Certified Auditor from Building Performance Institute (BPI), HERS, Retrotec, Inc. and the American Lung Association. He is also designated as a Certified Instructor by the State of Ohio Board and Building Standards and is an Energy Star partner. Mark Canella is the founder of Pro Energy Consultants and has been one of the country’s leading authorities on energy audits and building performance for nearly 20 years. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Buying An Energy Efficient Home

A feature for National Homeownership Month

All the emphasis on energy efficient homes these days often adds to the home-buying jitters, especially for first time homebuyers.  Concerns about ongoing energy bills, what upgrades might be needed and the potential cost, and related comfort issues are now top of mind for more people than ever when buying their next home.  Here are the top 3 concerns we hear from homebuyers and real estate agents, and the important things to consider before making any hasty conclusions.

“Those windows look old….I bet they’re really inefficient.”

The window companies have done a great job of convincing homeowners that old windows automatically mean energy efficiency problems.  In our experience conducting thousands of home energy audits, that’s simply not true.  Most times, there are basic air leakage issues around the windows that can easily be addressed without replacing the windows themselves.  As we always say, if you’re going to replace your windows, do it for the right reason, such as if you want an updated/newer look.  But windows are way too expensive of a ‘guess’ to make, and can unnecessarily drive you away from a great home.

“The monthly utility bills for this place are outrageous!”

Smart homebuyers are asking for sample energy bills before they commit to purchase.  This makes a ton of sense – you should know what your monthly budget will be for the new place.  If the statements send you into shock, here are some things to consider:
  • Everybody’s usage is different.  If they have 4 kids, 2 teenagers, work from home and leave the lights and TV on all day for the dog, their usage may simply be a lot more than yours.  Also peek at the thermostat and see what their settings are at.  Plus or minus 2 degrees on the settings can have up to a 20% impact.
  • Consider climate.  Was it unseasonably hot or cold for the time period of the sample bill you’re looking at?  If so, you may not be looking at ‘normal’ usage.
  • Check the systems and appliances.  Look for EnergyStar labels.  If they’re not present, the units may simply not run as efficiently as newer models.  This doesn’t mean you should replace everything right away, but simply know you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade to more energy efficient versions throughout time.
  • Look for evidence of ‘vampire’ usage.  Homes are loaded with electronics today that remain plugged in all the time, ‘sucking’ energy even when not in use.  Home entertainment systems are the top culprits and can add a significant amount to bills.  A few bucks at the DIY store will get you some gadgets to easily remedy the situation and lower your bills.
  • Feel for temperature differentials as you walk through the property.  If high energy bills are truly the result of poor home performance, there are typically corresponding comfort issues somewhere in the home.  The upstairs can be hotter/colder; drafts may be present in areas; the basement may be significant colder.  Note this can be difficult to judge if outdoor temperatures are mild.  You can ask the sellers if they experience any of these, but be aware they may not always reveal the entire truth.

“The MLS for this home says it has energy efficient appliances and systems, so it must be very energy efficient.”

We are thrilled that the MLS is starting to report on energy efficiency attributes of homes in certain parts of the country.  However, this is only one small part of having an energy efficient home.  High performance systems will not operate as intended if you have other issues such as missing/failed insulation, massive duct leakage, air leakage, etc.  These are not attributes visible to the naked eye, nor are they within the scope of a home inspection.  Remember, optimal home energy efficiency is achieved through a combination of personal behaviors, energy efficient systems, a good building envelope and minimal air leakage.

Bottom line: don’t let surface-level information sway your decision on a home, one way or the other.  Interpret the initial information you have access to as a sign that further investigation may be a smart move.  In our experience, it’s a minority of homes that need huge, expensive upgrades to achieve better energy efficiency.  And remember, if you do anticipate making energy improvement investments, incentive programs and energy efficient mortgages may be available to you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Businesses Are Wasting More Than $60 Billion Annually on Energy

Everyone is aware of energy usage at home, but are you thinking about saving energy in the work place? Businesses in the United States are currently wasting more than $60 billion a year on energy*.  Business owners can save money by quickly enacting simple no-cost changes or make a commitment to large scale energy saving investments. Either way, reducing energy costs can make a significant dent in the monthly budget for a small business.

If you want to start saving on energy costs in the workplace, here are some ideas:

Lighting: Change lighting to energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs); install motion detectors that automatically shut off lights in lesser used areas; turn-off lights that aren’t being used; use Energy Star qualified exit signs; don’t “over-light” your workspace causing glare and eye strain; make better use of natural light through skylights and windows.

Office Equipment: Turn off computers when not in use – screen savers do not save energy, sleep mode or total shut-down saves energy; laptops use less energy than desktop computers; unplug battery chargers once batteries are charged; “phantom” power loads come from electronics that are turned off but not unplugged – install power strips and turn strips off at the end of the day which creates the equivalent of unplugging electronic equipment; burning a CD – don’t do it unless you really need it; don’t forget that web cameras and virtual meetings save time, money and energy costs related to travel.

Kitchen and Bathroom Equipment: Purchase an Energy Star qualified refrigerator; for existing refrigerators – clean coils and replace door gaskets as needed; install an energy efficient water heater and use an insulation blanket or consider a “tankless” model;  install water efficient appliances such as low-flow faucets and toilets; repair leaks and dripping faucets.

Heating and Cooling: Install a programmable thermostat; regularly change inexpensive HVAC filters – dirty filters use more energy; use fans to circulate air and delay turning on the air conditioning system; control hot summer sunlight with blinds, solar screens, solar film and awnings; take advantage of winter sunlight by keeping southern-facing windows unobstructed; plug air leaks with caulking and weather stripping.

Employee Education: Inform employees about energy saving policies via a meeting and distribute written guidelines; create a fun event and invite employees to come up with additional ideas on how to save energy – after all, most people want to help the environment and customers appreciate businesses making a “green” commitment.

If you are really concerned about your business’ energy usage, consider calling in the experts to conduct an energy audit. This process will involve an on-site detailed evaluation of your buildings’ performance, to determine the specific causes of high energy bills and/or comfort issues. A commercial energy audit is the crucial first step to making smart improvement investments that deliver ROI.  To learn more about Pro Energy Consultants’ commercial energy efficiency program, click here.

Helpful Links:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 2013 Blog

Pro Energy Consultants Honor Earth Day 2013 with Home Energy Saving Tips

Monday, April 22 is Earth Day. Each year, more than one billion people participate in Earth Day related activities, making it the largest civic observance in the world. Citizens from approximately 192 countries voice their concerns for the planet by focusing awareness on environmental issues such air quality, climate change, deforestation, water conservation, food quality and waste recycling. Pro Energy Consultants is providing you with a list of simple yet effective energy saving remedies that you can take in your home. Even these small steps can help the planet by saving energy and can save you some money in the process.

Ten Simple, Yet Highly Effective Home Energy Saving Tips 

1. Turn off all lights, appliances and electronics when not in use. Let’s focus on the easiest task by putting it at the top of the list!

2. New and improved light bulbs can reduce energy use from about a third to as much as 80%. Replace old light bulbs with energy-efficient halogen incandescents, compact fluorescents and LEDs.

3. Properly insulate and seal air leaks to ensure that you aren’t compromising your home's energy efficiency. Reduce energy waste and save up to 20% on your utility bills while increasing home’s comfort level.

4. Use your windows shades to save energy. This is another incredibly simple action that can really help conserve energy. Close the blinds on the sunny side of your house during the summer and open the blinds in the winter to allow more sunlight.

5. Buy appliances with the Energy Star label, the government’s symbol of energy efficiency. Energy Star labels appear on a variety of consumer products and can save up to 30% on related electricity bills.

6. A programmable thermostat that is properly programmed can conserve energy and save up to 10% on cooling and heating costs.

7. Remember to clean or change furnace filters regularly to conserve energy. A dirty furnace filter slows air flow and makes the system work harder to keep your home warm.

8. Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to conserve water and also save on water bills.

9. Lower water heater temperature to 130° F to save energy and money on heating water. Also, to retain heat in the storage tank, wrap the water heater’s storage tank in a specially designed “blanket” to retain the heat.

10. Wash your clothes in cold water wraps up this list as another incredibly easy energy-saving task. By using cold water, you can save about $63 per year.

In the month of April, Pro Energy Consultants honored Earth Day with a ten-day countdown of suggestions and simple household contributions that everyone can make in support of saving our planet. For the ten days’ worth of eco-friendly family activities, water-wise gardening tips, vegan dining suggestions, E-waste recycling  guidelines and more -  please check out Pro Energy Consultants’ Facebook page and Twitter feed. Don’t forget to “Like” and “Follow” us on-line!

Also, suggestions for Earth Day and every day from:

National Geographic
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Nature Conservancy
United States Environmental Protection Agency

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tax breaks for energy-saving improvements are back

Few of us are ever looking forward to the April 15th tax deadline. The good news is that Congress revived the tax energy credit for 2012 and 2013. You may be eligible for federal tax credits if you made qualifying energy saving improvements in 2012. If not, plan for those improvements this year and save your receipts!

What is a tax credit?

Unlike a product rebate, you claim the credit on your federal income tax form at the end of the year. The credit then increases the tax refund you receive or decreases the amount you have to pay. Generally, a tax credit is more valuable than a tax deduction of the same amount by reducing the tax you pay, dollar-for-dollar as opposed to a percentage.

Who is eligible?

The IRS defines eligibility as individuals who install specific energy-efficient home improvements. Eligibility also requires that the individuals own the home and it must be their primary residence.

What energy-efficient home improvements are eligible? 

The overall $500 cap can be reached in several ways with the purchase and installation of energy-efficient products that meet certain efficiency criteria:

  • Exterior windows: Includes skylights and storm windows 
  • Insulation, exterior doors or roofs: Includes seals to limit air infiltration, such as caulk, weather stripping and foam sealants, as well as storm doors.
  • Metal roofs: Needs pigmented coating or asphalt roofs with cooling granules
  • Central air conditioner, heat pump, furnace, boiler, water heater or biomass (e.g. corn) stove
  • A credit worth 30% of the cost of buying and installing certain alternative energy equipment, such as geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, solar panels, fuel cells and small wind-energy systems if installed by December 31, 2016

Here is a list of links that will provide more information on Home Energy Efficiency Tax Credits:

A complete guide to energy-efficient tax credits.

What is eligible for a tax credit?

How to apply for an energy efficiency tax credit.

Learn more about local and regional incentives and rebate programs.

If you are interested in learning more about energy saving strategies for your home, contact your local Pro Energy Consultants.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

“Daylighting” Saves Energy, Improves Health

Daylight Saving Time starts on March 10th this year, so this is the perfect time to suggest some  "daylighting”  opportunities for your home. Does the term daylighting conjure scary images of something from the “Twilight” series? Architects are now rediscovering “daylighting” particularly as a means to provide a higher quality of light that can positively affect health and productivity while also reducing energy usage. Architects and engineers are now using software programs to obtain optimal daylighting benefits for their construction plans.

Whether you’re designing a new house or updating your home, here are some ideas:

  • Windows: Select windows with a vertical orientation that will selectively allow more light and also diffuse sunlight at different times of the day and year. Also, south-facing windows permit the most winter sunlight but little direct sun during the summer. North-facing windows admit relatively even, natural light, producing little glare and summer heat. East and west-facing windows provide good daylight penetration in the morning and evening, respectively, but may cause glare and heat during the summer yet contribute little to solar heating during the winter. And lastly, keep your windows clean. 

  • Skylights: install a skylight for enhanced daylight or top lighting. Consider an operable venting skylight that allows air flow and functions like a window in the roof. 

Tubular Daylighting Device image from Wikipedia
  • Tubular Daylighting Devices: Install a TDD that employs a “light collector” on the roof and admits light through a tube into the interior of the house. 
  • Solarium, sunroom or greenhouse: Could be added to your home with a large area of glass added between the sun room and your interior living quarters. Low-cost high-volume-produced patio door safety glass is an inexpensive way to accomplish this goal.
  • Some low-cost DIY options: Walls near the windows should be painted a light color to project more reflective light into the room.  Also, consider strategically adding more mirrors into your interior layout and reap the benefits of reflective light. And lastly, rearrange your furniture at different times of year to make the most of natural light. Simple choices such as moving your desk or favorite reading chair closer to the window as the days grow longer can perhaps save a small bit of energy and reward you with a natural sense of well-being.
  • Click here to see Energy 101 Video: Daylighting video courtesy of the U.S. Energy Department

If you are interested in learning more about energy saving  strategies for your home, contact your local Pro Energy Consultants.