Welcome to your new energy efficient home

With EPS, energy performance is in the details

Guest post from Energy Trust of Oregon

See the benefits of energy-efficient homes at this year’s virtual Central Oregon Green Tour. Energy experts and homeowners will give you the insider’s scoop and lead video tours of EPSTM rated homes built for quality, comfort and efficiency. Brought to you by Energy Trust of Oregon, EPS is an energy performance score that shows the energy impact of a newly built home and how much it costs to operate.

With EPS, you can compare homes based on efficiency and find which ones offer superior comfort and savings. Qualified homes are built to be at least 10 percent more energy efficient than required by current building codes. When you buy a home with an EPS, you know you’re getting a higher level of performance.

“They all have better insulation, they’re properly sealed, they have highly efficient HVAC systems and windows, so there’s improved efficiency and energy-cost savings,” says Scott Leonard, a program manager with Energy Trust. “But the overall advantage of these homes is a higher level of comfort that you don’t get otherwise.”

The benefits don’t stop there. Leonard notes that EPS rated homes deliver health advantages as well: “Requiring fresh air systems in EPS homes creates a healthier living environment for everyone in the home.”

The Central Oregon Green Tour is a great opportunity to learn about the benefits of EPS. Here’s a closer look at some of the key attributes you’ll find in EPS rated homes during this year’s virtual tour:

  1. An energy score that includes estimated utility costs, so you know what to expect before you buy.
  2. Energy-saving lighting and efficient built-in appliances such as dishwashers and water heaters.
  3. High-performance windows that help to deflect heat in the summer and retain it in the winter, with well-sealed window frames that make for a quieter home.
  4. Special framing techniques that allow for extra insulation join forces with energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment to enhance comfort, improve indoor air quality and lower utility bills.
  5. Tight construction helps prevent unwanted pollutants and drafts. Plus, mechanical ventilation systems bring fresh air into the home for healthier indoor air quality.

An EPS home can save you money and energy for years to come, so be sure to ask about EPS during the virtual event, and remember to bring it up with your builder or real estate agent as your home search continues. For more information on how EPS can help you find a better-built home, visit www.energytrust.org/eps.

Get involved with Bend’s climate future

The City of Bend is actively recruiting nine positions for the Environment and Climate Committee (ECC) until July 31, 2020.

During the June 17th, 2020 City Council meeting, Bend City Council voted to establish the Environment and Climate Committee. The committee’s primary focus is to provide input and recommendations to the City Council on topics related to environmental stewardship and to oversee implementation of the Community Climate Action Plan, adopted in December 2019.

This committee is a big deal! The ECC will help the City of Bend establish direction and implement sustainability goals and will help shape the future livability of our community. 

Committee expertise

The City is seeking individuals who have experience or expertise, professional or lived, in the following or other related subject matters: energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy efficient building, environmental justice, equity in environmental stewardship and sustainability, alternative transportation and mobility, energy policy, environmental policy, forestry, water resources, ecology, other life sciences, carbon emission reduction, and other related areas. They seek inclusive membership of diverse and varied perspectives and experiences.

This committee will help fulfill current and future Council goals and projects related to environmental stewardship, and provide a resource to Council when relevant community issues arise. The ECC will:

  • Develop recommendations and build partnerships to advance implementation of the Community Climate Action Plan;
  • Provide input in the City’s review and development of plans, ordinances, actions, and policies as relevant
  • Provide advisory input to the City Council during Council goal setting and budgeting processes; and
  • Provide input on adopted Council goals as they relate to natural resources and the environment.

Commitment

This will be a permanent City committee just like the Bend Economic Development Advisory Board (BEDAB) or the Affordable Housing Committee, among others. Nine members will be appointed to the Environment and Climate Committee with initial terms being two or four years so that the committee doesn’t replace all of its members at once. Subsequent terms will be four years. 

Committee members will be expected to actively participate in monthly meetings, generally 1.5 – 2 hours. Committee members will determine the regular schedule that works best for the members.

Application

The Advisory Committee application is available at bendoregon.gov/committees. Applications are accepted until 5 p.m. on Friday, July 31, 2020. 

For questions on serving on the Environment and Climate Committee, please contact Cassie Lacy at 541-323-8587 or .  

Information about the committee is available at bendoregon.gov/sustainability.

Welcome to your new energy efficient home

Tips for buying an energy efficient home

The home buying process is, well, a process.   It’s important to have conversations about efficiency during the homebuying process and not just after so that you can find an energy efficient home–or at least on that can be upgraded for efficiency. These simple tips can save a lot of energy further down the road.

Work with an Earth Advantage Broker or GREEN designee

Earth Advantage is a nonprofit organization based here in the NW that works to accelerate the adoption of sustainable homes. EA Brokers are green designated real estate professionals who have successfully completed in-depth training and gained comprehensive knowledge on the health, comfort, durability, and energy efficiency benefits of high performance homes in their market. They can help you discover green features; recommend home upgrades, incentives, and rebates; provide information on solar; and so much more.  You can find a list of accredited professionals here.

The National Association of REALTORS also has a GREEN designation. You can find those professionals here.

Look for key (in)efficiency features

Keep an eye out for features that might give you an indication if you have found an energy efficient home–or one that might need some improvements. (Thank you to Realtor Rick Sams for these tips from his April 2020 Power Hour presentation).

  • Age of the home: Homes built before 1992 were required by code to have less insulation. Insulation can be upgraded but it is an important distinction to be aware of.
  • Outside noise: This can be an indication that insulation and air leakage may need attention. Check windows and doors as big culprits.
  • Windows and doors: How well do the seal? Do they rattle?
  • Craftsmanship: Details in the home may be an indication of overall building quality.
  • Water heater: Make sure to take note of how old the water heater is and the make and model. You can look up the efficiency of the water heater if you can’t readily find the EnergyGuide sticker on the unit. If the water heater is electric, one of the biggest energy-saving upgrades you can make is to switch to a heat pump water heater.
  • HVAC: Is the home heated with gas or electricity and what is the efficiency of the furnace/heating system? If the heat pump is more than 10 years old or the furnace is more than 15 years old, an upgrade could save you up to 20% on heating costs. Beyond saving energy, newer systems maintain better indoor air quality. See below for more info on electrically heated homes.
  • Appliances: New appliances have more than just curb appeal, if they are Energy Star certified, they can save A LOT of energy.

Know what you can and can’t fix

This list could be a lengthy list so here is just one example (your Earth Advantage Broker will be able to help you pick out more obstacles and/or opportunities)! From an efficiency perspective, some heating systems are a lot harder to upgrade than others.  For almost all homes with electric resistance heat (baseboards or cadets), getting a more efficient heating system is going to be at the top of the efficiency to do list.

In a home that doesn’t already have ducts, a ductless heat pump is a cost-effective upgrade towards an energy efficient home. However, you will want to take note of the floor plan of the home. A segmented home can make it difficult to heat the living space with a central head. Many retrofitted homes will have a central head in the main living space then use backup heat in the bedrooms and bathrooms. This is a significant boost to efficiency but can require you to still rely heavily on inefficient backup heat in many rooms. Maybe you don’t mind a cool bedroom–that’s great! You just can’t heat some homes in their entirety with a DHP so it’s important to know what your needs are, what goals you have for the overall efficiency of your home, and recognize if it’s going to be hard or costly to put in a more efficient heating system.

Consider the energy efficient home’s solar potential

You’ll really be kicking yourself in a few years if you find out your home simply isn’t a good fit for solar. Home orientation, trees, chimneys, and roof features like dormers can limit your home’s solar potential. If you want to add solar now or later, a southern exposure is preferred, followed by east and then west-facing roofs. Depending on the size of your system, you’re going to want at least 200 sq ft of unobstructed space. You can call a local solar contractor and have them virtually look at the roof to assess its solar potential. If you’re serious about solar, or the home, you can have them come out to do a free assessment.

Find out if the home has an energy certification or an energy score

 

Clean Up Your Furnace Filter’s Act

Want in on a dirty little secret? A less-than-pristine furnace filter could be costing you, big time. Furnaces with dirty filters or ducts waste energy and money, shorten the life of your furnace, and pollute your indoor air. The good news? Cleaning up your furnace’s act starts with changing the filter regularly.

Clean vs dirty filtersIt is recommended that you change your filters at least every 3 months, but the more people and pets you have in your home, the more you should think about changing your filters. Additionally, if you have a family member with allergies, it is recommended to change them more often.

Why are furnace filters important? 

The air that is being circulated through your heating system is all passing through your furnace filter. Since clean, quality air filters keep the air in your home fresh, the people inside stay healthier. A quality air filter (usually recommended MERV 13 or above) can capture the airborne droplets that can carry harmful bacteria and viruses typically found in sneezes, coughs, and molds, as well as pollutants like dust and car fumes.

Clean filters also keep your HVAC system healthy–they enable it to run more efficiently, keep repair costs to a minimum, and reduce monthly energy bills. About half of your monthly energy bill is attributed to HVAC, and keeping clean air filters is the single most effective way to improve HVAC efficiency. Clogged filters make the HVAC work harder as it conditions your home, which raises your energy bill. (And if there are no filters, the coils will clog, which is even worse for your system!)

How to change your furnace filter

1. Your furnace filters will either be located in your return vents or some HVAC systems have two filters located within the actual furnace.

2. Note the filter size. This is usually printed on the cardboard frame. We recommend stocking up on new ones when you go to the hardware store so that you don’t have to run to the store each time you want to change your filter.

3. When installing your new filters, make sure to note which direction they should be installed in. To ensure proper airflow, the arrow on the edge of the filter should be pointing towards the blower motor.

Pro Tip

If you’re asking yourself when was the last time you changed your air filters don’t worry, it’s easy to forget. Your air filters are out of sight and therefore out of mind. So how do you ensure that you remember to change your filters? Try scheduling a monthly reminder to help you remember to check your filter monthly and change it when it’s dirty. The next time you go to the store, pick up a few extra filters so you don’t have to make the trip again in three months.

A loan for energy projects paid through your energy bill

This is way more exciting than it sounds

If you’re going to save money when you make home energy upgrades, wouldn’t it be nice to apply those savings directly to your financing payments? Well, it turns out someone out there is really trying to make saving energy as easy as possible.

This is exactly what you can do with Craft 3‘s On-Bill Repayment program. You can pay for an energy-saving project through monthly payments on your utility bill. Currently, you can take advantage of this program if you are a customer of Pacific Power and are making qualified energy upgrades that will reduce your electricity costs.

We caught up with Sara Holman, owner of Baby Cakes Diaper Service, to hear about her experience with the on-bill repayment program. She is currently making loan payments through her Pacific Power bill for two energy-saving projects.

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Expiring tax credits for efficiency products and solar

Excellent motivation to jump on your energy-saving to do list before the end of the year

Almost forty years ago Oregon was a leader in the energy efficiency movement when the state created the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) program. The Oregon Department of Energy has overseen this program with the intention of encouraging Oregon residents to adopt more energy efficient devices from appliances to heating systems to solar panels.

The RETC covers 25 different products but there are a few in particular that we have our eye on because of their potential to save large amounts of energy and their excellent return on investment. Here’s a rundown of a few products that will be affected and how you can get a project started before the tax credits expire.

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The Powerhouse on Union Street – Green Tour Site # 1

A Creative Path To Zero Energy for Two Small Homes

The accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on this property is a powerhouse. Literally. The solar panels on the roof of this small one bed, one bath ADU, produce a “net positive” amount of energy. This means that it at the end of the year, this home nets a positive amount of energy and even nets enough energy to power the main house.

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Improving Indoor Air Quality: Creating a truly healthy home

Conversations about indoor air quality have long been part of building an energy efficient home. Now, increasing concerns about mold, radon, carbon monoxide, other allergens, and wildfire smoke are driving more attention to indoor air quality.

One way to improve indoor air quality is to build an airtight shell which will reduce how outside contaminants enter your home. This is a must when building an efficient home and ensures all the cracks and crevices for outside air, or even pests, to get into your home are sealed up.

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Ductless Heat Pump Program Expands to Rentals and Multifamily Housing

We’ve been working with local residents over the last two and a half years to help them save money on energy bills and make their homes more comfortable. This year, The Energy Challenge is extending a key ductless heat program to rental and multifamily housing markets.

“While the name doesn’t lend itself to rousing a lot of excitement, the technology is quite spectacular,” said Lindsey Hardy, Program Director of The Energy Challenge. “They are super-efficient and so easy to install that they’re a no-brainer for an upgrade from any other kind of electric heating.”

New this year, The Energy Challenge is working with local contractors to introduce the technology to more multifamily properties with older, inefficient heating systems. Many successful projects have recently been completed around Bend, and building owners and tenants have been very happy with the results.

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