LEWISBURG — Lewisburg area resident Ben Hoskins said he had things done to his home in order to reduce its carbon footprint, such as replacing windows and caulking to conserve energy.
A local climate action program through the state Department of Environmental Protection, in conjunction with Bucknell and Lewisburg Neighborhoods, previously formed a task force to reduce the borough’s carbon footprint.
Lewisburg Neighborhoods Director Taylor Lightman said the goal is to create a “community-led, smart climate action plan through adaptation and mitigation for Lewisburg Borough that respects human rights and equitable development.”
Lightman said he believes climate change could present opportunities for places like Lewisburg.
The American home uses 25% of energy to heat spaces, 13% to heat water, and 11% for cooling and the remainder is spent on appliances, according to estimates from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
From 2009 through 2012, SEDA-COG’s Energy Resource Center (ERC) worked with many sectors in the New Berlin community to implement, document and share an energy independence program focused on energy efficiency first, then renewable energy.
New Berlin has 848 residents.
“It was a very holistic approach,” according to Union County Commissioner Stacy Richards, former ERC director.
Energy assessments of homes and buildings, community members’ investments in energy reduction activities recommended by the energy assessments, free weatherization of income-qualifying homes, and development of a locally sourced and used renewable energy plan for the community continued throughout 2010.
Thirteen different facilities and three manufacturing firms received energy audits, 136 households received walkthrough energy surveys, and 37 income-qualifying households received free home weatherization, Richards said.
Collective efforts delivered through existing social organizations during the first year, followed by the connection provided by the Energy Resource Center to qualified energy auditors and local contractors resulted in documented annual energy savings in excess of $250,000 a year at the conclusion of the three-year project.
These annual savings translated to more than $1 million retained within New Berlin through 2018, with additional annual savings.
“It was very broad,” Richards said.
SEDA-COG provides home weatherization services available to income-qualifying homeowners and renters in Columbia, Juniata, Mifflin, Montour, Perry, Snyder, and Union counties. Since 2008, over 8,600 homes in the region have been weatherized.
Weatherization services include:Energy Education; Furnace Repair and Replacement; Heating system repairs; Hot water heater installation; Cold Weather Crisis intervention; Air leak sealing; Insulation installation; Energy efficient lighting installation; Digital thermostat installation, and indoor air quality testing.
LOCAL MAKES HIS HOUSE MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT
Hoskins said unsealed areas of the home can lose a lot of heating.
“It’s a huge energy loss,” said Hoskins, who previously heated his house with wood.
Hoskins got quilted windscreens for living room windows.
“It’s hard to be specific because there were a lot of small tweaks,” said Hoskins.
Hoskins previously was on Buffalo Creek Watershed Alliance, an environmental group spending time to help local governments install streambank fencing.
He said it was clear after the results of the inspection through SEDA-COG you could see areas air was entering from outside.
Afterward, Hoskins did caulking to clog up the air coming in from deficit spaces.
He said he had been with survey teams in homes south of Stein Lane in East Buffalo Township.
“I had gone with a team through other homes,” he said. He said some homes are “quite porous” and main doors in homes can show air leakage.
Doors and windows waste the most energy, he said.
“I think there are a lot of things that can be done environmentally in terms of the amount of carbon a home releases,” Hoskins said.
It is not just inside the house Hoskins had suggestions.
He said many lawnmowers are not electric and hinted homeowners might best be served by switching their regular mowers running on gas.
He said the survey through SEDA-COG took about an hour.
“So it’s not a huge inconvenience,” Hoskins said.
If you’re below-income the survey could be performed at no cost, according to Hoskins.
An energy audit starts with an analysis of two years of all monthly energy costs and a walk-through of the facility using special equipment to identify energy use that could be reduced.
“My staff and I provided the utility bill analysis at no cost to the businesses, non-profits and government agencies then assisted them to procure an energy auditor qualified to recommend energy use reduction measures for manufacturing processes,” said Richards, who ran the program through SEDA-COG.
Richards said grant funding was used to develop requests for proposals competitively procure one energy auditor and pay for the energy audits provided at no cost to these non-residential clients.
“The project did not pay for the cost to implement the recommended energy reduction measures that these energy audits recommended. It was up to the members to make that investment.”
“But many, many did make that investment because the energy audit explains clearly what exactly needs to be done, an estimated cost, and the payback period to reduce those costs. Many of the recommendations cost very little or no money. Just behavioral changes.”
HOW CAN YOU MAKE YOUR HOME MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT AND SAVE MONEY?
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, on average Pennsylvania families consumes more than 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually, and spend more than $2,000 per year on energy bills.
A homeowner can take steps to make their home more energy efficient at little or no cost with public assistance available.
Some projects, such as lighting changes, require minimal financial investment.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, widespread use of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs has a large potential impact on energy savings in the United States.
By 2035, the majority of lighting installations are anticipated to use LED technology, and energy savings from LED lighting could top 569 TWh annually by 2035, equal to the annual energy output of more than 92 1,000 MW power plants.
Other projects, such as insulation or improvements to heating and cooling systems, may require significant financial investment.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission offers a variety of Utility Assistance Programs through their website to offset costs associated with conserving energy at home. For many programs, consumers will need to meet certain financial criteria.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s (PHFA) HEELP program offers loans between $1,000 and $10,000 for specific energy efficiency repairs at a fixed-rate of 1 percent for 10 years with no prepayment penalties.
SEDA-COG’s weatherization program can be contacted at: 1-800-332-6701.