Around the web: Home Performance with ENERGY STAR

AroundTheWebCreating an energy-efficient home is a worthwhile goal. It is cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, costs the homeowner less money to keep it that way and helps the environment. What’s not to like? Well, the difficulty of finding financing for upgrades, choosing the right equipment or systems and hiring contractors who are experienced in properly installing high-performance systems, to name just a few challenges.

To help homeowners overcome these barriers to successful energy-efficiency upgrades, the Department of Energy launched Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) in 2011. The program connects homeowners with program sponsors and contractors who can help them improve their home comfort, indoor air quality and safety, while lowering utility bills.HPXMLven

How it works
HPwES takes the “whole house” approach to energy improvements that helps make the most of the homeowner’s investment. Rather than focusing on a single problem, participating contractors look at how improvements throughout the house can work together to get the best results.

To find participating contractors, homeowners go through HPwES-sponsored local programs. The contractors, who are trained to understand how homes operate, identify health and safety issues and provide the homeowner with personalized recommendations for increasing the house’s energy efficiency.

HPwES sponsors perform quality assurance checks on their contractors to ensure that the improvements are done right. In states where incentives are available, sponsors may also help homeowners apply for rebates.

Supporting retrofit programs
Becoming a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR sponsor is good for utilities as well as homeowners. Starting a residential efficiency improvement program from scratch is difficult, even for large utilities. Sponsors have access to a variety of resources they can use to implement and grow their programs and reach their own local energy savings goals. Program support includes account management services, marketing material, partnership and collaboration opportunities and resources from the Better Buildings Residential Solutions Center.

Because sponsorship is not limited to one type of organization, utilities have the opportunity to partner with municipalities, state energy programs and financial institutions. Collaborating with other agencies can make programs more effective, multiplying the benefits of efficiency upgrades across communities.

Improving communication
Helping sponsors to develop their own programs and connecting them to contractor pools is not the only way HPwES works to break down the siloes that stand in the way of a more efficient marketplace. Last year, the program introduced the HPXML Implementation Guide to help program administrators and software developers integrate HPXML into their operations and products.

Developed by Building Performance Institute, You are leaving WAPA.gov. HPXML is a set of common definitions for the attributes of home systems. It also includes computing language to facilitate the quick and easy transfer of home-related data between different market actors. Collecting and sharing this data across the industry is critical to supporting, measuring and verifying energy performance. The DOE expects the use of HPXML to build stronger relationships within the industry, increase consumer trust in energy-efficiency improvements and enhance the ability to evaluate programs.

Most program managers agree that measurement and evaluation is one of the big challenges of administration, so the HPXML guide could be a valuable resource for utilities. Visitors can learn more about the value the HPXML guide can bring to businesses, along with implementation methods, from a recorded webinar on the website.

Lincoln Electric System keeps refining efficiency incentives

Like rose bushes, customer energy-efficiency programs only flourish with careful attention, like Lincoln Electric System You are leaving Western's site. (LES) gives to its Sustainable Energy Program You are leaving Western's site..

The Nebraska municipal utility is funding its incentive program with $3 million this year to help customers make their homes and businesses more energy-efficient. The program is intended to encourage customer-owners to upgrade to equipment and systems that are more efficient than they would have purchased on their own.

Program participants are not the only LES customers who benefit, either. “The Sustainable Energy Program also reduces the need to purchase more expensive power during the summer months and delays the need for new power generation,” said Marc Shkolnick, LES manager of energy services. “This is a good investment for all our customer-owners.”

Broadening program
LES launched the Sustainable Energy Program in 2009 to reduce demand with energy efficiency and renewable energy to offset the utility’s projected five-year growth on a rolling basis. “We retooled a heat pump incentive to go after our summer peak,” explained Shkolnick. “Over time, we added more equipment and systems as we realized that it would take a more aggressive approach to ensure that all our customers were benefitting.”

LES offers funds to help customer-members upgrade insulation and seal their homes and businesses. (Photo by Lincoln Electric System)
LES offers funds to help customer-members upgrade insulation and seal their homes and businesses. (Photo by Lincoln Electric System)

The current version of the Sustainable Energy Program offers incentives for:

  • High-efficiency heat pumps and air conditioners for residential and commercial customers replacing existing cooling systems or installing them in newly built homes and buildings
  • Commercial and industrial energy-efficiency measures that achieve peak demand savings, such as commercial lighting retrofits, air conditioner or heat pump replacements, variable-frequency drive upgrades, compressed air system analysis and upgrade, energy management system installation, optimization or upgrade and system commissioning
  • Whole-house and facility sealing and insulation to seal penetrations and bring insulation levels to current code standards in existing homes and facilities

Air conditioner and heat pump upgrades are the most popular residential measures, and for commercial customers, “It’s lighting, by a slam dunk,” declared Shkolnick. “Over time, between the changes in technology and dropping prices, we’ve seen the most activity in lighting incentives.”

LES commercial customers overwhelmingly choose lighting upgrades to reduce their electricity bills. (Photo by Lincoln Electric System)
LES commercial customers overwhelmingly choose lighting upgrades to reduce their electricity bills. (Photo by Lincoln Electric System)

Spreading savings, awareness
Since 2009, residential customers have implemented 6,000 projects and commercial customers have completed 5,000 upgrades to save a cumulative estimate of 100,000 megawatt-hours. Leveraging $18.3 million in incentives, LES customers invested $87 million in energy-efficiency upgrades for an estimated annual savings of $7 million on electric energy bills, a win for the local economy, too.

In fact, trade allies have been among the program’s biggest promoters, noted Shkolnick. “People don’t think about these kinds of purchases until they need to. Contractors are talking to customers when they are ready to buy new equipment or systems, and they talk about the incentives,” he said. “LES promotes the program through the usual channels—bill stuffers, newsletters, ads—but the vendors are our most effective marketers.”

Getting off on the right foot with the local contractor pool—and staying there—helped. LES brought vendors in during the development of the Sustainable Energy Program to get their input. “We still do an annual orientation to update our trade allies on program changes, terms and conditions,” Shkolnick said. “Also, we moved the reimbursement system online to streamline the process and make it more user-friendly.”

Reaching out to contractors has paid off in more than program participation. A recent survey LES conducted showed not only a growing awareness among customer-owners about the Sustainable Energy Program, but also about energy use and reducing waste in general.

Making good even better
All of which is to say that the Sustainable Energy Program is doing a good job of saving energy and engaging customers. But is it keeping up with the times? Since LES launched the program, lighting technology has made great strides, building energy codes have tightened and federal efficiency standards have toughened.

Far from taking success for granted, LES recently hired a consultant to analyze seven years’ worth of data and experience. The third-party critique will review the program’s cost-effectiveness, and look at assumptions for claiming energy and demand savings and how the savings are modeled in the utility’s load forecast. “We want to make sure the program is following industry best practices,” said Shkolnick.

It takes work to build an effective energy-efficiency program—one that meets the needs of both customers and utility—and Lincoln Electric System is sowing what it wants to reap.

LEDs relight Mountain Village

San Miguel Power AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. serving Colorado’s Western Slope, recently teamed up with Cooperative Business Lighting Partners You are leaving WAPA.gov. and the town of Mountain Village, Colorado, to replace 4,828 conventional light bulbs with efficient LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.

The Relight Mountain Village program provided town residents with deeply discounted LED bulbs to improve lighting efficiency in their homes or businesses. Cooperative Business Lighting Partners sold a variety of LED bulbs at a reduced rate to Mountain Village residents. San Miguel funded the discount with a generous rebate passed through from its wholesale power provider, Tri-State Generation and Transmission AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. along with $20,000 from the town’s energy reduction projects budget.

Cooperative Business Lighting Partners estimates that the project will reduce the town’s overall energy use for lighting by 518,998 kilowatt-hours annually, and have a payback period of less than four months.

Learn more about this stunningly successful community program in SMPA’s December newsletter (page 2).

Source: San Miguel Power Association, 12/2/14

Black Hills Power raises energy-efficiency awareness with LED retrofit

The mercury in Rapid City, S.D., dipped to 5 degrees on Dec. 6, but inside the Canyon Lake Senior Citizens Center , the new light-emitting diode, or LED, lights shone brightly on those who braved the cold to attend Black Hills Power Energy Efficiency Awareness Day.

Members using the Lake Canyon Senior Center gym for daytime classes can turn off half of the new LED lights and take advantage of daylighting. With the old halide system, the lights were all off or all on. (Photo by Black Hills Power Corp.)The event

The mercury in Rapid City, S.D., dipped to 5 degrees on Dec. 6, but inside the Canyon Lake Senior Citizens CenterRedirecting to a non-government site, the new light-emitting diode, or LED, lights shone brightly on those who braved the cold to attend Black Hills PowerRedirecting to a non-government site Energy Efficiency Awareness Day.

Members using the Lake Canyon Senior Center gym for daytime classes can turn off half of the new LED lights and take advantage of daylighting. With the old halide system, the lights were all off or all on. (Photo by Black Hills Power Corp.)
Members using the Lake Canyon Senior Center gym for daytime classes can turn off half of the new LED lights and take advantage of daylighting. With the old halide system, the lights were all off or all on. (Photo by Black Hills Power Corp.)

The event showcased the senior center’s lighting retrofit project and gave Black Hills representatives a chance to talk to customers about energy efficiency. The free open house included presentations on the utility’s Energy Efficiency Solutions Program, weatherization and other energy-saving tips and a lunch-and-learn session covering energy-efficient equipment and measures.

Residential customers learned how they could save money with demand controllers, electric heating and cooling options, water heating and heat pump servicing. “Most were asking general questions about energy-efficiency measures and looking for ideas they could put to work at home,” said Black Hills Energy Services Manager Don Martinez.

Black Hills targeted commercial customers with information on custom energy-efficiency projects, geothermal heat pumps and lighting upgrades like the one at the senior center. “We wanted them to see what a cost-effective energy-efficiency measure looks like in action,” Martinez explained.

Better light, lower bills
Like many public facilities these days, Canyon Lake is on a tight budget and the staff was looking for ways to cut operating costs. The old-fashioned light fixtures throughout the meeting rooms, cafeteria and kitchen, offices and gymnasium were not helping. “They were killing us,” Center President Rudy Mooney stated bluntly, “and it wasn’t just the electric bills, either. We had to call in a maintenance company three times a year to work on the lights in the gym.”

Replacing T-12 fluorescent lights and 500-watt (W) halide lamps with LED fixtures reduced the center’s electric costs by one-third. “We went from 500 watts per light to 100 in the gym, and from 40 to 15 watts elsewhere,” said Mooney. “That gave us a net savings of about $600 per month, not counting maintenance fees for bulbs and ballasts.”

Just as important, the retrofit maintained the lighting quality, observed Martinez. “The members felt in many cases that the new lights were superior to the old ones,” he said. “They love that the gym lights turn on and off instantly without a warm-up period. Also, they are now able to turn off half of the lights during the day and take advantage of daylighting for dance classes.”

Advise and assist
Mooney contacted Martinez shortly after the center received a $50,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve the facilities. “I’ve known Don for 30 years,” said Mooney. “I knew he would have some good ideas for the project.”

Martinez started by taking the lighting levels throughout the building, and then pointed the center’s board of directors toward three vendors that had worked with Black Hills. “One bid was for more efficient fluorescents and two were for LED technology, so they had an idea what the potential for savings was,” he said.

After reviewing the proposals with Martinez, the board chose LED technology with a three-year payback. Black Hills rebates contributed an additional $9,000 to the project. “We’re using that money to upgrade the flooring,” said Mooney.

Success all around
Mooney said that he appreciated the help Black Hills gave the center with the project and would be open to other energy-efficiency upgrades. “Everyone is trying to be ‘green’ these days,” he observed. “But saving one-third on your electric bills is just common sense. It wasn’t a hard decision.”

The project was good for Black Hills, too, Martinez agreed, even though the weather refused to cooperate—a record-breaking blizzard on the original date forced them to reschedule the event. “It’s one thing to tell people about the benefits of an energy- efficient application,” Martinez admitted. “But it really makes a difference to them when they can walk around under the lights.”

Colorado demonstration shows streetlight retrofit a winner

By switching out their old streetlights, the cities of Sedgwick and FountainRedirecting to a non-government site, Colo., cut their electric bills and improved the quality of municipal lighting. Even better, they were able to offset the cost of the retrofits through grants and partnerships.

A roadway in Fountain, Colo., lit by conventional  mercury vapor streetlights. (Photo by Fountain, Colo.)
A roadway in Fountain, Colo., lit by conventional mercury vapor streetlights. (Photo by Fountain, Colo.)

The opportunity presented itself in 2010, when the Colorado Governor’s Energy OfficeRedirecting to a non-government site (GEO) announced its Street Lighting Demonstration Grant Program. Qualifying communities would receive funding to pay for the installation of high-efficiency streetlights, and then measure their energy and dollar savings to track the return on investment.

GEO chose Sedgwick, in the northeast corner of the state and Fountain, a Western customer located south of Colorado Springs, to receive the grants. Each town would replace inefficient mercury vapor fixtures with light-emitting diode (LED) technology, and provide GEO with data on the streetlights’ performance.

Complete overhaul
Highline Electric AssociationRedirecting to a non-government site, Sedgwick’s power provider, applied for a grant with an eye on helping its municipal customer while demonstrating new technology. “Like a lot of towns in this part of the state, Sedgwick is very small and was struggling even before the recession,” said Highline General Manager Mark Farnsworth. “Any measure that significantly reduces the town’s operating costs is going to make a big difference.”

Technicians from the cooperative replaced 53 175-watt mercury vapor lights with a combination of 50-watt Clearlight Beacon bulbs and 40-watt Clearlight EcoSpot bulbs. The installation included 11 complete fixtures along two major thoroughfares with 100-watt Evolve LED roadway lighting.

After Fountain, Colo., installed energy-efficient LED streetlights, energy use by the replaced units dropped more than 50 percent, roadway lighting improved and maintenance crews anticipated fewer lamp replacements. (Photo by Fountain, Colo.)
After Fountain, Colo., installed energy-efficient LED streetlights, energy use by the replaced units dropped more than 50 percent, roadway lighting improved and maintenance crews anticipated fewer lamp replacements. (Photo by Fountain, Colo.)

In addition to in-kind labor, Highline contributed $1,140.00 to the project. Tri-State Generation and Transmission AssociationRedirecting to a non-government site, added $2,524.13 in efficiency incentives, so the upgrade cost Sedgwick’s 190 residents nothing. The retrofit lowered Sedgwick’s previous annual cost for street lighting from $4,877.49 to $1,762.29. If the town had paid all costs and received Tri-State’s efficiency rebate, its simple payback would be 3.1 years.

Targeted replacement
A city of 27,000 residents with its own municipal utility, Fountain chose key areas for improvement, rather than completely replacing its streetlights.

In the space around the Fountain City Hall, 24 140-watt LED fixtures replaced the same number of mercury vapor lights. “But we drove them harder to see how they worked, and got lighting equivalent to 400-watt mercury vapor fixtures,” said Fountain Electric Superintendent Jerry Early.

At a busy intersection, the city installed another 24 LEDs, this time 70-watt bulbs, as well as 14 30-watt decorative LEDs, to replace 100-watt high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights. The measured reduction in energy use for the two areas totaled 57 percent.

The Security Water and Sanitation DistrictsRedirecting to a non-government site in Colorado Springs contributed funding to the retrofit. “They were super to work with,” noted Early.

In a separate project funded by El Paso County, the lighting in a blighted area got a facelift with 77 52-watt fixtures, some new, replacing 175-watt mercury vapor lights. The utility is metering some of those lights individually to measure the energy use.

Weigh all the factors
LED technology offers many advantages in street lighting applications. Not only do the lamps use much less energy, they don’t get as hot as conventional bulbs, contain harmful compounds or attract insects. Their lifespan of up to 100,000 hours is more than twice that of new HPS bulbs, which saves money on replacement. “The lighting quality and the Kelvin rating are good,” Early pointed out. “I’m a fan.”

However, LED fixtures are still expensive compared to the almost-as-efficient HPS bulbs, which fit into standard fixtures. The performance of LEDs in cold weather was a problem that has been improved in newer bulbs. And the cost continues to come down, so it seems to have been in the best interest of utilities and municipalities to wait on adopting this energy-efficient technology.

See what rebates are available from utility, state and Federal programs for streetlight retrofits. And keep in mind that lighting technology has changed even in the two short years since Sedgwick and Fountain completed their projects. “It’s worth checking into,” stated Farnsworth. “LED lighting may be an excellent investment for your town.”

Take the DOE streetlight survey
Because streetlights use a lot of energy and cost a lot to maintain, they are also a potential source of big savings for cities. To get an accurate picture of those costs and possible solutions, the Department of Energy’s Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium (MSSLC) has launched a nationwide survey of roadway lightingRedirecting to a non-government site.

The MSSLC is inviting municipalities, utilities and other system owners to help develop a current inventory of street lighting. The goal of the inventory project is to:

  • Establish a more reliable number of the nation’s streetlight types
  • Identify street lighting ownership models, e.g. what is the source of funding and what entity collects the fees?
  • Determine how much energy the nation’s streetlights consume 
  • Provide a clear picture of what it costs to operate and maintain our streetlights

The inventory divides publicly funded streetlights into roadway lights and area lights. Roadway lights are subdivided into streetlights and highway lights, and include those that illuminate local and collector roads and interstates, freeways and expressways. Area lights encompass lights in public places and walkways, such as parks, public parking lots, outdoor areas and landscapes.

The survey will be active throughout the summer, and possibly into the fall. Don’t miss this opportunity to participate in developing policies to reduce the energy and economic cost of street lighting.