Phase out residential lighting programs? Not so fast…

LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs have become a major market player in recent years and can be expected to grow when new lighting efficiency standards come into effect in 2020. Utilities might be tempted to think that there is little of this “low-hanging fruit” left for residential efficiency programs to pluck. Before utility program planners sunset this portfolio mainstay, however, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy You are leaving suggests you take a closer look at the particulars of your program.

Well-designed lighting programs will likely continue to garner savings for utilities through 2019, but the outlook gets more complicated on January 1, 2020. For one thing, regional differences play a role in how lighting programs perform after the standards are raised. LED adoption varies from state to state and even within states. In most of WAPA’s territory, LEDs are between 20 and 30 percent of the light bulbs purchased. That leaves plenty of room for an effective program to grow the market.

Sales data indicates that lighting programs and retail support are strong drivers of LED adoption. Also, preliminary evidence from New York and Massachusetts indicate that LED adoption drops when programs end. So utilities would be premature to start scaling back their lighting programs—certainly where LED sales are low, and even in states like California where LEDs represent 40 percent of light bulb sales.

ACEEE identifies several program options that could continue the progress in lighting efficiency, even after the standards go into effect.

  • Underserved markets: Lighting programs can find additional savings by targeting rural, elderly and low-income market segments that have been slower to adopt LEDs.
  • Specialty lamps: LED versions of popular specialty lamp styles are now available, including decorative, candelabra, globe and reflector lamps. Yet these styles sell significantly fewer units than general-purpose LED lamps, suggesting that consumers need more education about the products.
  • High quality lamps: Programs should continue to promote high-performing ENERGY STAR-branded products, rather than “value” LED lamps that do not meet ENERGY STAR standards.
  • Controls: Dimming and occupancy controls offer significant additional savings opportunities. Lighting programs can help connect consumers to quality control solutions that are easy to install and operate.

While residential lighting efficiency programs still have plenty of savings left to tap, the technology’s increasing efficiency will eventually end their usefulness. It is not too soon for utilities to start considering the next opportunities for helping customers control and reduce their energy use.

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 4/9/18

Energy Star program adds clothes dryers

EnergyStarLogoUtilities looking to expand their energy-efficiency programs to include new appliances may want to consider offering rebates for Energy Star-certified clothes dryers. On May 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the ENERGY STAR Version 1.0 Specification for Clothes Dryers. The standard will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. 

Effective in 2015, the new specifications will recognize a selection of high-efficiency electric, gas and compact dryers that will use approximately 20 percent less energy than what the minimum efficiency standards require, the EPA stated. If all residential clothes dryers sold in the United States meet the Energy Star requirements, utility cost savings will grow to more than $1.5 billion annually According to the agency, the increase in efficiency could prevent more than 22 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Clothes dryers are in more than 80 percent of U.S. homes, and account for about 6 percent of residential electricity consumption. “The addition of clothes dryers expands the range of Energy Star products to include one of the most energy-intensive home appliances not yet covered by the program,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Working with industry on innovative approaches to address our changing climate, we are helping consumers select more energy efficient appliances, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Dryer models that meet the new Energy Star requirements are likely to have improved auto termination sensors, which help reduce energy use by ending the drying cycle once clothes are dry. Some of the more efficient gas and electric Energy Star dryers will employ a promising new technology to recapture the hot air the dryer uses and pump it back into the drum to dry more clothes. Re-using most of the heat creates a heat pump dryer that is more efficient and avoids the need for ducts to exhaust heat out of the laundry room.

The new Energy Star specification also establishes optional “connected” criteria for residential clothes dryers. This connected functionality offers consumers convenience and energy-savings features, such as an alert indicating there is a performance issue, or feedback on the energy-efficiency of different cycle selections. These products will also be “smart grid” ready, making the appliances a natural for demand response programs. Consumers will be able to connect the dryer with their local power provider to take advantage of programs that save them money on their energy bills, and help the utility with load control.

To earn the Energy Star label, products must be certified by an EPA-recognized third party, based on testing in an EPA-recognized laboratory. In addition, manufacturers of the products must participate in verification testing programs operated by recognized certification bodies.

In 2013 alone, Energy Star helped Americans save $30 billion on their utility bills and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to those of 38 million homes.

Standards, certifications meet consumer demand for quality energy-efficiency upgrades

Consumers are catching on to the value of home energy-efficiency improvements, and building contractors are following.

Last year alone, the Building Performance Institute (BPI), the national standard-setting and credentialing organization, issued 14,571 certifications. That’s an increase of 120 percent over 2010, and represents 63 percent of the total certifications issued from 2001 to 2010. More than 22,000 home performance contractors, weatherization assistance program providers, utilities, home inspectors and other residential service providers hold a total of 31,662 active certifications.

The number of building professionals seeking BPI certification has surged since 2008. This is partly because state and local governments and utilities are getting serious about their energy efficiency programs, observed BPI Marketing and Communications Director Leslie McDowell. “They are offering substantial incentives, rebates and loans to homeowners to have their homes upgraded for energy efficiency. The workforce is reacting to that demand,” she said.

The certifications BPI offers to contractors currently include:

  • Building analysis – Focusing on whole-home assessments that go beyond traditional energy audits to identify and correct problems at the root cause through building science.
  • Building envelope – Quantifying the building shell performance and prescribing improvements to help stop uncontrolled air leakage and optimize comfort, durability and HV/AC performance.
  • Residential building envelope whole-house air leakage control installation – Installing dense-pack insulation materials to reduce energy loss from air leakage, and reduce pollutants and allergens through air migration.
  • Manufactured housing – Applying house-as-a-system fundamentals to the specific needs of various types of housing technologies.
  • Heating – Optimizing the performance of heating equipment to help save energy and ensure occupant comfort, health and safety.
  • Air conditioning and heat pumps – Integrating these systems within the whole home, and diagnosing and correcting problems to achieve peak performance.
  • Multifamily housing – Diagnosing problems and improving the performance of larger, more complex residential structures.

Starting in June 2012, BPI is adding pilot exams for new Home Energy Professional Certifications for the four most common jobs in the home energy upgrade industry— energy auditor, retrofit installer, crew leader and quality control inspector. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is supporting the development of the new certifications and chose BPI as the certifying body.

The new certifications will meet the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 17024) accreditation—the international benchmark for personnel certifications across all industries. Under ISO 17024, each new certification is developed and administered using international best practices, such as cross-disciplinary peer review and industry validation of technical materials.

BPI’s goal for the new ISO 17024-accredited certifications is to provide home energy upgrade professionals with more opportunities for career growth, while building consumer confidence in the value energy-efficiency improvements. BPI expects to roll them out nationally in the fall of 2012.

Comparison of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs

Larry Zarker and Tiger Adolf, Building Performance Institute

Improving energy efficiency is good for the economy, national security and public health—but only if the retrofits are properly installed and perform as promised. Building Performance Institute (BPI) standards provide a yardstick to programs to determine if local contractors are meeting the customers’ needs and expectations.

Why certify
The United States has an aging housing stock, with one third of houses over 45 years old, and another third between 25 and 45 years old. Upgrading existing homes is a slow process. New York State has had a program for eight years and it has only reached 1 percent of its houses. The rest of the nation is on a “10,000 year plan.” To make the goal even harder to reach, most of the hundreds of thousands of contractors working today don’t understand energy-efficiency retrofitting.

State, city and industry programs throughout the country are adopting BPI standard credentialing. Bringing all the standards together under one label reduces confusion for consumers, contractors and program managers. BPI standards ensure proper use of program funds and minimize the agency’s and the contractor’s risk. It may seem more costly at first, but better training and quality assurance pay off quickly.

BPI has published standard work specifications that the Department of Energy has adopted. The standards are going out for public comment right now. The new standards are producing a whole suite of specifications and desired outcomes, and giving companies a basis for developing proprietary approaches to retrofit projects.   

Over the last couple of years, certification exams have jumped from 30 per month to 1,000 per month.

Contractors who go through BPI accreditation understand that they have a commitment to meet their performance claims. Companies commit to hiring a minimum level of certified workers, offer comprehensive solutions, test in and test out, and follow up with quality assurance.

Recruiting trade allies
To get energy-efficiency gains, programs must help contractors understand what they need to do, help them get certified and help them market to the people who are looking for them.

Home retrofitting programs need solutions-based selling, wrapped up with quality assurance. People who call contractors about home improvements are rarely interested in reducing their carbon footprint. But once trained contractors are in the door, they can start recommending efficiency upgrades.

Unfortunately, the contracting community is very conservative. The cost of accreditation is one barrier, even though it is an excellent investment in building the business. Comparing the training and testing fees to the cost of setting up a business franchise is a good way to put the investment in perspective. The franchise EmbroiderMe, for example, costs $180,000 to buy in, plus required advertising and an annual percentage to the company. In contrast, a BPE quality assurance certification costs the contractor between $3,390 and $5,000 total.

We have to persuade contractors by showing them what is in it for them. Certification differentiates the business, reduces staff down time, retains high quality staff, minimizes call back costs, provides risk management and increases customer satisfaction. BPI also provides marketing materials, door hangers and leave-behind materials tailored to the region that contractors can use to promote their businesses.