April 24th, 2009
The City of Berkeley is always progressive (perhaps that why some call it Berzerkeley). They are taking a very strong stance on limiting their city’s contribution to global warming. In November 2006, Berkeley voters marked their concern regarding climate challenge by overwhelmingly endorsing a ballot that set a bold but simple mandate: reduce the community’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. The ballot measure passed with 81 percent of the vote. The measure directed the Mayor to develop a Climate Action Plan to reach that target.
City staff have drafted a 145-page Climate Action Plan which includes several proposals for home-owners to make energy-efficiency improvements to their houses. The plan covers such broad topics as advocating trash reduction, growing vegetables at home, and making energy upgrades to homes. You can read the chapter on Building Energy Use Strategies here.
This past Tuesday evening, things got pretty exciting at the Berkeley City Council meeting. Public comment on the proposed requirement for home owners to have energy audits performed on their homes and then make upgrades (e.g., insulation, caulking, etc.) was quite harsh. Understandably many citizens are not able to spend cash on home upgrades– especially in this economic climate. The Council voted to delay a vote and will meet again on May 5.
What do you think of the idea of cities requiring their citizens to improve the energy-efficiency of their homes? We admit we really like the idea of requiring home energy audits– they are relatively inexpensive and provide a plan that homeowners can follow to save energy and money. Some of the upgrades proposed will be inexpensive (window caulking, furnace filter changing, insulating hot water heaters, etc.) and some are more expensive (e.g., solar panels, tankless water heaters, etc.) We think homeowners should have the right to choose what changes they want to make to their homes — but that requiring them to at least know how they rate on efficiency and to learn what their options are is a great idea.
Popularity: 4% [?]
March 24th, 2009
Well thank goodness someone has seized upon this huge market opportunity! Here are Low Impact Living we’ve been talking for years about the need for a national, high-quality service that provides in-home green auditing and consulting services. And we’re thrilled now that Green Irene is on the scene.
Green Irene was started in New York but they now have over 300 independent green consultants all over the United States. A consultant will come to your home, and advise you on how to save energy, cut your water use, save money and live a healthier life as well. The home makeover costs $99 and takes about 60-90 minutes. At the end of their review of your home they will give you a Green Home Makeover Report and a Family Action Plan– so that you can jump into making positive changes right away.
Green Irene is doubly brilliant because they also offer Green Office Makeovers. We hear from people all the time who want to know how they can go green at the office– and now they can have a Green Irene specialist visit their office and help them make smart changes.
We are contacted all the time here by people who want to become green consultants and they don’t know where to start– well now we can direct them to Green Irene. The company provides extensive training for its consultants, so that anyone can become a green home expert. To learn more about becoming a green consultant with Green Irene, click here.
Popularity: 3% [?]
January 26th, 2009
Details are finally emerging on how President Obama’s stimulus program intersects with energy efficiency and green building. The House of Representatives recently published a draft of the plan (shown here), and there’s significant money allocated to green initiatives. Depending on how you slice it, at least $50 billion will go to green-related programs. Some of the highlights include the following:
- $11.0 billion to fund the development of a “smart” electrical grid;
- $7.9 billion in energy-related grants to states;
- $6.2 billion in subsidies to low-income households for energy audits and weatherization;
- $2.5 billion to demonstrate the feasibility of carbon capture and storage technologies;
- $2.0 billion to fund research and development into advanced batteries, biomass fuels ($0.8B+) and geothermal technologies ($0.4B+);
- $1.0 billion to guarantee loans to develop advanced batteries;
- $0.5 billion to fund water reclamation and reuse projects.
The good news is that, all in all, these projects should go a long way towards jumpstarting a low-carbon economy.
The bad news? At first glance, there’s not a huge amount here that will directly benefit individual consumers and homeowners looking to green their homes. The $6.2 billion in weatherization funds will help, but that only applies to a subset of the population:
- It applies to households that are at or below 200% of the poverty level. For a family of four, that works out to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $44,000 per year of income.
- The funds don’t flow directly to the family, but instead from the Federal Government down to the states and then directly to weatherization agencies (who can be either local government or nonprofit organizations). These organizations provide services to about 60,000 homes a year, so this program will have to grow by 20-30x in order to meet President Obama’s goal of weatherizing 2,000,000 homes. It’s hard to see that happening quickly unless private sector service providers are brought into the program.
States have some flexibility to customize their programs, so we hope that the range of families and service providers involved is larger than this. And, there’s always hope that the states will broaden the reach of the stimulus package depending on how they spend their slice of the $7.9 billion allocated to state grant programs. Those details, though, have yet to be worked out.
We’ll keep you posted, of course, as things develop!
Popularity: 5% [?]
January 21st, 2009
Want a more energy-efficient home — but don’t know where to start? Here’s a chance to get detailed, professional advice that’ll save you money on utility bills and lower your carbon footprint! Low Impact Living and green LA girl are teaming up to give one lucky Los Angeles or Orange County homeowner a FREE Home Energy Audit from the Sears Blue Climate Crew!
This audit, which usually costs $550, will put your home through a complete workup. The Blue Climate Crew will come over with an array of high-tech gear: infrared cameras to check for gaps in your insulation and gauge the efficiency of your windows, giant fans to test just how well your doors really work, and the like. The Crew will also look over your appliance usage, combustion safety, and energy bills. In the end, you’ll get a complete checklist of recommendations you can follow to improve the energy-efficiency of your home — and save up to 40% on your utility bill!
To win, you must be a home-owner living in either Los Angeles or Orange county. Simply leave a brief comment on this post letting us know which county you live in, and why your home needs an audit. (Those details won’t affect your chances of winning; we just want to make sure you’re eligible for the prize!)
Make sure you get your comment in by 11:59 pm on Sunday, January 25. One winner will be selected on Monday, January 26, 2009 out of the combined entries on both Low Impact Living and green LA girl.
Want to improve your chances of winning? Then get to the Go Green Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center this weekend. Once there, stop by the Sears booth (#134) to enter a sweepstakes for a free energy audit. You’ll also be able to sign up to get a Home Energy Audit for $275 — 50% off the regular price. And if you decide to get any follow-up work done in your home by the Blue Climate Team, you’ll be able to apply the $275 you spent toward your greening project.
And if you don’t live in the Los Angeles/Orange County area, you can find a home energy audit service near you here. Get 2009 off on the right foot by getting your green home in order– and you’ll save money in the long run!
Popularity: 2% [?]