Moderating Our Energy Consumption (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Moderating Our Energy Consumption

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
So if you've been outside lately, you've probably noticed it's cold out there. And when the mercury starts to drop, the cost of heating our homes inevitably starts to rise. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says with natural gas and heating oil costs spiking this winter, the average homeowner could see a price hike of $200, which makes us wonder how much money could you save if you moderate your energy a bit more on the home front. Environment reporter Sabri Ben-Achour visited an especially eco-friendly home to see what's possible.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

00:00:36
Brian Castelli's house looks pretty normal.

MR. BRIAN CASTELLI

00:00:38
Come on in.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:00:39
But looks can be deceiving. This house is extremely energy efficient and it better be. Castelli is executive Vice President of the Alliance to Save Energy.

CASTELLI

00:00:48
Well, I've been doing this for three decades and talking about it. And I just felt that now it was time to put my money where my mouth was and see if I could build a really super efficient home.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:00:58
So off we go.

CASTELLI

00:01:00
Let me go out first. The house is passively solar sighted. So what that means is, no sun comes in through the windows, the doors or anything else in the summertime because of these long overhangs.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:01:13
The roof extends four feet out, shading the windows during the summer.

CASTELLI

00:01:17
And the great thing is, while it protects the house from the sun in the summer, in the winter because the sun is lower in the sky, the sun does come into the house and in the winter we get solar heat gain which warms the house and the floors. It's just tremendous.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:01:30
Back inside the appliances are all energy star. The light bulbs are all energy efficient LED's or compact fluorescents and the house is well insulated.

CASTELLI

00:01:38
We doubled the building code requirement on insulation.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:01:42
And air tight.

CASTELLI

00:01:43
During the construction on the house, we did an initial blower door test to find all the possible areas of leaks around windows or around doorways.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:01:51
There are a few higher end amenities in the basement.

CASTELLI

00:01:54
We also have geothermal heating and cooling. Geothermal uses the constant temperature of the earth which is 56, 57 degrees and then all you have to do is bring that up to 75, so you're only bringing it up 20 degrees. In the summer, it's the opposite.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:02:10
And an instant water heater.

CASTELLI

00:02:12
It only works when you turn the faucet on so you're not heating 60 or 80 gallons of water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:02:19
So just how efficient is this house?

CASTELLI

00:02:21
I had the amounts we paid to Dominion and Washington Gas Light for the last year we were in the old house and I compared that to the first year we were in this house. The monthly average utility bill at the old house was $177, the average here is $150.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:02:40
Small detail? The new house is two and a half times the size of the old one.

CASTELLI

00:02:44
In the old house, was $.97 per square foot to heat and cool that house. In this house, it's only $.33.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:02:51
Castelli says, a lot of what made that possible didn't cost that much.

CASTELLI

00:02:54
For example, insulation is cheap. And the passive solar design -- well, that's not going to cost anything.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:03:00
Even in an existing home, you can do a pressure test, caulk cracks and insulate the attic. The more expensive stuff, the geothermal is -- well, it's expensive but there is help out there.

CASTELLI

00:03:09
The federal tax credit for geothermal was really helpful.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:03:13
The federal government paid for a third of it. In this case, they gave him $20,000. There are actually a lot of federal tax credits out there for energy efficiency.

MR. LOWELL UNGAR

00:03:21
There is a 10 percent tax credit for insulation that you install in your home and windows, also doors and skylights.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:03:29
Lowell Ungar is head of policy at the Alliance to Save Energy.

UNGAR

00:03:32
There is a credit, up to $300 for furnaces and air conditioners and heat pumps and water heaters.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:03:39
Just one thing. These credits are running out.

UNGAR

00:03:42
At the end of December.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:03:43
But wait, states have some goodies, too, a lot of it courtesy of stimulus money. Al Christopher directs Virginia's energy division.

MR. AL CHRISTOPHER

00:03:49
The appliance rebate program includes a fairly long list of items.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:03:54
$300 for a heat pump, $75 for a clothes washer, for example, $1,500 for a super efficient central air system. But appliance rebates are just about used up, too.

CHRISTOPHER

00:04:03
If anyone is interested in them, they had better hurry.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:04:06
So you may only be able to get on a wait list soon but you have a little longer if you want help with energy audits, insulation, windows and certain heating appliances. Christopher says, there are 20 percent rebates, they could last until March of next year. Maryland's rebates have been used up. But the state might renew them. D.C. has grants for weatherization for low income families and on top of all that, every utility company has its own incentives, BG&E, Pepco and Dominion can help with light bulbs, energy audits or appliances. The bottom line, say state officials, don't waste energy and don't waste any time either. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

00:04:45
For information on how to get rebates and other help in making your home more energy efficient, head to our website, metroconnection.org.
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