MS. REBECCA SHEIR
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
Brian Castelli's house looks pretty normal.
MR. BRIAN CASTELLI
Come on in.
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.
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.
So off we go.
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.
The roof extends four feet out, shading the windows during the summer.
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.
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.
We doubled the building code requirement on insulation.
And air tight.
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.
There are a few higher end amenities in the basement.
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.
And an instant water heater.
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.
So just how efficient is this house?
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.
Small detail? The new house is two and a half times the size of the old one.
In the old house, was $.97 per square foot to heat and cool that house. In this house, it's only $.33.
Castelli says, a lot of what made that possible didn't cost that much.
For example, insulation is cheap. And the passive solar design -- well, that's not going to cost anything.
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.
The federal tax credit for geothermal was really helpful.
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
There is a 10 percent tax credit for insulation that you install in your home and windows, also doors and skylights.
Lowell Ungar is head of policy at the Alliance to Save Energy.
There is a credit, up to $300 for furnaces and air conditioners and heat pumps and water heaters.
Just one thing. These credits are running out.
At the end of December.
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
The appliance rebate program includes a fairly long list of items.
$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.
If anyone is interested in them, they had better hurry.
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.
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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