Green incentive: How saving energy can save your walletWritten by Claudia Boyd-Barrett | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For all the talk about going green, chances are most people are more worried about losing their jobs or retirement savings than about saving the planet.
But in an economic climate where penny pinching has become a means of survival, cutting back on consumption of fossil fuels makes increasingly good monetary sense.
Of course, buying a hybrid car or installing solar panels on your house can lead to huge energy savings, as well as a significant boost to your green credentials. But there are much simpler — and cheaper — ways to reduce energy bills and help the environment in the process.
Michelle O-Dell, who runs educational courses on green living at the Green by Design showroom in Bowling Green, says you can shave dollars from your electric and water bills by just changing your habits.
“Turning off lights when you leave a room; shutting down the computer every night; unplugging appliances when they’re not in use; not leaving your cell phone charging overnight … these are small things, but they can add up over time,” O-Dell said.
Homeowners who are willing to invest a little money can make a more significant dent in their monthly energy bills.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a $2,500 investment in home retrofitting can lead to a 30 percent reduction in energy usage. For the average household, that could mean as much as $900 a year in savings.
Measures can include changing old light bulbs to more energy-efficient ones; adding insulation to the attic; installing a programmable thermostat; and sealing off drafty doors and windows with easy-to-find weather-stripping materials. To save water, residents can also install low-flow shower fixtures or aerators on their faucets.
The impact these kinds of home improvements could have on local family budgets is not lost on Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak. Two months ago, she initiated a pilot project to retrofit 11 homes in the area and monitor their savings over the course of two years. The idea, Wozniak said, is to demonstrate to the public how easy and cost-effective greening a home can be.
“Most people I think are intimidated by green makeovers, but we thought this project would encourage people to see that it could be done,” Wozniak said. “We felt that if a person saves money on their energy costs, that in and of itself would be a stimulus to the economy.”
Katrese Sutton said she is delighted so far with the results of the retrofit to her family’s 122-year-old home in Toledo’s South End. She and her husband, Nate, were selected to participate in the program based on a recommendation from the Cherry Street Mission Ministries. Now they have eco-friendly insulation in their attic and compact-fluorescent light bulbs throughout the house. Local firms donated the materials.
“A month after they came, our first gas bill was between $60 and 80 lower,” Sutton said. “This month it’s $100 lower.”
While a portion of those savings can be attributed to the warmer weather, Sutton said the drop in their bills is much larger than expected.
To add to their savings, the family will soon be receiving a programmable thermostat, enabling them to cut down on heating costs when they are out of the house. This one measure can save the average family $180 a year.
“It was education to me,” said Sutton, who’s now thinking about getting energy efficient windows installed. “Our country is moving in this direction and to a lot of people it scares them to think about all the things that need to be done. But this made me realize, it’s a lot more practical than it looks.”
Of course, even small changes to a home require some upfront investment.
To help homeowners with these costs, the recent federal stimulus package provides a 30 percent tax credit on many energy efficient upgrades and appliance purchases. These include energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs and heating and/or cooling equipment
Learn more and save
For more information visit http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits
The bill also provides $300 million for rebates to consumers who replace their appliances with Energy Star products. To find where these incentives are available locally, visit http://www.energystar.gov and click on ‘”Rebate Finder.”
Some local businesses have pitched in with their own rebates. Columbia Gas is offering a $25 rebate toward programmable thermostats and $10 for low-flow showerheads. The rebates can be found at http://columbiagasohio.com/en/your-home/YourEnergySolutions/SimpleEnergySolutions.aspx.
For homeowners who want to go seriously green, the Ohio Department of Development provides grants of up to 50 percent of the cost toward residential wind and solar installations. Go to http://www.odod.state.oh.us/cdd/oee/elfgrant.htm#NOFA_09-02 for more information.