WBEZ | energy efficiency http://www.wbez.org/tags/energy-efficiency Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Getting landlords to make energy efficiencies http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/getting-landlords-make-energy-efficiencies-108420 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/renters energy.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>It hasn&rsquo;t been difficult to get some homeowners to shell out the cash to make some energy upgrades on their homes. After all, they&rsquo;re the ones paying for electricity and gas.</p><p>But when it comes to rental units, many property owners are reluctant to make those changes because they&rsquo;re not the ones paying the utility bills. It&rsquo;s the renters.</p><p>Some organizations are trying to change that.</p><p>Sandeep Sood and his wife own the Jeffery Parkway Apartments, a 55 unit, 7 story building. They acquired the South Side building four years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;When we bought the building, it was in really bad shape. We had a lot of book management and construction to do on this building,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Sood showed me around the boiler room where insulated pipes run along the walls. He said the old boiler was huge and spewed out enormous amounts of heat.</p><p>&ldquo;The first year we got this, we were able to retrofit a new stainless steel boiler. A little different design than your typical boiler. But we were able to increase our efficiencies by more than 60 percent with just this one measure,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>This and other efficiency upgrades cost about $110,000. The Community Investment Corporation provided a low interest loan to help finance the bulk of the work.</p><p>&ldquo;I think our total payback was within a year and half to two years on those invested funds. That&rsquo;s a great return on investment. There are other buildings where you might get payback in 4-5 years depending on which improvements you chose. But on any horizon, the longer the horizon, you&rsquo;re going to save more money,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Sood estimates monthly utility costs of water, electricity and gas combined are $50-60 per studio apartment.</p><p>It&rsquo;s in his interest to make these upgrades here since utilities are lumped in with the rent. But it&rsquo;s harder to get some landlords on board if they aren&rsquo;t reaping the benefits.</p><p>&ldquo;I would maybe call it a generational divide. We&rsquo;re relatively young. But I&rsquo;ve run into a lot of owners who are just resistant. Well, they&rsquo;re a little shortsighted to what these improvements are going to bring to their building. They&rsquo;re looking at it like cash out of their pocket,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Daniel Olson is the senior energy efficiency planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The agency&rsquo;s mapped out a regional plan that identifies energy efficiency as one of the easier measures that can move the area toward sustainability. That includes things like upgrading to a high efficiency hot water heater, insulating buildings and simply changing light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights.</p><p>&ldquo;Before you would ever want to do something big like solar panels or wind or anything like that, you want to take the first step in the loading order which is always energy efficiency,&rdquo; Olson said.</p><p>He said if all the region&rsquo;s residential units took up simple retrofits on gas alone, emissions could be cut by 15 percent. That&rsquo;s about 345,000 cars off the road or 3.8 million fewer barrels of oil.</p><p>&ldquo;When you have happy tenants who have lower bills. They are going to lower your vacancy rates, so that you actually keep your buildings full with tenants which will increase the funds you have available,&rdquo; Olson said.</p><p>Since Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas began its savings programs in 2011, 19,000 residential customers have saved more than 10.5 million therms of natural gas consumption. That&rsquo;s about 11,000 cars off the road.</p><p>160,000 residential Com Ed customers saved more than 4 million megawatt hours of energy since the start of its 2008 Smart Ideas program, saving more than $400 million on their bills.</p><p>About 40 percent of Cook County&rsquo;s residential stock is multi-unit property. A significant part of that is renter occupied.</p><p>It&rsquo;s that population the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Community Investment Corporation&nbsp;is targeting with the Energy Savers program. It helped Sandeep Sood make upgrades to all his rental properties.</p><p>&ldquo;Multifamily building owners have been harder to reach by efficiency programs. And that&rsquo;s because they&rsquo;re kind of stuck between a residential program and a commercial program. And typically the programs that are out there don&rsquo;t meet their needs,&rdquo; said Anne Evens, CNT executive director.</p><p>The program gives owners a free evaluation of their property, listing how much savings they&rsquo;d get with recommended upgrades. It also offers various rebates and financial options.</p><p>&ldquo;For a smaller apartment building, you could spend between $15-20,000 in order to get a 30 percent savings on your energy bill. And it&rsquo;s typical to get those savings and payback your investments in 5 to 7 years.</p><p>Sood says his energy costs are down by 65 percent.</p><p>&ldquo;I do care about the environment,&rdquo; Sood said. &ldquo;Now, when I&rsquo;m put in the role of making business decisions and taking a risk on an investment property like this, I tend to think in dollars and cents. But there&rsquo;s a lot of bad things you can do when you think only in dollars and cents. This you get both things. You&rsquo;re increasing your efficiencies and you&rsquo;re helping the environment.&rdquo;</p><p>Sood said his tenants might not see the efficiencies, but they feel more comfortable.</p><p>Currently, all 55 of his units are occupied.</p><p>Michael Cotten, a retiree, lives in one of them. He&rsquo;s been in the building for about 7 years, before Sood acquired it.</p><p>&ldquo;It was more like a transient place. And I was glad when he took it over because I was thinking about moving,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Before upgrades were made, Cotten said, the heat would go out multiple times in the winter, but now he feels comfortable.</p><p>&ldquo;Sandeep has done amazing things with this building. He&rsquo;s really fixed it up,&rdquo; Cotten said.</p><p>He said he&rsquo;ll be sticking around for awhile.</p></p> Thu, 15 Aug 2013 07:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/getting-landlords-make-energy-efficiencies-108420 Department of Energy launches national database of building energy use http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/department-energy-launches-national-database-building-energy-use-107784 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ASGG7.jpg" title="(Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill)" /></div><p>Critical though they may be to making important decisions in the age of big data, computer models come with one huge caveat: They aren&rsquo;t real. So the Department of Energy&rsquo;s new <a href="http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/commercial/bpd.html" target="_blank">Buildings Performance Database</a>, which contains actual data on tens of thousands of existing buildings across the country, could sweeten the pot for those looking to invest in energy efficiency.</p><p>The 65,000 buildings in the data set so far are residential and commercial, public and private, and have been made anonymous. It&rsquo;s the largest free, publicly available set of information like this currently available. And DOE is inviting building owners to help it grow by submitting new data. As of this writing, Chicago&rsquo;s 606- area codes were without data.</p><p>New features will come in time, but the most recent addition includes a retrofit analysis tool, which compares the likely energy savings of different retrofits.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/doe-database-illinois.jpg" title="Screenshots from the Buildings Energy Database for Illinois. The state has only contributed information on about 700 buildings so far. Of those, electricity consumption, top, is roughly average — the blue circle is a national average for similar buildings — but total energy consumption, bottom, fares better. (U.S. Department of Energy)" /></div><p>Nearly <a href="http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=86&amp;t=1" target="_blank">40 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2012</a> was by residential and commercial buildings.</p><p>Even though it&rsquo;s an idea seemingly as old as building itself, energy efficiency has only recently grabbed the attention of big financial players, for just the reason that the DOE&rsquo;s new tool is exciting: it adds some certainty to the assumption that saving energy is a worthy bet. As data pours in, it becomes more clear to investors and governments that efficiency is often <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/stimulus-dollars-insulate-chicago-homes-105178" target="_blank">a winning bet for single-family homes</a>, large government facilities and other building types. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/chicago-startup-sees-big-energy-savings-big-data-106302" target="_blank">That flood of data creates business opportunities</a>, too.</p><p>A few years ago, Chicago architects <a href="http://www.smithgill.com/" target="_blank">Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill (AS+GG)</a> developed the Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan to assess variables like the age, use, condition, and energy consumption of 500 buildings in and around the Loop.&nbsp;The ambitious plan calls for a retrofit of&nbsp;half&nbsp;the city&rsquo;s commercial and residential buildings, resulting in a&nbsp;30 percent&nbsp;reduction in energy use by 2020.</p><p>Whether or not the city achieves that goal (it is tied to the <a href="http://www.chicagoclimateaction.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Climate Action Plan</a>), projects like the DeCarbonization Plan are important because of their perspective. Though engineers may beg to differ, it can be maddening to consider the complexity of energy systems embedded within buildings (themselves a network of systems), embedded within city systems, and so on. But that&rsquo;s where opportunities for transformative change exist. And since all this deals with improving the efficiency of our urban support systems, it could ultimately save money and improve quality of life.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p>If you are interested in contributing a dataset to the database or have other recommended sources, please contact <a href="mailto:buildingsperformanceDatabase@ee.doe.gov">buildingsperformanceDatabase@ee.doe.gov</a>. Files can be sent in any electronic format and should be marked &quot;PROPRIETARY.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/transforming-systems">Listen to architect Gordon Gill discuss his firm&#39;s systems and strategies for reducing energy consumption here</a>.</p></p> Thu, 20 Jun 2013 12:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/department-energy-launches-national-database-building-energy-use-107784 Chicago startup sees big energy savings in big data http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/chicago-startup-sees-big-energy-savings-big-data-106302 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/katherineofchicago/2443941619/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bunglaow%20by%20katherine%20of%20chicago.jpg" style="height: 458px; width: 610px;" title="Bungalows, like this one in Berwyn, could provide Effortless Energy with a replicable model for cost-effective energy efficiency retrofits. (Flickr/katherine of chicago)" /></a></p><p>In the age of big data, it pays &mdash; or, in this case, saves &mdash; to put your nerdiest foot forward.</p><p>Matthew Gee co-founded Chicago startup <a href="http://goeffortless.com" target="_blank">Effortless Energy</a>, where his business card reads &ldquo;Chief Nerd.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I swim in this stuff,&rdquo; he says, mocking up a probability distribution on a whiteboard in the company&rsquo;s offices in Merchandise Mart tech incubator&nbsp;<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2012/01/18/1871-chicago-entrepreneurs-to-open-startup-tech-center/">1871</a>. Gee, a third-year PhD student studying computational public policy at the University of Chicago, started the business in 2012 with a fellow University of Chicago student, Claire Tramm.</p><p>They want to be a one-stop shop for residential energy efficiency retrofits. Simple upgrades like air sealing can save American homeowners energy and money &mdash; sometimes as much as 50 percent on their energy bills. For low-income residents, who typically pay between one quarter and one third of their income in energy costs, the savings can be powerful. Cumulatively these retrofits could make a serious dent in our carbon footprint; the U.S. residential sector is nearly as large a source of carbon emissions as transportation.</p><p>Gee and Tramm think they have an answer for the question that dogs every energy saver who sings the praises of efficiency: If it&rsquo;s so good, why isn&rsquo;t everyone doing it?</p><p><a href="http://nextcity.org/forefront/view/home-economics">For many families, it can be difficult to finance</a> an effective retrofit. And in a highly technical market, good information tends to be in even shorter supply. Like <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/stimulus-dollars-insulate-chicago-homes-105178">Illinois&rsquo; own stimulus-funded energy efficiency program</a>, Effortless Energy fills in that gap.</p><p>Their product is called a Home Energy Efficiency Service Agreement, and it works like this: The company pays for its customers&rsquo; energy audits and certain retrofits, sharing in the energy savings until the investment pays for itself. The customer pays less, even after its monthly installments to Effortless Energy. If Illinois were to adopt an <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/a-new-way-to-foot-efficiency-upgrades/">on-bill repayment policy</a> like the one California has, it could streamline this process by combining the two bills.</p><p>The default rate for utility bills is under 2 percent, lower than for credit cards or mortgages. Gee said the company estimates 8-9 out of 10 customers will pay back the loans in full.</p><p>CEO Claire Tramm conceded their business model might also benefit from a region with higher energy prices, such as California. &ldquo;But if it can work here,&rdquo; she joked, &ldquo;it can work anywhere.&rdquo;</p><p>And they are careful about which homes they target. Roughly 60 percent of Chicago&rsquo;s housing stock is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/look-centurys-chicago-bungalow">bungalows</a>. A partnership with <a href="http://www.dnrwindows.com/">DNR Construction</a>, which is well-versed in bungalow renovation, could help them tap into a $230 billion U.S. market, Gee said.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/contractor-blower-door.jpg" style="height: 239px; width: 305px; float: right;" title="A contractor with Building Energy Experts conducts a blower door test to assess an Avondale home's leakiness. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>Their proprietary algorithm shares DNA with the code that powers investment banking, but Gee likens it more to retirement savings &mdash; they&rsquo;re in it for the long haul, he says.&nbsp;It works by quantifying the variance in a slew of home energy efficiency metrics, such as a building&rsquo;s insulation value and draftiness, and optimizes for the best returns. That means they know with what level of certainty any given improvement, such as installing a new heating and ventilation system, will return a certain amount of savings each year.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re viewing each home as part of an investment portfolio,&rdquo; Gee said. Their system works best in homes with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/smart-meters">smart meters</a>, thanks to those digital device&rsquo;s more robust data. Typically energy audits result in a hard-line recommendation: Install a new heating system and save $1,000 per year, for example. But for many customers, Gee said, that implied certainty is hard to believe. Instead Effortless Energy projects a range of savings.</p><p>&ldquo;No one is building uncertainty into energy models, but we need that uncertainty,&rdquo; Gee said. &ldquo;When we&rsquo;re making an investment decision, we&rsquo;re not just looking at the mean, but the spread.&rdquo;</p><p>Gee&rsquo;s PhD research uses computational modeling to analyze energy use and consumer behavior, anticipating a day when an integrated smart grid would use big data to optimize energy efficiency nationwide.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" name="Effortless Energy from Impact Engine on Vimeo." scrolling="no" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/54490978?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=fc0303" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"></iframe></p><p>Wells Fargo no longer offers its <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/realestate/07mort.html?_r=0">energy efficient mortgages</a>, and <a href="http://www.ase.org/resources/property-assessed-clean-energy-financing-pace">&quot;Property Assessed Clean Energy&quot; loans</a> have <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/business/energy-environment/01solar.html?pagewanted=all">met the same fate</a>. With traditional catalysts for energy efficiency retrofits on the outs, Effortless Energy hopes to gain a foothold in a massive, still largely untapped market.</p><p>They have done 7 or 8 home tests validating their model, and will soon begin a pilot program on 20 homes in Oak Park, opting for the West Side suburb because of its renewable power bonafides. Oak Park became <a href="http://www.oak-park.us/aggregation/">the first municipality in the state to pursue an &quot;all-green&quot; power program</a> that favors wind and solar power, and purchases <a href="http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/gpmarket/rec.htm">credits</a> to offset any nonrenewable sources.</p><p>Gee may bill himself as Chief Nerd, but he knows it isn&rsquo;t numbers that ultimately close deals. Energy efficiency, he says, has an emotional appeal: it could save money and energy, but when it saves you from reaching for a winter blanket, the investment has paid off.</p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/chicago-startup-sees-big-energy-savings-big-data-106302 Manufacturing comeback could drive infill and energy efficiency http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/manufacturing-comeback-could-drive-infill-and-energy-efficiency-105752 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rappduane/6070960991/in/photostream/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/wind-turbine-by-Duane-Rapp.jpg" title="Wind turbines at the Lee-Dekalb Wind Energy Center. Renewable energy could benefit from a resurgence in the Chicago region's manufacturing sector. (Duane Rapp via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>Manufacturing is a defining part of the Chicago region&rsquo;s past, but <a href="http://cmap.illinois.gov/policy/drill-downs/manufacturing">a report from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning</a> says it could guide regional development in the future, too.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/what-next-decade-chicago-manufacturing-should-look-105755">WBEZ&#39;s Niala Boodhoo has a rundown of the report&#39;s main points</a>, but here&rsquo;s what it says for land use and energy &mdash; two key factors for the kind of manufacturing resurgence the report envisions. It&#39;s the kind of advanced manufacturing renaissance <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/state-union-2013-obama-announces-manufacturing-education-initiatives-18483105" target="_blank">recently touted by President Barack Obama</a>. (Read the <a href="http://cmap.illinois.gov/policy/drill-downs/manufacturing" target="_blank">full report and a summary here</a>.)</p><p><strong>Development and transportation</strong></p><p>CMAP looked at the seven-county region of northeastern Illinois. That encompasses 580,000 manufacturing jobs, a &quot;cluster&quot; of jobs second only to Los Angeles, but also the region&rsquo;s suburban and exurban sprawl. The report recommends incentives for infill growth and investment in transportation infrastructure. That would be transit-oriented development, oriented around pockets (or &ldquo;nodes&rdquo;) of density near the suburban hotbeds of the region&rsquo;s manufacturing sector.</p><p>Transportation infrastructure is already underfunded, with regional transit agencies eyeing about <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-27/news/ct-met-rta-borrowing-20120927_1_rta-chairman-john-gates-rta-plan-bond-plan">$31 billion for infrastructure improvements and other capital investments</a> over the next 10 years. The job growth projected in CMAP&rsquo;s report could potentially goad some additional investment, but the transportation system&rsquo;s looming budget gap is a serious challenge to the kind of transit-friendly development called for in the report calls.</p><p>To encourage density, the report recommends infill development &mdash; redevelopment on existing vacant properties. There are <a href="http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/documents/20583/019144d1-be14-4484-ae1d-ddd762a04122" target="_blank">more than 100,000 acres of land available for infill development</a>, CMAP said, but taking advantage of under-used land can be difficult. Industrial land could be environmentally contaminated, and much of the land that once hosted large facilities has been divided up by individual land buyers over the years, fragmenting the land available for new manufacturers. Still, there is massive potential, as seen in the map below.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/infill.png" style="height: 831px; width: 610px;" title="Infill redevelopment potential in the Chicago region. (Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning)" /></div><p><strong>Energy</strong></p><p>Manufacturing is the largest domestic consumer of energy, making up about one third of total energy use nationwide. Ultimately CMAP&rsquo;s projections for a revitalized manufacturing base in northeastern Illinois don&rsquo;t hinge on energy issues; only a few industries account for 70 percent of all the energy use by manufacturers in Illinois, and those same industries account for just 25 percent of manufacturing employment. Nonetheless energy remains a major factor for manufacturing operations.</p><p>Illinois has a slightly higher cost for energy delivered to industry than other states in the midwest, the report notes. The cost of coal in Illinois is 16 percent lower than the national average, but with natural gas prices plummeting, that is unlikely to be a major advantage. And manufacturers use more natural gas than any other end user.</p><p><a href="http://cmap.illinois.gov/policy/drill-downs/manufacturing" target="_blank">The report</a> also says industrial firms in Illinois could make better use of combined heat and power (CHP) systems that recover waste heat for reuse and electricity generation, citing a World Resources Institute study that found CHP potential in Illinois was the largest in the Midwest, totaling four times the currently installed capacity. They point to an East Chicago steel manufacturer, ArcelorMittal, that recovers more energy from its blast furnace, the world&rsquo;s largest, than the power from all the existing wind turbines in Illinois and Indiana combined.</p><p>CHP would be more attractive, the report says, if firms could more easily sell excess energy back to the grid. That practice is currently limited by regulation. The state <a href="http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=29&amp;RecNum=10557">recently won a grant to improve energy efficiency in manufacturing</a>, which could potentially speed up efforts to install CHP systems. To fund those installations, the report suggests that utilities provide upfront investments to be repaid through future energy savings.</p><p>Manufacturing growth could encourage renewable energy deployment, too, as manufacturers get a relatively high percentage (5 percent) of their energy from renewable sources compared to the residential (2.3 percent), transportation (1 percent)&nbsp;and commercial (0.8 percent) sectors.</p><p>And the regional employment outlook could also benefit from an increased demand for renewable energy. Wind turbine manufacturing is growing in northeastern Illinois &mdash; German turbine giant Nordex and Chinese company Xianjiang Goldwind located their North American headquarters in Chicago. With only a few hundred regional employees, wind turbine manufacturing is not yet a major employer. It is, however, <a href="http://www.awea.org/learnabout/publications/factsheets/upload/3Q-12-Illinois.pdf">a rapidly growing market</a>.</p><p>Energy storage is another likely beneficiary of the kind of manufacturing comeback CMAP recommends. The Department of Energy <a href="http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/seeking-to-start-a-silicon-valley-for-battery-science/">recently named</a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/argonne-national-laboratory">Argonne National Laboratory</a> a national hub for battery research.</p><p>But the report also notes that the region&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130226/NEWS05/130229845/chicago-takes-a-nosedive-in-r-d" target="_blank">investments in research and development have plummeted</a>&nbsp;in the last ten years.&nbsp;The authors recommend the state match federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to build on regional expertise. Renewable energy made up 13 of 82 SBIR awards in the region in 2011, more than any other specified research category.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about environmental issues. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 26 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/manufacturing-comeback-could-drive-infill-and-energy-efficiency-105752 Stimulus dollars insulate Chicago homes http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/stimulus-dollars-insulate-chicago-homes-105178 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34610267@N05/8422342948/in/photostream/"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/energy-impact-basement-window2.jpg" title="Huddled in their neighbors’ basement, guests learned about energy efficiency from contractor Anthony Stonis. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></a></p><p>The Avondale home of artists <a href="http://iamlogansquare.com/directory/green-city-artists">Marvin Tate and Lucy Mueller</a> has a certain kind of warmth &mdash; the couple&rsquo;s art fills their brightly painted rooms, which are replete with found objects, sculptures and photographs. A look through an infrared scanner, however, shows the building&rsquo;s coziness belies its abysmal energy efficiency rating.</p><p>Tate and Mueller weren&rsquo;t alone when contractors told them Saturday that their home leaked 69 percent more air than recommended. The two had gathered a small group of friends and neighbors for an energy efficiency &ldquo;house party,&rdquo; agreeing to host a short presentation by <a href="http://energyimpactillinois.org/" target="_blank">Energy Impact Illinois</a> representative Rob Geltner in exchange for a free energy efficiency assessment.</p><p>Energy Impact Illinois is a partnership between non-profits, utilities, the state of Illinois and the federal government that promotes energy efficiency retrofits. Since last fall the program has offered instant rebates to homeowners who undertake substantial retrofits using approved contractors. That money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to get some of the stimulus money back in the hands of the homeowners,&rdquo; Geltner said. The average cost of air sealing and reinsulating a leaky home, he told the group gathered Saturday, is $2500, but Energy Impact Illinois offers rebates up $1750. Retrofitted homes typically save $500 each year on their utility bills, offsetting the out-of-pocket expense in less than two years. And the home becomes more comfortable immediately.</p><p>Part of the program&rsquo;s strategy is to target only the most cost-effective solutions. That&rsquo;s where the certified contractors come in. Replacing a home&rsquo;s leaky windows, for example, can cost tens of thousands of dollars and yield a relatively minor improvement if the building isn&rsquo;t first properly insulated. If retrofitting a home is like a series of visits to the doctor, the initial assessment performed Saturday includes a physical and a possible prescription. Contractors will do a check-up after the homeowner goes through with any retrofit work.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34610267@N05/8422330662/in/photostream"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/energy-impact-window2.jpg" title="Anthony Stonis shows off infrared images that reveal the living room's leakiest areas. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></a></div><p>Anthony Stonis, president of Building Energy Experts, pointed to an infrared image of Tate and Mueller&rsquo;s bathroom wall &mdash; blue, green and yellow splotches clustered around the window like bruises, revealing where the house was losing heat. The workers who built the home&rsquo;s addition, which houses the kitchen and bathroom, did not properly seal the building. It&rsquo;s a common mistake, Stonis said, to assume that insulation alone is enough to retain heat. If the building isn&rsquo;t sealed, however, air will find a way out.</p><p>&ldquo;Think of it as going out on a cold day with your puffy jacket on but not zipped up,&rdquo; Stonis said, making his way down to the basement. &ldquo;We want to zip it up and then put another jacket on over it.&rdquo;</p><p>Part of the city&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/progs/env/retrofit_chicago.html">Retrofit Chicago</a> initiative, Energy Impact Illinois has begun to make headway in reducing energy waste among the region&rsquo;s aging building stock. Stonis said about a quarter of his customers come through the program. Approaching a kind of fiscal cliff when the Recovery Act grant money tapers off this spring, however, Energy Impact Illinois and <a href="http://nextcity.org/forefront/view/home-economics">similar initiatives around the country</a> face an uncertain future.</p><p>Until then, Geltner said, they will focus on expanding the program&rsquo;s reach. They have tried traditional advertising, but &ldquo;house parties&rdquo; like Tate and Mueller&rsquo;s have been much more effective. Word of mouth is poweful, but so is the scope of the problem they hope to address; the nation&#39;s single-family homes contribute nearly as much as transportation&nbsp;to our collective carbon footprint.</p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34610267@N05/8422349488/in/photostream/"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/energy-impact-living-room.jpg" title="Rob Geltner explains Energy Impact Illinois to residents of Logan Square and Avondale gather in the home of Marvin Tate and Lucy Mueller. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></a></p></p> Tue, 29 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/stimulus-dollars-insulate-chicago-homes-105178 Incentives for energy efficiency http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/incentives-energy-efficiency <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/biden energy efficiency.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The old plastic and tape approach isn&rsquo;t the only way to bring down energy costs. Over the last few years government agencies have been providing incentives to consumers willing to do energy upgrades on their homes. Tax credits and rebates were available to homeowners for a whole host of energy savers &ndash; insulation, appliances, windows, heating and cooling systems.<br /><br />To talk about whether this push resulted in energy savings &ndash; and more pennies in people&rsquo;s piggy banks -&quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot; spoke to its business guru, David Greising. Greising is a reporter for the <a href="http://www.chicagonewscoop.org/" target="_blank">Chicago News Cooperative</a> and he regularly joins &quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot; for chats about money matters.</p><p><em>Music Button: The Books, &quot;Tokyo&quot;, from the CD Lemon of Pink, (Tomlab) </em></p></p> Thu, 13 Jan 2011 15:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/incentives-energy-efficiency