PROGRAMS | Energy Efficiency
Energy Efficiency is an important component of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing energy costs. Proper use of energy efficiency strategies can improve comfort, reduce maintenance costs, reduce energy costs, and improve the return on a solar investment by:
- Possibly reducing the required solar investment
- Adding high-return energy efficiency to the project
- Increasing the value of the generated energy
- Creating the opportunity to add capital improvement projects to the overall project.
STEPS FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY
- Energy Audit: learn where opportunities to reduce your energy consumption exist. An energy audit is a diagnostic test on your property. It typically consists of a blower door test to determine how leaky a building is, infrared camera photography to see where insulation is lacking, a duct blaster test to see how leaky ducts are, and a combustion safety test to see how safe furnaces and water heaters are. For residential customers, the audit takes 3 to 5 hours, and the results are given in a “loading order” method, meaning the least expensive improvement that delivers the largest energy reduction will be listed first. The report allows property owners to make wise and cost effective decisions on the improvements they want, providing a road map as to the order that the improvements should be made, and the corresponding energy reductions that can be achieved.
- Implementation of improvements: with the audit results in hand, the prescriptive measures can be selected. A homeowner may wish to seal the building envelop and improve the attic insulation in order to keep the conditioned living space at a desirable temperature range, which translates to using the heating and cooling appliances less. Many energy efficiency improvements have the added benefit of making the living space more comfortable and healthy.
- Test out: once the improvements have been made, a “test out” audit is conducted and the differential is measured. The difference between the initial test and test out is the energy savings. This savings can be measured, and sometimes fewer solar panels will be needed to produce the same offset of the energy bill, as the property is now operating more efficiently.
- Other energy efficiency components: besides implementing efficiency improvements, there are other energy reducing measures that can make a difference. These include appliance change-outs, behavior modifications (e.g. turning off lights), installing energy efficient light bulbs and power strips, etc.
- Size the solar project: if the efficiency improvements result in less kWh being used, the size of the solar system may be reduced. Conversely, if the same size solar system is utilized, the offset of the electric bill can be higher.
The energy efficiency strategies that are available are innumerable and will depend on the size of the facility, the facility infrastructure, and the facility use type (i.e. residential, retail, manufacturing, etc.).
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Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Energy