News - energy efficiency

The True Value of an Energy Audit

Residential energy efficiency, or home performance, has historically been based on measured results. A contractor physically goes to the location, performs a variety of tests and takes all kinds of measurements and then determines a plan of attack to improve the home using building science principles. After the work is complete, the contractor performs the same tests again to validate or verify the results. This “test-in/test-out” process provides measurable and repeatable outcomes.

Advocacy Update: July 2017

Stuck on the “Three Prong Test”

The California Public Utility Commission uses the 3-prong test to allow fuel substitution on projects with incentives. For energy efficiency contractors this represents a barrier that is limiting the switch from natural gas appliances to electric heat pump technology.

In it’s simplest form the 3-prong test requires projects to meet the following criteria:

1. Must not increase source-Btu consumption, using CEC-established heat rates

2. Program/measure/project must have both TRC and PAC benefit-cost ratio ≥1.0

3. Must not adversely impact the environment, using most recently adopted values for avoided costs of emissions.

Will ZNE Transform Energy Efficiency?

There is a lot of conversation these days about making buildings Zero Net Energy (ZNE). The basic idea is that a ZNE house or building produces as much energy as it uses in a year. Early adopters have been interested in ZNE building for years, but its only recently that technology has gotten to the point where it’s possible to make ZNE a reality at a large scale. The combination of a continued reduction in the cost of solar panels along with advances in energy efficiency technology means that the potential for ZNE is growing by the day.

It’s Time to Stop Using Fire in Our Homes

At some point in time man gained control over fire. Fire was very useful: it could be used to cook food, provide light, and its heat allowed us to survive in hostile environments.

Thousands of years later, some things haven’t changed much. Whether we have a natural gas or propane furnace or (in some parts of the country) an oil fired boiler, most of us still rely on fire in some form to heat our homes and our water. Many of us use open flames for cooking as well: the gas cooktop is a favorite of many culinary experts.

Good Intentions, Poor Results

The energy efficiency industry in California is tangled with regulation.

Without a doubt, there are many policies that have been successful. California’s strict building codes have reduced energy use per capita and are responsible for eliminating the need to build 15-20 new power plants over the last 30 years. This is a great result and job well done.

But there are also plenty of cases where regulations that aren’t enforced actually end up penalizing those who play by the rules. It’s time to rethink our approach so we can level the playing field and get the good results we all agree are needed.