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Posts Tagged: energy efficiency rebates

Why utility companies provide rebates

Posted On: Filed Under: Windows, Heating, Insulation No Comments on Why utility companies provide rebates

Why are there utility rebates?

Seattle City Light recently had a mail in offer for a free LED light bulb. It arrived in an attractive recyclable package with information about why this one bulb makes a difference. As they put it “conserving electricity is the most cost-effective way to meet our future energy needs”. In fact, utilities routinely offer their customers substantial rebates to encourage installation of a variety of energy saving equipment and measures for just that reason.

Why incent conservation?

In our capitalist economy it might seem counterintuitive for a business to ask customers to use less. Doesn’t that mean less profit for the utilities? No, that won’t happen. As the population of Washington State grows, there will be more and more demand, especially for electricity. If they can keep up with that demand using their existing infrastructure, it keeps our rates low and they make more money in the process. Rebates cost a lot less than building new power plants and that’s a win/win.

A second reason that conservation is incented in our area is that our state has a law requiring utilities to conserve, (The Clean Energy Initiative). Without getting into the complexities, the law requires utilities to hit conservation targets and invest in renewable energy or face penalties.

Power Lines and Energy Conservation

How to take advantage of energy efficiency rebates

In Western Washington, all of our major utilities offer home energy efficiency rebates of some kind. This includes all of the local electric companies, plus Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Natural Gas. You can see a list of current rebates across the region on our site. Rebates cover energy saving upgrades such as high efficiency heating and window replacement, insulation and air sealing, toilets, water heaters, home energy audits, plus geothermal and solar energy. The value of the rebates can be $10 to $1800 for appliances and much more for solar panels. Every year the rebates change as they continue to calculate the savings gained from each measure and reassess what they can afford to offer to incent those savings.

Here’s how most Washington state utility rebates work:

  1. The utility defines the qualifications under which they will offer rebates or grants. For example, the rebate for a ductless heat pump might be only on units placed in a main living area (Tacoma Power), or on a 95% efficient furnace (PSE).
  1. Each utility accepts qualified contractors into their program, who they verify are licensed for their trade. (In some cases they allow DIY projects to qualify).
  1. They train the contractors how to work with their specific program, including paperwork requirements, inspections, quality standards etc. Typically contractors who are qualified by the utility can take the rebate right off the invoice, so you are not paying and then getting a check later.
  1. Where required, the customer may be asked to fill out an application in advance of the project. For example: if you are a Seattle City Light customer and would like a ductless heat pump, there is an application to file first to determine that you qualify.

There may be a few hoops to jump through to get the larger incentives, including applications, pre-inspections, in-progress inspections, and post inspections, depending on the utility or the project. It is, however, free money, and your contractor can walk you through any requirements.

Washington Energy Services is a qualified contractor for all major Western Washington utility rebate programs and can help you save on energy efficient upgrades. For more information, contact us today.

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Washington Energy named #1 in HVAC by Puget Sound Energy

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PSE’s Leader Awards recognize companies based on how much energy and money they have saved PSE customers. Our HVAC and Windows installations in 2013 saved an equivalent of powering 52 electric homes plus 112 natural gas homes for a year, plus a good deal of savings in energy efficiency rebates. Check out what PSE had to say about this award.

 

 

 

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Whoa! My utility bills are too high!

Posted On: Filed Under: Heating, Cooling No Comments on Whoa! My utility bills are too high!

 

My electric bill is too high

Do you have electric heat? Every year rates do go up and keeping the same temperature you can have higher bills. Consider:

  • Switch from electric heat to natural gas if available on your street. There are great utility rebates from PSE, plus your ongoing heating cost will be about 25% lower.

  • Switch from baseboard heating to ductless or air source heat pump, to lower heating costs by up to 50% and get air conditioning as a bonus. Prices are coming down on ductless systems and there are excellent utility rebates up to $1500.

  • Add a programmable thermostat to lower the heat while you are not home. These used to be difficult to figure out but technology has improved, making it easy to lower heating costs by about 10%.

  • Maybe it’s not your heating system but an increase in cold air leaking into your house. Besides caulking windows and weather stripping doors, professionally air sealing and insulating your home can reduce drafts, and allow you to utilize less heating to achieve the same level of comfort.

  • And there’s always that one you don’t want to imagine… but it happens. Is your neighbor plugging something into an outlet on the exterior of your house?

My gas bill is too high  

Do you have gas heat? Besides annual rate increases or a broken meter, there are several factors that could be causing an increase. Consider:

  • How healthy is your gas furnace? A furnace that is older and/or not maintained is using extra natural gas to keep up with your demand for warmth. Gas furnaces lose energy efficiency as they age and parts wear. The less efficiently it operates, the harder it works to keep a constant temp for you. The same goes for natural gas water heaters. If your heating system is more than 15 years old, your 90% efficient appliance might only be 80% at best.

  • Check for leaky ducts. A significant portion of your heat can be wasted by escaping through leaky ducts. Combine that with some plumbing or electrical penetrations that are not sealed in the attic, and your heat can just be pouring out of the house. This is something that most homeowners are not able to ascertain on their own. A certified Home Energy Auditor will use specialized equipment to measure the heat loss, air leaking and air flow of the home and show you how areas of concern.

  • Has the insulation lost its fluff? The EnergyStar folks at the US Department of Energy start their discussion of energy saving with insulation for a reason – it’s really the number one way to make a significant difference in the amount of heating you will need for your home. Right now there are great rebate incentives to add insulation and it can benefit homeowners with reduced heating and cooling costs.

  • Check your heat pump settings. If you have an air source heat pump attached to your gas furnace but still see your furnace turning on more than expected or using more gas than expected, you may have the heat pump set to switch over to backup heat at too high of a temperature. Heat pumps can get below 40% without having to switch over. Consult a professional heating contractor if you have a question about this.

  • Change your air filter (furnace filter) as scheduled. Clogged filters make your equipment work harder.
  • Check for a gas leak. A large leak would be something you can smell and you should call your utility immediately. Small leaks can happen in and around older gas appliances and in an open space like a basement or garage you might never smell them. This is also something that a home energy audit would test for.

If you have a propane heater or oil heat, you are in a different category of bills altogether. These fuels are up to four times the cost of gas or electric heat pump heating. Even if you want to keep your propane or oil fueled heating system, the same options are available to you to lower your bills. Just follow the items we have outlined under the Gas bill section, and you can see lower energy costs too.

We’ve heard it all, and we’ve helped customers with all of these situations, bringing their energy costs down and increasing home comfort. For your free estimate or for a service appointment contact Washington Energy at 800-398-4663 or click to send your request via email.

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Tax credits for energy saving

Posted On: Filed Under: Heating, Cooling 2 Comments on Tax credits for energy saving

There are many ways to improve the efficiency of your home from cost effective heating and cooling to simply changing light bulbs.Improving your home energy efficiency is one of the most effective ways to reduce ones carbon footprint and save on home energy expenses in Washington State. There are many ways to improve the efficiency of your home from cost effective heating and cooling to simply changing light bulbs.

Improving your home energy efficiency is one of the most effective ways to reduce ones carbon footprint and save on home energy expenses in Washington State. There are many ways to improve the efficiency of your home from cost effective heating and cooling to simply changing light bulbs.

The federal government has had tax incentives for homeowners to become more energy efficient. Millions have taken advantage of the tax incentives so far, but for the millions who have not there is no indication they will be renewed after the 2011 expiration. Many of the federal tax credits on energy efficient materials and appliances made it easy for homeowners in Western Washington to be energy savers. The credits were as much as 30% of the total cost of the project up to $1,500. Most credits only applied to existing homes in Washington State, excluding rentals.

Here’s the list of items that WAS on the tax credit list. It’s still valuable to homeowners as a guideline for top energy efficient product choices.

Heating & cooling

• Natural gas furnace or propane furnace (AFUE rating of at least 95%)
o Furnaces have increased in efficiency, but developers still typically put inefficient 80% AFUE rated furnaces into new construction. If you are building a home, or your remodel includes a new furnace, be sure to ask your contractor about the standard furnace they use.
o Don’t have a gas furnace today? Many local utilities offer rebates for conversion to gas.

• Central air conditioning: (SEER rating of at least 16)

• Heat pump (SEER rating of at least 15)
o Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners in moderate climates. Like your refrigerator, heat pumps use electricity to move heat from a cool space into a warm, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. During the heating season, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into your warm house; during the cooling season, heat pumps move heat from your cool house into the warm outdoors. Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can provide up to 4 times the amount of energy they consume. Many people have experienced up to a 30% savings in the cost of heating or cooling their homes with a heat pump. (Source: York 2005).
o Geothermal heat pumps are like ordinary heat pumps but use the ground instead of outside air to heat, cool and make hot water. They are highly efficient, but installation may have limiting factors such as terrain or space. There are several different types of ENERGY STAR rated pumps that all qualify for tax credits.

• Biomass stove (Thermal efficiency rating of at least 75%) o Biomass stoves burn biomass fuel to heat a home or heat water. Biomass fuel includes agricultural crops and trees, wood and wood waste and residues (including wood pellets), plants, grasses, residues, and fibers.

Water heaters & solar

• Water heaters – gas, propane or oil (EF 82 or thermal efficiency of at least 90%)
o Water heating can account for a lot of the energy consumed in your home. Traditional tank water heaters last from 8-10 years.
o Good tax credit qualified alternatives for standard water heaters include Heat Pump water heaters (EF of at least 2.0) and high efficiency tankless water heaters, and solar water heaters. Your local contractor can provide information on the energy and tax savings of each. Solar water heaters must have half of their energy coming from the sun, be used in the house only (not pool), and be certified SRCC to qualify for tax credits.

• Solar panels (photovoltaic systems)
o Qualified solar panels are solar cells that capture light from the sun to provide electricity for a residence and meet applicable fire and electrical code. This credit is more complex; currently listed as 30% of the cost up to $500 per .5 kw of power capacity. This tax credit does not expire in 2010, it runs until December 2016. There may also be local or state subsidies and/or regulations.
o An alternative to going completely solar is to have a solar water heater (see above) or solar attic fan. This way you can harness the sun for an individual component of your energy use.

The following are current tax credit qualified products where the credit is 30% of the materials only (no labor) of the project up to $1,500.

Insulation, roofing, windows & doors

• Insulation replacement
o Bulk insulation products can qualify, such as batts, rolls, blow-in fibers, rigid boards, expanding spray, and pour-in-place. Products that seal air (reduce air leaks) can also qualify, as long as they come with a Manufacturers Certification Statement. These can include weather striping, caulking and house wraps. Note, installation costs don’t count toward your tax credit.

• Roofs
o Qualified metal and asphalt roof products can reflect the sun’s rays, lowering roof surface temperature and decreasing the amount of heat coming into your home. The metal roofs must have appropriate colored coatings and asphalt roofs must have appropriate cooling granules – check with the energy star website or your contractor for details.

• Windows and doors (U factor less than 0.30)
o Energy efficient windows, doors and skylights can truly impact your home’s comfort and energy bills. Typically the tax credit qualifying windows have Low E glass or a similar coating.

• Storm windows and doors (U factor and SHGC of .30 or below; must meet IECC)
o Storm windows or storm doors can enhance efficiency by creating another barrier between the interior of you home and the weather outside

In addition to these tax credits, there is also a good chance your local utility (in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett or Olympia, WA) has cash incentives for installing energy efficient products in your home.

To learn more about these incentives, contact a Washington Energy Services Home Energy Specialist at 1-800-398-HOME (4663).

 

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