2014 November Newsletter

What is new this month?

Message from David Wilson, director, Utah Energy Conservation Coalition:

Thanksgiving is about fun, family and giving thanks.  It also marks the beginning of the holiday giving season.  iGive makes it easy for you to buy gifts for family & friends and support Utah Energy Conservation Coalition, dba Energy Rated Homes of Utah.

More causes getting money because of iGive is good for us all.  iGive works better for everybody the bigger it gets.  When people use iGive to shop at any of the over 1,500 stores like Amazon, Travelocity, Expedia, jcpenney, Office Depot, Lands’ End, and HSN they earn a free donation.
Don’t forget to utilize the iGive donation options when doing your holiday shopping this year.  You can raise even more money simply by shopping at iGive’s partner sites and clicking the iGive button to confirm your donation to Utah Energy Conservation Coalition.  If you are anything like me… the simplicity of having all of my holiday gifts delivered is a HUGE benefit during this busy time of year… so most of my gifts come from online stores, and almost all them are iGive partners!
The iGive Button does it all for you!  I have the iGive button on all of my browsers so I don’t have to “think” about it… it just tells me if I am on a partner site and asks me to confirm that I want to give.  If you don’t already have the button (the little dandelion seed next to your browser), please consider downloading this option. It makes donating even easier so you never miss an opportunity.  Get it here: http://www.igive.com/button/

Using iGive you can raise money for Utah Energy Conservation Coalition without spending anything you wouldn’t already be spending.  And isn’t that a gift in itself?

ENERGY STAR Interim Policy Update

On August 20th, 2014, ENERGY STAR sent an email with policy revisions to resolve several issues, the outcome of which can be used immediately even though the revisions won’t be formally incorporated into the Inspection Checklists until the release of Rev. 08.  Since that time, they have fine-tuned the policy language addressed in Policy Record entry #00431, titled “Increased total duct leakage limit for homes with only dedicated returns”.The revised policy language applies the increased duct leakage limit to duct systems with three or more returns, rather than to a home with a dedicated return in each bedroom.  The new Policy Record entry, #00436, is below and the updated language can also be found in the Policy Record at: http://www.energystar.gov/newhomespolicyrecord.

For homes certified after November 11th, 2014, partners are permitted to use either the updated policy language below or the current limits defined within Item 4.1 of the HVAC-R (Rev. 07). The policy language from Policy Record entry #00431 shall not be used for homes certified after November 11th, 2014.

Item 4.1 – Increased total duct leakage limit for a duct system with three or more returns

Issue: Several partners have indicated continued challenges meeting the total duct leakage limit in Item 4.1 of the Checklist for a duct system with three or more returns (e.g., a system with dedicated returns from each bedroom).  These challenges are occurring due to several factors:

  • Some designers believe there are inherent benefits to multiple dedicated returns (e.g., comfort, enhanced privacy, aesthetics) relative to a single central return and, therefore, are not inclined to use a single central return strategy that would more easily meet the leakage limit.
  • Some designers have resisted changing from panned dedicated returns to ducted dedicated returns that would more easily meet the leakage limit when the system has three or more returns, due to the relative cost compared to the perceived benefit.
  • The inherent increase in total duct length for a system with three or more returns, relative to a single central return, is not reflected in the leakage limit.  Relatedly, a system with a single central return utilizes portions of the home, such as a hallway, as a return air pathway that is not captured in the duct leakage.  As a result, a home with three or more returns has an inherent disadvantage in meeting the duct leakage limit.

Outreach was conducted with multiple partners that operate primarily in cold climates.  The feedback provided indicated that while many markets have, in fact, devised strategies to consistently meet this requirement, for markets that have not transitioned away from multiple panned dedicated returns the requirement still presents a significant challenge.

Resolution: Given the collective input from multiple partners in cold climates, representing a wide range of opinions (i.e., from having no challenges with the current requirement to having significant challenges with the current requirement), an increased limit on total duct leakage will be provided for a duct system with three or more returns.

For example, if a home contains one duct system for the upper level and a second duct system for the lower level, and each duct system contains three or more returns, then the higher total duct leakage limit would be applicable to both duct systems.

As another example, if a home contains one duct system for the upper level with three returns and a second duct system for the lower level with one return, then the higher total duct leakage limit would only be applicable to the duct system serving the upper level.

To reflect this change, a single new Footnote will be added to Items 4.1.1 and 4.1.2 as follows:

“For a duct system with three or more returns, the total Rater-measured duct leakage is permitted to be the greater of ≤ 6 CFM25 per 100 sq. ft. of CFA or ≤ 60 CFM25 at ‘rough-in’ or the greater of ≤ 12 CFM25 per 100 sq. ft. of CFA or ≤ 120 CFM25 at ‘final’.”



Title Date and time Overview
Completing the Green Home Picture Thursday, December 4, 2014; 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m. EST Green building improves the way that homes and homebuilding sites use energy, water, and materials to reduce impacts on human health and the environment.
Participate in this webinar to learn about how builders can leverage these three labels together to build green and sell highly efficient homes with improved indoor air quality.
Crash Course in Selling ENERGY STAR Certified Homes Tuesday, December 9, 2014; 3:00 p.m.-3:45 p.m. EST ENERGY STAR has a unique value proposition for homebuyers looking for new homes. Attendees of this webinar will learn the basics of the ENERGY STAR Certified Homes program, how to sell the value of ENERGY STAR to their customers, and learn about resources to help them sell ENERGY STAR certified homes.
Stepping up from the HERS Index to ENERGY STAR Wednesday, December 17, 2014; 3:00 p.m.-3:45 p.m. EST The ENERGY STAR Certified Homes Program covers more details than ever before. As a result, some partners have been overcome by ‘analysis paralysis’. This webinar will help by clearly explaining the requirements that are above and beyond a standard HERS rating, along with their relative cost and value. Learn why stepping up to ENERGY STAR may be easier than you think.

DOE Zero Energy Ready Home Webinars

Title Date and time Overview
ZERH: Sales and Value Recognition of Zero Energy Ready Homes Thursday, December 18, 2014; 12:00 p.m.-1:15 p.m. EST Net Zero Energy properties have unique, high-performance features that should be prominently presented during the listing and sales process. However, these features also present challenges for appraisers and lenders: Lenders are challenged to find appraisers with competency and competent appraisers are challenged with limited Net Zero Energy sales data. This webinar will reveal solutions on how to overcome these hurdles and how to market these homes to show their ability to save valuable time and money when these properties begin to populate our markets.


Remodeling 101: Tankless Water Heaters

By Janet Hall October 30, 2014 5:00 AM  Originally posted on Yahoo! Homes

Several months after my husband and I and our two kids moved from the US to a space-efficient flat in London, I dragged our contractor into the back of one of our bathrooms to show him a strange, small silver box mounted on the wall and asked if he could remove it. “Not a good idea,” he said. “It’s your water heater.”
Long favored in Japan and Europe where square footage is at a premium, tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand when you need it. According to the EPA, residential electric water heaters are the second highest energy users in American households: “The energy consumed by your refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer combined use less energy than your current standard water heater.” Tankless water heaters offer big savings in energy use and space. The question is: Can these little units cater to the water heating needs of larger homes? Read our primer to find out if a tankless water heater should be on your house remodeling or tank replacement short list.
With the help of a demure tankless water heater that barely took up any space in our London flat, four of us bathed, showered, washed clothes, and otherwise ran hot water without ever experiencing shortages or wars over water pressure.
What is a tankless water heater and how does it work?
Unlike standard water heaters that keep water hot and ready for use at all times in insulated 20- to 80-gallon tanks, tankless models don’t store hot water, they heat on demand. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water runs through a pipe into the unit where a flow sensor turns on a gas burner or an electric element to heat the water to the desired temperature. When the hot water tap is closed, the flow sensor turns off the burner.

How are tankless water heaters powered?

Tankless water heaters can be fueled by gas (natural or propane) or electricity. Gas-powered units require venting (just like standard tank heaters). Most gas models also have electronic controls, so an electric outlet is needed. Full electric tankless heaters don’t need venting but have minimum voltage and AMP requirements—consult a professional to be sure your power is adequate.

Are there different types of tankless water heaters?

Two types of heaters are generally offered: whole house and point of use. Whole-house systems are powerful enough to generate hot water at flow rates to serve a household. Point-of-use units have low flow rates and are designed to supply hot water for a single appliance or location. These compact contraptions are typically installed directly adjacent to wherever they’re needed, such as under a sink; they’re most often used to augment a system when instant or additional hot water is needed.

How much hot water can a tankless heater generate?

Unlike standard water heaters, which draw on reserves, tankless water heaters provide a continuous supply of hot water. Sound too good to be true? Well, sort of. While the stream of hot water is unlimited, tankless models can only heat and deliver water at a certain flow rate. That output, or capacity, is measured in gallons per minute (gpm). So, while a tankless water heater won’t “run out” of hot water like a storage tank can, there may be an issue of not being able to pump out enough hot water for multiple uses at the same time.

What size tankless water heater do I need?

Tankless water heaters are available with different levels of hot water output (measured in gpm and often referred to, confusingly, as “size”). Correct sizing depends on two factors: the level of water flow needed to supply your home and the temperature of the ground water.
Water Flow: The level of water flow required depends on what and how many appliances and faucets you have, and whether they’re used simultaneously. You can add up the flow rates of these items to calculate your needs. Consult Home Depot’s Water Heater Buying Guide for a useful chart of typical flow rates for appliances and faucets. For example, running a shower (typically 1.5 to 2 gpm), a dishwasher (1.5 to 3 gpm), and a bathroom faucet (0.5 to 1.5 gpm) at the same time requires a total gpm capacity of 3.5 to 6.5 gpm.
Ground Water Temperature: Another factor in tankless water heater output is the temperature of the ground water that feeds the input pipes. Where you live matters. Colder ground water takes longer to heat, which in turn affects speed and flow of the hot water coming out of your faucets.

How compact are tankless water heaters?

Space savings is one of the biggest advantages of tankless water heaters. Unlike their 5 foot tall, 24-inch-wide monolithic cousins that demand substantial real estate in a home (sometimes their own room), tankless units are wall-mounted and typically measure in at a demure 2 feet wide, 1.5 feet tall, and about 9 inches deep.

Are tankless water heaters more efficient than the standard tank variety?

Yes. A drawback of standard tanks is the energy used to keep the water hot at all times, otherwise known as “standby losses.” Tankless water heaters eliminate these heat losses. The EPA estimates that tankless water heaters offer a 35 to 40 percent energy savings over high-efficiency storage tank heaters.

How much do tankless water heaters cost?

The initial outlay for a tankless water heater is substantial, averaging about $1,000 to $1,200 for a whole-house unit. This is compared to about $300 to $500 for a standard tank heater, but is similar, even a bit less expensive, than high-efficiency tank water heaters, which run in the $1,500 range.
While the upfront costs are high, they’re offset by the higher life expectancy of the units over standard tank models and the savings in energy costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most tankless water heaters have a life expectancy of more than 20 years, double that of storage tanks. They also have easily replaceable parts, which extends their life by many more years. The savings in energy costs are real but far from life-changing: They’re estimated at $90 per year in an average household. The EPA offers an energy cost calculator for personalized assessments.
Who makes tankless heaters? Not surprisingly two leaders in the tankless water heater market are Japanese companies: Rinnai and Noritz. Other manufacturers include Steibel and Bosch (both from Germany), and Rheem, AO Smith, and EcoSmart in the US.
Tankless Water Heater Recap

  • Space savings
  • Increased energy efficiency
  • Lower operating costs
  • Long life
  • Constant temperature output
  • Endless supply of hot water


  • Expensive
  • May not generate enough output for high-use homes
  • Electric controls mean no hot water if power outage

The Cheapest Way To Go Green

By Suze Orman  Originally posted on Oprah.com

It wasn’t so long ago that setting aside one day each April was all the attention many of us gave to the environment.  Now, though, making eco-friendly purchases and lifestyle choices has become such an important part of our routine that every day is Earth Day.

But in these tough economic times, it’s vital that your resolve to “do good” doesn’t lead you to make bad financial decisions.  The reality is that while many green actions, such as installing double-pane windows and buying a hybrid car, are great for the environment and can save you money over time, the up-front costs are higher than the standard alternatives.

I know there is nothing more worthwhile than taking care of the environment so our children and grandchildren will live in a healthier and more stable world; all I ask is that going green not put you in a pile of debt or derail any of your important financial goals: Choose eco-friendly projects that are also economically friendly.  Here’s how to reduce your carbon footprint without compromising your family’s security.


There’s no rule that says you have to spend money to live in a more environmentally conscious way.  Your first project should be to reduce your energy consumption through acts of conservation; it’s good for the planet and your finances.  Pull out your utility bills from the past year and set a goal to reduce costs by 10 percent compared with the same months a year earlier.  If you have kids, how’s this for motivation: Offer to give them 50 percent of the savings if your family meets its target.  That should get lights turned off when rooms are vacated, marathon showers shortened, and groans eliminated when you suggest adjusting the thermostat up or down a few degrees to reduce cooling and heating costs.  Check out conservation tips from the U.S. Department of Energy at EnergySavers.gov and from Worldwatch Institute at WorldWatch.org (type “10 ways” in the search box).  [Also check out http://hes.lbl.gov/consumer/  to get an idea of your energy consumption.]


You can make eco-upgrades with any amount of money—a few hundred dollars for an energy-saving TV and telephone, or upwards of $25,000 to line your roof with solar panels. Based on your financial health, set aside a reasonable sum to cover the projects. If you have your heart set on a major overhaul, promise me that you will first sit down and make sure that your green initiatives dovetail with other important investment goals, like funding a Roth IRA or buying a life insurance policy. This is about striking the right balance in how you allocate money to the different sectors of your life.

Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and home equity loans (HELs) have been two popular ways to finance big-ticket home improvement projects in the past. But remember that your house is the collateral for these loans; fall behind in payments and you could put your home ownership in jeopardy. I typically reject using this kind of line for a “want,” such as an outdoor fireplace or hot tub. So what’s my verdict on tapping home equity for a do-good purchase like $20,000 for draftproof windows? I approve of such financing for an eco-friendly upgrade if-and only if-you follow these rules:

  • You have no credit card debt and your retirement savings are on track.
  • You have enough saved that if something happened to your job, you could pay off the HELOC or HEL from your emergency fund and still have eight months of savings left over.
  • Your project has a high “payback,” meaning that you could recoup much of the cost if you were to sell your home. Remodeling magazine has a great online chart that shows cost versus value for various projects (Remodeling.HW.net/2009/CostVsValue/National.aspx).
  • Pick projects that future owners will find desirable; check with a local real estate agent to see what buyers in your area value most.
  • If using a HELOC, aim to have it paid back within three years. Most are variable rate loans that are tied to a general interest rate; because of our federal debt, I expect interest rates to rise in the coming years, which means HELOC rates will rise as well.

Cut Heating Costs in Winter With a Humidifier

By Kristin Wong  Posted on Kinja  Oct. 29, 2014

Electric bills can soar in the winter, when you’re blasting your heater for months on end. To cut costs and still stay warm, consider using a humidifier.

John Vrabel, president of Smart Click Energy, told LearnVest:
Few people know about this, but one of my favorite techniques is to use an energy-efficient humidifier (about $35 to $65) in the living room. In winter months, the air inside your home is pretty dry. To be comfortable in dry air, people require a higher temperature—but they wouldn’t if the air were more humid.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac website confirms this. Don’t have a humidifier? If you take baths in the winter, the Almanac suggests leaving the water in the tub until it reaches room temperature. This helps keeps the air in your home warm and humid, at least for a little while.

Check out LearnVest’s full post for more tips.

7 ways to cut your heating costs this winter

Posted on Yahoo! Homes   November 4, 2014

What’s the cheapest type of heating fuel?
Prices are in constant flux, and they vary by region. Natural gas, the most common fuel type, cost the average U.S. household about $660 last winter. Based on current energy prices, heating with oil would cost $1,590, propane would cost $1,750, and electricity, $2,135.
If your system is over 15 years old, it’s worth upgrading to more efficient equipment and perhaps a different fuel source. Switching to natural gas costs about $10,000, but you could recoup that in seven years if you include your water heater. Geothermal heat pumps, which use the Earth’s constant temperature to heat and cool, are another option. Average installation is $17,000, but a federal tax credit covers 30 percent, lowering the payback period to between 5 and 10 years.

Do I need to get my ductwork cleaned?
Unless dust, mold, or signs of vermin are visible, cleaning your ducts is unlikely to improve your home’s efficiency—or air quality. That’s despite aggressive sales tactics that can cross the line into false advertising, according to the Better Business Bureau.
But duct sealing is a great way to improve efficiency, because 25 to 40 percent of conditioned air is lost through ducts that leak. You’ll need to hire a pro, but sealing can save hundreds of dollars per year. Traditional methods treat leaks from the outside with tapes and mastics. A newer technology, called aerosealing, was developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Microscopic particles of sealant are blown into ductwork, where they form airtight bonds over leaks, according to Aeroseal, which owns the patent. The average cost is $1,500 to $2,500, with promised annual savings of $250 to $850, the company says. Learn more at aeroseal.com.

How often should I have my heating system serviced?
We recommend once per year, ideally before it’s taxed by cold weather. Make sure the contractor has proper certification; North American Technician Excellence, or NATE, is one. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America has a national directory, at acca.org. Consider entering into a service contract, which might cost $100 to $400, so that you don’t have to remember to schedule a call. If you have a forced-air system, help it run efficiently by changing the filters several times throughout the winter. Also make sure the registers aren’t blocked by furniture.

What’s the best way to deal with drafts?
A professional energy auditor will run a blower door test to find leaks. The service costs $250 to $800, though rebates apply; check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, at dsireusa.org.
You can also do a low-tech draft test using an incense stick. Turn on all of your home’s exhaust fans and hold the stick near windows, doors, and electrical outlets. If the smoke blows sideways, you’ve got a leak that should be plugged with weather stripping, caulk, or expandable foam. Go to energy.gov for more information.

How can I tell whether I have enough insulation?
Climb up into the attic with a ruler. There should be at least 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool insulation, or 8 inches of cellulose insulation. That goes for the attic hatch as well as the floor.
Before laying insulation, it’s important to seal any openings in the floor, including those around plumbing vents and electrical boxes. That will prevent the so-called stack effect, in which heated air escapes through the attic and is replaced with cool air from lower levels, leading to drafty rooms and elevated heating bills.

Can I use a space heater in a bathroom?
Some are marketed as bathroom-safe. Yet among the models we tested, only the Holmes HFH436 and DeLonghi TRN0812T had ground-fault circuit interrupter plugs intended to prevent electric shock, including in moist areas. Even with the GFCI plug, their manufacturers warn against using the heaters near water.

What should I set my thermostat to during the winter?
Since central heating went mainstream in the 1960s, the average temperature for occupied rooms is up to 70° F, and overnight temps are around 68° F. For optimal efficiency, those temperatures should be 68° F and 60° F, respectively. Lowering the thermostat could save you $100 per year. It could also help you maintain healthy body weight. “Temperatures in the 60° to 62° F range burn an extra 100 to 150 calories per day,” said C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who studies the effect of temperature on energy-burning brown fats. “Even if you’re only burning 50 calories a day at higher temperatures, that’s still half a pound of fat every month.”