EPA Announces Updated Home Energy Yardstick for Assessing Home Energy Use

American homeowners can see how their home energy use measures up by using EPA’s free online energy assessment tool called the Home Energy Yardstick. The Yardstick is a simple performance-based tool that compares a home’s annual energy use to other similar homes. Since 2010, nearly a quarter of a million Americans have used the Yardstick to better understand the energy consumption of their homes.

By answering a few basic questions, a homeowner can get:

  • The home’s Yardstick score (on a scale of 1 to 10);
  • Insights into how much of the home’s energy use is related to heating and cooling versus other everyday uses like appliances, lighting, and hot water;
  • Links to guidance from EPA’s ENERGY STAR program on how to increase the home’s score, improve comfort, and lower utility bills; and
  • An estimate of the annual carbon emissions that can be attributed to the home.

The Yardstick looks at the actual energy use of a home based on the last 12 months of utility bills compared to others. To ensure that different homes across the country can be properly compared, the Yardstick uses a statistical algorithm to take into account the effects of local weather, home size, and number of occupants.

A home that scores a “10” on the Yardstick scale used less energy over the last 12 months and performed well compared to its peers, while a home that scores a “1” used more energy and performed poorly compared to its peers.

A homeowner can increase the home’s Yardstick score by improving the energy efficiency of the features and/or equipment of the home or by making changes in the way the home is operated to use less energy. Homeowners can revisit the Yardstick each month (when utility bills arrive) to see the impacts of the energy-efficient improvements they have made in the home or changes in the way it is operated.

EPA has now improved the Yardstick with the addition of Green Button. Green Button provides utility customers with easy access to their energy use data. Homeowners with access to Green Button can now easily upload their home utility data into the Yardstick. But even if homeowners don’t have access to Green Button, a 12-month utility bill summary can be found on utility web sites and entered into the Yardstick.

The Home Energy Yardstick is not meant to replace a home energy audit conducted by a trained specialist. Often, the best way to determine the root cause of high energy bills or uncomfortable spaces is to have a professional home energy assessment.

The information that homeowners enter into the Yardstick is only used for the purposes of allowing homeowners to assess home energy use. This information is not saved by EPA or shared with others.
Get started now by going to www.energystar.gov/yardstick.

For more information on Green Button, visit http://www.greenbuttondata.org/greenabout.html.

DOE and NREL Announce Inaugural Collegiate Wind Competition Teams

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are pleased to announce the teams selected to take part in the inaugural DOE Collegiate Wind Competition.

The following 10 student teams were selected through a competitive process to compete in the inaugural competition:

  • Boise State University
  • California Maritime Academy
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • James Madison University (VA)
  • Kansas State University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Alaska – Fairbanks
  • University of Kansas
  • University of Massachusetts – Lowell

The elite educational programs have committed to formulating an interdisciplinary team, integrating the three principal competition contests into students’ coursework and senior design projects. The competition contests are designed to reach students from various engineering and business programs to provide them with engaging, real-world project experience as they prepare to enter the workforce. The selected programs garnered organizational support from their institutions as well as private-sector and community support.

The Collegiate Wind Competition is a forum for undergraduate college students of multiple disciplines to investigate innovative wind energy concepts; gain experience designing, building, and testing a wind turbine to perform according to a customized market data-derived business plan; and increase their knowledge of wind industry barriers. NREL is facilitating the inaugural competition, which will take place in spring 2014.

“Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing electrical energy options in the United States, and the industry requires a skilled workforce with talented people from engineering, business, and communications backgrounds, This competition will help attract students from a wide range of disciplines into this exciting industry,” DOE Wind Powering America initiative National Director Jonathan Bartlett said.

The theme of the inaugural competition is to design and construct a lightweight, transportable wind turbine that can be used to power small electronic devices. A principal contest involves testing each team’s prototype wind turbine in a wind tunnel under specific conditions. Each team’s business plan and turbine will also be evaluated against other pre-weighted criteria. The third event of the competition will be a team-to-team debate relating to current wind market drivers and issues. Teams will be judged on the members’ understanding of the issues posed to them, their communication of potential solutions, and their ability to promote constructive dialogue.

This competition is an opportunity for collegiate institutions to showcase student ingenuity and the programs that the students represent. In addition to this national recognition, the turbine from the college or university with the best overall score will be placed on temporary display at the DOE headquarters building in Washington, D.C. The competition enables NREL and DOE to support innovative and forward-thinking educational institutions that incorporate renewable energy technologies, helping to foster the growth of the future wind energy industry and workforce.

“This is a great opportunity for students, universities and the wind industry,” says Ian Baring-Gould, the national technical director of the Wind Powering America initiative. “The Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon has clearly engaged students and the public in the renewable energy field. Our hope is that this new wind focused competition will have a similar outcome. NREL is very excited to be involved.”

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

U.S. Army signs onto 20 MW solar farm, biggest in military

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The Army base in Fort Bliss, Texas, has a goal of getting to net-zero energy. As part of that, it’s about to build a 20 megawatt solar farm — the biggest for the military to date.

It will power all division headquarters and most of the eastern sector of the sprawling complex, and is the first partnership between the military and a major local utility on a renewable energy project of this scale.

How companies and weather may sway public opinion on climate

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

One challenge U.S. companies face in dealing with global issues is the significant difference that sometimes exists between public opinion in America and in the rest of the world.

Nowhere has the difference in perspective and opinion been more evident than in concern over climate change.

How to be a recycled bride

Read the full post at Mother Nature Network.

While the cost of the average American wedding continues to boom (we’re up to about $28,000 per happy couple at this point), plenty of brides are still thinking of smart and simple ways to keep the budget reasonable, whether that’s so they can take an awesome honeymoon, put a down payment on a home, or just plain like to economize. Saving on big-ticket items like the wedding dress and accessories is one way you can slash thousands from your costs, and the simplest way to do that is to be a “recycled bride” and find your ensemble at one of the several useful websites set up for just that purpose.

What does Climate Change Have to Do With Health Care?

Read the full story in Forbes.

Gary Cohen is Co-Founder and President of Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal, India, established to help heal people affected by the Bhopal gas tragedy. He is on the board of the American Sustainable Business Council and Health Leads.

This article was published as part of a special series for World Health Day and in advance of the 2013 Skoll World Forum. Watch the live stream April 10-12 by clicking here.