Union County continues to see climate change action, energy efficiency |

LEWISBURG — Lewisburg area resident Ben Hoskins says he has done a lot at his home to reduce his carbon footprint, such as replacing windows and caulking to save energy.

A local climate action program through the state Department of Environmental Protection, in collaboration with Bucknell and the Lewisburg Environment, previously established a task force to reduce the borough’s carbon footprint.

Lewisburg Environment Director Taylor Lightman said the goal was to create “a smart, community-led climate action plan through adaptation and mitigation for Lewisburg Borough that respects human rights and equitable development.”

Lightman said he believed climate change could present opportunities for places like Lewisburg.

American homes use 25% of energy to heat spaces, 13% to heat water, and 11% to cooling and the rest is spent on appliances, according to estimates from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

From 2009 to 2012, the SEDA-COG Energy Resource Center (ERC) worked with many sectors of the New Berlin community to implement, document and share an energy independence program that focuses on energy efficiency first, then renewables.

New Berlin has 848 residents.

“It was a very holistic approach,” said Union County Commissioner Stacy Richards, former director of the ERC.

Energy assessments of homes and buildings, investment of community members in energy reduction activities recommended by energy assessments, free weather of eligible homes, and development of locally sourced and used renewable energy plans for communities continued throughout 2010.

Thirteen different facilities and three manufacturing companies received energy audits, 136 households received walkthrough energy surveys, and 37 income-eligible households received free home weather, Richards said.

Collective efforts made through existing social organizations during the first year, followed by connections provided by the Energy Resource Center with qualified energy auditors and local contractors resulted in documented annual energy savings of more than $250,000 per year by the end of the three-year project.

These annual savings resulted in more than $1 million being saved in New Berlin through 2018, with additional annual savings.

“It’s very broad,” Richards said.

SEDA-COG provides home weather services available to income-eligible homeowners and renters in Columbia, Juniata, Mifflin, Montour, Perry, Snyder, and Union counties. Since 2008, more than 8,600 homes in the region have been weathered.

Weather services include: Energy Education; Furnace Repair and Replacement; Repair of the heating system; Hot water heater installation; Cold Weather Crisis Intervention; Air leak sealing; Insulation installation; Energy-saving lighting installations; Digital thermostat installation, and indoor air quality testing.

LOCAL MAKES HIS HOME MORE ENERGY SAVING

Hoskins says uncovered areas of the house can lose a lot of heat.

“It’s a huge energy loss,” said Hoskins, who previously heated his home with wood.

Hoskins got a glazed windshield for the living room window.

“It’s hard to be specific because there are a lot of small changes,” Hoskins said.

Hoskins was previously with the Buffalo Creek Watershed Alliance, an environmental group that spends time helping local governments install riverbank fencing.

He said it was clear after the results of the inspection through SEDA-COG, it was seen that the air was entering from outside.

After that, Hoskins did caulking to plug the air coming in from the deficit room.

He said he had been with the survey team at homes south of Stein Lane in East Buffalo Township.

“I went with the team through other houses,” he said. He said some homes were “quite porous” and main doors in homes could indicate air leaks.

Doors and windows consume the most energy, he said.

“I think there’s a lot that can be done for the environment in terms of the amount of carbon that homes release,” Hoskins said.

It wasn’t just in the house that Hoskins had suggestions.

He said many lawn mowers don’t run on electricity and homeowners hinted they might be best served by replacing their regular gas mowers.

He said the survey via SEDA-COG took about an hour.

“So it’s not a big inconvenience,” Hoskins said.

If you’re on a low income, surveys can be done at no cost, according to Hoskins.

The energy audit begins with a two-year monthly analysis of energy costs and a facility search using specialized equipment to identify energy use that can be reduced.

“My staff and I provide free utility bill analysis to businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies, then help them get qualified energy auditors to recommend energy-reducing measures for manufacturing processes,” said Richards, who runs the program. via SEDA-COG.

Richards said the grant funds were used to develop a solicitation of proposals to competitively secure one energy auditor and pay for an energy audit that was provided free of charge to this non-residential client.

“This project pays no fees for implementing the recommended energy reduction measures recommended by this energy audit. It is up to the members to make that investment.”

“But many, many make that investment because the energy audit clearly explains what exactly needs to be done, the estimated costs, and the payback period to reduce those costs. Many of the recommendations cost very little or no money. Just a change in behavior.”

HOW CAN YOU MAKE YOUR HOME MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT AND MONEY SAVE?

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average Pennsylvania family consumes more than 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year, and spends more than $2,000 per year on energy bills.

Homeowners can take steps to make their homes more energy efficient at little or no cost with publicly available assistance.

Some projects, such as lighting changes, require minimal financial investment.

According to the US Department of Energy, the widespread use of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs has the potential to have a major impact on energy savings in the United States.

By 2035, most lighting installations are expected to use LED technology, and energy savings from LED lighting could reach 569 TWh per year by 2035, equal to an annual energy output of more than 92 1,000 MW of power generation.

Other projects, such as insulation or repair of heating and cooling systems, may require significant financial investments.

The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission offers a variety of Utility Assistance Programs through their website to offset the costs associated with saving energy at home. For many programs, consumers must meet certain financial criteria.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) HEELP Program offers loans between $1,000 and $10,000 for certain energy efficiency improvements at a flat rate of 1 percent for 10 years with no upfront penalty.

The SEDA-COG weathering program can be contacted at: 1-800-332-6701.

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