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Energy efficiency can help keep you warm, cut pollution and grow the economy

Ryan Puckett

Ryan Puckett

This Saturday (Feb. 16), a Rochester home will serve as the centerpiece of the public television show “Home Diagnosis,” which airs locally on WXXI at 6:30 p.m. The show is a cross between “CSI” and “This Old House.” Experts diagnose the root causes for a home’s problems—why it’s cold and drafty or humid and moldy, for example. Then they find the fix, with help from a local home performance expert.

In Saturday’s episode, the Home Diagnosis team and my boss—Jeff Flaherty of Wise Home Energy—focus on the importance of energy efficiency, and that’s an especially timely message this winter. We have been fielding too many calls from frantic families whose energy bills have doubled, or whose furnaces can’t keep up with the cold. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Making your home more energy efficient can help keep your family warm and comfortable through even the worst weather.

Energy efficiency improvements can save you up to 50 percent on your energy bills. And looking beyond your own property line, energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. It’s the first step in transitioning our state and our nation from fossil fuels like oil and gas to clean renewables like wind and solar.

Efficiency is also a fast-growing economic sector that is creating good local jobs in countless communities, including ours. In its recent report Energy Efficiency Jobs in America, E4TheFuture found that more than 2.25 million Americans already work in energy efficiency—more than twice the number employed in all fossil fuel sectors combined. They staff a wide variety of jobs, from manufacturing and construction to sales and professional services.

Here in New York, more than 117,000 people  work in energy efficiency. That includes building analysts like me, who focus on making people’s homes more energy efficient, sustainable and comfortable. I’m one of dozens of people featured in E4TheFuture’s Faces of EE campaign, which highlights the real people behind the numbers. And our company is a local example of how the efficiency field is growing: We started in 2010 with two people, and now employ 20. We added seven colleagues in the last year alone.

The State of New York says buildings burn up about 60 percent of all the energy we use. Given our state’s ambitious goals for reducing energy use and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, making homes and other buildings more efficient is essential.

So it’s no surprise that the Public Service Commission is updating New York’s energy efficiency targets. I hope the PSC will set ambitious goals, and will focus on people who could use a little help making their homes more efficient. This is especially important in places like Rochester, which has seen its overall poverty rate increase from 31.6 percent to 33.1 percent in recent years. Taking a statewide look, forty percent of New Yorkers are considered low- or moderate-income, and they tend to spend a proportionately bigger slice of their income on energy bills. These New Yorkers need help saving energy the most, but are the least likely to have extra money available to tackle home improvement projects.

If you’re interested in wasting less energy and saving money on your utility bills, check out the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority website (NYSERDA) to see if you might qualify for a free or reduced-cost energy audit and other incentives that can help you make your home more efficient and more comfortable. Local home performance contractors can help, as can programs like Sustainable Homes Rochester. From air sealing and insulation to more efficient HVAC systems and updated heat pump technology, there are a lot of ways to boost efficiency at a wide range of price points.

It’s said that the cheapest kind of energy is the energy you don’t use. Making your home energy efficient saves your family money in the long run, while making your home more comfortable and often addressing health and safety concerns. Energy efficiency also boosts our economy, curbs air pollution and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. That’s an awful lot of good you can do—and it starts in your very own home.

Ryan Puckett is a Building Performance Institute-certified building analyst with the Rochester home performance contractor Wise Home Energy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named the company 2018 Contractor of the Year for its participation in the Home Performance with Energy Star program.

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