By John Irwin
As Featured in our DE Sierra Magazine
Sometimes it can seem daunting when thinking about how to help address the climate crisis. The really big things that need to happen require widespread coordinated action.
But there are things that are needed on a large scale that happen one family and home at a time. These are things that you can do as soon as you are ready.
We need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we are producing to stop making the climate emergency worse. The cleanest energy possible is the energy you don’t use.
There are programs to encourage you to save energy and save money on your utility bills provided by the federal government as well as some energy utilities and Energize Delaware, a nonprofit corporation.
Reducing your energy usage reduces your greenhouse gas emissions which is good for the climate. It also improves indoor air quality by reducing pollution. It helps reduce the price of electricity because the less demand there is for electricity the lower the prices go. And energy efficiency projects employ people, so they help create jobs for other Delawareans. Win-win-win-win!
How can I save energy?
- Improve how airtight your house is, keeping warm air from leaking out in the winter and cool air leaking out in the summer.
- Improve the insulation that keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer with less energy.
- Upgrade your appliances to more efficient electric ones, e.g., refrigerator, heat pumps for heating and air conditioning, heat pump clothes dryer, heat pump hot water heater, lighting…
- Turn things off when not needed, use a smart thermostat to save energy when you’re not home, and more.
How do I know what to do?
At the state level, Energize Delaware is the leading organization promoting energy efficiency (energizedelaware.org) and solar energy (www.SolarDelaware.org) for homeowners, businesses, and even renters. Energize Delaware provides discounted home energy use audits to help you figure out what potential there is for reducing the waste of energy and so saving money on your monthly bills.
To get an energy audit from Energize Delaware you would call them up and set up an appointment with one of their contractors. The contractor and you would arrange a time for them to come and spend an hour or two where they go through your house and check how much air is leaking in and out of the house, get an idea about the insulation of your house, and review other efficiency factors. In addition, they would check some safety measures like carbon monoxide in your home that might come from gas-powered furnaces or gas-powered hot water heaters. etc. They also go through and offer up to $250 of energy-efficient measures at the time of the appointment, like swapping out any old lightbulbs with new LED lights. Then they would leave and write a report that they would email back to you that would detail what they found and the cost of a variety of optional energy efficiency improvements. However, the company doing the audit is not allowed by the program to be the one doing the repairs. You need to use a separate approved contractor to do the work to get the rebates. This is to ensure that contractors are completely unbiased in their assessments. The report would also include the payback period needed to recover the cost of the improvements. Some expenses like replacing windows or doors might take years to pay back but others like closing leaks and weatherizing doorways and eliminating holes in your attic would only cost a few dollars and mostly a little effort.
Energize Delaware and the federal government have rebate and tax-credit programs (see below) to make it more affordable to buy more efficient appliances such as new refrigerators, heat pumps to replace furnaces and air conditioners, and heat pump water heaters and clothes dryers to replace gas-powered ones. There are also rebates for insulation and sealing air leaks.
Delaware also has a Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to help low-income households and renters with these sorts of energy saving upgrades – free of charge.
These rebates and tax credits exist because it's in everyone's interest to reduce the energy that we use by upgrading to more efficient appliances. It saves energy and therefore helps keep costs down as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions which helps prevent worsening climate change.
Let’s do this!
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP):
Energize Delaware Home Performance with Energy Star for Homeowners: https://www.energizedelaware.org/residential/home-performance-with-energy-star/homeowners/
Solar Delaware (operated by Energize Delaware) for one-stop-shop information on solar energy:
Energize Delaware Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star (for income qualified owners/tenants, military and first responders, and downtown development district owners/tenants. This program reduces costs for energy efficiency upgrades even more.
See the link below for the rebates for various upgrades.
Delaware Electric Coop (DEC): https://c03.apogee.net/mvc/home/hes/tips?utilityname=delaware&hecmode=bi
Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC):
Federal rebates and tax credits info: