The State of Illinois has been recognized as national leader for implementing energy efficiency policies by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Because of Illinois’ energy policies, there is now a $150 million annual budget for state-wide energy efficiency initiatives for homes and commercial buildings. This is in addition to a one-time $25 million federal grant to an Illinois coalition know as Energy Impact Illinois whose purpose is to jumpstart energy efficiency upgrades in the Chicago seven county and Rockford areas, and help facilitate a long-term market.
American homes use approximately 25% of all energy consumed in the United States and commercial buildings use about 19% of all energy according to the ACEEE. Recognizing an opportunity to make a significant impact in energy usage, Illinois lawmakers have passed laws and funding mechanisms for programs that empower consumers with information that helps them reduce energy consumption. Illinois organizations – from electric and gas utilities, to non-profits and universities – are helping in numerous outreach efforts to inform Illinois building owners about options to reduce a building’s energy usage while maintaining comfort and convenience.
Two drivers determine how much energy is used at any given building: (1) the age and operation of electronic products from hair dryers and computers to appliances, furnaces and lighting; and (2) the age and operation of a building, its condition and construction.
Electronic Products. Currently available technologies and products provide the comfort and convenience people are used to, but use far less energy than older products. So when it comes time to replace any electronic product, home and building owners can save money and energy by choosing energy efficient products. One of the best ways to be sure that a product is energy efficient is to look for the Energy Star label on products.
There are rebates and other financial incentives to make the purchase of Energy Star products easier. The electric and gas utility providers listed below each have their own residential and commercial energy saving programs which include appliance and lighting purchase and recycling rebates, energy audits, retro-commissioning, and financing options that make large energy efficient upgrades possible. In some cases, utilities also offer training to contractors to perform the upgrades.
Building Condition. While the use and operation of electronic products contribute to a building’s energy load, so does a building’s age, condition and construction, and operation. Every building is unique, so an energy audit is the best way to understand what unique energy issues exist for a specific home or commercial building. A building energy audit can be as simple as an on-line interactive energy audit or the physical examination of a building with sophisticated equipment to pinpoint energy usage and loss issues.
Single Family Homes. When it comes to home energy audits, there are two terrific websites that help people understand how much energy is being used at home. Energy Impact Illinois provides outreach on energy efficiency programs in the Rockford and seven county Chicago areas. The website has an interactive home energy audit tool called Home EQ which calculates energy usage for a specific home address and compares it with similar homes in the neighborhood. One energy usage is calculated, Home EQ provides recommendations to reduce energy usage and identifies pre-qualified contractors who can provide the recommended service. Home EQ also identifies financial resources that can help pay for energy efficient improvements.
The Illinois Home Performance website has an on-line home energy audit tool that can be used for every home in the State. The energy tool also compares a specific home’s energy usage with neighboring homes, and it provides recommendations and identifies contractors to improve energy usage, as well as financial resources. In addition, Illinois Home Performance provides a process for homes to undergo a whole house energy upgrade and earn a Silver or Gold Illinois Home Performance with Energy Star Certificate. Illinois joins the majority of other states that have implemented Home Performance with Energy Star programs. According to Illinois Home Performance, this certification will soon serve as a third-party verification that identifies green homes in the Chicago-area Multiple Listing Service. To learn more about the IHP Certificate and what it takes to earn one, click here.
Commercial Buildings. It is worth repeating that commercial building owners should check the websites of their local electric and gas providers for energy efficiency programs and incentives. In addition, for building owners in Northern Illinois, Energy Impact Illinois is a website to watch. There are several important links on the website that identify opportunities for (1) owners of multi-family buildings, (2) non-profit and public building owners, and (3) owners of large commercial buildings. Energy Impact Illinois promises even more energy efficiency content for commercial buildings in 2012.
Finally, the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC), managed by the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, provides energy assessment services and funding for public and private building owners who are customers of Amren, ComEd, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas, and Peoples Gas. SEDAC also provides retro-commissioning training to the public building sector. Retro-commissioning is like giving a building’s mechanical operations a big tune-up. It is common for the cost of a retro-commissioning project to pay for itself in less than a year. Click here to learn more about SEDAC.
Local Information. For more info in your area, here are website links to energy efficiency programs offered by the major electric and gas utility providers in Illinois.
North Shore Electric: http://www.northshoregasdelivery.com
Ameren Illinois: http://www.actonenergy.com
People’s Gas: http://www.peoplesgasdelivery.com
Nicor Gas: http://www.nicorgasrebates.com
The Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) serves as the eyes, ears, and voice of the environmental community in Springfield. It will continue to promote sustainable environmental and energy policies in Illinois. Get news on environmental issues and legislation. Visit our website. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook.