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Buying green electricity for your home

Buying green electricity for your home
An important way to combat global warming is to switch our electricity supply to “green” electricity (generated from wind- and solar-powered sources, both of which do not emit carbon dioxide).

Electricity generation is the single largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.  Electricity sold by Pepco in Maryland in 2017 was generated mostly by coal (32.2%), natural gas (26.7%), and nuclear (35.9%) – with only 2.8% from wind and solar.

Scientists tell us we need to switch to clean electricity without delay.  By buying electricity from wind and solar power, and/or by supporting community solar power projects, you are helping support the stronger U.S. green electricity industry essential for that transition.

 

How to buy green electricity without installing solar panels


The following information is focused on helping residents of Montgomery County, who cannot install (or prefer not to install) rooftop solar, buy green electricity.  You can make the switch to green energy by:

  • purchasing electricity with renewable energy certificates from wind and solar facilities; OR
  • supporting the development of solar power in Maryland by being part of a community solar project.


 

Option 1: Green-e Certified Suppliers of Renewable Electricity

Many suppliers offer green electricity for purchase by Montgomery County residents, but their offerings can be difficult to compare – due to differing terms, conditions, and other relevant considerations.

Green-e is the trusted global leader in clean energy certification. They make it easy for businesses and individuals to purchase verified clean energy with confidence, and for consumers to choose sustainable products and services. Green-e advocates for the advancement of clean energy policy, markets, and technology, and believes in their economic and environmental benefits. Here are the companies whom have been certified as of August 2018:

 
Supplier, Product Name, Renewable Content, and Web Address Price Considerations
CleanChoice Energy Clean 12 Month Rate Lock (99% Wind + 1% Solar) 11.60 cents/kWh CleanChoice is a local firm, a B Corporation, and is certified by the Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program.  12-month contract, but you can cancel at any time, for any reason, without paying any penalty.  BBB rating = A+
AEP Energy ECO-Advantage 100% Renewable Fixed Price Offer (100% Wind) 7.99 cents/kWh AEP is a large multistate utility. 36-month contract, but you can cancel at any time, for any reason, without paying any penalty.  Only available for Pepco customers, not BG&E or Potomac Edison customers.  No MC-FACS member experience with this supplier and there are customer complaints about AEP’s Ohio affiliate on Yelp.  BBB rating = A+
WGL Energy Services 100% National Wind Power(100% Wind)   8.50 cents/kWh (12-month) 8.30 cents/kWh (24-month) IFPL’s agent, Groundswell a local renewable energy non-profit has a supply agreement with WGL Energy Services, an affiliate of Washington Gas Light. 12-month or 24-month contracts; WGL Energy’s penalty for early cancellation is $10 for each month remaining on the contract (so potentially a larger penalty for 24-month contracts).  BBB Rating = A+

What to consider in buying green electricity


Under Maryland law, you can choose a supplier for your electricity other than Pepco, BG&E, or Potomac Edison.   Your monthly electric bill will then have two parts – a smaller continuing payment to Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison (as the distributor) to maintain the electric wires in your neighborhood, and a payment for your “electric supply” that goes to the supplier you choose.

The process of signing up for a supplier is done online and is simple – you will need to consult a copy of your electrical bill to provide your current utility account number as part of the sign-up process.

The cost of green electricity is slightly higher than what Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison will charge for the “electric supply” part of your bill.  For that reason, it is important to know that the green electricity you are paying extra for is really “green.”

The EPA recommends buying green electricity from suppliers that have undergone third-party validation – in the United States, the non-profit organization that provides that independent check is Green-e.

 

Signing up


When you sign up for a green electricity option, you will sign a fixed-price contract for a specific term (typically between 1 and 3 years).  Some suppliers make you pay a penalty if you want to switch to another source of electricity before the contract term is up.  If you want the flexibility to switch based on finding a better price, then you may want to pay attention to termination fees and consider a supplier that allows easy cancellation.

There are other differences among the types of suppliers in the marketplace that may be important to you.  Some suppliers of green electricity are large multi-state utilities.  They may have lower prices for green electricity.

Others are smaller, more local firms that are explicitly organized to operate on socially responsible business principles or that have been certified for environmentally responsible business practices.  Their prices may be higher, but if you want your electricity purchase to encourage more Triple Bottom Line business (Economic, Social and Environmental), then look out for green business or B Corp logos.

If you live in Takoma Park, the City of Takoma Park has a program for purchasing green electricity for its residents that offers low rates and good environmental value.  Visit the program website.

The end of your contract


Shortly before the end of your contract, your green electricity supplier must inform you of your options, going forward:
  1. If you do nothing, some suppliers will automatically renew you for another fixed term at a different fixed rate that may be higher.
  2. They might put you on a variable rate that changes from month to month, which will likely also be higher.
  3. Others may return you to Pepco/BG&E/Potomac Edison as your supplier.

It is important to pay attention to your options at the end of your contract term (be it 1 year from now or 3 years from now), so that you make a choice at that point that continues to provide you with the lowest cost.

   

Option 2: Supporting Community Solar Projects


A complementary strategy to the above is to support the development of solar generation facilities in Maryland through community solar projects.   Maryland’s demonstration program allows such facilities to be built once they have signed up customers equal to the plant’s capacity.

The first PEPCO region project, to be built on a brownfield site in Prince George’s County, is now soliciting subscribers (organized by Neighborhood Sun).

Subscribers receive credits on their electricity bills that will be 5% greater than what is paid PEPCO, resulting in an overall savings.  As a legal matter, you are not buying the solar power generated by the facility itself, but you are directly incentivizing such facilities in Maryland while saving money overall.  You may be able to combine this support with buying your personal renewable energy through one of the suppliers in Option 1.

  Community Solar Organizers:


This article was prepared in June 2018 by the Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions Working Group on Clean Electricity members are: Jon Foreman, Jack Lebowitz, Joelle Novey, Bob Simon, Stuart Simon, Doneby Smith, Gary Steinberg, Nancy Wallace, Walter Weiss, and Diane Wysowski.  Data current as of June 2018.

Community Solar is now available for Marylanders

Community Solar is now available for Marylanders
Montgomery County residents finally have the chance to take part in the new Maryland community solar program and be part of the newest, most innovative solar industry development.

Community solar was initially authorized by legislation in 2015, and it took several years for projects to become available. It’s a great way for people to support new solar power generation without installing any equipment on their roofs.

How community solar works

Residents receive the same benefit as rooftop solar by subscribing to a large commercial project in the same utility area. Community solar brings the promise of solar to a much broader audience, meaning almost everyone can now be part of the solar revolution.

Community solar is available in many states across the U.S. There are several models for it, but the one most common here is the subscription model. This is where a resident (a renter or homeowner) subscribes to a nearby commercial-scale project, and gets a share of the project’s output each month. The subscribing companies typically create the share by matching the resident’s historical electricity usage. Each month, when the project produces power, Pepco puts credits on the resident’s bill to match their solar share. It’s like virtually spinning your meter backwards.

 

Current community solar projects

The Maryland program allows for only a small number of projects each year in the three-year pilot program. There are currently several active projects across the state, in BGE, Potomac Edison, Delmarva Power, and Pepco terrorities.

  • The Pepco project is called Panorama Solar and is located on an old landfill in Ft. Washington, in Prince George’s County. Anyone who is a Pepco customer can subscribe to it. The subscription is a five year deal, with a guaranteed 5% discount against Pepco’s all-in rates. The project is very large and can take about 800 subscribers.
  • For Montgomery County residents in the Potomac Edison territory, there’s the Rockdale Project, in Williamsport. It’s offering a 20 year deal, with a rate that is 17% below Potomac Edison’s all-in rate, and with a 1% annual price escalator. The project can take about 350 subscribers.


Community solar is not the same as retail electric choice. People who are in wind power contracts, or other deals with competitive electric suppliers, can also sign up for community solar. The projects in Maryland will only get built once there are enough subscribers to them. So people signing up can rest assured that they are directly bringing new local, clean energy to our state. This creates green jobs, local power production, and a cleaner environment for all of us.

By Gary Skulnik Gary is a county resident and founder of Neighborhood Sun, a Montgomery County certified green business focused on community solar. For information on how to participate in community solar, go to neighborhoodsun.solar or call 240-284-6245, or email hello@neighborhoodsun.solar

Takoma Park’s Gina Mathias is always up for a challenge

Takoma Park’s Gina Mathias is always up for a challenge
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the county realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words. 

This installment highlights Gina Mathias, Sustainability Manager for the City of Takoma Park.

Want to be featured as our next Partner in Energy? Send us an email!


My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?

Gina Mathias: Thanks to my Dad who took me hiking, many summers at a sleepaway camp, and teachers who understood climate science before the evidence was conclusive, I became interested in climate at a young age.

My real passion for energy was fostered while working for a local energy auditing company where I learned about Home Performance, building science, and energy efficiency while directing energy efficiency projects at multi-family buildings.

 
Gina Mathias

Gina Mathias

MGM: What do you find most interesting about energy issues in Montgomery County?

Mathias: I think the variety and breadth of energy issues in Montgomery County are interesting. The County has to work on residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and even agricultural energy use issues. This creates a complex challenge for the county, but also a deep well of resources for its communities.

For example, the commercial PACE program and Green Bank are excellent innovations that sustainability managers like myself can draw upon when working with the community.

 

MGM: Can you describe what you do in your role as Sustainability Manager?

Mathias: My main role is to implement Takoma Park’s 2014 Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP). The SEAP has 17 key strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions city wide. The city is more than halfway through implementation of the plan, and I’ll be working on an update in fiscal year 2019 to ensure we continue to strive for deeper reductions in emissions. I’m responsible for managing the city’s greenhouse gas disclosure and coordinating with regional and national partners and programs relating to climate and energy.

I also work on a variety of other sustainability issues in the city including serving as the city representative on the Montgomery County GreenFest planning committee; serving as an energy coach and answering resident questions about energy efficiency and sustainability issues; increasing electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the city; and much more!

 

MGM: How does your day-to-day work impact residents of Takoma Park?

Mathias: Some of the work I do benefits residents directly, such as the energy efficiency grants and rebates that are now available to residents.

 

MGM: What has been your proudest moment in your position?

Mathias: I am incredibly proud of Takoma Park’s commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency. In 2017, Takoma Park was named the Sustainable Maryland Certified Champion for achieving the most points of any community certified.

Takoma Park also won third place in the national, years-long Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. These achievements were only possible because of the high rates of participation and involvement from residents, businesses, and staff in the city, and that is what makes Takoma Park a great place to work.

 

MGM: What projects are you working on now that we should be watching?

Mathias: This summer I am challenging everyone in Takoma Park to choose 100% renewable energy at their home or business. Everyone in Maryland has the option to choose renewable, but by my estimate only about 5-6% of residents are buying clean power. We can do better than that! This is one of the easiest, fastest, and cheapest, ways we can make a big impact on our carbon footprints.

To make the process as easy as possible to switch to renewable energy, Takoma Park researched suppliers through an open-bid process and selected CleanChoice Energy as the city’s partner for the challenge. Residents and businesses can choose any supplier they like and still earn challenge points.

CleanChoice was selected for the following reasons:
  • Product: Locally generated! 99% wind and 1% solar
  • Price: $0.086 per kWh
  • Contract: No cancellation fees. 12 month guaranteed price.
  • Certified B Corporation
  • Local company headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • Anyone with a Pepco account can participate, nothing to install.
  • Rebates for qualified low income households


Our goal is 25% of all Pepco accounts in the city to be 100% renewable energy by September 30, 2018. You can check in on how we are doing. 

Gina’s dog also cares about saving energy and turns off the computer when done.

MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home or workplace?

Mathias: At home I have a NEST thermostat that has a mind of its own. I set the program from my phone, and it can put the house into ECO mode all on its own, forcing us to save energy. I’ve installed most of the usual “low-hanging fruits,” such as LED bulbs, fans for summer, low-flow aerators and showerhead, etc. I also try to practice energy-smart behavior, like using cold water for laundry and even washing my face.

But probably my favorite way to save energy happens at work where building-automation technologies help out. Features like motion-sensor lighting, energy-save mode and auto-turn off on office equipment, and thermostat programs make it so easy to save energy. I hope to incorporate more building-automation technology into my home too.

 

MGM: Outside of your role, what other activities or interests do you have?

Mathias: I have a number of crafty hobbies and a home pottery studio where I make ceramic bowls, cups, and vases. My husband and I enjoy traveling whenever we get the chance, rock climbing, and hiking. I also find myself with a long list of home improvement projects for our 1951 home.

DYK: You can choose your energy supplier in Maryland?

DYK: You can choose your energy supplier in Maryland?
It is very common for Montgomery County residents to think that their only choices for an energy supplier are Pepco, Potomac Edison, or BGE. In reality you have many more options and freedom of choice.

The state of Maryland began offering their residents the power to choose their own electricity provider in 1999. With this change, comes the ability to choose your retail energy provider, all of whom attempt to offer the most competitive rates and packages for state-wide electricity consumers.

As a consumer, you can not only save on your monthly energy costs by shopping for lower rates, but you can even take advantage of green energy options, and choose to have your electricity come from renewable energy sources.

When searching for a new energy supplier, you should make sure you do your research as my family recently learned.

 
Chad's family

Chad’s Family

Lessons from a new MoCo resident

When I first found out my family and I would be moving to Montgomery County from Orlando, Florida, I knew I would miss the sunshine, but not the electric bill.  My electricity bill easily reached well over $300 per month starting in June and lasting into September; and it was not that much lower in the months before and after.

However, when I came to Maryland I discovered a benefit I had never experienced. For the first time, I would be allowed to choose my own utility company. In Florida, residents do not have the option to shop around for utility providers. Instead, one is assigned according to the current address or zip code in which one resides. You can imagine what a benefit it can be for an energy provider to have no competition.

As an energy consumer, being able to select an energy provider allowed me the ability to choose where the source of energy comes from. You can choose non-renewable sources like coal, gas, and nuclear, or renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydro. I could even decide to mix and match sources or select a provider based on price and location of the company.

The pricing for my residence ranges between $0.0729 and $0.089 per kilowatt hour (kWh), which gives me a great price scope to choose what best works for me.

There were two resources I used while trying to make a decision:
  • Maryland Clean Energy  provided a clear, simple, user-friendly formatted guide to make my selections, breaking down the necessary information for me to easily understand.
  • Clearly Energy  also provided a clear, and easy way to understand where my energy costs are going and how I could save. All I had to do was put my zip code into the search engine and I could find the best rates for my home.


Now, my monthly energy bill is not only less than what I have paid in the past, but lower than I would have ever expected.  It’s amazing how the needs of the consumer are catered to in such a beneficial manner here in Montgomery County.  It certainly makes me wonder why all energy consumers nationwide are not granted the same benefits.


Chad Baisden is a new Montgomery County resident who resides in Gaithersburg with his wife and two wonderful daughters.

How to decrease your home’s carbon footprint

How to decrease your home’s carbon footprint
Home buyers and owners from coast to coast have zeroed in on cost and energy-saving features in an effort to boost sustainability and make homes more efficient and cost effective. There are many simple and effective ways to reduce home energy use simply by adjusting personal habits.

Turning off lights and adjusting the temperature settings are a good start. More efficient plumbing fixtures and faucets, appliances, and heating and cooling systems also reduce the electric load and water consumption and save money. However, it may be surprising to note that only about 30% of the average American’s carbon footprint comes from home energy use.

Even though more conservative energy use is advisable, there are other ways to make a bigger impact on the environment.

 

Data from the Union of Concerned Scientists on the Global Stewards website confirms that heating and cooling constitutes 17 percent of a home’s energy use, while other energy use comprises 15 percent of the total.

The two best ways to make an immediate impact on household carbon footprint, then, according to Global Stewards recommendations is  to switch to a “renewable energy option” through your local service provider.

In addition, consumers who are interested in calculating their personal carbon footprints can consider buying carbon offsets from a certified provider. These two steps are critical, according to the group.

As more citizens make the jump to renewable energy in the home, reducing carbon footprint in other ways — including transportation, food and other purchases — become more viable for individuals, businesses, organizations and governments to address.

  Owners can also make a difference in their home’s energy quotient, according to the pros, in the following ways:
  • Add solar panels to your roof
  • Buy and install only Energy Star rated equipment
  • Add additional insulation
  • Weatherstrip all doors and windows
  • Seal cracks and eliminate drafts
  • Replace single-pane windows on older homes, with modern thermal-pane, Low-E rated brands
  • Change to programmable thermostats
  • Embrace technology and home automation to control heating and cooling, lighting and irrigation
  • Schedule a home energy audit, and addressing the “energy drains” that are detected
Residential and commercial builders worldwide have made great strides in addressing energy use, green standards, and building “health” in recent years. LEED certification is a standard for new construction, and builders and remodelers recognize the value of modern energy-saving standards, even when sustainable materials and standards are not mandated by code.

  As effective as these widespread efforts are, however, the global reduction of harmful emissions requires additional individual attention.

To learn more about what families and groups can do to effect change in local communities, become involved in action groups and educational efforts that focus attention on solutions rather than dire predictions.

The Zero-Volt Challenge: It’s possible to reduce your energy bill with a few simple lifestyle changes.

Print the worksheet, identify major energy drains and follow the instructions to make a big dent in your bill. Obviously, if everyone did the same, national energy consumption would be lowered.

Other actions include:
  • Joining a local or national organization to spread the word and educate citizens.
  • Educating yourself, embracing positive change in your own home, and then moving on to other areas of life and activity, as you choose.
  • Supporting the ongoing development of renewable energy sources.
  • Investigating global concerns, developments and efforts to reduce the world’s carbon footprint.
***** By Preston Guyton REALTOR® 

Habitat for Humanity repairs and weatherizes homes

Habitat for Humanity repairs and weatherizes homes
Traditionally, Habitat for Humanity is known as an organization where you can volunteer to raise walls and drive nails, and serve alongside your community members in order to build new homes. 

But what about existing homeowners?

What opportunities are available for individuals who already own their home and struggle to make necessary health and safety related repairs? Or struggle with high utility bills as a result of inefficient appliances, outdated heating and cooling systems, or inadequate insulation? Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland is working on helping existing homeowners in Montgomery County through weatherization programs.

 

Save money with weatherization

For the last few years, the Maryland Energy Administration has granted Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland (HFHMM) funds to provide weatherization services to qualified homeowners at no cost to the household!

When you think of weatherization, think of lowering your home’s energy usage through the use of ENERGY STAR appliances, and improving your heating and cooling systems (keep the cold air out in the winter)!

Common weatherization services include:
  • Installation of high efficiency shower-heads and faucet aerators: Conserve hot water and reduce the amount of water used while waiting for the shower to heat up.
  • Installation of energy efficient light bulbs: The benefit of replacing ones light bulbs with LED, for example is often huge.
  • Air sealing of conditioned spaces: Helps to retain the air your heating and cooling equipment creates, meaning that your equipment will not be working overtime in order to maintain the temperature in your home.
  • Weather-stripping around doors and caulking around windows: To minimize the presence of drafts in the home.
More intensive projects include:
  • Whole home ventilation: Makes sure that your home is outfitted with proper avenues for excess heat to escape in the summer.
  • Insulation (installation/improvement): Prevents heat loss in the winter as well as heat protection in the summer. Additionally, by minimizing the difference in temperature from one side of a surface to another, it prevents condensation which contributes to the prevention of mold.
  • Energy efficient appliance upgrades: Depending on the age and quality of your appliances, there are opportunities to upgrade to efficient ENERGY STAR models.
  • HVAC system repairs and upgrades in eligible homes: Not every heating and/or cooling system is eligible for replacement; however if the system is more than 20 years old, it is likely to be eligible.

How do we know if your home is in need of weatherization services?

Simple! If a home looks like a good candidate during the home visit phase of the application process, we will get the home tested in the form of a Home Energy Audit.

The report generated from this audit provides us with information on how your home currently functions, and how it can be made to work better with a list of suggested measures.

Who is eligible for HFHMM weatherization programs?

Single-family homes or townhouses with high electricity bills and old heating/cooling systems would be ideal candidates for the program. Additional qualifications include:
  • Homeowners must own and live in the home that will be repaired. No exceptions.
  • Homeowners must have current homeowner’s insurance.
  • Total household income must not exceed 80% of the AMI: these amounts are listed in the chart on our website. **Please note that income from ALL adults (18+) in the home must be included in the total.
  • Also, note that homeowners must commit to remain in their home for at least two years following the completion of services.


We’re always looking for eligible individuals in need of Repair or Weatherization services. For more information about eligibility, please visit our website.

How do you choose the weatherization projects?

HFHMM is expected to ensure that all energy efficiency measures applied to a given home will pay for themselves in the energy savings they are expected to create over the course of 10 years. This is called the 10-year-payback.

In other words, we are obligated to apply, only the most impactful measures to any home we serve! So if a suggested measure costs $100 and has a projected energy savings of $10-$11 a year, then it would qualify for the program because over the course of 10 years that $10 annual savings would add up to equal or exceed $100. While there are other stipulations, this is the general rule of thumb. **What is important to note here is that not every item suggested by the auditor is guaranteed to be eligible for the program.

 

So, what happens if my roof is leaking or my home needs repairs that keep HFHMM from weatherizing?

Should your home have repairs which stand in the way of proper weatherization (for example, if your roof is leaking), those repairs will be considered against HFHMM’s repair program guidelines. If those items are deemed eligible for our repair program, a work scope will be drawn up for those services and a repair agreement signed. Importantly, while the weatherization program is entirely free to homeowners, the repair program does has a small repayment component which equates to 1-5% of the total project cost depending on household income (with a standard minimum of $125).

Should you have additional repair concerns you would like to have addressed, mention these on inquiry forms and the application. HFHMM is happy to consider any and all concerns a homeowner may have pertaining to their home, provided those concerns are directly related to health and safety of the household. HFHMM does not do cosmetic work.

Interested in Participating?

If you are interested in applying for the program, Submit an Inquiry online. When HFHMM has funding they believe to be applicable to the indicated needs of your home, we will send an application directly to you (if you are eligible).

For more information about all of our programs, please visit: www.HabitatMM.org

   

Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland (HFHMM), which serves both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, has comprehensive programs for existing low to moderate income homeowners.

We have been an active Habitat for Humanity affiliate since 1982, providing decent and affordable homeownership opportunities across our service area. Over the past 8 years, in an effort to expand our mission, and increase the number of families served each year, HFHMM has developed Repair and Weatherization programs for owner-occupied properties.

HFHMM is now able to serve an average of 30-40 homes each year by providing up to $15,000 worth of eligible repair work and an average of about $3,000 worth of weatherization work on a per-home-basis. *********************** Information provided by: Katie Temple, Repair Client Coordinator Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland  

County Advisory Committee member takes energy savings very seriously, especially in her own home

County Advisory Committee member takes energy savings very seriously, especially in her own home
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the County realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words. 

This installment highlights Astrid Caldas, PhD and member of the Montgomery County Energy and Air Quality Advisory Committee (EAQAC) 


My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?

Astrid Caldas: I was always an energy saver – my dad would have low wattage bulbs around the house to use less electricity, and taught us to not leave lights on in empty rooms. He also taught me to turn off the shower while soaping and shampooing.

I carried that with me, and when climate change became a big(ger) deal some 15-20 years ago, I became even more strict – I go around the house turning off lights, have energy efficient appliances, programmable thermostat, and do all kinds of things to reduce energy usage.

I was part of the task force that created Sustainable Maryland back in 2009/2010. I got so interested in climate change that I changed my career, went back to school, and I am now a climate scientist working with climate impacts and adaptation.

 

MGM: What do you like most about living in Montgomery County?

Caldas: I love that our County is one of the most progressive in the country when it comes to sustainability and energy initiatives, and related education. We need the education component, because without it people cannot know the connections between climate change, energy, and sustainability. The Department of Environmental Protection does a great job of education and outreach. Oh, and all the green spaces and biking paths!

 

MGM: If you could be a renewable energy source, which would one would you be?

Caldas: I would definitely be solar! A solar panel lying on a beach somewhere…

 

MGM: What has been your proudest accomplishment when it comes to energy or water savings?

Caldas: My house uses less energy than most energy-efficient homes in my neighborhood! I did a full home energy audit years ago, and found my house is pretty good at energy savings. That only makes me want to save more.

 

 

MGM: What green projects are you working on now in your home or community?

Caldas:I am about to replace my HVAC system – it is old, and even though the technicians say it is very efficient, I know I can do better. Unfortunately my house is not a good fit for solar, or I would have done it.

 

MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home?

Caldas: Keeping the thermostat always a bit too chilly in winter and a bit too warm in the summer. Second choice is only doing cold water, full loads of laundry.  

 

MGM: What’s one thing you’d like to share with your neighbors about energy efficiency?

Caldas: Don’t think what you do won’t make a difference – it will!

A study showed that Americans underestimate how much energy they could save by implementing energy efficiency measures at home – their estimates are on average 3 times lower than the actual savings they could achieve. Plus, if everyone in the US aimed to reduce their carbon footprint by 20%, we would avoid over 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere per year – that is huge!

Americorps Fellow brings green living initiatives to Montgomery Housing Partnership

Americorps Fellow brings green living initiatives to Montgomery Housing Partnership
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the County realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words. 

This installment highlights Sheri Brooks, Americorps Fellow at Montgomery Housing Partnership  

 

My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?

Sheri Brooks: I was taught from a fairly young age that it was important to preserve our planet as best we could. However, I also had the good fortune of living with several people in college who were studying environmental science and policy and I learned a lot from them.

 

MGM: What do you find most interesting about energy issues in Montgomery County?

Brooks: Montgomery County has so many resources directed toward making everyday living cleaner and greener and I really enjoy finding out about all the ways the County uses those resources.

 

MGM: Can you describe what you do in your role at Montgomery Housing Partnership?

Brooks: I am developing and piloting several programs to be used each year to help our residents save money and access more opportunities for success. One of those programs is a Green Living Initiative and my goal is to educate our residents on how they can save their wallets and the planet with energy saving habits.

 

MGM: How does your day-to-day work impact Montgomery County and its residents?

Brooks: Montgomery Housing Partnership provides County residents with access to high quality, affordable housing as well as programs to help the kids achieve their best potential. My work specifically is toward giving our residents of all ages the tools to live healthier lives and take full advantage of the opportunities available to them.

 

MGM: What has been your proudest moment in your position?

Brooks: I have only been at Montgomery Housing Partnership for a few months but it has been really exciting to learn about Montgomery County and to see the potential for partnerships and program development.

 

MHP location piloting a Green Living Initiative

MGM: What projects are you working on now that we should be watching?

Brooks: I mentioned the Green Living Initiative, which I am very excited about because I am working with Larissa Johnson from the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a program that would be accessible for our residents at our properties but could also be used to implement similar programs throughout the County.  

 

MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home or workplace?

Brooks: I enjoy using my food practices and choices to save energy and have been learning more about it recently. I try to buy mostly food from sustainable sources and I share a lot with my roommates to cut down on waste and use of water while cooking.

 

MGM: Outside of your role, what other activities or interests do you have?

Brooks: I enjoy jogging and walking on the Rock Creek Trail, reading, and volunteering with other local non-profits whose work I admire.

Sheri Brooks

  Want to be featured as our next Partner in Energy? Send us an email!

There’s a way to make your home more energy efficient…for free!

There’s a way to make your home more energy efficient…for free!
Did you know that there’s an organization in Montgomery County that offers safe and healthy home repairs at no cost to the recipient? There is and the organization is called Rebuilding Together Montgomery County (RTMC).

RTMC works in partnership with state and local governments, community volunteers, nonprofit service providers, and corporate partners to provide free critical home repairs, energy efficiency upgrades, and accessibility modifications to our County’s most vulnerable residents.  They make repairs to homes, ranging from a small plumbing repair to a major system replacement and include weatherization and energy efficiency measures as well!

Currently, they are looking for homeowners who qualify for the Energy Efficiency Program. That includes homeowners with an income that is 50% of area median income. To find out if this is you, check out the 2017 rent and income limits chart.

 



The Energy Efficiency Program

The Energy Efficiency Program is designed to help those who have no other means to complete needed repairs. RTMC is working to improve the safety, warmth and security of the homes as well as to provide accessibility modifications. Repairs can include
  • minor plumbing and electrical work;
  • roofing, floor, wall, and ceiling repairs;
  • energy efficiency and weatherization;
  • some (limited) interior and exterior painting, installation of grab bars and building of ramps; or
  • trash removal and yard work.


Repairs are made through RTMC’s National Rebuilding Day Program, Volunteer Handyman Program, Energy Efficiency Program, and/or Critical Needs Program. This repair work is done year-round.

Weatherization and Energy Efficiency

What does it mean to have weatherization and/or energy efficiency upgrades? There are lots of different areas that they focus on and here are some examples of what to expect if you qualify:

 

A certified contractor will use diagnostic equipment to perform a comprehensive home energy audit and determine how improvements throughout your home can work together to maximize energy efficiency and savings. Some of these tests may include:
  • A blower door test that uses the combination of pressure and airflow measurements to determine your home’s air leakage, which contributes to higher energy costs.
  • Thermographic camera tests that use infrared images to assess the effectiveness of your home’s insulation, which directly affects your home’s comfort and energy efficiency performance.
  • Combustion and safety testing to detect carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks.
  • Verification of adequate ventilation, which is critical to reducing indoor air pollutants, moisture and odors in your home. Without proper ventilation, some household contaminants can cause health problems, while excess moisture can lead to mold growth and physical damage to your home.


Weatherization reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of the homes while ensuring the resident’s health and safety. Some of the areas that they will address in your home may include:
  • Adding insulation in the attic/crawlspace – Insulation does two important things.
    • First, it provides thermal resistance. Remember that heat always tries to move to colder places unless something (like insulation) gets in the way. Insulation stops the warmth created by your furnace from escaping through your walls to the outside.
    • Second, insulation makes the surfaces on both sides of a wall similar temperatures. This prevents condensation and mold from growing on the colder surface of the wall where the moisture condenses. To prevent mold, the most important thing you can do is stop condensation. Insulation does this in both winter and summer.
  • Caulking of windows – Caulking windows, weather-stripping doors, and closing your chimney flue when it’s not being used are just a start. Most houses have substantial numbers of outdoor air leaks in the attic and basement. Other leaks are hidden behind walls or under siding. These leaks allow polluted air into the house, and allow heated or cooled air out of the house.
  • Installation of energy efficient light bulbs – Switching out your lower-efficiency bulbs to higher-efficiency bulbs, like LEDs, mean that you will be consuming 80% less energy compared to incandescent light bulbs.
  • Installation of energy efficient appliances – Every appliance comes with two price tags: the purchase price and the cost of operating the product. ENERGY STAR certified appliances help consumers save money on operating costs by reducing energy use without sacrificing performance.
  • Installation of high efficiency shower-heads and faucet aerators – These upgrades will save not only water but electricity, as demands on water heaters will also go down, thereby saving energy. High-efficiency faucet aerators reduce the amount of water flowing through the tap, thus using less energy.
  • Maintenance or replacement of heating/cooling systems – When you are not using hot water, your tank loses as much as 2-4 degrees of heat. One way to maintain the heat is by insulating the water heater and its pipes with insulation and pipe sleeves. Additionally making sure you are checking air filters every three months, or 90 days, will help keep your systems in good shape.
 

Interested in Participating?

Single family homes or townhouses with high electricity bills and old heating/cooling systems would be ideal candidates for the program. Here are some additional qualifications, they are looking for:
  • Homeowner(s) who own and live in the home that will be repaired. No exceptions.
  • Homeowner(s) who are current on their mortgage payments.
  • Total household income must not exceed the amounts listed in this chart. Income from ALL residents in the home must be included in the total.
  • Also, note that homeowners should remain in their home for at least five years following the completed repairs.


If you are still interested in applying for the program, applications can be found here. And for more information, visit rebuildingtogethermc.org.