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 or call 240-284-6245, or email

Our top tips for a green back-to-school season

Our top tips for a green back-to-school season
Summer is almost over, and that means one thing — the non-stop back to school ads with dancing kids and the message to shop, shop, shop for the school year.

If you’re like me, and trying to minimize your environmental footprint, this time of year can be very stressful. Did you know that the National Retail Federation estimates that “Total spending for K-12 schools and college combined is projected to reach $82.8 billion?” That’s a staggering amount of new stuff that could eventually wind up in a landfill one day.

It’s not too late to plan out how you can have a successful school year and minimize the green guilt.

Take Stock

Dig in the school supply bins and pull the boxes out of the closet. Determine which items can be repurposed and reused from previous years.

  • Does that backpack really need to be replaced??
  • Is that lunchbox still sturdy enough for the upcoming school year?
  • And don’t forget the electronics such as computers, graphing calculators, and printers (more on these later). Of course, they’re newer, sleeker and lighter options, but are those upgrades worth the price?

If your child wants to go back to school with new supplies, try a compromise. They get a new backpack, but must reuse the other supplies. Any of the old supplies should be donated.

Slay the Energy Vampires

Energy vampiresComputers, phone chargers, printers — literally any device that is switched off, but remains plugged in – operates on standby power and is costing you a lot of money!

Invest in a Smart Power Strip. At $20 to $30, it’s a bit costlier than an average power strip, but is worth it. The strip stops drawing electricity from appliances that are turned off, meaning you don’t have to remember to switch the strip on and off every time. In fact, using a smart power strip throughout the house will save energy and dollars in every room.

Have you signed up for a Quick Home Energy Checkup? If you haven’t already, they are a service provided by your energy utility company at no-additional cost to you. During a QHEC, an auditor will provide you smart power strips and other energy saving devices and suggestions. Contact your electricity utility provider to learn more.

pens and pencils

Write Smart

The days of throwaway pens and pencils are gone, replaced by eco-friendly pens, and recycled versions of both. Once you have greener options in hand, encourage your kids to keep each pencil until it wears down to the nitty-gritty, and to use each pen as long as possible.  With greener pens, you won’t feel bad whenever one “disappears” or falls between the seats of the car.

Don’t Sacrifice Your Fashion Sense

Kids grow like weeds, so buying new clothes from retail stores not only wastes a lot of money for very little value, but “fast fashion” also contributes greatly to both sweatshop labor and waste. According to Eileen Fisher, a clothing industry magnate, “the clothing industry is the second largest polluter—second only to oil!”

Recycle clothesOrganize a clothing swap with your neighbors or co-workers. If that’s not an option, consider purchasing clothes from consignment shops and thrift stores. A popular trend is upselling gently used clothing at stores like Plato’s Closet and Uptown Chesapeake and using the money to purchase new-to-your-child clothing. These stores specialize in teen and young adult clothing and accessories that are in good condition and trendy. TotSwap, Maryland’s leading children’s consignment shop, is holding a swap at the Fairgrounds on September 18, 19, 21 and 23.

For clothes you are buying new, wait until Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week. This year, the first $40 of a backpack or bookbag is also tax-free. Accessory items like school supplies, except backpacks, are not included. The Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week for this year is Sunday, August 12 – Saturday, August 18, 2018.

And of course, don’t forget your reusable bag when shopping for clothes!

Pack Waste-Free Lunches

Ditch the brown bag and opt for a washable, reusable container to pack your lunch. Invest in a PVC-free, thermally insulated lunch bag, one made from recycled materials like juice boxes or from organic cotton.

Keep lunches cool by freezing water in a reusable container and slipping it in the bag. Instead of using baggies and plastic wrap for sandwiches and snacks, use reusable plastic containers or an easy to clean Wrap-n-Mat.

I polled DEP colleagues and asked what steps they’ve taken to green school lunches. One colleague said she saves used cereal bags, cuts in half and uses it to wrap sandwiches. The Laptop Lunch box system is also a good choice for reusable lunches, and includes individuals containers and beverage holders. For other beverages, use metal bottles which come in kid-friendly sizes and designs.

Green the Commute

To help reduce air pollution—a major contributor to childhood asthma—investigate whether you live on or close to the school bus route.Even if your child stays late for chess club or soccer practice, most schools have an extended bus schedule to accommodate.

BusIf you live relatively close to the school, a “walkpool” is a great way to save gas, reduce emissions, while getting your steps in! Parents take turns chaperoning a group on foot (or bike) to and from school.

Finally, if walking, biking or the bus aren’t options, organize a carpool with your neighbors.

Textbooks are Expensive — Buy Used

TextbooksUsed textbooks are often available for half off or more in campus bookstores, and websites such as eCampus and Amazon Textbook Rentals also carry a broad selection of used titles. (You can search by ISBN, Author or Title.) Renting or buying used textbooks is an increasingly popular option that helps to reduce the number of books being created, which can save millions of trees.

According to a statement issued by the Environmental Paper Network, “If the U.S. reduced its paper consumption by 10 percent annually, we could save enough energy to power 228,000 homes, conserve 11 billion gallons of water, and prevent carbon emissions equivalent to removing 279,000 cars from the road! Choosing used textbooks can help.”

Start a Conversation

ConversationInclude your children in the conversation about why going green is good for them and the planet. They should feel like part of the decision making and not that going green is forced upon them. Hopefully, because of your thoughtful conversations with your kids, they will make greener, healthier choices when you aren’t there watching over them. It’s the first step towards them becoming a global citizen.

Hope these tips allow you to have a happy and green back-to-school season!

By Cindie Harrison, Program Manager at the Montgomery County, MD Department of Environmental Protection

MCDOT sponsors free PARK(ing) Day celebration

MCDOT sponsors free PARK(ing) Day celebration
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is encouraging artists, planners, businesses, organizations, groups, and individuals to participate in International PARK(ing) Day on September 21 by temporarily transforming a metered parking space in Silver Spring or Bethesda into a fun, parklike spot. Participants are encouraged to creatively reimagine the urban landscape for a day. See photos online from previous years that include a park with plants, mini-golf course, campfire site and games and interactive activities for kids and adults. There is no charge to participate in the event.

“PARK(ing) Day is a way to have fun, stimulate conversations about our transportation choices and support infrastructure that is more transit-oriented, bikeable and walkable,” said MCDOT Director Al Roshdieh. “This year, MCDOT is offering PARK(ing) Day applicants the opportunity to promote their services and provide free samples or giveaways at their ‘park.’ In addition, applicants can suggest a preferred parking space location if the spot they have in mind was not identified as an option on the online map.

PARK(ing) Day spots were chosen with safety in mind, but MCDOT will evaluate other location suggestions. The use of parking spaces will be allowed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., including set up and tear down.

DEP's Parking Day Display in 2017

DEP’s Parking Day Display in 2017

  Those interested in taking part in PARK(ing) Day can get more information and apply online or by mail. Participants are required to meet certain guidelines that are spelled out in the application. Guidelines for businesses have been relaxed to allow more promotional activities.

Get inspiration and see what others have done on past PARK(ing) Days online.

Join DEP at the 2018 County Fair!

Join DEP at the 2018 County Fair!
We love the County Fair! From the animals to the rides and carnival games, it’s one of our favorite times of year. (And don’t get us started on the food.)

But the main reason the Department of Environmental Protection loves the County Fair is that it gives us the opportunity to engage and talk with thousands of County residents over the course of a single week! We get to hear from you, exchange ideas and share what programs we have available for you.


Fun at the Fair

The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair offers a great opportunity to have fun and learn. This year, the Fair is August 10th-18th. Where else can you see pig races, Chainsaw Carver demonstrations, learn all about bees, buy award winning bake goods, and visit educational booths?  As a bonus you can visit us!

Image of geese dressed up at the County Fair

Even geese dress up and come out to enjoy the Agricultural Fair.


The DEP Tent

This year, DEP will have one tent with all the information about our Department under the same roof – learn about recycling, energy, your watershed, trees, and composting in one spot!

  • Pick up a compost bin
  • Ask a recycling question  (or answer one for a prize!)
  • Learn how we clean our waters with rain gardens and bioretentions
  • Spin the “green” wheel for prizes
  • Discover our RainScapes, Tree Montgomery, and energy programs
  • Learn about litter prevention
  • Pick up resources and informational tools
Image of kids participating in the DEP trivia game.

Test your knowledge by participating in our fun trivia game.

  The DEP booth is located next to the Chilly Mall and the 4-H Building.

Overall, we are very excited to be gearing up to participate and look forward to seeing you there!

Visit for the latest schedule, maps and all the details of Fair activities.  

Sustainability is not an “add-on” at CNSI

Sustainability is not an “add-on” at CNSI
For CNSI, a Rockville-based health information technology company, environmental sustainability is central to its corporate culture and work ethic. Importantly, their Green Business Certification is not viewed as a distinct add-on to the company’s strategic objectives.

Rather, their environmental efforts are rooted in an integrated corporate social responsibility (CSR) framework which focuses on doing the right thing in all aspects of business. Hence, their environmental initiatives flow naturally from this over-arching framework.

iCare and The Five Pillars

To better define their objectives, CNSI created their iCare program in 2015, which consists of five pillars: People, Environment, Governance & Ethics, Philanthropy & Volunteerism, and Innovation. The company’s overarching CSR motto is,“Think Globally, Act Locally.”


The governance of iCare was structured to ensure that its objectives are woven throughout the fabric of CNSI’s business. Leaders from each business unit, which include Human Resources, Information Technology & Security, Ethics and Corporate Compliances, Facilities, and Marketing Communications, create annual CSR goals and tactical plans to achieve those goals. These goals and plans are then approved by the company’s board of directors and tracked throughout the year by the iCare Leadership Committee. To showcase the impact of the programs efforts, the company provides an annual CSR report (the 2016 report can be found on their website and the 2017 report will be released shortly).

The CSR committee is housed in the marketing department and as Jennifer Bahrami, Vice President of Marketing Communications, says, “None of our CSR work would be possible without having 100% buy-in from our leadership. Our efforts touch each part of the business and collaboration is vitally important.”

  iCare at CSNI

Think Globally, Act Locally

To act on their mantra, “Think Globally, Act Locally”, CNSI’s CSR consultant Mary Fehlig, of the Fehlig Group, another Montgomery County Certified Green Business, encouraged CNSI to consider certification. As they gathered data, they quickly discovered that they were already doing many of the suggested actions as a matter of course. Missie Aulls, CNSI’s Facility Manager and the company’s lead on the certification process, was pleased to discover that, “We are actually implementing a lot of green practices. We just did it because that’s the way we thought it needed to be done, not because we were seeking a particular certification.”

They also found the checklist provided a tangible and detailed roadmap to help the company communicate ways in which employees can “live green”, both in and outside of the office. It also allowed the Green Committee to engage with more departments and expand their sustainability efforts.

The Green Business Certification Program also helped CNSI to determine areas in which they could improve, and better ways to measure progress. Their goals for 2018 include the following:

  • Complete each phase of the Continuous Improvement Plan, which involves monitoring defined metrics
  • Expand awareness tactics for all employees including e-newsletter articles, in-house digital advertising, and in-person education events.
  • Institute a Fair Trade Certified and low-impact purchasing policy at all project sites.
  • Identify requirements and begin work on greening three office locations outside the county, utilizing the Green Business Certification framework.

Their main challenge was pulling all the information together from various departments. But now they possess real data on things like recycled and recyclable office supplies, coffee packets, etc., that provide tangible evidence they are making progress toward their goals and a positive impact on their local and global environment.

The certification has also helped them understand that their commitment to organizational stewardship comes alive when policies are put into practice.



Earth Day Becomes Earth Month

Since iCare began, Earth Day has been an important cornerstone to increase employee engagement and raise awareness of environmental issues. In the past, CNSI has distributed reusable mugs, bags, and garden seeds. They also make an annual contribution to the Arbor Day Foundation. Given that CNSI is an IT company, they place a great deal of emphasis on electronic recycling. Each year, they host an e-cycling event where employees can bring in used or broken electronics for proper recycling. To date, more than 2,500 pounds of electronic waste has been collected.

In 2018, Earth Day transformed into Earth Month. Throughout the month of April, the company hosted different sustainability activities. In addition to their annual e-cycling event, the company invited a representative from Waste Management who showed the process, goals, and tips for proper recycling.

The company also extended their seed giveaway by distributing more than 1,000 packets to all their US offices. Lastly, the CNSI office in Michigan teamed up with their local area food bank to weed, clean up, and plant fresh vegetables and fruit in their garden.

To highlight all these activities, the Marketing Communications department put out a e-newsletter at the beginning of the month, advertised events on the company’s intranet, and displayed weekly ads on the TV screens located on each floor. These promotional and educational materials are then used throughout the year to serve as friendly reminders of how to be environmentally conscience.

Sustainability Embedded

What is readily apparent is that CNSI’s sustainability efforts are not simply about checking the boxes. Their significant efforts are very much a part of their corporate culture and embedded in their long-term commitment to being a good corporate steward.

Article by Julia Craighill, Ensight Consulting

Getting rid of your lawn? Follow our plan for a beautiful garden AND happy neighbors

Getting rid of your lawn? Follow our plan for a beautiful garden AND happy neighbors
Making the switch to less lawn requires prep work. You can’t let the lawn go wild on its own, because it may not attract pollinators, and it certainly won’t make your neighbors happy!

A lawn won’t spontaneously turn into a garden or meadow — it is much more than throwing away your lawn mower.  Do your research or consult with an expert who knows about transitioning from lawns. And don’t sell that lawnmower or weedwhacker. In most cases, you’ll still need it to maintain clean edges.


Talk to your neighbors

Communication is the best way to minimize disagreements and keep everyone happy. Tell your neighbors what your intentions are. Sometimes our imagination or fear gets the best of us, so if your neighbors know what you are doing upfront, they are less likely to look at it negatively and they’ll come to you first with questions or concerns.

Signs are another good technique to educate neighbors. You could have your garden certified through the National Wildlife Federation or if it is a County RainScape, put up a RainScape sign.


Start in the least visible part of your property

If possible, we suggest you start with the backyard, and not the front. Your front yard is more likely to be subject to weed complaints, and neighbors grumbling as they pass by.  It will also allow you to learn from the experience before moving to the more visible parts of your property.

Neighbor grumbling is completely natural. Many folks have become accustomed to the look of lawns in their communities, and make a connection between meadows and tall grasses with disarray, mess, and pests. By following some of these tips, you’ll hopefully minimize the grumbles, and eventually, turn your neighbors opinions around.


Maintain a really good border around your new meadow or garden area.

This is one of the “cues to care” that tells your neighbors that you are actively maintaining the area. We recommend keeping a 2 foot wide mowed area, mulched bed, foundation plantings, decorative stones, or a decorative fence around all sides of your gardens. How about a bench, birdhouse, bird feeder, or sculpture? Learn more here about cues to care.

  • Never let plants hang over into a sidewalk or roadway, or a neighboring property. Never let plants block signs, intersections, or cause any other unsafe situation for the public.
  • Don’t just “let it go” if you decide to stop mowing a lawn–a meadow or forest will not spontaneously appear. Make an effort to convert your lawn into a garden, at the very least by removing some grass and seeding in or planting native plants, whether it be other ornamental grasses, flowers, shrubs, or even trees. People like to see plants that look familiar to them from other gardens, not just overgrown turfgrass.
  • Trim down or mow your new garden space at least once a year. This is another reminder to neighbors that your new garden is intentional. Many people prefer to do their clean-up in spring, to allow overwintering insects and critters to take cover in standing debris, but year-round, you should thin out or trim plants that have a “messier” look. These might be plants that poke up a lot taller than the rest of the ones around them, plants that are broken or bent, or plants that dry out in summer when everything else is green.
  • Consider a RainScape, with the added benefit of soaking up runoff from your roof or driveway.

  Converted Lawn

Follow the Rules

  • County Code, Chapter 58 (Weeds) says that there can’t be any generalized plant growth more than 12 inches high within 15 feet of any property boundary. Generalized plant growth does not include trees, ornamental shrubs, flowers, or garden vegetables.
  • Check your HOA rules–there’s a chance your community may have specific rules on what you can or cannot do.
  • Always keep out State noxious weeds (thistle, shattercane, and Johnsongrass).

I’m the grumbling neighbor. What should I do about a nearby property that is overgrown?

If you noticed above, we mentioned talking to your neighbor first. Find out what they are doing with their outdoor space, and if you have specific concerns, let them know with a clear and open attitude. Inform them of the “cues to care”, and that with a few small changes, they may be able to tidy up their yard. Before you call the authorities!

If you believe someone’s yard is in direct violation of the County’s Weed Ordinance mentioned above, you may submit a complaint through 3-1-1.

DEP and Safeway want you to “Lighten Your Load”

DEP and Safeway want you to “Lighten Your Load”
This summer, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Safeway stores are partnering to help save shoppers energy and money on their lighting with “Lighten Your Load” events.

On select days at Safeway locations, bring old incandescent and/or compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and receive up to three free LED light bulbs and a new, reusable shopping bag. These “Lighten Your Load” events are a way to save on electric bills and ensure that plastics and dangerous substances, like mercury, do not enter the waste stream.

You can swap your old incandescent and/or CFL bulbs for energy-efficient LEDs on Mondays this summer from 4 to 6 p.m. at the following Safeway locations. Look for DEP staff in front of each store:

  • July 23: Germantown Safeway at 19718 Germantown Road, Germantown, 20874
  • July 30: Rockville Safeway at 5510 Norbeck Road, Rockville, 20853
  • August 6: Wheaton Safeway at 11201 Georgia Ave, Wheaton, 20902
  • August 13: Damascus Safeway at 9807 Main Street, Damascus, 20872
  • August 20: Olney Safeway at 3333 Spartan Road, Olney, 20832

Participants can bring as many bulbs as they have available, but during the swap, each family is limited to receiving three free LEDs. All bulbs collected during the swap will be properly recycled or disposed.

At the kick-off event on Monday, July 16, almost 100 LEDs and 180 bags were distributed to the public.

“We’re giving away replacement LEDs, because it’s a small change that makes a big impact for residents’ utility bills and the environment,” said Patty Bubar, acting director of the Montgomery County DEP. “About 80 percent of households still use incandescent bulbs, and the summer months also have some of the highest electricity bills. It’s the perfect time to make the switch.”

The ENERGY STAR®-certified LEDs offer a warm white light that’s equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb. LED bulbs are more energy efficient, have a longer life span, non-toxic and greener than other alternatives, flexible in color and design, and by switching three bulbs, you could cut your utility bill by at least $25 per year.

“We take our commitment to energy efficiency and reducing waste seriously,” said Darcie Renn, director of sustainability at Safeway. “By partnering with Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, our customers have the opportunity to save energy and lower their utility bills while also reducing waste that goes to the landfill.”

At each “Lighten the Load” event, reusable shopping bags will be distributed to shoppers. Plastic bags are a significant source of litter in our community and pollute our neighborhoods, streams, and playgrounds.

“Lighten the Load” events are part of the Department of Environmental Protection’s efforts to educate residents and businesses about simple actions we can all take to save energy and money.

For more information, visit or contact Larissa Johnson by email or by telephone at 202-281-7173

Trying to be rational in an irrational world

Trying to be rational in an irrational world
Think about the last time you went looking for a new car. What did you look for?

You probably started with your needs for the vehicle and the style of the car you wanted. You then considered the miles per gallon (mpg) of the car, looked up the crash test rating and then read online reviews from car owners about comfort and maintenance. Obviously, the sticker price is a determining factor. And finally, you probably ended up test driving the car to see what it’s like in person before buying.


Now, what if I told you that you must make that same vehicle purchase decision, but only based on the dimensions of the car, the features, some pictures of the interior, and the price?  Do you think you could decide on which car you would want?

You would say I am crazy and that you wouldn’t make the decision on such a pricey purchase with so little information. But, that is exactly what millions of people do when making a significantly more expensive purchase… a home.


A Home Comparison

Look at the two homes shown in the table below. Which one would you pay more money for? Other than a wider driveway and new siding on the home on the right, these two homes appear to be identical, so you would likely expect to pay about the same for both homes.

In fact, these two homes are one and the same, just pre- and post-retrofit!

In a rational world, you would value the home on the right significantly more. There are several key enhancements that the home on the right has that make it more valuable.

Using the car analogy, what are the mpg-like metrics for a home?

The home on the left spends $5,700/year on utilities, while the home on the right spends $1,600/year. What would you do with $4,100 more each year? Simply apply those utility savings to additional mortgage payments and you would trim years off your mortgage.


Just because a home has a heating/cooling system, doesn’t mean it is comfortable. The home on the left was drafty (infiltration rate of 7.1 ACH50) versus the tight home on the right (infiltration rate of 1.9 ACH50).

This resulted in significantly more space conditioning since air was lost to the outdoors. It also meant that the temperature throughout the home on the left would vary by 5°F, while the home on the right maintains temperatures within 1-2°F of the thermostat setpoint throughout the home (with the addition of upgraded HVAC as well).

How about durability and maintenance?

There are several items that separate these two homes:

  • The house on the left had issues with water intrusion at several retrofit windows that allowed water to get into the walls. The house on the right has properly installed windows and a continuous drainage plane on the exterior facade.
  • The house on the left had window A/Cs, so these need to be installed each spring and removed/stored each fall. The house on the right doesn’t have to deal with this issue.
  •  The house on the left had wood shingle siding that was in poor condition and peeling paint. The house on the right has fiber-cement siding.
  • The house on the left had to deal with oil deliveries (and volatile oil prices), the house on the right does not.
  • The house on the left lost power a couple times a year when the utility power went down. The house on the right does not (even when all the surrounding neighbors didn’t have power for several days).

Lastly, what about health?

Would you buy a car that could make you sick or had a poor safety rating? The house on the left had an issue with mice infestation. Thankfully, the house on the right no longer has this issue. After finding mice feces and dead mice everywhere in the home, the previous homeowners were contacted to see if they had health issues. All their kids asthma symptoms were minimized after they left the home.

Clearly, these two homes are not worth the same approximate value as illustrated above.


Make Home Buying More Rational

There are many efforts to make valuing healthy and efficient homes a more rational process. For instance, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been coordinating with the Appraisal Institute regarding green appraisals[1],[2]. Additionally, there are numerous municipalities and even entire states that are starting to include a HERS Index in MLS postings to provide an efficiency metric that can be used by buyers to compare homes.

There are many other efforts being done at an industry level, but what can you do the next time you are looking for a home?

You can learn a surprising amount by requesting utility bill data from previous homeowners and talking to surrounding neighbors. Select a home inspector that has expertise on health issues, such as pests, radon, and mold. The way to change the housing market is for the consumer to demand more.

It will take time, but it is time for us to start acting rationally when it comes to the largest purchase that most of us will make in our lifetime.

Blog adapted from Steven Winter Associates blog, Party Walls, and written by Srikanth Puttagunta, Principal Mechanical Engineer on May 24, 2018. For more information, Header image by iStock

Show your air conditioner a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Show your air conditioner a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Failed air conditioning on a scorching day can turn summer bliss into a sweaty nightmare.  Here are do-it-at-home tips that may help lower your utility bill, save energy and avoid costly repairs.


Replace dirty clogged filters

Dirty filters block airflow and reduce your system’s efficiency. When your cooling system is fighting to pull air through a dirty filter, it makes the system run longer and can increase energy use by five to 15 percent. Running the system with a dirty filter also puts a lot of stress on the entire system and can cause a costly repair. A typical filter only costs a few dollars while a new motor can run $600 – $1,200.

Changing the Filter


Evaluate the area around the thermostat to ensure it registers correctly. Keep lamps, televisions, or other heat sources away from the thermostat to ensure it reads the accurate room temperature.


Set your thermostat

Set your thermostat at 78 degrees for comfort and energy savings. A lower temperature won’t cool things faster and may result in unnecessary expense. A programmable thermostat allows you to keep your home warmer when you are away and cool it down before you return.

Set your thermostat


Professional service

Professional service technicians should check and maintain your system each spring. A certified professional can check your cooling system to clean the coils; check for the correct amount of refrigerant and make sure none is leaking; seal duct leakage in central air conditioning systems; maintain motors, and make sure the thermostat is working properly. This will help ensure your system doesn’t break down on a hot day. Most air conditioning equipment warranties require annual professional maintenance.

Energy Savings

Energy savings is good for the environment and for your wallet. According to PEPCO, properly installed high-efficiency heat pumps, furnaces and air conditioning units can help you save on heating and cooling costs year-round and provide more consistent temperatures and humidity control.

Air conditioning unit



Condensers should be maintained to minimize dirt and debris near the condenser unit and keep it clear of bushes to allow adequate airflow. Also take care when using lawn maintenance equipment close to the wires – you don’t want to accidentally cut one.

  Outdoor Unit


Turn off your air conditioner when you don’t need it.

On days when temperatures are not sweltering, you may be able to stay comfortable by using ceiling fans or opening windows. This helps your wallet and saves energy.

Find out how DGS keeps our County’s 400 plus facilities comfortable and energy efficient. And view more home energy saving tips.

By Al Crutcher, Major Maintenance Project Manager with Montgomery County’s Department of General Services (DGS), Division of Facilities Management