What did your icicles reveal to you last year?  Move to recapture heat and dollars

“Energize Bedford” visited to enlighten New Castle
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
by Christine Yeres

At town hall last Tuesday, New Castle’s first “Sustainability Summit” filled the house.  Around 100 members of town boards, residents and students as well as emissaries from “Energize Bedford” met to discuss both how to reduce New Castle’s carbon emissions and how residents can save energy dollars while making their homes more comfortable (yes—last winter’s icicles are pointing the way).  In “Read more…” see what measures your neighbors suggested that will help reduce our town’s carbon footprint.

Beth Sauerhaft, chairperson of New Castle’s Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB), ran a brisk, informative meeting that ended in two kinds of actions:

1. sign up to form committees through SAB that will help to educate residents and promote sustainable practices here in New Castle

2. sign up for a home energy assessment to see for yourself what money you can save

Residents can still sign up for either or both, by emailing Beth Sauerhaft at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Very simple, low-tech measures will save you money right away

The talk last Tuesday never broached alternative high-tech energy sources like solar or geothermal.  In fact, changing your home’s windows was also pretty low down on the list of biggest-immediate-bang-for-your-buck measures you can take. Instead, switching your light bulbs to CFL’s, plugging leaks in your house and insulating your attic were billed as the big money-savers, yielding immediate payoff for relatively little outlay. 

Our neighbors in Bedford have blazed a trail

After securing $2.6 million in funding from the Department of Energy, Bedford 2020—“reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2020”—launched its Energize Bedford program in January 2010. Now run by 90 volunteers, its mission is to show 13 neighboring towns (New Castle among them) how to reduce energy use.  Since 53% of all the energy we consume goes to heating and cooling our homes—and, of that, it’s likely that 30% of it is lost through leaks in our homes—houses are the logical place to begin.  Representatives from Energize Bedford shared some of their successes in changing residents’ habits of energy conservation and consumption.

Sign up for a home energy assessment

Signing up for a free or low-cost analysis of how and where you’re leaking energy is the number-one message of Energize Bedford—and they’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for homeowners to act.

In order to navigate the sea of technical information and offers from professional contractors, Energize Bedford has tested the program on its own residents. To apply for a free or low-cost home energy assessment, click HERE.  The application goes to NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) for approval.  NYSERDA will respond to you within 48 hours. Then, rather than locate a random contractor yourself to do your assessment, Energize Bedford will help guide you.  They’ve developed relationships with several local contractors specializing in home energy assessments.  These contractors are listed on the Energize Bedford website, along with contact information for Bedford residents who have undergone an assessment themselves.  They can tell you what it was like, what changes they made to their homes, and the results.  Click HERE to see the list.  [Below, see a video of three Bedford residents who went through with the assessment and made changes to their homes, two were older homes, one new.]

In addition, if you register with Energize Bedford, the group will shepherd you through the process, help you to weigh and prioritize the contractor’s recommendations contained in his or her scope of work.  Energize Bedford’s Energy Coach, expert Dick Kornbluth, will be available to advise you.  You’re under no obligation to implement the measures suggested by the contractor who does your assessment, but if you do, Energize Bedford will also arrange for a third party to come assess the result, to be sure the work was done well and is saving you money.

Local experts to help follow Bedford’s lead

At Tuesday’s meeting, Beth Sauerhaft, chairperson of New Castle’s Sustainability Advisory Board, announced that she’d submitted her own house to an energy assessment and will share the results publicly.  She introduced Norm Jen, a resident of New Castle who instructs home assessment contractors for the Building Performance Institute.  There are steps you’ll be able to take right now, Jen told the audience, such as programing your thermostat to a lower temperature when you’re away or for the night—rather than leaving it on “Hold” at 70 degrees.  He emphasized the importance of learning how heat is escaping from your home: “Stop those leaks and then insulate.”

energy home
Blue arrows are cold air entering; red arrows are heat escaping.

The closing message of the Sustainability Summit: Take action now.  Sign up for an assessment and we’ll reach out to you about what you can do make your home more comfortable and save money. 

Sauerhaft asked for suggestions from the audience on subjects they would like to see tackled by New Castle’s Sustainability Advisory Board longer-term.  Their suggestions follow:

• I see schools lighted at night. Do cleaning crews need all the lights on?

• Can we track progress as we reduce energy use in order to provide incentives to improve further?

• Fill empty school buses.

• Mass transit to and from train station

• Cars and trucks still idle, even though it’s illegal.

• Parents drive kids to school, and kids drive to school too.

• People don’t realize that water usage is very energy-intensive.

• Energy is wasted in collecting leaves. Mulch in place instead.

• Chemicals on lawns, education on lawn care without chemicals

• Why is the air conditioning on now at town hall?

• The storms we experienced a few weeks ago will be more frequent. We need to be resilient, to learn to resist shocks. 

• We need to get information to homeowners, to have a clearinghouse to see people through the home energy assessment process, a list of contractors.  A clear information source for homeowners.

• Reach out to the high school because there are 1300 of us.  Eight of us are here tonight, but maybe have something like this at the high school, even if the same ideas are presented.

• A website.

• Teachers and parents should prepare our children/their students to be active citizens.

• The Sustainability Advisory Board is starting a Facebook page

• Education on lawn care and fertilizers, plants that are native and sustainable, biodiversity; teach children not just with computers but by being outdoors.

• Buy local—businesses, thrift shops where things are recycled.  Previously-owned jeans.

• Travel less out of the area.

• Outlaw plastic bags.

• Encourage composting.

• We can invest as a town in a commercial composter.

• A study was made for the town that would use waste wood (and there’a a lot) to heat the highway garage.  Use our own locally grown sustainable fuel.

• Town might want to have solar energy on lampposts around town and on the bridge in addition to the solar wall on the water plant

• Educate the public on the carbon footprint of food, especially meat, in the school cafeterias

• Have a way to share metrics that others would want to exceed, do better than.  A competition between individuals or organizations such as houses of worship.

• I’d rather see collaboration rather than competition.  My husband just got a chainsaw and our neighbor came over and said Ohmygod I’ve got to get one too.  I said why don’t you guys share.  He has a chain saw; you can get a snowblower for winter, and share them.

• Instead of having asphalt parking lots, more pervious surfaces

• Mulching in place?  A website where the landscapers who do the mulching in place are listed and you can find them easily

• Create economies of scale, helping residents purchase energy efficient technology collectively, reducing costs

• Sometimes the LED lights feel dangerous when you’re walking your dog.

• A community challenge so that schools, town, businesses and others can work together to do something that’s sustainable that will also reduce our taxes.

• Work with Con Ed so that your electric bill shows how your bill compares to the average in your neighborhood.  That’s been shown to be very effective in reducing consumption.

• Some of us have wells and have very hard water.  I’d like to see us do something about not having salt systems used in trying to soften the water.

Editor’s Note: Three videos follow:

• A six-minute video of three Bedford residents who undertook an energy assessment and made changes to their homes as a result—two were older homes, one was brand-new

• A video of the hour-and-a-quarter Sustainability Summit

• A 15-minute video of some exit ideas from New Castle residents.  One such idea was for the town and school district to invest together in a $10,000 compost machine here, at Hunts Lane, so that the schools’ food waste that is now taken to Connecticut to be composted could instead be processed here in town and sold.


A 15-minute video of Sustainability Summit exit-ideas:

We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

A lot of those suggestions and observations were “right on”.  But, what is anybody doing about them?  I was especially taken with the comment that the shcools’ lights are on all night.  Why?  I drove by the new middle school one Thanksgiving about a year ago and every single light was on?  Has anyone investigated this and done something about it – School board?

By Nora Mackenzie on 12/06/2011 at 1:06 pm

If you would like to “do anything about them” please contact Beth as the article suggests. We want to set up task forces for many of these suggestions.

Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

By Dick Goldsmith, Member of SAB on 12/09/2011 at 8:58 am

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