Latest Posts

  1. Cool Energy Efficiency Gadgets to Take Your Savings to the Next Level

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    Last week, we compiled five easy, free ways to save on your energy bills. This week, we’re talking about our favorite energy efficiency gadgets that will help you boost your savings even further! We tried to focus the list mostly on items that are small, easy to use, and relatively affordable—and included a few ways you can get them for less!

    • Smart Power Strips
      • Have you checked your home for energy vampires lately? Energy vampires are appliances that draw energy or “phantom loads” when they are plugged in but not in use. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates phantom loads cost households $100 per year. Smart power strips work to combat vampire power by shutting down power to products that go into standby mode. Learn more here about how smart power strips function and can save you 5 to 10% per year on your electricity costs.
    • energy efficiency gadgetsLED Lights
      • Did you know that 85-90% of the electricity consumed by incandescent light bulbs is turned into heat? Save money and beat the heat by upgrading to cooler, energy efficient LED bulbs. While they cost a bit more upfront than traditional bulbs, they last 10 to 25 times longer and save $30 to $80 in electricity costs over their lifetimes. Many hardware stores have instant rebates offered through electric utilities—look for their logos next to LED products! Check out this cool guide to LED bulbs we worked on with online home retailer Wayfair.
    • energy efficiency gadgetsHigh-Efficiency Showerheads
      • Did you know that standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm)? Water–saving showerheads that earn the WaterSense label, a standard created by the Environmental Protection Agency, must demonstrate that they use no more than 2.0 gpm. The WaterSense label also ensures that your showerhead functions equally as well as or better than conventional showerheads, so no need to sacrifice on water pressure. WaterSense labeled products are certified to use at least 20 percent less water. The average family could save 2,900 gallons per year by installing WaterSense labeled showerheads!
    • Smart Thermostats
      • Coming home after a long day at work to a nice cool house is great, but why cool your space all day when you’re not there? Smart thermostats give you the ability to control the temperature of your home even when you’re on-the-go. Smart thermostats are Wi-Fi enabled and allow you to control heating and cooling in your home from a smartphone. Additionally, these devices can learn the ideal temperature you like and create a schedule that automatically adjusts to energy-saving temperatures overnight or when you’re out of the house. They also allow you to track your home’s energy use, making it much easier to see where you can shift and save.
    • Energy Star Appliances
      • energy efficiency gadgetsEnergy Star is a voluntary program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency that independently certifies products that save energy without sacrificing functionality. While products like dishwashers and washing machines are some of the most high-profile Energy Star appliances, the Energy Star website has a Product Finder tool that showcases the numerous energy-saving products available. While savings percentages will vary depending on the product, getting rid of your older, inefficient appliances and investing in high-efficiency ones can help you save on both your monthly energy and water costs. Energy Star labels clearly explain projected savings so you can estimate the payback period of the product before you buy.
    • Places to Save on These Gadgets
  2. Five Small Behavior Changes to Help You Save Energy for Free 24/7

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    Even though measures like air sealing and insulation can make a huge difference in your energy use and utility bills, saving money and energy doesn’t always require an upfront investment. Here are five no-cost ways you can use less energy throughout the day, shave a few bucks off your energy bills, and spend that extra money on enjoying the remaining dog days of summer!

    • In the morning:save energy for free
      • When you’re starting your day, let the sun shine in! You can avoid turning on artificial lights, and temperatures aren’t usually high enough yet in the morning to add heat to your home. As fall approaches, daylight hours are long enough to light your space even if you’re an early riser.
    • Before you leave for work:save energy for free
      • Adjust your thermostat 10° to 15°F for eight hours and save around 10% per year on your heating and cooling bills.
    • In the afternoon:
      • If you’re at home for the day and are looking for a way to stay cool and save, a ceiling fan can allow you to raise your thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort. Coupling this tip with air conditioning allows you to save without breaking a sweat.
    • After dinner:save energy for free
      • On hot summer days, you can lower your electricity bills and minimize indoor heat at the same time by running the clothes dryer and dishwasher at night and letting your dishes air dry instead of running that steamy dry cycle. Year-round, wash your clothes in cold water, which in addition to costing less, also keeps your clothes looking newer longer.
    • Before bed:
      • Have you checked your home for energy vampires lately? Energy vampires are appliances, such as coffeemakers and televisions, that draw energy or “phantom loads” when they are plugged in but not in use. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates phantom loads cost households $100 per year. Before you turn in for the night, check around your house and unplug devices that aren’t in use to save!

    Stay tuned for our next blog, where we’ll be talking about cool gadgets you can use to boost your energy savings even more!

     

  3. Go With the Flow: Expanding Water Efficiency in Our Building Services

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    We’ve been helping building owners and managers tame high-utility costs for almost ten years, and throughout that time we’ve experimented with incorporating recommendations to increase water efficiency and stop uncontrolled water leaks in buildings.

    As the cost of water steadily rises, property owners are increasingly concerned about keeping water costs down. Identifying the causes of high water bills can be a difficult task for building owners and managers. Elevate Energy is now expanding our building services to address water-related issues that increase the cost of operating and maintaining affordable and healthy housing.

    water efficiency

    Click to view the full fact sheet.

    We created a new fact sheet (at right) detailing the range of services we can offer to help building owners manage water use across the life span of a building. We are happy to discuss the best services and identify a tailored approach for making your building more water efficient.

    In addition to the new fact sheet, we’ve enlisted our entire staff to help identify the best products to recommend to building owners. We don’t want to recommend anything that we wouldn’t be happy to use ourselves! Senior Program Support Associate Lana Panitch pre-selected a variety of water-efficient shower heads and asked staff to try them out in their own homes (they are also installed here at the Elevate Energy office in the showers for our staff that run, bike, or walk to work) and report back on their experience. Staff members are in the process of testing these out so that residents in the buildings we support can enjoy water and bill savings without compromising an enjoyable showering experience.

    water efficiency“The majority of Elevate staff have reported back that the high-efficiency showerheads perform so well that they prefer them to their own,” said Lana. “Considering their potential for delivering water and energy savings, I think that the WaterSense-labeled showerheads provide a lot of value to homeowners.”

    In line with amplifying our water efficiency efforts, we’re proud to be a WaterSense Partner, a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency. water efficiencySince the program’s inception in 2006, WaterSense has helped consumers save more than 2.1 trillion gallons of water and billions in water and energy bills. We’re looking forward to adding to those savings as we broaden our ability to help building owners lower their operating costs and focus on maintaining high-quality affordable housing.

    If you have any questions or are interested in working with Elevate Energy, please contact Ryan Wilson at 872-206-3590 or by email at .

  4. Selling the Sun: Elevate Energy Course to Help Real Estate Pros Value Solar is Now LIVE!

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    This post is an update on our progress since our receipt of a $445,000 cooperative award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative

    iStock_49020018_LARGEIt took 40 years to reach the milestone of 1 million solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in the United States, but the Solar Energy Industries Association predicts that it will only take two more years to reach one million more.

    Some states have more installations than others, but growth is happening nationally, including places not typically considered sunshine states, like Massachusetts and New Jersey. But for most real estate agents and appraisers, assessing the value of solar is a new frontier.

    selling the sunIn an effort to close the knowledge gap, Elevate Energy received an award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to lead the development of an online training program that will teach real estate professionals, appraisers, and appraiser regulators how to value residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. We’re excited to announce that the “Selling the Sun: Establishing Value for Solar Homes” course is now live and available for real estate professionals to take online!

    Real estate professionals that understand the basics of solar and know how to discuss the benefits of an installation will have a market edge. This course will help real estate agents communicate the value of solar installations to homeowners and lenders. It will also inform real estate agents about what questions to ask, how PV solar installations affect the sale of a home, and how to identify installations on a multiple listing service.

    “It’s a critical step in the evolution of clean energy,” said Elevate Energy CEO Anne Evens. “For residential solar power to flourish, property owners need to have confidence that their investments will be recognized in the market.”

    Once PV solar installations are consistently and accurately valued and investment increases, so too will growth of clean energy nationwide—and that’s what we’re most excited about.

    Learn more and take the course here.

  5. Energy Efficiency in Michigan: Creating Financial Stability for Low-Income Families and the Nonprofits that Serve Them

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    energy efficiency michigan low incomeMore than 1.4 million Michigan households, or 37%, are considered low-income, earning less than $30,000 annually. Many low-income households face a large energy burden, which can be defined as a household’s heating and electric expenses as a percentage of income.

    Great progress to reduce energy burden has been made in the Midwest by improving energy efficiency, but hard-to-reach populations still face barriers to access programs and funding. To reach these markets, we need to know more about them. Elevate Energy’s approach is to research underserved markets and present data-driven evidence to underscore the need for energy investments. In this vein, we recently worked on a study of Michigan’s low-income residential and nonprofit sectors to quantify the opportunity for energy use reduction through efficiency improvements. Quantifying these impacts shows that underserved markets can significantly contribute to reducing Michigan’s greenhouse gas emissions, save low-income households money, and strengthen local economies.

    Through a generous grant from The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Nonprofit Capacity Building Energy Efficiency Program offered by The Cook Family Foundation, we created four resources to advocate for energy efficiency programs in underserved markets: two white papers entitled “Opportunities for Energy Efficiency in Low Income Michigan Housing” and “Energy Efficiency: A Step Closer to Financial Stability for Michigan Nonprofits,” an energy burden scorecard for the state, and performed energy audits on seven buildings and wrote case studies on projects that completed retrofits.

    These four resources serve as tools to help Michigan bring equity into the state’s energy future. They illustrate the energy needs and diversity of the low-income residential and nonprofit sectors; outline a roadmap to a multifaceted approach to energy efficiency program design that meets the needs of Michigan’s unique housing stock and reduces energy burden on low-income families; and demonstrate the effectiveness of retrofits in nonprofit buildings.

    For the low-income housing white paper, we compiled a range of data sources to understand the breakdown of low-income households, housing type, and utility usage throughout the state of Michigan. We found that the state’s residential energy consumption ranks higher than the regional and national average. High electric prices point to the potential of high energy burdens on low-income households. To achieve energy and cost savings across the state, Michigan needs a multipronged strategy that delivers utility cost savings that will reduce water, electric, natural gas, and/or propane costs designed to reach each unique community.

    One example of such a strategy is the Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Multifamily Green Initiative which is supporting developers of affordable housing in Detroit through energy efficiency and solar retrofits. Elevate Energy is working closely with Detroit LISC and their first cohort of affordable housing owners to continue improving housing options for low income families.

    The nonprofit white paper highlights that energy efficiency programs are not always designed to be as accessible to nonprofits. This creates an unfortunate reality where nonprofits often miss opportunities to decrease operating costs and use a larger share of their budget on providing much-needed, direct services. The paper makes the case that nonprofits should inquire about and take advantage of existing utility-funded energy efficiency programs, and funders can make clean energy activities more accessible by providing efficiency-specific grant dollars or investments.

    energy efficiency michigan low incomeThe energy burden scorecard is a handy visual resource to explain the concept of energy burden and the energy burden specifically of low-income Michigan families who spend, on average, 15% of their income on energy.

    Elevate Energy worked with Michigan Energy Options (MEO) to identify and select Shiawassee County nonprofits seeking energy efficiency improvements. MEO and Elevate offered their expertise to expose areas of opportunity for energy and cost savings and assisted nonprofits in becoming financially stable.

    We completed energy assessments for Devries Nature Conservancy and the SafeCenter, and provided customized reports highlighting the most cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades. Selected upgrades for Devries Nature Conservancy included an LED lighting retrofit and solar installation financed through a lease agreement with Chart House Energy with no upfront cost to Devries Nature Conservancy. For the SafeCenter, we helped coordinate with Consumers Energy to conduct a lighting fixture replacement, decreasing the organization’s lighting consumption by 78%, allowing additional funding to help domestic violence victims.

    We are working toward creating more success stories, like the Spring Manor multifamily facility in Portage, Michigan. In November 2016, after an energy assessment by Elevate Energy, Hollander Development Company replaced 100 inefficient furnaces in an affordable senior housing facility. The energy savings go directly to each tenant while also creating more comfortable and healthy homes.

    We’re so excited to continue doing this work in Michigan in the future to help families decrease their energy burden.

  6. Anne Evens Discusses Low-Income Efficiency with Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers

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    The following is an excerpt from Elevate Energy CEO Anne Evens’s discussion with the Citi Foundation’s Community Progress Makers (CPM). CPM is a national cohort of 40 nonprofit organizations, of which Elevate Energy is a part of, working to establish new approaches to long-standing urban economic challenges; learn more about our involvement here. The excerpt appeared in their periodic e-newsletter to fellow Community Progress Makers.

    Citi Community Progress Makers

    1. Why should organizations that serve low-income families care about energy efficiency?

    For families on limited incomes, the energy burden can be enormous—up to 25% of their monthly budget. But if their home is properly insulated and they replace old appliances with energy efficient ones, families could reduce their heat, power, and water costs by up to 30%. That’s a huge savings. As our country moves to a clean energy economy, we need to make sure that low-income communities are able to take advantage of the benefits of clean energy and efficiency in the same ways that more affluent communities are benefiting.

    Elevate Energy fills an important gap for community-based organizations, affordable housing providers, and local governments by providing technical assistance, program implementation, and research and policy expertise. We offer financing and grant programs for low-income families, and we offer an innovative energy efficiency loan product in partnership with a local community development financial institution, Community Investment Corporation, for affordable housing owners investing in energy efficiency upgrades. We also work with governments to promote smarter energy policies that direct more investment in low-income communities.

    We can offer our data and evidence as case studies for other Community Progress Makers looking to build the case for energy efficient programs for low-income populations in their community. And there’s a network of organizations like Elevate Energy that we can connect you to.

    Citi Progress Makers

    June 2017 Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers Chicago Cohort Meeting at Elevate Energy’s Office

    2. Tell us about the partnerships you’ve developed with other Community Progress Makers.

    It’s been a win-win to work with each of the other Community Progress Makers in Chicago. For example, we’re working on a clean energy business incubator model with Greater Englewood CDC to provide better access to skilled energy efficiency contractors and good paying jobs in the community. In addition, we joined the Center for Economic Progress’s (CEP) tax prep volunteers on the Progress on the Go van to educate families about home improvements that reduce energy costs. Reciprocally, CEP shared research and is helping us design financial tools and education programs to help families avoid getting behind on their energy bills and risk having their utilities disconnected, their credit score negatively impacted, and added fees and penalties. Elevate Energy, the Delta Institute, and Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) continue to partner on lowering costs in affordable housing through energy efficiency and renewable projects.

    3. What is your proudest Community #ProgressMakers moment?

    The Community Progress Makers Fund gave us the breathing room to think big and take Elevate Energy’s work to the next level. We were great at implementing programs, but since becoming a Community Progress Maker, we’ve learned the importance of being influencers, not just doers. I’m particularly proud we were able to impact a major piece of state legislation that is historic for Illinois, and possibly the country, that increased funding for energy efficiency programs by 40% for low-income families.

    Learn more about the Community Progress Makers Fund here.

  7. Elevate Energy to Provide Technical Assistance in National Community Solar Challenge

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    We’re working to ensure that everyone has access to the benefits of a clean energy economy, and one way we’re doing that is through community solar. However, it’s a relatively new concept that can be difficult to implement, especially in low- and moderate-income communities, due to:

    • Technical Issues: some rooftops are unsuitable for solar panels (shaded/physical obstructions, too small, etc.);
    • Ownership: renters and condo owners typically do not own their roof; and
    • Cost: despite the drop in the installed cost of solar, some households simply cannot afford the upfront cost.

    community solar challenge
    We’re proud to be part of a new opportunity to push community solar further. The US Department of Energy SunShot Initiative recently kicked off the Solar in Your Community Challenge, a $5 million prize competition that aims to expand access to solar energy to everyone, especially underserved populations like low- and moderate-income households, state, local, and tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations. In order to make solar more accessible and inclusive, the challenge tasks 50 teams to develop replicable plans that hopefully will result in actual projects. The competition aims to spur the development of new, innovative financial and business models that serve non-rooftop solar users such as community solar.

    The teams of project implementers can take advantage of technical assistance from us, including:

    • Help building a business model by using our Community Solar Business Case Tool;
    • Guidance on how to identify key stakeholders, engage communities, and develop a marketing plan; and
    • Assistance in navigating the utility interconnection process.

    We’ve been building our expertise on solar business models and are excited that we can now support the Challenge teams. In addition to the Challenge, we’re also working with Cook County on the Cook County Solar Market Pathways project. We are conducting in-depth assessments of pilot sites that were recently announced  to examine their suitability for community solar and then will develop appropriate ownership, financing, and management models for each eligible site.

    Want to work with us or learn more? Contact Jan Gudell at .

  8. With or Without the White House, Climate Action Moves Forward

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    Elevate Energy disagrees strongly with President Donald Drumpf’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, which commits the United States and 180 other countries to voluntarily reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.paris agreement

    Despite the disappointing decision from the White House, all is not lost. There are hundreds of committed groups like Elevate Energy across the country that are continuing to develop and implement innovative climate change solutions that also encourage economic development. For instance:

    • Elevate Energy recently helped pass the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, state legislation that will increase energy efficiency programs generally and especially for low-income households, create a new community solar program that will directly target low-income communities, and provide job training to ensure environmental justice communities will benefit from jobs created by the bill.
    • Outside of Illinois, we are working with an array of partners to expand energy efficiency programs in other states and cities by providing a blueprint to accelerate the growth of leading-edge efficiency programs for multifamily housing that result in unprecedented energy savings.
    • Even at the federal level, Elevate Energy is providing technical assistance to teams participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar in Your Community Challenge, a $5 million contest to support innovative and replicable community-based solar business models and programs that will bring solar to underserved communities.

    “The most devastating impacts of climate change will fall on families in low-income communities, which is why we are firmly invested in advancing policies and programs that bring the benefits of a clean energy economy to those that need them most,” said Elevate Energy CEO Anne Evens. “With or without leadership in the White House, we will continue to fight for and with low-income communities for equitable access to these benefits.”

  9. Improve Your Home with the Micro Market Recovery Program

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    Does your house feel drafty, overly hot in the summer, and freezing in the winter? Do you have high utility bills? Elevate Energy has helped hundreds of homeowners improve their buildings and reduce high utility bills through energy efficiency upgrades, with the important added benefits of strengthening communities and keeping housing affordable. One way that we do this is through the City of Chicago’s Micro Market Recovery Program (MMRP), where we partner with community groups to provide no-cost energy efficiency home improvements to qualified homeowners in MMRP Target Areas.

    micro market recovery program target areas

    The energy efficiency upgrades make homes more comfortable, reduce energy bills, and improve indoor air quality. The upgrades may even increase home values. Income-qualified homeowners get access to a forgivable loan of up to $8,000 to cover the cost of the recommended home improvements. The most common energy efficiency improvements are attic insulation and air-sealing (blocking areas where heated or cooled air leaves the house).

    micro market recovery program assessment“This program represents the core of our mission,” said Elevate Energy CEO Anne Evens. “It delivers energy efficiency and water saving upgrades to families who are paying a large percentage of their income on housing and utilities. Elevate MMRP helps families put that money toward their future, like paying off a mortgage or saving for college.”

    See if you qualify today at https://www.elevateenergy.org/mmrp/!

     

  10. Our New Research Study Will Help Chicagoans with Asthma Breathe Easy

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    asthma breathe easyDo you, or another adult in your home, have asthma? Your home could be part of the Breathe Easy Project, a two-year study on respiratory health and home air quality we’re leading with the Illinois Institute of Technology. By participating in this study, your household could earn $310 or more, and you’ll receive a ventilation system to improve indoor air quality at no cost. You’ll have to complete brief surveys and make your home available for air quality testing.

    “We’re excited to give homeowners suffering with asthma a unique opportunity to address the indoor air quality issues in their home,” said Elevate Senior Healthy Homes Specialist, Amanda Gramigna. “We know that poor indoor air quality can trigger asthmatics and lead to repeated medical need, and improved ventilation systems are much more energy efficient as well, creating energy cost savings in addition to health benefits.”

    It’s easy to participate: we will install a ventilation system in your home to improve indoor air quality. One adult from each household will complete surveys about health, which will include questions about your general health and your household. Then, fill out a brief monthly survey for the next two years about your health. We’ll call to remind you to fill out the surveys and be available to answer any questions. We’ll visit a few times over the two years to take air quality measurements. And that’s it!

    asthma breathe easy
    Participation is limited, so please contact us at 312-453-0902 for more information.

    For more information, check out the program flyer and FAQs herePresione aquí para más información en Español.