Tag Archives: New England Smart Energy

EcoFest Sustains Itself

“Sustainability” is a big part of EcoFest’s message.

But for its 1st 2 years, the townwide environmental exhibition/music festival produced by Staples’ Club Green could not sustain itself.

This year’s free event — set for tomorrow (Saturday, June 11, 12-5:30 p.m.) at the Levitt Pavilion — is as sustainable as its message.

After 2 years of help from Green Village Initiative and CL&P, this year the student organizers looked for business sponsors.  Included are New England Smart Energy, Terex, Chevy Volt, Tauck-Romano, and GVI.

“We wanted to show the public who really cares about the environment,” says spokesman Ben Meyers.  “To wash your car, go to Westport Wash & Wax — they’ve got solar panels.”  Car wash credits are one of EcoFest’s raffle prizes.

“The music and green message has always been there,” Ben notes.  “But this year the club really wanted to make sure to hit the ‘eco’ part.  It’s all about getting more products and things that people can use.”

Over 30 vendors will sell sustainable products, offer options like solar and wind energy, and provide low-key educational activities.

Plus:  face painting, recycling racing, create-your-own-green cleaning products, raffles of cool environmental movies, and more.

Also on tap:  food and drinks from the likes of Skinny Pines organic pizza, Planet Fuel organic juice drinks, and Steaz teas.

The Staples cheerleaders support EcoFestClub Green will sell its own organic t-shirts, and BPA-free water bottles. Two electric cars -- a Tesla and Chevy Volt -- will be displayed.

Meyers says that Fairfield County is “one of the worst CO2-emitting areas in the world.”  The average local resident uses twice the amount as the average American — and 9 times more than the average Chinese (52 tons per year, versus 6 in China).

“One reason is our big houses, and how we insulate, heat and light them,” Meyers says.

Tomorrow, turn off your lights.  Shut the a/c.  Head to the Levitt, for the 3rd annual EcoFest.

Hopefully, you’ll get there by hybrid or electric vehicle.

Or on bike.  Or foot.

Westport Home Energy Challenge Update

The good news:  The Westport Home Energy Challenge — the program through which homeowners get a complete assessment, plus freebies like replacement shower heads and 25 incandescent bulbs — is a roaring success.

The bad news:  The assessment co-pay for oil-heated homes — currently $75 — will rise soon.

The good news:  Anyone who schedules a visit right now — even if it’s conducted a couple of months from now — still pays just $75.

Just contact Stephanie Weiner of New England Smart Energy Group ASAP:   877-824-8448

Tell ’em Dan Woog and “06880” sent you!

My Pipes Are Clean

It’s like preparing for a physical.  You know you need it, but you don’t want to hear what the doctor finds.

And you hate it when he pokes around everywhere.

I didn’t have a physical last month; my house did.  I volunteered to be tested as part of the Home Energy Solutions program — a CL&P solution to high energy bills.  (How oxymoronic does that last phrase sound?)

So — as part of the kickoff to the Westport Home Energy Challenge, whose goal is to conduct an HES assessment in at least 10 percent of the town’s homes over the next 3 years — I signed up to have my ducts inspected and doors blown.  They would even twist my bulbs.

At the stroke of 8 on a recent Saturday morning, 2 men from New England Smart Energy — a CL&P subcontractor — rang my bell.  Val Siretsanou — a personable, knowledgeable and (ho ho) energetic “home energy specialist” — took the lead.

He explained the process.  First he would test my house for tightness and drafts; then he’d fix problem spots with foam, caulk, tape or whatever.

Next he would test my air conditioning and heating ducts for air flow, and seal as needed.

Finally he’d replace faucets and shower heads with low-flow devices, and replace up to 25 incandescent bulbs with energy-savers.

All that, for just a $75 co-pay.

As Val readied his equipment, we chatted.  Every day is different, he said.  He treats split levels, Colonials, big new homes, converted barns — you name it.

In terms of energy efficiency, age matters less than the tightness of the home’s “envelope.”  I didn’t know houses had envelopes, but Val said that the amount of attention paid by a builder to things like insulation was key.

That’s sort of like a doctor saying the key to good health is good genes.  We’re all at the mercy of stuff that happened long before we were born/bought our home.

The blower test.

It was a cold morning, but Val opened a sliding door.  Using my square footage, he calculated how much air my home needed to be both energy efficient and healthy (too low a flow leads to mold).  The answer:  718 cubic feet per minute.

I had no basis of comparison to know if that was good or horrible.

Next, Val attached an MRI-size device into the open door.  The blower test took 5 minutes.  I felt like I was waiting for the pathology report.

My air flow, I learned, was 3 times what it should be.  I thought I’d failed.

Val put on his best reassurance face.  “It sounds like a lot,” he says.  “But that’s about average.”

Next, Val and his assistant used a smoke-like device to test my recessed lights.  Drafts snagged the smoke and carried it high; it was clear my lights were sucking heat skyward.  Val’s solution:  Replace them with mounted fixtures.

On to my duct system, and good news:  They were in great shape.  Embarrassingly though, Val discovered that a heating register in my kitchen was closed.  I hadn’t even known.

After a bit of caulking, sealing and other snuggifying measures, Val redid the blower test.  This time my air flow was only twice the recommended rate.  “We got it down by 600 cubic feet per minute,” he said.  “Usually it’s only 200 to 250.  That’s great!”

I high-fived myself, as if my doctor just reported that my cholesterol was way, way down.

The smoke test shows heat escaping through recessed lights.

Two hours later, my bell rang again.  Brittany Chamberlin — New England Smart Energy’s “energy advisor” — was there to interpret the results, and answer questions.

She scanned the information, and praised the “great reduction” so far.  She looked at the recommendation to replace recessed lights, and scheduled an electrician’s visit.  She assured me that the changes were “little, not life changing,” quality-of-life-wise.

But, Val said — consulting his calculator — they would mean big payoffs.  I’d save $245 a year on my electricity bill — and another $140 from the energy-saving bulbs alone.

Val and Brittany gave me extra goodies:  printouts galore, with more arcane data than most hospital charts.

A glossy brochure on energy-efficient (CFL) light bulbs, which apparently are a tough sell for some people but which I immediately liked.

Flyers for rebates on everything from refrigerators and hot water heaters to insulation and dehumidifiers.  Fortunately, most of my equipment is in fine working order.

This was a checkup I always knew I should have.  Like many people, I put it off far too long.  The results are in, and now I can breathe easier.

Especially because my air flow is so good .

(Interested in a Home Energy Solutions assessment?  Click here — and tell ’em Dan Woog sent you!)