GUC: Energy-efficiency program works
By T. Scott Batchelor
The Daily Reflector
Monday, March 24, 2008
It’s official: Greenville Utilities Commission’s energy-efficiency program for new home construction actually works, and quite well.
Faculty members in the East Carolina University Department of Engineering conducted a study, commissioned by ElectriCities, to examine the effectiveness of Greenville Utilities’ E-300 program.
To meet requirements of the voluntary 30-year-old program, builders and homeowners submit plans for evaluation by an energy specialist. Recommendations for insulation and other energy-saving features are made on the basis of a computerized load calculation.
If the structure’s heat loss falls within acceptable levels, the house qualifies for the E-300 award. To verify installation of energy-efficient features, the structure is carefully inspected at several stages of construction.
Gene Dixon, an assistant professor in ECU’s engineering department, said the results showed that homes built under the energy guidelines used 23 percent less energy than other homes.
“It’s very effective,” said Dixon, who worked on the study with colleagues Paul Kauffmann and Tarek Abdel-Salam.
“There’s not a comparable program in the state,” Dixon said of the E-300 program. “GUC’s been very progressive in maintaining it,” he said.
The study surveyed random homes in Greenville, Wake Forest, Apex, Clayton and Lumberton and took about five months, Dixon said.
Energy usage in homes built under the E-300 standards was compared to usage in homes that weren’t. Dixon said the survey showed the consumers’ energy-use habits. With permission of the homeowners, the researchers contacted their utility providers and looked at that data as well, said Dixon.
Andy Yakim, head of energy services for GUC, said the results are even better than what the study shows.
E-300 customers kept their homes at an average of 72 degrees during the winter, while those in the nonE-300 homes kept it at 68 “like they’re supposed to,” Yakim said.
Still, the energy-efficient homes used about 23 percent less energy than their counterparts, “saving a lot of money and staying four degrees warmer,” Yakim said.
Controlling for the difference in thermostat settings likely would yield an energy savings in the E-300 homes of 40-45 percent, he said.
Participating homes take into account energy considerations such as insulation, the type and size of heating and cooling systems, orientation to the sun’s rays, how tight the structure is with respect to air leaks, and even landscaping.
There are 101 Pitt County builders that are trade allies who participate in the program. More than 11,000 structures have been built under the program since its inception about 30 years ago.
ElectriCities is a nonprofit organization representing municipalities and universities that own electric-distribution systems. GUC is a member.
Dixon said the organization launched the study with an eye toward a state law passed last year regarding the promotion of renewable energy and calling for reduction in energy consumption and of carbon-dioxide emissions.