RPCC’s Building Efficiency Team envisions a future in which Rochester is recognized as a Hub of Energy Efficiency Excellence!  We will have reached this goal when we…

  1. Achieve or exceed the emissions reductions targets set by the City of Rochester’s Climate Action Plan, within the City limits and beyond;
  2. Transition away from using traditional furnaces powered by natural gas and other fossil fuels to heat our homes, in favor of heat pumps that are run on electricity sourced from 100% renewables;
  3. Attract businesses that manufacture top-of-the-line energy efficiency products;
  4. Offer training and continuing education opportunities here in Rochester where builders, architects, and engineers from around the state come to learn about energy efficiency best practices.    

 

We are currently working with the City of Rochester to implement the residential building efficiency measures described in the City’s Climate Action Plan.  Specific initiatives will include…

  • Developing a rental property efficiency program to encourage landlords to invest in energy efficiency upgrades;
  • Providing tools that allow prospective buyers/renters to compare the energy efficiency of similar properties, thereby empowering consumers to make energy-smart choices;
  • Educating the community about technologies, design strategies, and existing programs that they can take advantage of to make their homes as efficient as possible, (such as heat pumps, Passive House design, and NYSERDA programs)
  • Advocating for policies and programs that allow us to meet our energy-saving goals.   

 

Every house is unique; therefore, every house needs a customized plan to maximize energy efficiency, comfort, and safety. If you’d like to improve your home’s performance, we recommend the following basic approach (in this order!):

  1. Contact Scott Oliver at PathStone whose job it is to provide free, unbiased “energy coaching” services to anyone in the Finger Lakes Region.  As the Green Jobs Green NY Constituency-Based Organization (CBO) for the Finger Lakes Region, PathStone offers free consultation for homeowners, assistance with NYSERDA applications, help evaluating retrofit options, and information about grants and financing.  Scott’s phone number is (585) 546-3700 ext. 3003 and email is soliver@pathstone.org.  He’ll guide and support you through all of the remaining steps!
  2. Get an energy audit to identify your biggest energy-saving opportunities.  Most NYS residents are eligible for a free energy audit through NYSERDA, though you might want to consider paying for a more comprehensive audit if you can afford it.  Many contractors in our area perform energy audits, including the following RPCC members: Airtight Services and Wise Home Energy.
  3. Implement energy upgrades based on the results of the energy audit.  Recommended upgrades may include…
    • Insulate and air seal as much as possible!  It’s important to minimize air infiltration and leaks before you upgrade your heating system, or you’ll end up with equipment that is too big (and too expensive).  Houses that are built to Passive House Standard are so airtight that they barely need to be heated at all!   
    • Upgrade your heating system, and ideally GO ALL ELECTRIC.*  You’ll have a few options to choose from….
      • Best Options: cold climate air source heat pumps or geothermal heat pumps!  Rebates are available through NYSERDA, which participating installers can help you get.  Despite the rebates, heat pumps typically require a greater upfront investment than traditional furnaces, though they are a better investment over the long term.  However, if you plan to install a new furnace and air conditioning system, installing a heat pump (which can heat and cool your house) will likely cost about the same amount.  And since heat pumps are much more efficient than traditional furnaces and can be powered by 100% renewable energy, they are cheaper, cleaner, and healthier to use.  More info about using renewable heating and cooling technologies in NYS here.  
      • Decent Option: If the upfront costs of installing a heat pump aren’t manageable, a high-efficiency natural gas furnace is your next best option.
      • Bad Options: Please don’t get a low-efficiency natural gas furnaces or any system that burns fuel oil or propane!  If you currently heat with oil or propane, which are expensive, upgrading to a heat pump will almost certainly save you money in the short-term and be far healthier for you and the planet.  And though they are technically ALL ELECTRIC,* steer clear of baseboard electric heaters and space heaters, which are terribly inefficient and expensive to run.  
    • Update your appliances, light bulbs, and hot water heater for additional energy savings.  Purchase the most efficient model you can afford, and strive to GO ALL ELECTRIC* when possible.  For example, instead of getting a gas stove, get an electric induction stove.  To make hot water, consider getting a heat pump water heater or solar hot water heater.  And definitely replace your incandescent bulbs with LEDs, which are considerably more efficient and last much longer!          

 

Other things to think about:

  • In addition to benefiting our climate, upgrading the energy efficiency of your home can improve your health, safety, comfort, and ability to pay your bills.  
  • If you’re building a new house or doing a gut renovation on your existing home, you should definitely talk with a Passive House consultant to find out if building to Passive House standard (with our without certification) is a viable option for you.  The following RPCC members specialize in Passive House design: Rochester Passive House Consulting and Airtight Services.   
  • We strongly encourage you to GO ALL ELECTRIC* because electricity can be supplied by 100% renewable energy sources, which emit no carbon pollution and do not contribute to climate change (as opposed to burning fossil fuels for heat and power, which does pollute and cause climate change).    
  • Once you GO ALL ELECTRIC,* you can stop paying RG&E’s $18/month service charge just to have a gas hook up.  That alone will save you $216/year!
  • You’ll also want to make sure that your electricity is coming from a 100% renewable source, which will become the default option in municipalities that establish a Community Choice Aggregation program.
  • Even after you GO ALL ELECTRIC* and get electricity from a 100% renewable supply, it’s still important to use electricity efficiently, so please turn off your lights and gadgets when you’re not using them.    
  • New windows aren’t typically the most cost-effective energy efficiency upgrade, but if you’re going to get new windows, take some time to educate yourself about energy efficient windows before you decide which windows to buy.    
  • Houses are complex, and if you don’t understand the interactions of systems you can inadvertently screw things up and waste a lot of money.  In addition, not all contractors have their clients’ best interests at heart, and even the best equipment won’t perform well if it’s installed incorrectly.  We recommend that you get multiple quotes and check out contractors’ reviews on Angie’s List or a similar site.  Working with a knowledgeable, independent energy coach who can support and guide you as you figure out which energy upgrades to invest in can also be very helpful, so call Scott Oliver at Pathstone!  Again, his number is (585) 546-3700 ext. 3003; email = soliver@pathstone.org.    

 

Other resources:

 

*GO ALL ELECTRIC using modern high-efficiency technologies that are powered by 100% renewable electricity.  In addition to powering your home with electricity, you can GO ALL ELECTRIC to meet your transportation needs as well!