Energy Star

What Has SJVCEO Been up to in September

We hope that everyone is just as happy as SJVCEO that fall has arrived and it is now time for pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters!

For the VIEW Partnership we are embarking on one of the busiest months of the year, energy efficiency awareness month. The partnership continues its long tradition of fall outreach events with hosting four outreach event within Kings and Tulare Counties. These outreach events allow us to connect with residents on energy efficiency tips as well as bill saving programs from the IOU's. We also enjoy that the partnership is able to connect with local supervisors on energy issues and betterment of local communities. Please check out VIEW website for upcoming events. We might just be in your neighborhood during the coming month. We also would like to applaud all of our partner cities and counties on their hard work over this past year. We were able to achieve the partnerships energy saving goal during the month of July. Now we are beginning to figure out the project pipeline for the coming year.

The partnership is also very excited to announce that the City of Visalia has just received ENERGY STAR Certification for its transit building. Visalia is the first partner city that has achieved the status. Way to go Visalia we applaud all of your hard work.

The HDR Partnership has also been very hard at work on finishing projects for the year of 2016 as well as brainstorming projects for 2017. We are happy to say that we already have projects in the que for 2017! We would also like to thank all of our partners who have been hard at work on projects. We are excited to be adding outreach events to the partnership next year. This year the partnership did take part in the conservation fair at the High Desert Mavericks stadium in August. It was wonderful connecting with residents on energy issues as hearing their praise for SoCal Edison. We look forward to participating in even more events in the future.

We would also like to wish all of our readers a Happy Halloween as we will not post another update until the beginning of November!  

How to Save More Energy At Home

There are many ways to conserve energy, resulting in a lower utility bill and a happier Mother Earth. At Modernize, we are thrilled to see more homeowners use more energy efficient appliances, building materials, and tools to help conserve energy. Here’s a round-up of the best energy saving options that you can implement in your home.

One of the easiest things that you can start doing today to save energy is to turn off the faucet in the kitchen and bathroom when you are not actively using the water. Whether you are brushing your teeth or measuring out cups of water for a recipe, the time in between the task will add up to substantial savings.

Set a timer for your shower. My greatest eco-sin is my love for a long, hot shower. As the mom of a little one, the shower becomes a great escape from answering all of the questions that an inquisitive toddler can throw at me. Still, I know I can let too much time slip away as precious hot water spirals down the drain. I have started setting a timer, just like I do when my kid takes a bath. For both of us, the ding of the timer means bath time is over.

Installing a low-flow showerhead is a great alternative for those who just cannot sacrifice the long shower, although using a low-flow showerhead in addition to limiting your shower time is the ideal conservation goal.

Energy Star Appliances
When it is time to purchase new appliances, look for those labeled with the Energy Star logo. These appliances use considerably less energy than the ones they are replacing. You will be pleased with your utility bills when you notice how much you’ve saved. Additionally, you may save even more money on the appliances if you research rebates for the energy-efficient models. Be sure to keep the temperature in your refrigerator between 20 and 42 degrees for maximum savings.
It’s a costly investment, but new windows are a huge energy saver. Look for U-factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) numbers when shopping for new windows. The U-factor measures the window’s rate of heat loss. When looking at the U-factor you want a lower number. The lower the number the better the insulating properties. SHGC measure a window’s ability to block heat from the sun.  With SHGC the ratings are between 0 to 1 and the lower the number the heat that is transmitted. Depending on your region, one may have more importance than the other. If new windows are not in your budget anytime soon, take a weekend to add weather stripping and window films to increase energy efficiency for the time being.Many utilities within California offer energy saving assistance programs that help weatherize your home. If you are interested you can click the links provided to see if you are eligible. PG&E, SCE, SCG

Simple Tips
Keep your heat as low as you can stand it in the winter and as high as you can handle in the spring. This is much easier for me to do in the winter when I can wear layers and get cozy under blankets. In the summertime, my best bet is to leave my house so I can turn the air conditioner temperature up and take advantage of air conditioned stores in public places like the library or a shopping mall. The latter is not recommended for saving money.
Unplug everything when not in use. Make this task easier by using power strips so you only have to unplug one outlet for several devices. Charge all of your phones, tablets, and other rechargeable items at the same time, so you can unplug the power strip for the remainder of the day.  It may seem like a hassle to unplug things like your coffee maker or hair styling tools, but if you’re serious about saving energy and money, these small tasks will add up quickly.
5 More Easy Energy Savers
-   Replace standard bulbs with CFLs that can be recycled when they burn out.
-   Use home-automation products to control lighting and other electronics.
-   Decorate your home with a combination of sheer drapes to allow the sun in during winter months, or blackout curtains in the summer to keep your home from overheating from the sun.
-   Raise the thermostat and cool your room at a lower cost with ceiling fans.
-   Wash full loads in laundry machines and dishwashers. 
* Note: This article was written by Stephanie Sylvester from *

Be a Green Shopper

I admit it. I love to shop. I shop less than a lot of people, but still more than I should, especially because I have everything that I need and more. I am pledging to not only shop less, but to shop green. If you want to make this pledge with me, read on!

How can you shop green?

First, you must ask yourself a series of questions before even considering a purchase. The EPA outlines four very important ones:
Photo Source: Above All Things...
  • Do I absolutely need it?
  • Will I use it (more than once or twice)?
  • Do I already have it or something similar?
  • Can I borrow it from a friend or family member?
Make sure you answer yes to the first two and no to the last two before buying. The entire process from manufacturing and producing foods and goods to transporting and discarding them makes up about 42% of the greenhouse gas emissions in this country. So be extra sure that item you’re buying is worth it!

Don’t invest in something you only use once or twice a year. If you live in apartments, borrow a carpet washer from a friend, or a grocery store or hardware store in your area. If you find a hole in your sweater or a button on your shirt broke, mend it yourself or, if you’re not so good with a needle and thread, have someone who is mend it for you.

Photo Source:
Energy Star
Do some research about the products you want to buy and the companies that make them. All of us can identify the Energy Star label on a refrigerator or computer, but what about all the other products that don’t have environmental labels? Check out the EPA’s Greener Products page and Green America’s Responsible Shopper page. You can search by company name, industry or product. Looking for safe cosmetics or other personal care items? The Environmental Working Group created Skin Deep, a site that identifies toxicity in personal care products and provides healthier, safer choices and manufacturers.

Once you figure out how durable, recyclable, reusable, and sustainable a product is, you can make a more informed and green decision. If you’re looking at products like lotion, bathroom cleaner, sponges, etc., find out if it’s both more cost effective and more eco-friendly to buy in bulk. If you need to buy disposable items – silverware and plates for your food truck, for example – look for compostable products.

When you can, support local businesses. Not only will this strengthen the local economy, but you'll save transportation- and packaging-related emissions and waste when you buy local. Plus, you may meet some really great people and entrepreneurs in your town!

Finally, if you’re looking to save a bunch of money and be green, head to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. There are certainly items I would avoid or cannot be found in these stores, but if you're looking for fun mismatched china, clothes or even furniture, second-hand stores are always worth a peak around.

 And, of course, don’t forget your reusable shopping bag!

Wellness Wednesday: Making kids and buildings better

14 years ago, as a junior in high school (I was in 8th grade), my brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized to his lungs. You would never believe by looking at him now, healthy as can be, that he was once sick as a dog.  For the majority of his chemotherapy, surgeries, and appointments he was treated at the old location of Children’s Hospital Central California in Fresno (then known as Valley Children’s Hospital). While the staff and care was phenomenal, I remember the facility being dark and scary! I can’t imagine how a sick child would have felt being wheeled through the dungeon-like hallways. Our family was ecstatic when in August of 1998 the hospital started the move to the new facility in Madera right off the Highway 41. Kyle was through with treatment at this point but still had to make frequent visits to the hospital for routine check-ups. The place was (and still is) gorgeous.

Children’s Hospital Central California was recently awarded the Energy Star certification for energy efficiency. The hospital utilizes variable speed drives, LED technology, environmental controls, and an employeeawareness campaign to help cut back on energy use. Since 2005 the hospital has reduced its carbon footprint by 3,436 metric tons of carbon dioxide which is equivalent to taking 674 cars off the road. This isn’t the first award for the hospital. Children’s Hospital won the California Flex Your Power award in 2005 and in 2007 the American Society for Healthcare Engineering recognized the hospital for a 15 percent decrease in energy intensity.

Well done, Children’s Hospital. And, thank you.

--Maureen Hoff
Kyle and Amanda on their wedding day - July 7, 2012 – Kauai, Hawaii
Photo credit:
Photo credit: Maureen Hoff

Wellness Wednesday: Financial Health and Energy Efficiency

All my life I have known there is a ‘bigger picture’ when it comes to total wellness. Not only are we nourished by the foods we eat by also by our experiences in our daily lives. According to Wikipedia (gotta love a Google search), ‘holistic health is a concept in medical practice upholding that all aspects of people’s needs, psychological, physical and social should be taken into account and seen as a whole’. I believe that good health comes from a balance of nutrition and lifestyle factors and even takes into account financial health. Most people at one time in their lives have probably been affected by poor financial health. Maybe it was when mom and dad finally cut you off or the time when you were let go from your job; either way, it is amazing how much of a negative toll it can have on your physical health. Just as smart nutrition choices lead to a long and healthy life, good financial investments can also help you reap the rewards down the road.

You may remember my electric lawnmower post
from a few weeks back in which I announced one, that I am (finally) engaged and two, that my fiancé and I bought a house. Talk about stressful finances! In reality, the home purchase was a wise investment. Our apartment rent was costing more than what our mortgage payments will be and we finally get to have a say in what will make our house a home (backyard vegetable garden, composter, bocce ball court, and painted walls oh my!). While I can’t wait to check off my project list, I do recognize that this home is ours and will be ours for a very long time if not forever. A lifetime of projects: my dreams and nightmares all rolled into one. Whenever I find myself in a situation in which my pulse begins to race and I can’t seem to shut my mind off at the end of the day, I like to ask myself ‘what would you tell your health coaching clients?’


One thing at a time and when it comes to wise home investments I have learned in my time at SJVCEO that energy efficiency is that first baby step that will set me up for a lifetime of financial health.

Just like that electric lawnmower, there are other ‘low hanging’ options I can make that will have a big impact on my wallet. First up we will be purchasing a clothes washer and dryer. Next will be a new oven, range, microwave, and then refrigerator – trust me, there will be large gaps of time in between purchases. I am sure you are thinking dollar signs and really, so am I; however, PG&E, my local service provider, offers rebates on many of these items when you purchase qualifying appliances. Sure a couple hundred dollars in savings doesn’t sound like a lot but when I know that these new, smarter, energy efficient appliances will save me in the long run on my utility bills I know that it is worth the investment. And, if I can control my spending habits and use those couple hundred incentive/rebate dollars as my own personal revolving energy fund I can do other projects such as weatherization that will continue to help put money back into my pocket all the while making our home energy efficient and better for the environment.  

Just as I think organic fruits and veggies are an investment in my long-term health and well-being so are these appliances when it comes to the health of our environment (and my wallet). Spend money upfront (qualifying appliances), save money down the road (cheaper utility bills), and know that you have done your small part in saving energy and reducing your carbon footprint.

--Maureen Hoff

photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc

photo credit: jbloom via photopin cc

photo credit: samsungtomorrow via photopin cc

10 Clean Energy Predictions for 2012

Year-end forecasts are a common staple at newspapers. I don't think there was one year in my three decades as a reporter that I wasn't involved in a story that either looked at the current year in the rear view or predicted what was to come.

So, I continue in that vein, except this time I have help from Michael Kanellos of Here are his top 10 predictions for 2012. I don't think he is too far off, especially when it comes to No. 2 (jobs in renewable energy) and No. 5 (energy efficiency).

Sure, 2011 brought us the implosion of Solyndra, but it also ushered in the first stages of a solar boom in California. Try telling these 700 workers in Southern California's desert that renewable energy jobs are a myth.

And there are more to come. Dozens of solar projects are proposed for Central and Southern California, including where I sit in the farm-rich sun-kissed San Joaquin Valley. Many of the solar projects won't employ large numbers of people when they are operational, but construction workers ought to be kept busy for the next five years.

But I'm more excited about the prospects of a sincere advancement in energy-efficiency programs. Businesses, local governments and individuals are realizing that a modest investment in energy upgrades can yield impressive cost savings and a smaller carbon footprint. And those savings, unlike a tax refund or one-time windfall, continue after the initial payback. Want more evidence: check out this post, which contends "significant" savings occur.

Those savings can be reinvested into business operations, stimulate the economy or go into additional energy-saving programs that cut power bills even more. Efficiency really is the gift that keeps on giving - at least for this scientist who slashed his monthly power bill from $400 to $50.

The Christian Science Monitor has another take on energy efficiency here.

Government mandates are sparking some of the interest in energy efficiency. California, adhering to the the old adage "you can't manage what you can't manage," now requires through AB 1103 that "benchmark" - energy use data - for commercial structures over 50,000 square feet in size be available by July 2012. Here's more.

Critics complain that it is just more government meddling, but benchmarking is already pretty common, with Seattle and other cities mandating it, and thousands of buildings across the U.S. already marked. Energy is a landlord's largest controllable cost, and many property owners who complete benchmarking can qualify for Energy Star certification, which studies show increase the value and sales price of property. It also is used in LEED certification.

Let's see: Higher property values. Lower energy bills. Smaller carbon footprint. What's not to like?

(Photo of Seattle Skyline by Dave Gostisha)

Black Friday could bring energy efficient gifts, or Zombies

The holiday is upon us, like it or not.

For me, that usually meant getting up at the crack of dawn. I didn't shop. Heck no. I worked either as a business reporter or business editor for more than two decades in Alaska, Washington and, finally, California.

In my business, Black Friday meant covering shoppers. My conversations with them -- imagine ice cold Anchorage -- usually started this way: "What in the heck are you doing out here?"

Their responses? Sickeningly gleeful. I never understood it. But I faithfully covered the practice year after year as it started earlier and earlier.

Now I no longer have to work it. But I'm still not going shopping on that day. However, I do have some tips. For those of you, unlike me, who don't like to give cash, I've got some help from our friends at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is all about Energy Star, its program that certifies products that use less energy. And less energy means less money spent and fewer greenhouse gas emissions created.

Home Entertainment: You can find the Energy Star label on nearly all entertainment products from TVs and Blu-ray disc players to home-theaters-in-a-box. If you are in the market for a digital picture frame, consider one that has earned the Energy Star. It uses 25 percent less energy than non-qualified models.

Office Products: Shoppers can also find the Energy Star label on office products such as computers, LCD monitors, notebooks, multifunction printers and more. A home office fully equipped with Energy Star qualified products can save up to $380 over the lifetime of the products.

Battery Chargers: Products that use Energy Star battery chargers, such as video game controls, digital cameras, shavers, hand vacuums, power tools, and cordless lawn mowers, use 35 percent less energy compared to conventional chargers.

Healthier Homes: From pet care products to dish soaps to supplies for a car, the Design for the Environment (DfE) label shows products that are safer for families and help protect the environment. In 2010, Americans using products with the DfE label cut the use of harmful chemicals by more than 600 million pounds.

The EPA also encourages consumers to purchase LED decorative light strings, which use about 70 percent less electricity than incandescent lights.

Other tips include reusing or recycling old electronics, buying reusable cloth bags when shopping, wrapping gifts in recycled paper bags or recycled wrapping paper and using less water when washing the holiday dishes. "If every American household reduced their water use by 10 gallons on just Thanksgiving Day, it would save more than 1 billion gallons of water," the EPA says.

My personal tip? Stay home. You never know when zombies will prove George Romero right.

Changing the world: The stars of the Energy Star video challenge

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency compiled some of the winners of its nationwide video challenge, and I tossed in a couple more.

The agency encouraged people earlier in the year around Earth Day to take part in the “Be an Energy Star” video challenge. People were asked to pick up their home video cameras and document energy-efficient behavior they discovered or participated in at home, school, workplace and community.

The names of the videos are featured on the Energy Star facebook page, but the links are gone since it's been partially decommissioned. Members of the public viewed and voted for their favorite videos this fall and the winners were listed last month.

Of course, I just heard about it.

In addition to the video challenge, EPA encouraged those interested to take the “Change the World, Start with Energy Star” pledge. The pledge is hardly binding but encourages people to embrace energy efficiency in their homes and daily activities.

Apparently it's a big deal. The EPA says more than 2.7 million Americans have taken the pledge, "resulting in a reduction of more than 8 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions from using more than 400 million gallons of gasoline."

These include switching to more efficient lighting, choosing Energy Star products, sealing and insulating homes and using power management features -- like eco or power strips -- on home computers and monitors.

This one may be a little rough around the edges but gets the idea across.

Many of them appear to be kid-driven. This next one reflects the new economic reality facing parents and college students who move back home.

245 buildings vie for title of nation's most energy efficient

This year's national competition to extract the most energy savings from a building pits middle schools and car dealerships vs. Wall Street and Park Avenue high-rises.

May the best building win.

The competition, dubbed Battle of the Buildings, is staged by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program. Teams from 245 buildings will install energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling; adopt intensive building management systems that closely monitor and adjust energy use according to occupancy and other factors; and modify behaviors and practices that could unnecessarily cost kilowatt hours.

Of course, there are other measures such as cool roofs, insulation, windows and weatherization upgrades that can result in big savings, too.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, “We’re harnessing our nation's innovative capacity to save money on electric bills, create a cleaner environment and protect the health of American families.”

A winner will be named in November.

This year's competition is far greater than the inaugural event last year, in which teams from 14 buildings saved $950,000 and reduced greenhouse gas emissions amounting to the yearly electricity use of about 600 homes.

Last year's winner was Morrison Residence Hall on the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, N.C. The 10-story, 200,000-square-foot dormitory was built in 1965 and achieved a 35.7 percent reduction on its annual energy bill for a $250,000 savings.

The EPA says educating the public to the benefits of reducing energy use in the 5 million buildings in which people in this country "work, play and learn" is important because the sector consumes about 20 percent of the nation’s energy use. It also produces a similar percentage of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and forces Americans to fork over more than $100 billion a year.

Those interested can follow along with the contestants to see what their strategies are and what they end up doing to reduce energy loads. The variety of the buildings this year is pretty interesting. Buildings range from the Experience Music Project Science Fiction Museum in Seattle with perhaps the highest energy use intensity rating, or EUI, in the group with 536.9 to the offices of Norandex, a building supplier, in Rochester, N.Y. with a rating of 47.5. The rating is derived by taking energy use and dividing by square footage. The higher the number, the higher the energy use.

Other buildings I found interesting were the Marriott Fullerton Hotel with an EUI of 153.6, the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Ave. in N.Y. with an EUI of 228.2, the Caterpillar AC Building in Mossville, Ill. with an EUI of 282.2 and the 450 Sutter Building in San Francisco with an EUI of 178.9.

Here's to extreme energy savings.

Photo: Experience Music Project building in Seattle under Space Needle.