Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's the HomeStar Bill?

You may have heard about the HomeStar Bill in the news... Its the bill that also goes by the name of Cash for Caulkers. Here’s the basics of whats proposed in the bill and what it means to you as a homeowner:

Rebates delivered directly to consumers: Like the Cash for Clunkers program, consumers would be eligible for direct HOMESTAR rebates at the point of sale for a variety of energy-saving investments in their homes. A broad array of vendors, from small independent building material dealers, large national home improvement chains, energy efficiency installation professionals like BrightHome and utility energy efficiency programs (including rural utilities) would provide the directly to consumers and then be reimbursed by the federal government.

$1,000 - $1,500 Silver Star Rebates: Consumers looking to have simple upgrades performed in their homes would be eligible for 50% rebates up to $1,000 - $1,500 for doing any of a straightforward set of upgrades, including: insulation, duct sealing, water heaters, HVAC units, windows, roofing and doors. Under Silver Star, consumers can chose a combination of upgrades for rebates up to a maximum of $3,000 per home. Rebates would be limited to the most energy efficient categories of upgrades—focusing on products made primarily in the United States and installed by certified contractors. Go to BrightHome's services here.

$3000 Gold Star Rebates: Consumers interested in more comprehensive energy retrofits would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate for a whole home energy audit and subsequent retrofit from a company like BrightHome, tailored to achieve a 20% energy savings in their homes. Consumers could receive additional rebate amounts for energy savings in excess of 20%. Gold Star would build on existing whole home retrofit programs, like EPA’s successful Home Performance with Energy Star program.

Oversight to Ensure Quality Installations: The program would require that contractors be certified to perform efficiency installations. Independent quality assurance providers would conduct field audits after work is completed to ensure proper installation so consumers receive energy savings from their upgrades. States would oversee the implementation of quality assurance to ensure that the program was moving the industry toward more robust standards and comprehensive energy retrofit practices. Go to BrightHome's certifications here.

Support for financing: The program would include support to State and local governments to provide financing options for consumers seeking to make efficiency investments in their homes. This will help ensure that consumers can afford to make these investments. Go to BrightHome's tax incentive information here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mike Brown in DC, BrightHome Certified Lead-Safe firm

Mike Brown here-- last week I visited my daughters, who are both in the great city of Washington DC for the summer!

This is my daughter Claire, a Senior this year at Texas A&M, who is interning at the EPA this summer as the Special Assistant to Carl Mazza, Science Advisor Office of Air and Radiation, EPA.

This is my daughter Megan, a second year law student at New York University and graduate of the University of Texas, who is working this summer at the United States Attorney’s Office for Washington DC.

Just after my visit to the EPA, BrightHome received its certification from the EPA as Lead-Safe Firm. This means our consultants and contractors will take the appropriate steps to keep you and your family safe.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

$3,000 of Rebates Expires Today!

Have you made the switch to a natural gas-fired heating system?

Con Edison customers residing in one to four family homes, who both convert to a natural gas-fired heating system and have a participating contractor such as BrightHome to install eligible high-efficiency gas-fired heating equipment, may be eligible to receive both a conversion rebate of $2,000 and an equipment rebate of up to $1,000.

Health & Environmental Benefits of Natural Gas:

• Gas-powered hot-water heaters provide precise temperature control and quick recovery time for hot showers and baths

• Natural gas produces less particulates when it is burned, so fewer harmful particles will enter your lungs

• Natural gas has lower emission levels of the criteria pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act, and carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas.

• Carbon dioxide emissions are about 42% lower for gas-heated residences than those heated with oil.

• The use of natural gas in your home can help you conserve natural resources because it reduces energy production.

The deadline for this program is July 15, 2010! BrightHome will provide the applications, proposals and work requests required to complete the program.

Just give us a call at 914.909.5300 and we will get started the natural gas-fired heating system that will cut your energy costs!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Top 10 Ways to Beat The Heat

It's pretty hot right now in New York City. With temperatures reaching 100+ degrees, we've come up with 10 easy ways to cool off. Most of them can be done right now!

1. Start with yourself. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. Avoid beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine, or lots of sugar, which are dehydrating.

2. Dress for the heat. Weather you’re indoors or outdoors, wear loose, comfortable clothing that breathes easily and dries fast.

3. Sweep your system. Clean or replace the filter in room and central air conditioners once a month during the summer. If you have central air-conditioning, have the ducts checked for leaks, which can reduce a system's efficiency by as much as 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Seal any cracks between a window unit and the frame with caulking or a sealant strip. These steps help ensure good airflow and keep the coils cleaner, which means more efficient and more effective cooling.

4. Sun block. Closing curtains and blinds reduces the amount of heat that passes into your home by as much as 45 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

5. Invest in efficiency. Consider updating your Air Conditioning system, if it is older than 15 years, or minimally efficient. Newer systems will save you money and more properly handle your cooling load.

6. Insulate & ventilate.
Be sure that your home is properly insulated, and your attic is properly ventilated. An energy audit will help you assess the home accurately. Proper insulation will also help you’re A/C to cool more efficiently.

7. The fan trick. Ceiling fans provide air movement that leads to lower perceived temperature on your skin. Be sure to turn them off when you’re out of the house, as they do not cool down air.

8. Shut it down. Set your computer or laptop to go into low-power "sleep" mode if you are away from it for more than 10 minutes and it will give off less heat. When you're finished for the day, shut the machine down completely.

9. Give your dishwasher a vacation. Instead, leave the door open to let the dishes dry. And put off using the dishwasher until evening, when the air is cooler. Or simply wash your dishes the old-fashioned way: by hand.

10. Ditto to the clothes-drying machine. Try line-drying your clothes. You will save tons of energy, and eliminate any heat normally caused by the inevitable energy monster.

Friday, July 2, 2010

BrightHome's Eco-Ed for

Schwartz: Will any good come from Gulf oil spill?


As I have received so many questions regarding the Gulf oil spill, it was difficult to choose one that best captured the sentiment of all of your concerns. Therefore, I have scrapped the usual format and will seek to address those questions and concerns.

The situation in the Gulf of Mexico is truly disastrous. Estimates vary wildly on the amount of oil unleashed into our waters, but the consensus is the same: This is an accident of epic proportions. We see the visible impact, with tar balls, bands of sludge and birds covered in oil, but what is unseen could hold far greater reaching consequences.

The impact will not be fully realized for years, as marshes, estuaries, spawning grounds, etc. try in vain to escape the damage. Devastation of sensitive coral reefs and less visible life forms could conceivably permanently impact the entire food chain in this region. That is not even considering if the oil makes its way up the Gulf Stream, impacting the entire Atlantic Seaboard.

Among the rhetoric and comments I have received, people seem to be in two camps. The first seeks to blame BP. It is now clear that they consciously took steps to put profits over safety on many occasions, and we will bear the brunt of their risk-taking. The second speaks about our government's slow responsiveness, or holds the Obama administration in particular, as the Pariah. They based many of their early assumptions on the estimates provided by BP, and clearly misjudged the potential impact of the early explosion of the oil rig. Once more accurate data was available, it was clear that it was too late. There are limited actions for slowing the leak, and the damage has already been done.

I am not choosing sides here. Believe me, there is enough blame to go around. The awareness that I am proposing is that we are all to blame. Our insatiable appetite for oil and other fossil fuels is at the core of what makes this situation possible in the first place. We enjoy vehicles that are larger, on average, than those used in other countries. Every time we choose a vehicle and put looks, status, performance, etc. over consideration for the mileage and emissions, we are supporting this behavior. Every time we drive into town or school, instead of walking or riding a bicycle, we are implicitly condoning it. Our homes are estimated to waste an average of 40 percent of the energy used, but we choose to turn a blind eye. We continue to leave lights on, leave computers on overnight, not focus attention on making sure our homes are efficiently sealed and insulated, and that the heating/cooling systems are efficient and performing properly.

If there is one positive that can come from this unfortunate "accident," it would be that we, as a society, take a deep look within ourselves and our behavior. There is a way that we can feel less helpless to avoid an event like this in the future.

We can:

* Support more renewable energy sources for both homes and vehicles.

* Consider available options besides using fossil fuels.

* Drive less and with more efficient vehicles.

* Have a home energy audit done, and develop a plan to target reducing wasted energy use.

* Support our local farmer's market, where products are grown locally, and not shipped in from around the world.

* Support local stores and businesses, which require less travel.

* Use our power as consumers to purchase products that use less packaging or use resources more efficiently.

Together we can all make a difference. In the meantime, enjoy the summer and be thankful that our beaches (and our own Graydon Pond) are cleaner then they have been in years.

Ed Schwartz is the chairperson of the Ridgewood Environmental Advisory Committee, the coordinator of Sustainable Energy for the North Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, Certified Energy and Sustainability Consultant, and co-founder of Green Living Solutions in New Jersey. He is a partner in BrightHome Energy Solutions, NJ, and has restored his own historical home in Ridgewood, using energy saving and sustainable practices. Eco-Ed can be reached at


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