Last weekend, Arlington County hosted a “life-size board game” that challenged residents to think harder about their energy choices.
The Energy Journey Game was held at Washington-Lee High School on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 2. Participants learned strategies for cutting down on energy use during all four seasons.
In an interview with the county’s Arlington TV channel, above, County Board member Jay Fisette hailed the event as a “creative” way to further Arlington “commitment to sustainability.”
“We need to do outreach continually, to bring to people the ideas — the awareness — of how they can save [money] and protect the environment in their everyday behavior,” Fisette said.
Accident Shuts Down GW Parkway — The northbound GW Parkway was closed this morning before Route 123 due to a reported multi-vehicle accident. Northbound traffic was being diverted onto Spout Run Parkway. [WTOP Traffic]
The Origins of Broyhill Forest — In 1952, homes in Broyhill Forest, a planned community adjacent to the Washington Golf and Country Club, went on sale for $19,000 to $27,000. Falls Church News-Press columnist Charlie Clark, a resident of Broyhill Forest, recalls the Broyhill family and their impact on Arlington. [Falls Church News-Press]
Pistol Certification Class at Arlington Church — A local firearms instruction company is offering NRA First Steps Pistol Orientation courses at Bloss Memorial Church in Lyon Park. The course completion certificate can be used to obtain concealed carry permit in Virginia. While classroom instruction is conducted at the church, live fire portions of the class are conducted at the NRA headquarters range in Fairfax. [Liberty Firearms Instruction]
Energy Journey Game on Saturday — Arlington County is organizing an “interactive life-size board game” that offers residents a chance to “challenge yourself on everyday actions that have an energy impact.” The “Energy Journey Game” starts at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 2). [Fresh AIRE]
‘Georgetown Cuddler’ Conviction Overturned — An appeals court has overturned the conviction of Arlington resident Todd M. Thomas, 26, the accused “Georgetown Cuddler.” [Washington Post]
Question: I own an older Arlington home with fairly high utility bills (in my opinion), do you think a home energy audit is a good investment?
I think that you will find a good home energy audit to be well worth the investment. I personally own an Arlington home that is about 6 years old and an energy audit discovered a valuable list of improvements for us to make. I’m happy to report that most were accomplished for little to no money.
Our energy audit cost $400, but has saved us many times that amount of money on gas and electric usage. In fact, I wrote an article earlier this year about how Dominion Power had accidentally switched our account with my neighbor, who owns the exact same house. Once the administrative mess was cleaned up, we were credited almost $1200 for the lower energy consumption of our house.
I spoke with Chris Conway, one of the area’s leading home energy auditors. He confirmed that most improvements are very low cost with a resulting 5%-30% savings on energy bills.
Chris explains that his audits typically include a blower door test and thermographic scan of the home, but the most important benefit of a home energy audit is the homeowner education. He teaches you how to achieve a tight building envelope for a long term return on investment. According to the Department of Energy, 54% of your total energy bill comes from heating and cooling. With the right information you are empowered to make decisions that will provide the biggest bang for your buck.
Though I would recommend a home energy audit for most homes regardless of age, older homes tend to have the most room for improvement. A blower door test will reveal exactly how much conditioned air your home is leaking per hour. In older homes, this is sometimes equivalent to leaving a window or door open 24×7.
Chris recommends an energy audit for anyone interested in making home improvements, improving air quality, saving money on energy bills, increasing comfort, mitigating moisture problems, or reducing your carbon footprint. During our conversation he mentioned a startling fact that recent EPA data states 1 in 5 families have a member with respiratory problems and a typical home can actually have up to 3 to 4 times more contaminants on the inside compared to the outside. A simple home energy audit can address these types of environmental issues.
There are more than a few home energy auditors to choose from in the Arlington area. I spoke to at least half a dozen before choosing someone for my own home. I was curious about their background, education, track-record, equipment, references and philosophies. I also wanted a sense that they would spend time educating me about my home. Feel free to contact me for a list of the local home energy auditors I would recommend.
The cost for a professional home energy audit can range from $150-$600 depending on the depth of the audit and the size of your home. If you are worried about the cost, you can look out for promotions from companies like Everblue and Dominion Power. State funded programs have also existed from time to time.
My final piece of advice is to make a list of any issues you are having, such as rooms that are notoriously drafty, cold, warm or damp. These insights will help the auditor identify the best solutions for your home.
Fashion Event Tonight at Artisphere — The third annual Cosmo Couture Fashion & Design event is being held from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) in Rosslyn tonight. The event, which will benefit the My Sister’s Place shelter for women and children, features unique clothing conceived by local architecture and interior design firms. [Cosmo Couture]
Bayou Sandwich Lauded — Bayou Bakery’s (1515 N. Courthouse Road) “Muff-a-Lotta” sandwich has been named one of the 20 best sandwiches in the country by Food & Wine magazine. The Muff-a-Lotta features “a briny garlic-and-oregano-laced olive salad, salami, mortadella, smoked ham and aged provolone in a sesame-seed-studded toasted Italian roll.” [Food & Wine]
Arlington Green Games Return – Arlington County is expanding its “Green Games” energy-and-money-saving competition to restaurants and retailers, starting next week. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
As summer travel season ramps up, a lot of money will be put toward filling up the car with gas. But a new report claims the average Virginia family could save $560 at the pump this summer by using more fuel efficient cars.
The Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center, an organization aimed at promoting cleaner energy options, released the report. It highlights President Obama’s proposal to increase fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
Organization representatives presented the findings today at a press conference at the River House Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street) in Pentagon City. There, they highlighted the electric car charging station in the parking lot, and urged Arlington residents to consider purchasing an electric car.
The report claims that the improved standards would save the equivalent amount of pollution as taking three coal power plants offline for the summer, on top of the $560 each Virginia family would save.
“Not only could you take that trip to Virginia Beach while burning much less oil along the way, but you could book the family a hotel for a couple of extra days with the money you’re saving,” said John Cross, Federal Transportation Advocate for Environment Virginia.
Congressman Jim Moran (D) backs the proposed standards mentioned in the report.
“From an economic, environmental and national security perspective, we must reduce our dependency on oil,” said Moran in a statement. “This new report from Environment America highlights the importance of moving forward with cleaner, more fuel efficient cars.”
Cross noted that buying an electric car now has a positive environmental impact, even though the standards aren’t yet to the 54.5 mpg mark.
“Drivers do not have to wait until 2025 to reap the benefits of cleaner cars,” Cross said. “A bumper crop of fuel efficient cars have already started coming to the showroom floor.
Incentives for Home Energy Efficiency – Arlington County is partnering with a nonprofit group to provide 320 Arlington homeowners with incentives to improve their home’s energy efficiency. Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) will provide $125,000 in grants to help homeowners achieve at least a 20 percent energy savings. [Arlington County]
Closures for Weekend 5K Race — A number of streets will be closed in the Williamsburg area on Saturday for the 2nd annual Nottingham Elementary PTA 5K Run/Walk. Parts of Williamsburg Boulevard, Little Falls Road and N. Ohio Street will be closed between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m. Race participants are being encouraged to wear green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. [Arlington County Police Department]
Yorktown QB to Play at Salisbury — Jordan Smith, the quarterback who helped lead Yorktown High School to an undefeated regular season this past fall, has committed to play football for Salisbury University in Maryland. Salisbury, a Division III program, recruited Smith as a quarterback. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington is installing energy performance labels on 14 county buildings today.
The green labels are intended to tell citizens the buildings’ carbon footprint, current energy use and planned long-term reductions in energy use (by 2050). The stats are all relative to the square footage of each building.
The county’s main administrative building, at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, is one of the buildings that will be receiving the labels. The building is 30 percent more efficient than the average U.S. office building, according to its label. Its 17.9 pounds of carbon dioxide per square foot carbon footprint compared favorably to the U.S. office average of 26.1 pounds.
The labels also state when each building was built.
Among the other buildings expected to receive energy labels today: Central Library, Cherrydale Library, Glencarlyn Library, Shirlington Library, Westover Library, Court Square West, Drewry Health Center, fire training facility, 1810 N. Edison Street, parks and cultural affairs office, parks operations office, solid waste and traffic engineering office, and the Water Sewer Streets Bureau.
“We will post labels in the rest of the county buildings over the next couple months,” said Arlington County environmental planner Joan Kelsch.
It turns out that Google’s massive data centers and its corporate offices consume a mind-boggling amount of electricity: 2.26 billion kilowatt hours in 2010. The company’s power consumption — 260 million watts at any given moment — is about a quarter of the output of a nuclear power plant, according to the New York Times.
To further put that in perspective, Arlington as a whole (homes, businesses and governmental entities) consumed 2.76 billion kilowatt hours in 2007, according to a recent county report — a half billion kilowatts more than Google. The 210,000 people who live in Arlington consume far less electricity at home, however. Arlington households (single-family homes, condos and apartment buildings) consume about 0.73 billion kilowatt hours per year — less than a third of Google’s consumption.
County to Label Building Energy Use — In October, Arlington will start installing signs on county-owned building that will reveal the building’s energy use and carbon footprint. “We’d like people to think of energy use in buildings like they think of gasoline use in cars,” Joan Kelsch, Arlington’s green building program manager, told reporter Michael Lee Pope. [WAMU]
Planetarium Donors and Dedications — Among the whimsical new seat dedications in the soon-to-be-renovated David M. Brown Planetarium: “Pick any star — make a wish!” “Gaze upward & dream!” and “4 Who Is Yet To Come.” [savetheplanetarium.org]
Fairfax Supervisor Candidate’s 2010 Arlington Assault — An independent candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was charged with assault in Arlington after a heated argument over a Crystal City parking space on March 25, 2010. “It was an altercation between two adults,” explained Will Radle, who has been endorsed by the Independent Green party. [Kingstowne Patch]
The company’s 2.4 million customers used 20,061 megawatts of electricity between 3 and 4pm on Friday. That broke the previous record of 19,688 megawatts set on August 8, 2007. One megawatt provides enough electricity for about 250 homes.
Although the blistering heat and oppressive humidity from last week has died down, the continued warm weather means high electricity use. Dominion has the following tips for keeping energy costs down and keeping homes comfortable:
- Postpone activities requiring hot water to early morning or late evening to prevent heat and humidity from building up in the home.
- If you are comfortable, raise the thermostat to 78 degrees.
- Close drapes during the hottest points of the day.
- Turn off unnecessary lights, which add heat to a home. Consider switching to cooler, energy efficient CFL bulbs.
- Make sure window air conditioners are sized correctly. Those that are too small will run constantly, but will not cool the room. Those that are too large use more energy than necessary.
- Clean filters to window air conditioning units and clean or replace filters to central air conditioning systems. Clogged filters cause air conditioners to use more energy than necessary to keep a home cool.
- Clear attic vents. If the home has an attic fan, make sure it is functioning properly.
The Arlington company announced a partnership today with one of Britain’s largest utility companies. Opower will supply home energy management software to the customers of First Utility, the U.K.’s largest independent energy provider.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell hailed Opower in a statement announcing the deal.
“In addition to developing our diverse domestic sources of energy, we must learn to use the energy we generate as efficiently as possible,’ McDonnell said. “This innovative Virginia company is leading the way in creating new tools to help us do that. It is one of the many energy businesses located in Virginia contributing to making the Commonwealth ‘The Energy Capital of the East Coast.’”
Opower’s says its software “helps people better understand how they’re using energy in their homes so they can make smart choices and reduce usage.”
The company, which was visited by President Obama last year, has grown from 7 employees to over 200 employees in just two years.
Affordable Apartments Get Green Certification — The 36-unit Macedonian apartment complex in Green Valley has become the first EarthCraft-certified new multifamily building in Arlington and the most energy-efficient EarthCraft building in Northern Virginia. The affordable apartments, at 2229 Shirlington Road, received the green building certification thanks to a special central heating and cooling system, foam insulation and other high-efficiency components. The building is a partnership between affordable housing nonprofit AHC Inc. and the Macedonia Baptist Church. [AHC Inc.]
Jail to Host Mother’s Day Event — The Arlington Sheriff’s Office will be hosting its bi-annual Incarcerated Mother’s Holiday Program at the county lockup Monday night, one day after Mother’s Day. From 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., female inmates will get the chance to have a “contact visit” with their children within the jail. The event will feature a card exchange, dinner and bonding time. “The program is designed to strengthen and encourage mothers to have positive relationships with their minor children to help lessen the impact and effects of separation,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
New Site Fixes and Features – We made some fixes and added some features to the site overnight. Among the changes: the comment problem we described yesterday has been resolved, we’ve added new fields to your user profiles, and the forums are now operational. Note that there are still some bugs to be worked out with the forums and with user profiles, especially for Internet Explorer users. Please let us know what you think of the changes in the comments.
A draft copy of Arlington’s Community Energy Plan sets the ambitious goal of reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions from 13.4 metric tons per county resident today to 3 metric tons per resident by 2050. Getting there, however, will almost entirely rely on factors outside of the county’s regulatory control.
Residents and businesses will not be “required” by the county to do much of anything under the plan, which is now being finalized by the county’s Community Energy and Sustainability Task Force. Most of the savings are expected to come in the form of voluntary gains in building efficiency and from new federal and state mandates.
The plan calls for homes and commercial buildings undergoing “major renovation” past 2015 to be 30 and 50 percent more efficient, respectively, than current structures. By 2050, the efficiency standards will increase to 50 percent for homes and 70 percent for commercial buildings, compared to current averages.
While such requirements could eventually be built into Virginia’s building code, state law prevents Arlington from enacting requirements unilaterally.
“The recommendations we have here are essentially in recognition that we are in a Dillon Rule state,” said Richard Dooley, the county’s project manager for the Community Energy Plan. Barring action from the state, Dooley says the county will encourage adoption of its recommendations by “mak[ing] sure these things make good economic sense.”
The county will promote the energy cost savings of efficiency gains, Dooley said. Arlington will create a database of federal, state, foundation and local incentives for energy efficiency projects, making it easier for homeowners and business owners to find incentives that apply to them.
Another task force recommendation is to encourage Arlington homeowners to install renewable heating systems, including solar and geothermal water heaters.
“At least 50 percent of domestic hot water needs and 20 percent of space and pool heating needs should be provided by these renewable sources,” the draft report states. So far, the actual means for achieving the goal are not specified.
Among the other task force recommendations:
- The creation of a net-zero energy “scale project” consisting of “a small mixed-use neighborhood at least 100 homes built to energy standards outlined by the Passive House Institute.”
- A reduction of vehicle miles traveled by “developing walkable mixed-use neighborhoods” and encouraging “cylcing, walking, public transit and vehicle pooling.”
- The creation of steam plants in high-density neighborhoods. The plants would provide a central source “heating, cooling, and hot water services” in areas like Crystal City/Pentagon City, Rosslyn/Courthouse, Ballston/Virginia Square and parts of Columbia Pike.
- Increased use of solar panels on public and private buildings.
- Increased use of biofuels.
- “Supporting… federal efforts” to increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards.
- Encouraging building owners to display “Energy Performance Labels” in building lobbies.
- Providing public education and training about energy efficiency.
Zimmerman Talks Metro — County board member Chris Zimmerman, who recently announced that he was stepping down from the WMATA Board of Directors, has given what may be his first comprehensive interview since his surprise announcement last week. Zimmerman echoed his stance that Metro needs more funding to survive, and is at the mercy of “external” forces. “These are not things that are going to be fixed by a magical general manager,” Zimmerman said. “They’re not going to be fixed by any configuration of the board of directors.” More from We Love DC.
APS Students Give Back — A new “Snapshots” video from the county’s educational TV channel takes a look at how Arlington Public School students are giving back for the holidays.
Henry Elementary Student Wins WaPo Contest – Kate Lanman, a second grader at Arlington’s Patrick Henry Elementary school, has won the Washington Post’s annual holiday wrapping papers contest. Lanman, 7, will be featured on the cover of the Post’s weekend section tomorrow. More from the Washington Post.
Jail Gets Energy Star Label — The Arlington County Justice Center — which includes the jail and the courthouse — has become the first county building to be awarded an Energy Star designation. The Justice Center completed an energy efficiency overhaul in 2009. More from Arlington County.
December Leaf Collection Schedule Released — The county’s second round of vacuum leaf collection through neighborhoods is now scheduled to begin on Dec. 4 and end on Dec. 24. More from the Dept. of Environmental Services.
Holiday Events Aplenty — The Sun Gazette has a list of 15 holiday-related events around Arlington in December.
Arlington Company Gets Big-Time Funding — OPower, a start-up energy services company based in Courthouse, has just received a $50 million investment by two venture capital firms. The company, which hosted a speech by President Obama in March, hopes to ramp up its research and development effort and hire 50 more people. More from Tech Crunch.
Fire Response at Spider Kelly’s – The fire department responded to Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon late last night for a report of a fire. Firefighters instead found light smoke and traced it back to a malfunctioning heating unit. No word yet on whether this will affect the popular night spot’s ability to open today.