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For Arlington’s environmentally-sustainable schools — one of which was praised as a model for the country during an event yesterday — the buildings are teaching tools.

Agency heads from former presidential administrations and other boldface names in education toured Alice West Fleet Elementary School yesterday, highlighting the building as an exemplary, energy-efficient school, while teachers noted the impact it has on students.

The visitors, representing the nonprofit Aspen Institute, came to the school to help unveil the organization’s K12 Climate Action initiative environmental plan for schools.

“I hope school districts around the country can learn from Arlington,” said John King Jr., former Secretary of Education under Barack Obama.

The school opened in the fall of 2019 and cost around $59 million, according to Arlington Public Schools. A contract allowed a company to put solar panels on the roof at no upfront cost to APS. Seventy-two 560-foot-deep underground wells exchange heat with the ground.

“It’s an all-electric building, so no fossil fuels are burned operating this building,” Wyck Knox of VMDO Architects, whose firm designed the school, told visitors.

Fleet is one of three schools that the school system considers net-zero in terms of energy usage — the others being Discovery Elementary School and the newly opened Cardinal Elementary School.

“Generally, the building doesn’t cost more to do these features,” said Jeffrey Chambers, the director of design and construction for Arlington Public Schools. “A sustainable building should not cost you anymore than a regular building if you’re smart about what you do.”

Discovery’s energy costs are less than $15,000 per year, which compares to around $120,000 for a typical elementary school, said APS Director of Facilities and Operations Catherine Lin, as visitors toured a classroom overlooking a playground and the solar panel-covered roof.

The school also takes advantage of the sunlight to turn off electric lights and illuminate classrooms naturally whenever possible.

Aspen Institute leaders lauded Fleet Elementary as an example of what districts can do with new and retrofitted buildings.

“This is an amazing school and precisely the thing we want to highlight,” said New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who served in President George W. Bush’s administration.

King and Whitman, the co-chairs of the climate initiative, noted the impact the nation’s school districts have on the environment with the amount of land, buses and other resources at their disposal. Others in attendance included American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, teacher and philanthropist Valerie Rockefeller, and APS Superintendent Francisco Durán.

Along with other environmental efforts, APS announced last month that it’s getting three fully electric school buses to replace those with diesel engines. The district aims to debut them next fall.

Fourth grade history and science teacher Ashley Snyder said that the school’s sustainability efforts have inspired students to talk with their families about the environment — including one family that’s now getting a rain barrel and another that’s talking about installing solar panels in the community.

She noted how the building itself is part of a student’s education. Each floor teaches students about earth science, while a cylindrical column with blue and red lights displays live data about how much energy the building is creating and using.

“Being able to have a field trip right at our school has been so life changing,” Snyder said.

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This weekend, locals can stock up on virtually everything needed to batten down the hatches in the event of a natural disaster, or to go back to school, without paying Virginia sales tax.

Hurricane season, which will last through Nov. 30, is about to reach its peak, with 15-21 tropical systems potentially forming this year. People can get a host of hurricane readiness products sales tax-free through Sunday.

The tax exemption is part of Virginia’s Sales Tax Holiday, when folks can buy certain emergency and school supplies, as well as energy-saving devices, sales tax-free. The holiday started this morning (Friday) and will last until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. People can save between 3.5-7% this weekend, according to a video about the holiday produced last year.

In addition to hurricanes, over the years, Arlingtonians have had to be prepared for massive floods, hurricanes, earthquakes big and small, and even tornadoes, as well as the local power outages caused by high winds and rainstorms over the last year.

The list of hurricane-preparedness essentials includes some larger items, if they’re less than $1,000:

  • Portable generators and generator power cords
  • Inverters and inverter power cables
  • Photovoltaic devices that generate electricity

Gas-powered chain saws qualify if they’re less than $350, and chain saw accessories less than $60 are also exempt.

The list includes smaller items useful for most emergencies:

  • First aid kits
  • Storm shutter devices
  • Batteries and chargers for cell phones and all batteries except those for cars and boats
  • Portable, battery-operated or self-powered radios and light sources
  • Tarps
  • Bungee cords and rope
  • Tie down kits
  • Duct tape
  • Gas or diesel fuel tanks
  • Ice packs and reusable ice
  • Water storage containers
  • Non-electric food storage coolers
  • Bottled water
  • Manual can openers

Other home safety products include:

  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Smoke detectors
  • Fire extinguishers

Qualifying school supplies must cost $20 or less per item and qualified clothing and footwear must cost less than $100.

With back to school around the corner, folks can buy anything from scissors, tape and glue to socks, shoes and uniforms, as well as hand sanitizing soap and disinfecting wipes. Other cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, such as masks, however, are exempt.

Energy Star or WaterSense products, such as toilets, faucets and refrigerators, are eligible of they cost less than $2,500 per item and are purchased for noncommercial home or personal use only.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

We’ve posted before about how to check if your attic insulation needs attention.

Home insulation and air sealing have a significantly greater impact on your home’s energy use and comfort than new windows or doors.

Believe it or not, 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are under-insulated. That means that you most likely live in one of them. Plug into these ENERGY STAR how-to videos. This series provides attic insulation tips such as how to measure attic insulation, how to seal air leaks and learn why insulation is important.

Don’t suffer year after year with uncomfortable spaces in your home. In most cases, the fixes  aren’t complex, and the cost will likely be less than you expect. You can also take advantage of the tax credit for insulation before the end of the year!

Are you unsure where to start? Do you have technical questions? Our Green Home Choice staff can help answer your questions and point you in the right direction.

For more information about how to Rule Your Attic or Green Home Choice, visit the Green Home Choice Website at www.greenhomechoice.us or contact [email protected]. Please contact us so we can help you take action today.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

1. Replace Your HVAC Filter (And Wear a Mask in Public): Your air filter is the access point for your HVAC system’s air flow, and the place that filters your home from allergens and dirt particles. If you don’t replace your air filter, it clogs up with excess dust. This reduces airflow, or increases resistance, which puts strain on your heating and cooling system. Replace your filter at least quarterly to make sure it’s not too dirty, or subscribe to a filter delivery service for a monthly reminder.

2. Let the Sun in: Leave south-facing blinds open during sunny days and close them at night to lock the heat in. The sun will give you free heating during the day.

3. Thermostat Setting: You can save energy and money by only running your furnace when you are home. Turn your thermostat down when you leave or get a motion sensing thermostat that automatically changes the temperature.

4. Air Flow: If your couch or other items are positioned to block your heating unit or vent, it reduces the amount of air flow. This makes your mechanical system work harder and it takes longer to heat your home. Let the air flow and make sure the vents are clear.

5. Ceiling Fan Setting: Have you ever noticed the switch on your ceiling fan? Your fan should push air down during warm summer months of the year and draw it up during the winter to help create a more even temperature year-round.

6. LED Light Bulbs: LED light bulbs are still the easiest way to save energy and the prices have come way down. They also last longer and use a fraction of the energy compared to incandescents. LED bulbs come in an array of colors and can be dimmed. Swap out your standard bulbs for LED ones to reduce energy costs.

7. High-Performance Showerhead: WaterSense rated showerheads are the way to go. They are tested for performance. They reduce energy used associated with hot water as well as water and sewer costs. If you can’t install one yourself, talk to your landlord or apartment manager about having one installed.

Disclaimer: Your utility savings depends on what is or is not included in your rental agreement or HOA dues. Every action makes a difference.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

As we said in our last post, 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are under-insulated. In homes across Arlington, poorly sealed and under-insulated attics are taking money out of homeowners’ pockets in the form of high utility bills.

Now is a good time to double-check your rafters and attic space to ensure they are properly insulated against energy leakage.

To encourage Arlingtonians to take control over their high utility bills this heating season, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program is promoting its annual “Rule Your Attic!” campaign.

Adding insulation and sealing air leaks in your attic can help you save up to $200 per year on your home’s annual energy bills and keep you more comfortable. You can also take advantage of the tax credit for insulation before the end of the year!

In addition to energy savings, other benefits to sealing and insulating include: reduced noise from outside; less pollen, dust and pests entering the home; and better humidity control.

Measure Your Insulation

This fall, take the first step to savings by measuring your attic’s insulation. This infographic from the EPA is a good guide to how much insulation your attic should have. If you can see the ceiling joists, you definitely don’t have enough insulation in your attic.

Seal and Insulate

If you determine your attic needs more insulation, install unfaced rolls or batts over the existing insulation; or rent a blower from a home center to blow loose fill insulation into the space.

While you’re in the attic, check for any leaks. Even if you have adequate attic insulation, sealing attic air leaks will enhance its performance and make your home more comfortable.

Common sources of air leaks:

  • Behind kneewalls
  • Attic entry hatch
  • Wiring holes
  • Plumbing vents
  • Open soffit (the boxes that house recessed lighting)
  • Recessed lights
  • Furnace flue or duct chaseways (the hollow box or wall feature that hides ducts)
  • Basement rim joists (where the foundation meets the wood framing)
  • Windows and doors

 

Additional Resources

Have more questions about insulation, air sealing or home renovations? Contact us at [email protected].

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

Home insulation has a significantly greater impact on your home’s energy use and comfort than new windows or doors.

Believe it or not, 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are under-insulated. That means that you most likely live in one of them. Older Arlington homes were built when insulation was expensive and fuel was cheap. Many Arlington homes were built with no insulation and are uncomfortably hot in the summer, cold in the winter and have uneven temperatures room-to-room and floor-to-floor.

Do you have uneven temperatures throughout your home? What are you waiting for!? Join other Arlingtonians that already weatherized their homes and are enjoying the benefits of year-round comfort and lower utility bills.

You can also take advantage of the tax credit for insulation before the end of the year!

In most cases, the fixes aren’t complex and the cost will likely be less than you expect. In just one day you can have your home insulated and be comfortable year after year.

Unsure where to start? Check out this list of contractors who participated in previous County programs. Give an insulation contractor a call today to get an estimate.

The sooner you act the more comfortable your home will be.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Do you have any recommendations or resources to help us improve our home’s energy efficiency?

Answer: Last year, Arlington released its Community Energy Plan, setting forth the goal of becoming Carbon Neutral by 2050. To support that mission, Arlington offers the Green Home Choice Program (GHC), which is a free program that helps homeowners, builders and designers create a more energy efficient and environmentally conscious home. I spoke with Helen Reinecke-Wilt, who manages and personally oversees each project, about the program and its benefits.

What You Get?

Helen and her team provide a free consultation/audit and a detailed, customized guide with the materials and construction requirements that will ensure your home is healthier and more efficient. After the work is complete, you are eligible for an official Green Home Certification from Arlington County, which is similar to LEED Certification common in many commercial buildings (offices and apartments).

Who Qualifies?

Small and big budgets alike! The program is available to everybody from homeowners interested in making small, energy-conscious improvements to builders designing a custom home. If you are building a home, it’s a great idea to have your builder work with Helen and her team! The earlier you involve the GHC program, the more they can do for you.

Benefits

  • New homes that are GHC-certified use 42% less energy than non-certified new homes, which equates to a savings of $1600 per year on utilities.
  • Renovated homes that are GHC-certified use 55% less energy per square foot with an average utility savings of $600 per year.
  • Studies have shown (and here) that 90% of home buyers consider a home’s energy efficiency “very important” in their search criteria and are willing to pay a premium for more efficient homes. The lack of certified green homes means that your new or renovated home will stand out in the market.
  • Healthier air, a more durable home and lower utilities.
  • Eligible for StormwaterWise grant money.
  • Satisfaction of knowing that you are contributing positively to a healthier, more sustainable community.

Cost

The consultation/audit and guidance come at no cost. Depending on the scope of the project, the upgraded construction materials and methods generally add an extra $10k-$20k to the project, however, in many cases builders or homeowners already plan to use similar materials so the added cost is less.

To receive the official Green Home Choice Certification, there’s a $1,500 fee to test your homes efficiency to make sure it meets the requirements to be certified. In my opinion, builders and homeowners will see a significant ROI on this investment, especially for new homes which currently have an average price of nearly $1.9M. Over 350 homes in Arlington have been certified, but many people use the GHC guidance and choose not to complete the certification.

Helen and her team understand that not everybody has the resources to invest tens of thousands of dollars into a GHC certified home and want to make smaller/cheaper, yet effective improvements to their home’s energy efficiency. She prides herself on being able to make these types of recommendations for homeowners after doing an audit of their existing home so don’t shy away from working with her just because you aren’t building a new house or undergoing major renovations!

Thank you Helen and the Green Home Choice team for your contributions to a cleaner, more sustainable community! If you’re interested in working with their team, you can get started by reaching out to them at [email protected] or 703-228-4792.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local real estate, please send an email to [email protected]ntial.com. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N. Fairfax Dr. #10C Arlington, VA 22203, (703) 390-9460.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

High utility bills disproportionately impact those with lower incomes.

On average, low-income households pay 7.2 percent of their income on utilities — more than three times the amount that higher income households pay (2.3 percent).

Families struggling to pay energy bills may sacrifice nutrition, medicine and other necessities, which compound the effects of inequality. Energy efficiency can make a noticeable difference.

The Income and Age-Qualifying Home Improvement program provides in-home energy assessments and installation of select energy-saving products. Single-family homes and multi-family homes (apartments or condos) all qualify.

To help save on energy costs, qualifying Dominion Energy customers can receive a free energy assessment and free energy-saving measures that may include:

  • ENERGY STAR qualified LED light bulbs
  • Efficient, low-flow showerheads
  • Efficient, low-flow faucet aerators
  • Pipe wrap insulation for hot water pipes
  • Attic insulation and air sealing

Eligible applicants must meet ONE of the following criteria:

  • Household income is less than 60% of the state median income
  • Household income is less than 120% of the state median income for residents over 60 years of age

These retrofits can make a big difference to some families, so please share this information.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

A major storm has hit our area and your neighborhood just lost power. Your refrigerator stopped humming, your air conditioner ceased and the clock on your stove just went black.

What’s more, you don’t know when the power will be restored. An hour? Tomorrow? What if it’s longer? When the power goes out nothing works (unless you have solar and batteries from Arlington’s Solar Co-op).

If these questions make you uncomfortable, chances are that you don’t have an emergency plan or kit on hand.

This scenario is only hypothetical but we’ve seen it here in Arlington time and time again. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes — all natural disasters are inevitable. This weekend hurricane Fay is going to narrowly miss Arlington. The key is being prepared. Having an emergency plan and kit can make all the difference.

Since COVID-19 appeared we can’t necessarily bunk up with family, neighbors, or even in a hotel during an emergency without risk.

Below are links to a family-friendly emergency scavenger hunt from Dominion Virginia Power, additional preparedness tips, a link to Arlington’s Solar Co-op and emergency planning resources from Arlington County.

Make a plan and kit today — they could be a real life saver.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

Air pollution is down across Virginia and the rest of the country, due to much lower personal traffic on roadways. You have undoubtedly noticed lighter traffic in Arlington.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently reported that traffic in the region had decreased by over 50 percent in late April, and VDOT data shows similar results. The same VDOT site shows even greater reductions during rush hour along Route 29 and I-66 in Arlington.

Similarly, energy use in buildings is down overall in the past two months, with many commercial and institutional properties closed or operating at a fraction of their usual use. Natural gas use is down with the mild spring, and electricity use is down sharply with lower occupancy and mild weather.

Savvy property managers have adjusted accordingly to control costs, shutting off unneeded equipment and setting thermostats back to “unoccupied” settings. As you might expect, Arlington County government has also seen sharp reductions in energy use in community centers and libraries.

Care is taken to not completely shut the buildings off — it is important to maintain proper humidity levels to avoid indoor air quality problems. Emergency lighting and other essential equipment prevent energy use from truly “flat-lining”, but curves like the one below warm the heart of an energy analyst.

Energy managers and planners are seeking insights into how we might maintain some of the energy and cost savings — and reduced pollutant emissions — once society resumes full operation after the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile, many residents have seen an increase in energy and water bills from staying at home. More cooking, more heating or cooling may be driving household bills up. It may be difficult to assess because COVID hit as winter ended, and the need for air conditioning has been slight thus far. What have you seen in your home energy bills since March?

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

In a time of great change, Arlingtonians are empowered to plug into solar.

Over the past few weeks, 280 Arlingtonians have attended 3 info sessions on Arlington’s Solar and EV Charger Co-op. Forty one families have already had their roofs screened, verified as viable for solar, and they have joined the Co-op.

In the 5+ years of the Co-op we’ve never seen interest this strong nor had the Co-op launch so quickly. Thank you!

The Co-op is moving toward the next step, the Request-for-Proposal (RFP) process in which the solar vendors are selected.

Arlingtonians can still join the Co-op to have their roofs screened at no cost or obligation. There are 3 months left to join the co-op as it will close in August 2020.

You can also take advantage of one of the last big federal solar tax credits. This year the solar tax credit will be 26 percent. In 2021, it will be 22 percent and in 2022 and beyond, it won’t be available for homeowners at all.

Thank you Arlington for your interest and action. For others that are still interested, click below to learn more and join the co-op:

Join the co-op to have your roof screened

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