February 2022
The swift fury of the Marshall fire made many of us more aware of our vulnerability to climate disaster. Whole subdivisions were turned to rubble in a matter of hours, as were stores and even a brand-new hotel. While more fire-resistant building materials would help, that is only one element of buildings that are more climate friendly. Appliances that use less energy and are less likely to threaten health are also important. In the wake of a climate change-driven tragedy striking so close to home, it's important for all of us to redouble our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and do everything we possibly can to prevent the climate change crisis from getting worse. In this month's newsletter, we explore some issues related to building codes and energy.

Sunny regards,
Rebecca Cantwell 
for New Energy Colorado
Energy Codes Ensure Buildings Limit Emissions

Buildings account for about 40% of U.S. energy use and are Colorado’s fourth largest source of emissions, so making buildings more efficient is critical to reaching the state's climate goals. But local governments have primary responsibility.

Building and fire codes mandate minimum requirements based on safety for new construction or major renovations of different kinds of structures. In recent years, energy efficiency requirements have been added to codes, starting with a baseline code, and continuing with more stringent requirements to reflect technology upgrades. 

In 2019, House Bill 19-1260 established a minimum building energy code and the law requires local governments to adopt and enforce a recent version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) when updating other codes. The Colorado Energy Office offers free education and training on energy codes and created an Energy Code Adoption Toolkit. More information: Building Energy Codes | Colorado Energy Office.

Some local governments choose to go beyond minimum code requirements. Last year, the city and county of Denver started an adoption process to update its codes and recommend improvements in the areas of sustainability and energy conservation. The public is invited to watch hearings on Zoom and to comment as this process continues:
Getting Back on Track with Appliance Standards

In addition to requirements that buildings save energy, appliance standards have also made a big difference.

Colorado consumers save about $417 a year on utility bills because of efficiency standards for appliances and lighting, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. But Trump-era rollbacks are still causing delays.

Light bulb standards – easily achieved by LEDs in widespread use – were halted by the Trump administration, and their lack causes 800,000 tons of lifetime carbon dioxide emissions each month the delay continues. The Biden administration is working to reverse the rollbacks, but the bureaucracy is slow. However, the Department of Energy did announce the first winners of a next-generation lighting challenge this month.

Another roadblock to more efficient gas furnaces, water heaters and boilers is also still in place, even though major updates on furnaces have not been made since 1987. In a December
 final rule, the Department of Energy (DOE) undid a Trump administration action that had blocked its ability to significantly improve efficiency standards for these products, which are the highest energy users in many homes and buildings. But regulatory steps remain until it takes effect.
Energy Tips: From Cheap to Steep
Opportunity Out of Tragedy
 by Nancy Kellogg
The surviving Marshall Fire homes need extensive work to remove the smoke residue in them. In addition to deep cleaning, the attic insulation in these homes needs to be removed to properly mitigate the smoke.

After the insulation is removed, this is the perfect opportunity to greatly reduce the flow of air between the living space and the attic. The average home in Colorado exchanges 66% of the air in the home every hour! Controlling this airflow is done with caulk, foam and physical air barriers. Then adding about 16 inches of cellulose insulation or equivalent, (R-49+, required in Superior and Louisville) will dramatically improve the comfort and energy efficiency of these homes.

Basically, the air sealing work is the windbreaker and the insulation is the wool sweater.

Bestway Insulation is a valued Metro Denver Green Homes Tour sponsor and one of the best insulation and air sealing companies in Colorado. They are located in the burn area. Fortunately, their family, animals, home and business survived, but the experience was terrifying. They successfully appealed to Xcel Energy to add a bonus attic insulation rebate for four zip codes in the Marshall burn area, increasing the rebate from $600 to $1200. Xcel Energy requires the use of their registered contractors for the rebates, reducing the appeal of scammers who prey on people after disasters.
Visit The Virtual Metro Denver Green Homes Tour
If you want to learn more about how to save money on your energy and water bills, please visit the virtual Metro Denver Green Homes Tour.

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February 22nd, 7 pm - NCRES
Optimizing Energy Storage for Ultra-High Renewable Electricity Systems

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February 24-March 6, 2022 (All-Virtual)
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