Solar Appreciation Day

On the second Friday of March each year, people celebrate Solar Appreciation Day globally to learn more about solar technology. Solar Appreciation Day marks a fantastic opportunity to discuss the value of solar energy and celebrate sustainability and energy independence on a global scale.

The value of renewable energy is soaring during this time of climate crisis uncertainty. Common energy commodities can come at a premium, and when we have access to an everlasting source of power in solar, making the switch to save money and reduce our carbon footprint is more appealing than ever.

If you’ve been curious about solar for a while, Viridiant is launching the 2021 edition of our SolarizeRVA campaign to help our neighbors understand the technology, the logistics of an installation, tax credits, financing options, and the overall opportunity. This campaign is a continuation of a long-time project of the Richmond Region Energy Alliance, with whom Viridiant merged a year ago. SolarizeRVA 2021 is kicking-off with an informational webinar on Thursday, March 25, 7:00-8:00pm with Viridiant’s Energy Services Director, Andrew Grigsby.

Here is Andrew’s family’s solar story.

We’ve had solar panels on the roof of our house for almost exactly 4 years. St. Patrick’s day is our “solarversary”… appropriately green. In that time, the only problem we’ve ever had is with my router dropping its connection with the equipment. Meantime, they panels have produced over 32,867 kilowatthours of electricity. At 11-12 cents per kilowatthour, that’s $3665. After the federal tax credit, we paid $10,400 for this 6KW array (20 panels). Using the simple payback method, we’re in the clear in around 11 years – at today’s electricity prices. Where else are you going to get a guaranteed 9% return on an investment?

But we pay for this array as part of our mortgage. We did a rehab mortgage and borrowed a little extra to pay for the solar. So, I look at it from a cashflow point of view. I pay about $53/month to have the array there. That’s the cost of applying $10,400 to my mortgage. But it makes an average $76/month worth of electricity. I call that making money – from day one. If you’re considering refinancing your mortgage or buying a new home, this could be as good a deal for you.

So what makes a good solar site? First, it’s sunshine. Lots of sunshine. The area should be unshaded most of the day. And if it’s a roof, it should be facing generally south and in very good shape. You want your solar panels to produce as much electricity as possible. They produce the most when the sun’s rays hit them straight on.Reach out to our team today to learn more about solar viability at your home.

Here’s how SolarizeRVA works: You call us, email us, fill out our on-line form, or join one of our webinars or community meetings. Our staff take a look at your roof (or yard/field) and your electric bill and talk you through how much solar electricity you could generate and how that could work for you financially. We’ll also discuss other energy-smart technologies and offer you an in-home energy analysis for as little as $45. Basically, you get easy access to some of Virginia’s most experienced residential energy and construction professionals to provide un-biased expertise without a sales pitch. In addition to providing education, SolarizeRVA includes access to vetted installers to whom we can refer you.

It’s a great time to go solar. The federal tax credit of 26% is set to go down to 22% at the end of 2022 (details at https://www.seia.org/initiatives/solar-investment-tax-credit-itc). Installation on your roof takes just 1-3 days depending on the complexity of the operation, and 99% of the work is outside, so it really is a safe undertaking during social distancing. Our re-design of the Solarize model offers both consumers and industry partners more flexibility to get to the best solutions and best prices on a customer-by-customer basis.

Don’t forget to sign up for our SolarizeRVA 2021 kick-off webinar on Thursday, March 25, from 7:00-8:00pm. Register here.

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America Recycles Day

The Keep America Beautiful America Recycles Day is the only nationally-recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling in the United States. Held on and around Nov. 15, America Recycles Day educates and encourages individuals on how to be more mindful of what they consume, where and how to properly recycle, and to pledge to recycle more and recycle right in their everyday lives.

The recycling rate has increased from less than 7 percent in 1960 to the current rate of over 35 percent. An EPA Recycling Economic Information (REI) Study in 2016 study found that in a single year, recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for:

  • 757,000 jobs
  • $36.6 billion in wages; and
  • $6.7 billion in tax revenues.

America Recycles Day is one day a year reserved for the education of recycling and how to be more mindful of what we consume, to reuse as much as possible, repurpose items, and where and how to properly recycle. EPA’s listed benefits of recycling:

  • Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water and minerals
  • Increases economic security by tapping a domestic source of materials
  • Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials
  • Saves energy
  • Supports American manufacturing and conserves valuable resources
  • Helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States

Whether you’re at home, on the go, or in the office, there are many opportunities to go green by reducing, reusing and recycling. Not sure how to recycle common items? Visit this link published by the EPA to learn how to recycle items such as batteries, used oil, tires and more.

Are you located in the greater Richmond area and not sure how to recycle common items? Visit the CVWMA’s Recycling Wizard online for specific locations to recycle common items such as electronics, paints, lawnmowers, and more.

 

 

 

Award Finalists Honored at the 2020 Building Sustainability Conference & Awards

On September 2nd, leaders in the advancement of sustainable design and high performance construction were honored at Viridiant’s Virtual Building Sustainability Conference & Awards.

Viridiant hosted two concurrent conference sessions and an inspiring keynote address from Belltower Pictures’ President, David Powers, on the upcoming documentary “Heard”. The featured sessions and speakers shared knowledge and inspired discussion, all in an effort to drive change in the protection of our living environments, both inside and out. Topics included:

  • How Virginia is Achieving our Energy Goals
  • How to Deliver High Performance Buildings
  • Keynote: “Heard” sneak peek documentary by Belltower Pictures

Awards were presented to recognize the region’s leaders in high-performance construction with a focus on projects, programs, and initiatives that represent the future of sustainable building. Nominees and winners were honored in a variety of categories based on work completed in the last three years in the Mid-Atlantic region. Each winner receives a FSC-certified wooden award plaque from Rivanna Natural Designs, a local business offering planet-friendly alternatives to traditional trophies and plaques.

Award winners include:

Project or Development – Single Family

Atelier Q2 Architects – 3518 13th Street N., Arlington

The Joyce Residence is a certified ENERGY STAR home achieving a HERS score of 22 and received Arlington County’s silver level Green Home Choice Award. The project incorporated passive solar design including the home’s orientation and exterior solar shading to take advantage of natural light and solar gains during the winter to decrease the heating load and solar shading during the summer months to decrease cooling loads within the home. It utilizes central mini-split heat pumps, an Energy Star hot water heater and many locally sourced or recycled content materials. 24 solar panels are installed to produce 8kw power for electrical vehicle charging station and includes battery storage.

 

Project or Development – Multifamily

Virginia Supportive Housing – Church Street Station Studios

Church Street Station Studios by Virginia Supportive Housing (VSH) is a 100% affordable, five story, 80 unit project designed and constructed to achieve EarthCraft Platinum Certification. To achieve the pinnacle level of the EarthCraft certification, Church Street incorporated advanced framing techniques, low to no VOC materials, energy efficient doors and windows, high efficiency water heaters, a VRF mini splits, resource efficient lighting, and WaterSense fixtures. The property includes a photovoltaic array to minimize the building’s dependence on non-renewable electricity generation, along with a solar thermal system for hot water generation. The compact, infill site connects to public green spaces and transit, minimizes parking, contains advanced stormwater control, and included native pollinator plant species within its landscaping. Virginia Supportive Housing’s commitment to sustainability not only improves the surrounding community while decreasing the carbon footprint of its developments, but also allows VSH to continue furthering their mission of providing transitional housing to the Commonwealth.


Builder or Developer

Peacock Holland Construction

Peacock Holland Construction (PHC) was founded in 2018 and is already a strong contributor to the inventory of green certified homes within the Commonwealth having certified 80 EarthCraft units during its short and obviously productive lifetime. PHC is currently in the process of renovating and constructing an additional 318 units. PHC collaborates with both Viridiant and design teams to implement high performance construction details and methods. PHC trains site staff in basic high-performance building theory, works closely with trade contractors to educate tradesmen on energy efficient means and methods, and educates residents to better understand their high-performance home. They’ve utilizes a team-based, integrated approach to optimize program delivery and has developed internal controls to manage and conserve construction schedules, materials and cost. PHC’s historical experience with the production of multi-family construction along with classic engineering knowledge ensures construction and delivery of energy efficient, practical, and resilient spaces.


Habitat for Humanity Affiliate

Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley

In recent years, Habitat Roanoke has maintained an average of 8 certified homes a year. 2019 was no exception. All certified homes in 2019 were clustered in the same collective community. Of those 8 certified homes, 5 addressed existing, vacant housing stock. One was torn down and rebuilt, while the other 4 underwent gut rehabilitation including all new insulation and energy using systems and were certified under the EarthCraft New Construction guidelines rather than renovation based on the extent of the work. By complementing the existing streetscape with new construction projects and preserving existing architectural styles with renovations, Habitat has received significant support and enthusiasm from neighbors and the surrounding community. Habitat Roanoke takes pride in knowing their families can afford to be comfortable in their own homes while also helping to ease the housing burden on partner families associated with high utility bills.


Top High-Performance EarthCraft Home

Shelter Alternatives – Single Family Home in Blacksburg

This single family home by Shelter Alternative in Blacksburg includes a tight building envelope and insulation combined with Energy Star appliances and solar to achieve a HERS 20. In addition to reducing the amount of energy needed to operate the home, there were some material choices that made good use of existing resources. Trees taken down for the homesite were repurposed into trim and countertops for the home. The siding is locally sourced Hemlock. The home was intentionally designed to incorporate warehousing and home offices for a home-based business and also includes a suite for an aging parent which will in turn provide future aging in place for the owners.


Visionary

Annette Osso

Ms. Annette Osso currently serves as the Managing Director of Resilient Virginia, established in 2014 with the mission of accelerating resiliency planning in communities across Virginia. Resilient Virginia evolved from Virginia Sustainable Building Network (VSBN), originally formed in 1995, where Ms. Osso served as president for 18 years. As one of the earliest advocates and adopters of green building practices in the Commonwealth, she was the key part of a collaboration that brought the EarthCraft program to Virginia. Through her years of work, Ms. Osso built a strong network of public and private partners that together advanced energy efficiency, high performance building practices, wide-ranging education and outreach efforts, and spearheaded the Virginia Sustainable Future Conference and Workshop Series. As a result of Ms. Osso’s efforts, Virginia now operates one of the most successful regional green building programs in the country, is a top 10 state for LEED certifications, and hosts very active US Green Building Council Chapters in the Region. In 2014, Ms. Osso created the Resilient Virginia organization to further VSBN’s mission. She grew and expanded her vision well beyond sustainable building design and construction, to examine issues of sustainability at a macro level, addressing the many aspects of resiliency: community, health, transportation, emergency planning and preparedness, grid modernization, urban and rural issues, both coastal and inland, as well as the basics of energy, water, and food security. For 25 years, Annette Osso has advocated to advance a clean economy, sustainability, and resilience. Through her tireless efforts she has engaged a network of supporters, provided education to thousands, and advanced policies and programs to ensure a more sustainable future for Virginians.

 

Special thanks to our 2020 event sponsors!

Viridiant’s Building Sustainability Conference & Awards Event Details

Join Viridiant on Wednesday, September 2nd for the virtual Building Sustainability Conference & Awards! The event will kick-off at 1:00pm on Wednesday, September 2nd with concurrent educational sessions followed by a keynote address and the 11th annual awards ceremony. You won’t want to miss this live, virtually connected experience!

1:00 – 2:00pm | Welcome & Concurrent Educational Sessions (sponsored by Virginia Housing)

Viridiant is excited to welcome six special guests to kick-off the conference. One panel will explore Virginia’s energy goals with the Virginia Clean Economy Act, energy code updates, and utility rebate programs while the other panel details how to deliver high performance buildings through design, construction, and the integration of technology.

How Virginia is Achieving Our Energy Goals

  • Angela Navarro, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade
  • Michael Hubbard, Dominion
  • Cindy Davis, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

How to Actually Deliver High Performance Buildings

  • Jimmy Holland, Peacock Holland Construction
  • Nathan Blinn, archi-TEC-tonic
  • Colin Arnold, Arnold Design Studio
2:00 – 2:40pm | Keynote Address

“Heard” is a 90-minute documentary currently in production by Belltower Pictures in partnership with VPM, Virginia’s home for Public Media. “Heard” captures the inspiring stories of four people who grew up in Richmond’s public housing, the challenges they faced and how they’re giving back to their home communities.

Conference attendees will hear from Belltower Pictures’ President, David Powers, and Von Johnson, one of the four people featured in the film. A Q&A portion will follow their presentation so conference attendees can ask questions and learn more about the homes, lives, struggles and hope for being “Heard” in public housing.

We encourage attendees to stream the sneak peak trailer (featured below) before the event.

2:45 – 3:30pm | Awards Ceremony (sponsored by Dominion)

The 11th annual awards ceremony will recognize leaders in high performance construction in the following categories:

  • Project or Development – Multifamily
  • Project or Development – Single Family
  • Habitat for Humanity Affiliate
  • Builder or Developer
  • Visionary
  • Most Energy Efficient Home (EarthCraft and non-EarthCraft certified)

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10 Tips To Lessen Your Impact This World Nature Conservation Day

SolarizeRVA Helps the Richmond Region go Solar

SolarizeRVA Helps the Richmond Region go Solar

By: Andrew Grigsby, Energy Services Director

Do you have one of these (pictured left)? I bought this one in 1996, and it still works just fine. That’s right, 24 years old, and those tiny solar panels still power out trigonometry and lots of other things I still don’t quite understand. But my point is not to date myself, rather, it’s to demonstrate how durable and reliable solar panels are. Here we have cheap, quarter-century-old equipment that keeps chugging along. Of course today’s panels are as much improved as this year’s smart phones compared to the flip phone (or was it a car phone?) of 1996. They pack way more electricity-producing technology into each panel, such that many homes can now produce 50%, 75%, even 100% of their annual electricity needs with rooftop solar.

If you’ve been curious about solar for a while, Viridiant is launching a new effort to help you understand the technology, the logistics of an installation, tax credits, financing options, and the overall opportunity. We call it SolarizeRVA. And our goal is 1000 new solar homes in the Richmond region. This campaign is a continuation of a long-time project of the Richmond Region Energy Alliance, with whom Viridiant merged earlier this year.

Here’s how it works: You call us, email us, fill out our online form, or tune into a webinar or community meeting. We take a look at your roof (or yard/field) and your electric bill and talk through how much solar electricity you could generate and how that could work for you financially. We also discuss other energy-smart technologies and offer you an in-home energy analysis for as little as $45. Basically, you get easy access to some of Virginia’s most experienced residential energy and green building professionals to provide un-biased expertise without a sales pitch.

Over the coming months we’ll offer numerous public events where area residents can join in the conversation and have their specific questions answered. Our first is a webinar on Thursday, July 23 at noon – with an evening edition at 7PM. Register for free here. In addition to providing education, SolarizeRVA includes access to vetted installers to whom we can refer you.

It’s a great time to go solar. The federal tax credit of 26% is set to go down to 22% at the end of this year (details here). Installation on your roof takes just 1-3 days depending on the complexity of the operation, and 99% of the work is outside, so it really is a safe undertaking during social distancing. Our re-design of the Solarize model offers both consumers and industry partners more flexibility to get to the best solutions and best prices on a customer-by-customer basis.

There are no free panels. The utilities are not “paying you” to go solar. There is one simple federal tax rebate. We can explain all of that – without a sales pitch. Viridiant is a mission-driven non-profit that has led the charge for cleaner, greener building in Virginia since 2006. Our experts are always available to explain the technology, financing options, installation process, calculating your ROI, and logistics of solar, insulation, HVAC, water heaters, appliances, electric vehicles, and more. If you want to lower costs, improve indoor air quality and comfort, or reduce your carbon footprint, we’re here to help you make the most cost-effective choices.

Here’s my family’s solar story. We’ve had solar panels on the roof of our house a little more than 3 years now, and the only problem we’ve ever had is with my router dropping its connection with the equipment. Meantime, the panels have produced over 28,250 kilowatthours of electricity. At roughly 11 cents per kilowatthour, that’s $3080. After the federal tax credit, we paid $10,400 for this 6KW array (20 panels). Using the simple payback method, we’re in the clear in around 10 years (where else are you going to get a guaranteed 10% return on an investment?). But since this array is rolled into my mortgage (we paid for them as part of a rehab loan), I look at it from a cashflow point of view: I pay about $53/month to have the array there. It makes an average $68/month. I call that making money – from day one. If you’re considering refinancing your mortgage, this could be as good a deal for you.

So what makes a good solar site? First, it’s sunshine. Lots of sunshine. The area should be unshaded most of the day. And if it’s a roof, it should be facing generally south. You want your solar panels to produce as much electricity as possible. They produce the most when the sun’s rays hit them straight on. You also should have a roof that’s in very good shape. You don’t want to install a solar array on shingles that need replacing in less than 10 years.

But you don’t have to figure all of this out on your own. Just reach out to us and we’ll save you hours of research. Not every home has a good site for solar panels and that’s why we encourage everyone to get a home energy inspection as part of the process.

Join us for our webinars on July 23 – or call/email any time.

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Is cooking on a gas stove doing more harm than good?

Many Americans depend on, and oftentimes prefer, using gas appliances for heating and cooking in their homes. What many don’t realize is the negative impact burning fossil fuels in your home has on the climate and human health and how well alternatives like heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and induction cooktops can perform.

The Health Effects from Gas Stoves Pollution recent study by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) found that gas stoves, particularly when unvented, can be a primary source of indoor air pollution, often exacerbating respiratory conditions like asthma. With indoor air pollution being largely unregulated, RMI put forth immediate recommendations to help mitigate the associated health risks

Over 40 years of evidence indicates that gas stoves can lead to unhealthy levels of indoor air pollution. The report outlines eight key points:

  1. Indoor air is largely unregulated and is often more polluted than outdoor air.
  2. Gas stoves can be a large source of toxic pollutants indoors.
  3. Indoor pollution from gas stoves can reach levels that would be illegal outdoors.
  4. There are well-documented risks to respiratory health from gas stove pollution.
  5. Children are particularly at risk of respiratory illnesses associated with gas stove pollution.
  6. Lower-income households may be at higher risk of gas stove pollution exposure.
  7. Ventilation is critical but is not the sole strategy to prevent exposure.
  8. Electric cooking is a cleaner household cooking option.

What can you do to immediately mitigate the health risks associated with gas stoves?

  • Open windows and use the exhaust (not recirculating) hood during cooking
  • Install a low-level carbon monoxide detector
  • Use a plug-in induction cooktop
  • Switch out a gas stove for an electric stove

Most building science professionals and sustainability researchers recommend moving away from fossil fuels in the home as part of a wider “electrify everything” movement that recognizes both the safety and carbon footprint benefits of new technologies.

Interested in learning how your home is impacted? Schedule a visit with one of Viridiant’s building science experts to perform safety tests of gas appliances, including stoves, and to evaluate the effectiveness of your home’s ventilation system.

Click here to learn more about Viridiant’s services for your home, including in-home inspections, solar consulting, and now remote energy audits.

Contact: Andrew Grigsby, Energy Services Director, andrew.grigsby@viridiant.org

 

 

Introducing Viridiant’s Remote Home Energy Audits

We all know that getting a professional energy audit is the best first step towards making smart home energy improvements. But, in the time of COVID, how can that be done safely? While Viridiant has suspended in-home visits for now, we still are eager to help Virginians use good building science to make the best decisions to save money, use less energy, go solar, and improve health, safety, comfort, and durability.

Viridiant is exited to introduce our remote home energy audit. Here’s how it works. One of our expert technicians “comes to your home” using Zoom, Google Duo, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook…whatever app works for you. We talk for a bit and then ask you to turn the camera around and take us on a tour of your home.

Throughout the tour, we’ll be on the lookout for opportunities to reduce your energy costs while improving health, safety, comfort, and durability. If you have a flashlight, or perhaps a laser pointer, those are great to have along so that we direct your attention to particular issues.

As we go through the home, our technician will talk through energy, health/safety, and comfort issues in real-time, and then we’ll follow up with a written report full of no-, low-, and higher-cost improvement ideas, referrals for contractors and solar as appropriate, and useful information on incentives or rebates!

The cost is $85 and takes 45-90 minutes depending on your home’s size and complexity.

Get started today!

Energy-Smart Renovations with Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEMs)

Buying a home that needs some work? Want to save some money?

Viridiant’s new Community Energy Services division are available to help you plan energy-smart renovations. Use an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) or traditional renovation loan (203K, etc.) to increase your borrowing power and roll upgrades into your mortgage payment.

You get critical work done before you move in, and then enjoy lower total cost of ownership while you’re in the home.  We can inspect and test the home to craft a package of improvements that will reduce your energy costs more than the increase to your mortgage.

Viridiant can:

  • provide consultation regarding the smartest energy improvements and provide the inspection, testing, and energy modeling (a computer simulation of your home’s energy use to calculate the energy and economic impact of different efficiency strategies) that are needed for the EEM process
  • utilize energy modeling software allows us to “test-drive” different changes to the home you want to buy
  • craft an improvements package that, when paid for via your mortgage, results in total monthly bills that are less than they would be if you didn’t do the improvements

If you’re in an Opportunity Zone, there are additional opportunities:

203k loans typically let home buyers borrow up to $35,000 above and beyond the home price, and use the extra money for renovations. And thanks to a new rule, people buying in designated “Opportunity Zones” can borrow up to $50,000 — giving them an extra $15,000 in renovating power. But the new rule is first-come, first-served. Only the first 15,000 applicants nationwide will be able to use the higher FHA 203k loan limit. So if you’re interested in a bigger 203k loan, check your eligibility and move fast. [Source]

What are the benefits?

  • Monthly savings for your household budget
  • Increased comfort and improved indoor air quality comfort
  • Reduced carbon footprint of your home
  • Improved property value
  • Home mortgage interest deduction if you include improvements into your mortgage
  • Enjoy the thrill of producing electricity at your home with solar on-site

Are you interested in making those wished-for improvements happen before you move in rather than hoping to make them happen sometime down the road? Visit the Community Energy Services Financial Tools webpage or contact Andrew Grigsby, Energy Services Director, at andrew.grigsby@viridiant.org to learn more.

Commit to making energy efficiency changes at home this Earth Day

At Viridiant, we’re building the science of sustainability not just on Earth Day, but everyday. And we hope you will consider implementing some energy efficiency changes in your home that will help you save money and help save our planet in honor of Earth Day!

Will you sign the Home Energy Pledge today and commit to lowering your energy consumption to help make your home and community more resilient and sustainable?

When you sign the pledge, you’ll receive Viridiant’s Top Ten Home Energy Tips! These easy to implement tips will help you maintain comfortable heating and cooling temperatures, reduce water consumption, and make basic appliance usage adjustments to reduce energy consumption.

  • Heating & Cooling – Space heating and cooling making up nearly half of the average home’s energy use! There’s a huge opportunity to lower energy consumption and utility bills by adjusting how your home stays at a comfortable temperature.
  • Water Consumption – Water is one of Earth’s most precious resources. Water heating is the second highest utility expense. Several no- or low-cost changes could have a real impact on your water use and utility bills.
  • Appliance Usage – Energy-efficient options and behavioral changes will help reduce electricity costs and usage. Decreasing energy use at home saves money and lessens pollution. Reducing electric loads starts with behavior choices.

Interested in Learning More?

Viridiant’s energy experts can help with remote utility bill analysis which can show your target areas for savings. We can also advise you about energy monitoring devices, smart home technology, and green energy credits. When stay-at-home orders are lifted, we can schedule an in-home “energy audit”.

Visit the Community Energy Services webpage or contact Andrew Grigsby at andrew.grigsby@viridiant.org or call 804-773-3200 today to learn more.

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