Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick Tip: Air Sealing Satellite, Cable, Phone, and Network Jacks

As we become increasingly dependent on technology, more of our homes are being built or retrofitted with wiring for satellite, cable, phone or networking jacks. While these modern conveniences don't have to have to exact an energy penalty on your home, many times they do contribute to increased air leakage by virtue of the holes they make in our walls.

To help reduce air leakage, sealing the areas where cables are run down into the walls from unconditioned areas (like the top plates of walls in the attic) is the best option, but often times those areas are in less than accessible spaces, or spaces that most folks wouldn't want to access at all, even if they could. So, often the easiest way to reduce air leakage is by focusing your attention to sealing the inside walls.

While gasketed wall plate covers are available, there is a cheaper, easier way to help seal up these holes in our walls. The same compressible weatherstripping with adhesive on one side that your hardware store sells to help seal windows and doors can be used to help seal these covers, by creating a seal around the edge of the cover, like seen below:

You can also see the childproofing outlet caps on the electrical outlet next to the pictured data jack, which not only prevent inquisitive children from re-styling their hair (or worse), but also helps to reduce air leakage.

It might seem like sealing outlets and data wall plates would result in a trivial difference; and the reduction in leakage will be fairly small, but sealing all your wall plates like this will make a difference, especially in homes that have already sealed up any large leakage areas.. When weatherizing, sometimes it is best to 'sweat the small stuff', or you will end up shivering!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chicago Matters: Beyond Burnham Presentation by Chicago Energy Consultants

Chicago Energy Consultants is honored to be participating in the Chicago Matters: Beyond Burnham program. We will be giving a presentation on energy audits, and how to save energy on October 27th, 7 PM, at the following location:

Edgebrook Chicago Public Library Branch
5331 W Devon Ave

For more information, visit the listing on the CPL website here

We hope to see you!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Energy Habits Presentation - Chicagoland Whole Home Energy Savings Project

Over the past few months, Chicago Energy Consultants has been working closely with the Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the Historic Chicago bungalow Association on a pilot energy audit program. The goal of this program is to determine if a 30% reduction in energy consumption is possible for most Chicagoland homes. To meet this goal, Chicago Energy Consultants has been performing detailed energy ratings and audits for homeowners, along with safety inspections and other training.

Part of this training was a presentation on how homeowners might reduce their energy consumption, simply by changing often small things that they do - yes; turning off lights, turning down thermostats, and keeping the refrigerator door closed does actually save energy!

As promised, here is the material that was presented to the Historic Chicago bungalow Association's members:

Chicago Energy Consultants on National Public Radio

Recently, we were interviewed by National Public Radio's Sheryl Corley on wether or not replacing windows is a good energy savings measure. Here's a hint: check out the title! The finished piece finally went on the air as a part of NPR's "How Green Is It?" series; you can listen to the interview, and read more here:

Let us know what you think, or if you have any questions!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Reduce: Stopping Junk Mail

A sizable part of our resource consumption and subsequent carbon footprint is our reliance on paper-based products, not to mention paper itself.  An amazing volume of junk mail tends to assault us constantly through 'snail mail'; and even though shredding, composting, or recycling that junk mail is commendable, why not just stop the inflow?

Here are some easy tips on stopping unwanted mail:

USPS first class mail: circle the first class postage, and write "refused: return to sender".

Credit offers: Call 1-800-5 OPT-OUT (or 1-800-567-8688), and all of the major credit bureaus will remove you from the list that they sell to advertisers.

  • Remove your name from specific catalog lists for free by visiting, or
  • Call the company's 800 number and have the label handy, or
  • Write your instructions on the mailing label and fax it to the company. Mark "ATTN: customer service".

USPS bulk mail: if the mail is labeled "address correction corrected", circle that and treat as first class mail. If not, it is best to recycle this mail, as the USPS throws out any returned bulk mail.

Local Business and supermarket fliers:
All bundled coupon mailings must identify the sender, look for an address card that might have a picture of a missing child, or other advertisements. Once you have this info, you may have to call directory assistance to ask for the sender's phone number. Some of the more prolific senders are listed below:
  • ADVO (Mail comes with pictures of missing children). Now called Valassis; click here to complete the online opt-out form, or call 1-800-437-0479 to get off the list. Via snail mail, complete this form and mail.
  • Val-Pak Coupons Click this link and have a copy your mailing label handy.
  • Carol Wright Now owned by Val-Pak, see above.
  • Harte Hanks Direct Marketing Click here to complete the online opt-out form, or call 1-800-422-4116

  • When you purchase from a catalog, over the phone, or from the internet, be sure to request that your name is not sold or shared with affiliates, and ask that you receive no promotional materials. Especially on internet orders, pay close attention to any 'contact preferences' check boxes that may already be checked for you!

    Contact your service providers and ask them not to send you promotional material:
    Providers that you have accounts with (for example insurance, bank, wireless phone, or cable companies) love to send you promotional offers and info about new services. By contacting them and making sure they are not sending their own promotional item to you, as well as not sharing your info with 'affiliate' companies, you will be on the way to a junk-mail free life!

    Activate the DMA's mail preference service:
    Visit the Direct Marketing Association's website here, to activate their 'preference service'. You will need to create an account, but once logged in, you can choose to stop catalogs, magazine offers, and other mail offers. Currently activating the preference service online is free. For up to five years, this will stop mail from all member organizations that you have not specifically ordered products from.

    The Direct Marketing Association estimates that listing with their mail preference service will stop 75% of all national mailings. If you fill out a USPS change of address form, the DMA will track the new address (you'll get a few months of mailings to the new address before they catch up to you). It can take up to six months for your request to be fully processed. If the internet isn't your thing, you can send in your request via the mail by completing their online form, then mailing the completed form to them with a check for 1$

    Keep the trees in the forest, and the junk mail out of your life!

    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    Update: Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency expanded!

    The most recently passed stimulus bill has some good news for homeowners looking to increase the efficiency of their homes! The maximum mount of tax credit available for energy updates has been increased from 500$ to 1500$, and the credit rate has increased from 10% to 30%. The tax credit has also been simplified, doing away with fixed dollar amounts of credits focused on specific items. Those looking to purchase new windows can also rejoice, as the 200$ cap on window tax credits has also been removed.

    Anyone who has used the Residential Tax Credits in the years before 2009 can start anew, and claim up to another 1500$ for updates made in 2009 & 2010.

    For more details, please see the following page on the EPA's website, or contact your tax professional.

    Chicago Energy Consultants is a proud partner of Energy Star, and is happy to see increased governmental awareness regarding the benefits of energy efficiency!

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Chicagoland Natural Gas Savings Program

    If you are a People's Gas or North Shore Gas customer, now is a great time to take on some energy efficiency projects, and receive some 'free' money back!

    The Citizens Utility Board, City of Chicago, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Illinois Attorney General's Office, and Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas have joined forces to administer the Chicagoland Natural Gas Savings Program

    Rebates are available on the following items from now through April, or until funds are depleted:

    Ceiling Insulation
    (cellulose/blown in or batting)

    R-38 75% of total cost; up to $750
    Wall Insulation
    (rigid/wallboard or batting)

    R-11 75% of total cost, up to $750
    High Efficiency Clothes Washers

    ENERGY STAR rated, with Modified Energy Factor >= 1.72 and Water Factor <= 8.0 $100 per home
    Storage Water Heater ENERGY STAR rated, with Energy Factor >= 0.62 $75 per home

    Tankless Water Heater ENERGY STAR rated, with Energy Factor >= 0.82 $400 per home

    Gas Condensing Water Heater

    ENERGY STAR rated, with Energy Factor >= 0.80 $400 per home
    High Efficiency Gas Furnace

    92 - 93 % Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating $350 per home
    High Efficiency Gas Furnace

    94% + Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating $450 per home
    High Efficiency Gas Boiler

    85% AFUE $350 per home
    High Efficiency Gas Boiler 95% AFUE $600 per home

    For more information, you can visit the program webpage here:

    Or call the Program's Call Center for more information: 866-964-7345