What’s the cost of carbon? 350 members know it’s rising sea levels, coral bleaching and unprecedented wildfire just to name a few. The climate cost of greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacture and transport of goods and the burning of fossil fuels to keep our homes comfortable is a factor to consider in any budget. Investments and purchases you do (or don’t) make can reduce carbon emissions with every dollar saved!

Conservation Starts at Home

When feathering your nest ask yourself if you really need that shiny new object when one with a patina just might do. Is there an alternative product not manufactured overseas? The embodied carbon of a product that’s transported halfway around the world is huge. Instead explore any of the numerous upcycling and consignment shops in Boulder and beyond. Clutter has quality furniture and artwork. Like Habitat ReStores, Resource Central offers building materials including reclaimed lumber plus a tool library; why buy when you can borrow? Front Range Mercantile in Longmont is a source for vintage tools and hardware. And your consignments or purchases at Greenwood Wildlife Thrift Shop go toward Colorado wildlife rehabilitation, a great dividend on your investment.

Carbon Saved is Money Earned

Let’s start with the easy stuff. If you haven’t already, change all the lights in your home to LED bulbs. Xcel discounts these at local retailers with prices under a dollar per bulb. Look for a “warm white” color temperature between 2700K and 4000K for a more natural look.

Weatherstripping is an easy, low-cost way to stop drafts around doors and windows. EPDM cellular rubber and vinyl-clad foam are more durable than PVC foam which degrades in sunlight. Heat shrink polyurethane films can be applied to troublesome windows for the heating season.

While you can always don a sweater, put on some heavy socks and lower your thermostat, effective window treatments can save energy and avoid the shivers. According to the US Dept. of Energy about 30% of a home’s energy is lost through windows. The goal is to let the sunshine in when present but then button-up those openings when the sun is down. Insulated cellular shades are pleated with air pockets between pleats and can save up to 20% of home heating costs. These can be installed with sidetracks to maximize efficiency and be operated from the top, bottom or both. Automated shades can even be programmed to balance daylighting needs with energy savings.

Unlike programmable thermostats that run a fixed program of preset temperature setpoints, smart thermostats utilize a machine learning algorithm to monitor occupancy, desired setpoints and other parameters to maximize comfort while saving energy. Xcel sells two ecobee models at $50 off that integrate with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant. The ecobee3 lite version lacks the eco+ upgrade that claims to “supercharge ecobee thermostats for maximum efficiency with minimal effort.” Homeowners with heat pumps should consider the Nest 3rd Gen learning thermostat for its “heat pump balance” feature that offers better control of auxiliary heat at lower ambient temperatures. After discounts, the top of the line Nest is about $30 more than the ecobee4.

Rebates, Rebates, Rebates

Regular maintenance is crucial to keeping your home heating equipment running at peak efficiency. Change filters regularly and consider a professional boiler or furnace tune-up. Boulder County residents are eligible for a 50% rebate up to $50 for a furnace tune-up when they sign-up for the first time at EnergySmartYes.com.

Better still, sign up at EnergySmartYes.com for free energy and money saving advice along with incentives to replace that old fossil-fueled appliance with a high-efficiency electric unit. For example, City of Boulder homeowners can score a great deal on a Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH) through the end of March. With total rebates roughly equal to the cost of a HPWH, one can be had for only the cost of installation.

Qualified HPWH
$   400 Xcel Energy Rebate
$   200 Boulder County Rebate
$   250 City of Boulder Rebate
$   500 COB Fuel-switching Rebate
$1,350 Total

Good news! The City of Boulder has renewed all the 2019 rebates for 2020 including $500 to $1,500 fuel switching rebates for removal of a gas boiler/furnace and/or water heater and optionally adding solar PV.

Longmont Power and Communications customers have access to the Efficiency Works Homes program that includes a $500 fuel-switching rebate for Heat Pump Water Heaters too.

Xcel Energy customers in Colorado can take advantage of rebates on home heating equipment. The Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) rebate (up to $500) is actually listed under “Cooling Rebates.” Heat pumps with higher HSPF (winter) and SEER (summer) ratings perform better and carry higher rebates.

Join a Movement

A well-insulated home running at peak efficiency can save you money and keep you cozy, but nothing can compare to that inner warmth you’ll feel when you’re part of a movement. Please consider joining one of 350 Colorado’s committees or campaigns to help us achieve the carbon-free future that we know is possible. It’ll warm your soul.