Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Energy standards in play for 2011

New and revised energy standards for 2011 could make this an interesting year for both existing home owners and those looking to buy a new home. Here's a quick look at some of the changes on tap:
  • Revised Energy Star guidelines: Products and homes looking to label themselves as Energy Star certified will have to meet more robust criteria. New specifications for many products and appliances became effective January 1. New criteria for home construction will be phased in during the year and fully implemented by January 1, 2012.
  • Incandescent bulbs on the way out: Rules passed in 2007 (The Energy Independence and Security Act) are already having an impact in the marketplace to phase out incandescent bulbs. Most rules don't take effect until next year, but IKEA is already removing them from their shelves and other retailers could follow suit. Many argue that we are needlessly losing a cheap alternative, but whale oil lamps were cheap a century and a half ago too. Flourescent and LED bulbs continue to get less expensive, come in more shapes and colors, and will allow you to keep more money in your pocket over time.
  • Tax credits extended: As part of the tax compromise passed at the end of 2010, many home improvement credits were partially extended. Renewable energy credits (for items such as geothermal and solar power systems) remain in effect through 2016.
  • Ohio building codes for energy efficiency: Debate is taking place on the implementation of improved base standards required for new construction. Some builders are resistant to increases in areas such as higher R-values for external walls making the argument that it will add to costs during a recession. The new standards are already in place in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan.
As always, expect some of these to be controversial, but for the most part they should be good for consumers' bottom line. I anticipate we'll see some new technologies become more commonplace (such as the continued Duke rollout of Smart Meters) and greater competition in the electric and gas utilities sector.

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