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December 2013 Home Efficiency News

Welcome to Home Efficiency News, where you will find the latest news and information on a wide range of energy efficiency topics.

Efficiency and conservation are the first options for reducing energy use and minimizing related environmental concerns. This newsletter provides resources and information on ways to use less energy and how to maximize energy efficiency. 

The articles for this month's edition are as follows:

Consumer Tips & Alerts

Federal Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit expires Dec. 31

The federal Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit expires on Dec. 31, 2013. The credit applies to energy efficiency improvements in the building envelope of existing homes and for the purchase of high-efficiency heating, cooling and water-heating equipment. Efficiency improvements or equipment must serve a dwelling in the United States that is owned and used by the taxpayer as a primary residence. The maximum credit for all improvements made in 2011-2013 is $500. For more information on this credit, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Read more on all incentives, including the 30 percent federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, at

LED holiday lights: An energy- and money-saving tradition

Replacing traditional incandescent decorative lights with high-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs is one great way to conserve energy during the holidays. When shopping for holiday lights, look for the ENERGY STAR® label to ensure that the product meets energy-efficiency requirements. LED bulbs are energy efficient, using up to 90 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light. They are safer, sturdier, longer lasting, and easier to install. And be sure to recycle your old holiday lights. Visit the Clean Energy Resource Teams website to find out where you can recycle old lights in Minnesota. Read more.

Energy-saving tips for the holidays

In addition to replacing incandescent decorative lights with high-efficient LED bulbs, there are many other ways to practice energy conservation during the holidays. Check out the Minnesota Energy Tip for Dec. 2 to learn about finding energy-efficient gifts, entertaining efficiently, and decreasing energy use during the holidays.

Prevent ice dams, save energy by sealing attic air leaks

With the mix of snow, freezing temperatures, and thaws, ice dams will rear their ugly heads once again this winter. If ice dams must be removed, the Minnesota Department of Commerce suggests hiring a professional ice dam removal company that uses steamers. It also suggests some basic measures to prevent future ice dams and avoid costly home repairs. To prevent ice dams, the best course of action is to attack the root cause of ice dams: attic air leaks. Sealing those air leaks will help prevent ice dams and save on your energy bill. Read more.

News & Notes

100 Minnesotans get 2013 REAP funding; 2014 applications ready

One hundred rural small businesses and farmers in Minnesota received $2.3 million in funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) in 2013. REAP provided financial assistance for a range of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, including grants to help fund new grain dryers, energy efficient building and equipment improvements, solar and wind energy systems, ground source heat pumps, and more. Minnesota’s USDA Rural Development office says applications for 2014 funding can be accepted anytime, so it encourages interested parties to start the process. Read more on REAP, the application process, and a list of 2013 recipients.

ACEEE offers tool for cities to score their energy efficiency efforts

To help cities see how their efforts to save energy rate with other communities, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently released the Local Energy Efficiency Self-Scoring Tool. The tool allows people to score the energy efficiency policies in their own community and compare them with other localities. Minneapolis recently ranked 8th in ACEEE’s first City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, a rating of policies and programs to save energy for the nation’s 34 largest cities. The new local self-scoring tool helps all cities measure their efficiency. Read more.

Case studies of Minnesota cities, counties, schools document energy savings

The energy savings realized from energy efficiency improvements made to public buildings in Minnesota are described in a series of case studies produced by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources (DER). From heating and cooling upgrades to major lighting retrofits, the case studies document the outcomes of energy upgrades made 2-3 years ago. The stories include information about tracking energy consumption via the Minnesota B3 Benchmarking tool, as well as resources for cities, counties and schools considering energy improvements. Brooklyn Center, Ada, Cottage Grove, Inver Grove Heights, Sherburne County, and Chisago Lakes are just a few of the communities featured in the case studies; all benefited from Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants. The case studies can be viewed at the “Cities, Counties, and Schools” success story section of the DER website.