Energy Efficiency

In a Nutshell

"Energy Efficiency is the Key" - Amory Lovins (RMI). In looking at the complex issues of air pollution, water pollution, climate change, and national security, Amory Lovins posited many years ago that the cheapest, most efficient, and least risky solution to those and other problems was energy efficiency. Buildings are responsible for nearly half of the energy used (48.7%) in the U.S. – more than both the transportation and industry sectors. Additionally, buildings account for 46.7% of greenhouse gases emitted.

Practical Solution

The “How To”The “How To”

According to the US DOE, over 30% of all energy entering homes is wasted. Poor heating and air conditioning systems, outdated hot water heaters, and little to no insulation is typical in most homes. Many organizations in the St. Louis area work on energy efficiency issues. Pearl Certification and Renew Missouri formed a partnership to create a statewide network of certified efficient homes and help make energy efficiency a part of home values. Missouri Gateway Green Building Council also works on energy efficiency issues for buildings in the St. Louis region. To learn more about making your home more efficient by performing a home energy audit, please see the OneSTL Home Energy Audits tool.

Enacting energy efficiency standards for public buildings or public housing is an excellent opportunity to save money on energy bills while protecting the environment and serving as an example to the broader community. The City of St. Louis, Clayton and Ferguson have all passed ordinances requiring that newly constructed city-owned buildings over 5,000 square feet meet LEED Silver standards. Glen Carbon is completing an energy master plan to reduce energy in municipal buildings, lower carbon emissions from municipal vehicles, and incentivize local businesses to reduce energy consumption. Additionally, the City of St. Louis passed an ordinance in 2008 outlining energy efficiency requirements for new construction, major renovation and equipment replacement. In 2020, the City of St. Louis passed the Building Energy Performance Standards, making St. Louis the 4th jurisdiction in the U.S. to take this ambitious path to mandate significant reductions in building energy use. The Energy Star Portfolio Manager is a free tool that allows governments or other entities to track and improve efficiency across their entire portfolio of properties. There are additional resources available from Energy Star and, as well as a guide from the US DOE.

Most building codes have minimum requirements for insulation levels, fenestration (windows and other glass), mechanical systems (HVAC and ventilation), ducting, air tightness, lighting, and other items. They are in general aimed at new construction, where the best combination of energy efficiency and cost can be achieved. However, they also address rehab work. When properly implemented by local code officials, these building codes can significantly contribute to the improvement of energy efficiency. Find your local building codes here.

Dollars & Cents

A list of loans and rebates for energy efficiency improvements is available from Building Energy Exchange St. Louis. In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act offers tax credits for developers, as well as homeowners. Individuals can find out which incentives for home energy efficiency upgrades they qualify for by using this calculator from Rewiring America. Finally, local utility companies sometimes offer incentive programs for energy efficiency upgrades. The Community Action Agency of St. Louis County, Inc. offers a Weatherization Assistance Program. In the City of St. Louis, the PACE program offers financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. It should be noted that while replacing old leaky windows with new ones may seem like a good idea to improve energy efficiency, that is usually the least justifiable option in terms of cost-benefit. A home energy audit is recommended, and will often point out that the most cost effective item is a combination of insulation and building sealing.

The City of Alton, IL has saved almost $1 million since 2009 through smarter power procurement, facility and vehicle upgrades, and more efficient use of energy (Source: Matthew Asselmeier, City of Alton Associate Director of Public Relations/City Council Liaison). The City of Columbia, MO implemented lighting upgrades at their Health Department building in 2011, which were projected to pay for themselves in 8 years. In 15 years (the expected lifetime of the improvements) $90,000 in energy costs was expected to be saved (1.5 times more than the cost of the project).