Windows Are Responsible for 50% of heat loss.

Seeping around your windows is responsible for 50% of a homes heat loss. There are some things you can do to mitigate this problem.

The U.S. Department of Energy research suggests older homes lose as much as 50% of their heat loss (energy costs) due to seepage around windows.    This isn’t a result of poor construction, instead due to settling of older homes on their foundation and contraction/expansion during weather changes.

While there are many financial benefits to changing out our windows, the costs can still be prohibitive.  Fortunately-we do have options.  Some can actually be quite stylish!

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Seacoast United: Healthy Living and Youth Sports

Seacoast United has remained true to its mission—to advance the physical and social well-being of children and young adults through youth sports. Through their foundation, Seacoast United also make sure that any athlete, regardless of financial situation is able to participate.

Physical activity is important in the healthy development of children. Most of us know this, but children are less active now than ever before. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education notes that only one in three children are physically active every day.

Increased physical activity delivers physiological, psychological and social benefits. This is especially important during the developmental years, and it carries forward into adulthood. This latter factor is borne out by organizations like the American Heart Association, which indicates that increased physical activity leads to increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, along with other health benefits.

Seacoast United, founded in 1992 by Paul Willis, began with a simple mission—to advance the physical and social well-being of youth and young adults through sports like soccer. For the past 22 years, this organization has been true to that mission, one that has been getting young people up and off the couch and onto athletic fields in New Hampshire (and now, Maine). They’ve recently expanded into other sports, also.

According to James Peterson, director of sales and marketing for Seacoast United, Willer’s vision was for Seacoast to be both an exclusive soccer training program, but also an inclusive one. What this means is that while there are a myriad of opportunities for highly-skilled players to play at the upper echelons of competition, Seacoast will never turn anyone away from their programs due to economics or if they aren’t an elite skill-level player, which is unique for a program like this one.


SeacoastUnited
“Seacoast started with just two youth teams, and now, we have more than 5,000 athletes enrolled in our various programs,” said Peterson. “We’ve also branched out from soccer and are now offering team sports like baseball, softball, field hockey, and lacrosse.”

Peterson mentioned that while the focus is always on getting kids introduced to soccer (and other sports), the sports programming has continued growing and evolving.

“We now have select, elite, and professional level teams,” Peterson said. “Our summer college league (minor league) team is a nationally-recognized program. Last year, they won their league, which is part of the Premier Development League (PDL),” he said.

Peterson mentioned that Seacoast affiliates itself with outstanding coaches.

“50 percent of our staff has international experience,” Peterson added.

Peterson himself came to Seacoast after a stint with Oxford United, a premiere club program in Great Britain.

He talked about the important life lessons that sports offers those who choose to participate, like the “three P’s.”

“Sports is a great tool for young people to learn about teamwork, discipline, dealing with adversity—all things that are important for success in life.”

According to Peterson, Seacoast also has a significant number of players progressing up through their ranks.

“We had a case study done that indicated that 60 percent of our junior academy players went to our premiere and select division teams,” said Peterson.

Seacoast isn’t just a New Hampshire-based program any longer. While they have a state-of-the-art 70,000-square-foot indoor facility in Hampton and a four-field outdoor complex in Epping, they’ve expanded their soccer and baseball programming into southern Maine, as well as now having Seacoast affiliates in Portland, Topsham, and Bangor.

The Seacoast Foundation holds fundraising and charity events to support the overall goals and programming of Seacoast United. Much of the funding generated each year provides scholarships for athletes who may not be able to afford to participate with town club teams, or go on to elite level competitions. This includes traveling to national and international tournaments.

Peterson mentioned that they hold two major fundraisers each year.

“We have our annual soccer-a-thon, which takes place over a 24-hour period in April. We start games at 4:00 pm on Friday and these go continuously through Saturday at 4:00,” said Peterson. “These take place at our indoor facility in Hampton and the fields in Epping. We raised $70,000 in 2014,” he said.

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Peterson added that Seacoast included participants from the Special Olympics in this year’s soccer-a-thon.

“They has such a great time and it was gratifying to have them participating with us.”

Another fundraiser Peterson mentioned was their Annual Gala held at the beautiful and historic Wentworth-by-the-Sea, in New Castle, New Hampshire. This is hosted by Ocean Properties, a business sponsor for Seacoast.

“All the proceeds from this go to our scholarship fund,” said Peterson.

All three Provider Power company’s , support Seacoast United’s Foundation through our Power To Help Initiative.  When enrolling with ENH Power, Electricity Maine or Provider Power Mass  customers select from a list of non-profit partners and we make a contribution to that organization.  

To learn more click on the link from the state you live in:

Maine

New Hampshire

Mass

 

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Affordable Housing-Energy Efficient As Well! Thanks to AHEAD In N.H.

AHEAD takes on the housing crisis with affordable and energy efficient housing in Northern New Hampshire.

America is in the midst of an affordability crisis in housing. The issue isn’t new and has been ongoing for the past 25 years, so says the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), in their recent report, Out of Reach 2014: Twenty-Five Years Later, The Affordable Housing Crisis Continues.

When NLIHC’s first report was published in 1989, the nation was reeling from the affordability crisis affecting home ownership, and the attendant increase in homelessness that it caused. Now, 25 years later, America is still falling short of paying on the promises contained in the 1949 Housing Act, which sought to provide all Americans with “a decent home in a suitable living environment.”

For 7.1 million American households, even a modest rental home is unaffordable and unavailable. In New England, a 795,000-unit shortfall exists in affordable rental housing, according to Housing New England, detailed in their 2013 report, Affordable Housing: A New England Perspective.   For those in New Hampshire who are in search of energy efficient, affordable housing options the market is very tight.  However, there is hope.

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AHEAD, a community development and social services agency, has been engaged for more than 20 years, providing residents of the North Country—a region of rural northern New Hampshire that includes Coös and northern Grafton Counties—with affordable housing options. AHEAD’s goal is to be the preeminent provider of quality, affordable housing in New Hampshire.

I spoke with Sally Ayers, AHEAD’s director of operations about the scope of the agency’s reach relative to needs and affordable housing.

“We have a variety of components to our work,” said Ayers. “We provide property management, develop real estate (for new projects), which leads to new construction.”

Ayers mentioned that AHEAD owns and operates 14 North Country properties with more than 300 affordable apartments for families and seniors.

“Currently, we’re working diligently to retrofit properties, making them energy efficient,” said Ayers. “Any new properties that we build will also have state of the art heating systems and components.”

AHEAD has launched a new program called Better Homes Ahead. The goal of Better Homes Ahead is providing high-quality, energy efficient, factory-built homes at affordable prices for low-and-moderate-income families.

Better Homes AHEAD
An example of one of the homes available through AHEAD’s Better Homes AHEAD program. For More information about this program visit http://betterhomesahead.org

“Funding for this has included Community Block Development Grant funds, as well as funds like the Founders Fund and other fundraising efforts,” said Ayers. “We’re looking to replace older homes, particularly pre-1996 mobile homes with newer, safer, more efficient places to live,” explained Ayers.

Affordable housing in New Hampshire’s and the lack of it in the state has been well-documented. While rural New Hampshire’s issues aren’t as dire regarding high rents and real estate prices like pricey Rockingham and Stafford counties, rural New Hampshire has been plagued with fewer jobs and jobs paying wages that make housing beyond the reach of the working poor.

“Housing is essential for strong families—AHEAD looks to provide support to families and individuals, helping them build and preserve assets for the future,” said Ayers.

While AHEAD is recognized statewide for their affordable housing efforts, according to Ayers, they are also member of the national NeighborWorks America network, which is as a leader in affordable housing and community development nationwide. As one of 40 of the nation’s best community development organizations, AHEAD can access a wider network structure, which helps to assist in building skills, while supplementing and amplifying the effectiveness of agencies like AHEAD.

Ayers said that education and financial literacy has become a big part of what AHEAD does.

“The education component is important and we are looking to involve the whole family including children, too. They see mom and dad taking money out of the wall at an ATM, but they don’t know what’s involved in money and finance,” said Ayers. “We try to do this training together with parents and children.”

“Foreclosure mitigation is another big part of our work. During the recession, our numbers were way up with families calling, panicked about losing their homes,” Ayers said. “Foreclosure is so stressful for families—they often don’t know where to turn. We provide a counselor that can help them and point them in the right direction and provide them with support.”

Like other similar New England northern New England states, New Hampshire’s population is aging, so senior housing continues to be in demand. AHEAD recognizes the demographic shift and is focused on addressing issues related to housing for aging residents in the northern reaches of the state.

In Berlin, where people over 65 make up 23 percent of the city’s population, AHEAD will be opening a new 33-unit senior housing project.

“We’re very close to opening,” said Ayers. “It’s in the former Notre Dame High School, an important part of the city’s past and history. We’re pleased that we could reclaim and renovate the building and offer this kind of housing for seniors.”

She explained that the Notre Dame Apartments are based on a service-enriched housing model. The model seeks to integrate a social support system for residents into the operation and management of the housing that will be provided to seniors. Seniors will either have necessary services provided, or be linked directly to them. The model also helps reduce resident isolation, build neighborly relations, and promotes resident pride in their home community.

Additionally, the building will have four energy-efficient wood chip boilers for heat. There are also plans for solar panels for hot water and electricity.

Ayers indicated that funding for this project came from a Community Development Block Grant, Historic Preservation tax credits and New Hampshire Housing Financial Authority low income housing credits.

To learn more about affordable housing and other efforts to provide housing options in New Hampshire’s North Country, visit the AHEAD website.

ENH Power, part of the Provider Power family of companies, supports AHEAD through our Power to Help initiative.  Each new ENH Power customer can select a Power To Help partner for us to support on their behalf.  To learn more visit www.enhpower/ahead.

 

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Energy Audits – what are they and should you get one?

An energy audit, sometimes called an energy assessment can help to find out where heating dollars are going. An energy audit shows how a home uses energy, including where it’s being wasted, so homeowners can make targeted upgrades. Should you have an audit done, we have some tips to help you decide.

When I was little, cold weather meant sledding parties, hot cocoa, and days off from school. I still love cocoa, but after we bought an old farmhouse, winter also meant icy drafts, rattling windows, and painfully high heating costs.

A friend recommended we get an energy audit, sometimes called an energy assessment, to find out where our heating dollars were going. An energy audit shows how a home uses energy, including where it’s being wasted, so homeowners can make targeted upgrades. For instance, we learned that our walls are well insulated, but our attic wasn’t.

Signs you might need an energy audit:

  • Your house is more than 50 years old
  • You’re breaking the bank to buy firewood, pellets, or heating oil
  • Drafts blow in around your windows and doors, or through chinks in the walls
  • Your windows or doors rattle in their frames
  • No matter how much the stove or furnace runs, your house feels chilly

Still not certain? You can run a quick Do-It-Yourself assessment, with some help from the federal government. You’ll need to know your past 12 months of utility usage, which is probably on your electricity bill or heating oil statement.

Some nonprofits offer free or low-cost energy audits, which usually consist of feeling for drafts, checking for rattling windows, and looking for visible signs of leaks, such as condensation on windows or loose ductwork.

A professional energy audit will cost $200 to $500 – the price varies depending on the size of your home and how many auditors in your area are competing for business – but will use some very interesting tools to give you a detailed look at your home’s trouble spots. (Tax subsidies can offset some or all of the cost.)

My favorite instrument was the thermographic scanner, which showed in vivid color exactly how heat was escaping my house – and even let me peek inside walls to see where the lath-and-plaster construction gave way to better-insulated studs with fiberfill. Most professional audits also include a blower door test, which can reveal all the leaks that New England’s older homes are famous for.

Afterward, you will get a detailed report outlining exactly where and how your home is losing energy, plus the measures that you can use to make your home more energy efficient – and even tell you how cost-effective each will be.

For instance, our energy auditor explained that if we added a foot of insulation to our attic, it would cost about $800 up front but would save us about $150 per year in heating costs, so it would pay for itself in six years. Replacing our rattling windows, by contrast, would cost $200 to $400 per window, and doing all 20 windows in the house would save only about $100 per year, so might never pay for itself. Caulking up gaps between old wooden beams costs only a few dollars per tube of caulk, but can make a huge difference in comfort and heating costs. And so forth.

Not only will you learn the best way to spend your winterizing dollars, getting an energy audit can qualify you to get tax credits for your energy efficiency upgrades.

After our energy audit, we decided to insulate our basement and attic, apply caulk liberally, and make a few other changes. The result is that not only does our house feel warmer, our heating costs also dropped enormously — we buy less wood, less heating oil, and our electric bill for the winter months dropped by about half.

For most homeowners, making the upgrades identified in a home energy audit can save you 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill, according to the US Department of Energy.

If you’re ready to shrink your heating bills, get rid of spine-chilling drafts, and find cost-effective steps to a warmer home, an energy audit could be your next step.

 

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Energy-Efficient Resolutions for the New Year

This is one set of resolutions you won't have any trouble keeping. Saving money and making your home more energy efficient are likely high on your resolution list. Here are some tips and hints to keep on top of mind.

‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions, and while most people focus on resolutions related to work or personal growth, we’d like to suggest you add in a new category this year. While you’re working on improving your own personal world, why not work on improving the world around you?

To that end, we’re offering four energy-saving New Year’s Resolutions that will make the world a healthier place, and save money to boot! (I bet that’s on your list too!)

This year, resolve to:

  1. Get a professional home energy audit. An energy audit is the first step in energy savings.  A professional will visit and assess your home from top-to-bottom, using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, which is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. Often they’ll do a “blower door test” and thermographic imaging to pinpoint exactly where energy is escaping. As part of the assessment, they’ll give you suggestions on which upgrades you should consider for the most benefit.
  2.   Make one energy-efficiency investment a month. Even though energy-efficient upgrades pay for themselves over time, there is typically an upfront cost. That’s why you might want to consider spreading out your investments. You can start small: why not get new power strips to help stop the ‘energy vampires’ in your home? Next, check into energy-efficient lighting, then a programmable thermostat. Every change you make will add up to significant savings over the not-so-long run.
  3.   Use less. This philosophy is so simple, yet so constructive. Using less encompasses using less electricity by turning off the lights when you leave a room; using less water by turning off the tap when you brush your teeth; using less energy by washing your clothes in cold water, rather than hot – the possibilities are endless. Several mobile apps can help you track your energy and water consumption.
  4. Champion energy savings among your family. It’s vital to get the whole family on board, but it will be more effective if you make it fun, rather than nagging them.  Monitor your progress together, and use your savings for a fun family outing. Keep a chart of small changes every family member can make – whether it’s unplugging their chargers at night, or putting on a sweater instead of cranking the heat. Make sure they know they are a crucial part of the success of this endeavor and show them how their changes – big and small – make a difference.

They say that a new behavior becomes a habit after two or three months. Stick with your new energy-saving regime – and your other New Year’s resolutions – and see how far you have come as spring starts to appear!

 

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Pellet Stoves. Savings. Simplicity. Safety.

Whether you’re looking for new heating options to save money, want to do your part to help the environment, or are looking for some aesthetic appeal, a pellet stove could be just the investment your home needs. To help you decide if you want to join the 2.8 million American households that have pellet stoves, we came up with a list of pros and cons to guide you through.

Whether you’re looking for new heating options to save money, want to do your part to help the environment, or are looking for some aesthetic appeal, a pellet stove could be just the investment your home needs. To help you decide if you want to join the 2.8 million American households that have pellet stoves, we came up with a list of pros and cons to guide you through. Consider this your “hot stove” report…

The Pros

Long-term savings

If you’re like most people, one of the biggest deciding factors of switching to a pellet stove is cost. Generally speaking, pellet stoves could offer a return on your initial investment since it usually costs less to keep your home warm than oil, gas, or electric-powered heating. You can expect to pay a couple of thousand dollars or more for your stove (depending on the model you choose), as well as a bit extra for the installation since an exhaust must be put in, so it will take time to recoup your upfront costs. One comparison between an oil-heated home and a hybrid oil and pellet-heated home found that the latter saved $876 in annual heating costs. Unfortunately, the federal tax incentive that used to be in place for pellet stove buyers expired in 2013, but check with your state to see if any rebates or tax credits are available.

Simplicity

If your decision involves a pellet stove versus a wood-burning stove, the pellet stove wins for ease of use. The pellets burn more efficiently than wood (even if the flames aren’t as “romantic” looking), produce a more consistent heat, and do not create as much ash. Plus, the heat is regulated via thermostat. Once you load the hopper with pellets, your work is done.

Safety

Unlike wood burning stoves, pellet stoves are less likely to get hot enough to cause burns, with the exception of the glass door.  In that respect, they are safer for homes that have small children.

The “green” factor

There’s no doubt that pellet stoves are more eco-friendly than traditional heating sources. According to the Alliance for Green Heat, installing a pellet stove can reduce your carbon footprint by two to four tons per year, or 10 – 20 percent of your entire emissions.

The Cons

Storage challenges

Pellets are easy to store since they come in 40-pound bags, but if storage space is limited in your home (and, yes, they should be stored indoors), that could be a negative since it will mean frequent trips to the store.

Upkeep is required

Pellet stove owners should be aware that frequent maintenance and cleaning is necessary to keep the stove in proper working condition. If you tend to be lax about that sort of thing, like scheduling yearly professional maintenance, and taking care of the stove’s cleaning on an ongoing basis, this might not be a good fit for you.

Electricity powered

If you’re considering a stove because your area is prone to power outages, pellet stoves won’t solve that problem. They require electricity to run the fans, so if you lose power, you’ll also lose your heat source (unless you hook up to a generator).

The noise factor

If you’re already used to your heating or cooling systems being noisy, this might not matter, but be aware that you’ll hear a constant, dull rumbling sound when your pellet stove is running.


If you love the idea of incorporating a pellet stove into your home décor, and the pros outweigh the cons, this could be your next major home upgrade.

If you are looking for more information about pellet stoves, well-there is a group that can help.  Check out the The Pellet Fuels Institute-they are a non-profit association that serves the pellet industry, which is comprised of pellet mills, pellet appliance manufacturers and industry suppliers. The Institute is active in educating consumers about the convenience and practicality of using wood pellet fuel in both residential and commercial applications.

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Lack of Nat Gas Pipelines Equals Higher Electric Utility Rates

Energy and business writer for Forbes.com, James Conca, has a reputation for carefully and with appropriate detail covering U.S. energy issues.  His December 17th piece Pipeline And Nuclear Shortages Send New England’s Utility Bills Soaring is among his strongest.

Accompanying his piece is this graphic that depicts natural gas pipeline infrastructure across the county.  Those who understand the basic laws of supply and demand can easily understand how parts of New England are so far behind other parts of the U.S. (in terms of the availability of nat gas) and why electric utilities here are so susceptible to fluctuations in the energy market.

Consumers interested in saving on their electric bill often see competitive supply companies as a good alternative to the utility default or stand offer.  Due to sophisticated buying practices, and being able to look over longer periods of time ,like 12 or 24 months (many utilities look at pricing only for 6 months at a time), consumers benefit from shopping the market.

Since many electric utilities are owned by large national or multi-national companies, using an electricity supply company also enables consumers to shop locally with a businesses in their own state or region.  Doing so has the added benefit of supporting local jobs and community.

 

 

 

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LED Lighting Misconceptions

LED Lighting. What are the benefits, misconceptions, and potential pitfalls of LED lighting? We spoke with folks who know a whole lot about LED lighting and asked them to address some of the more pressing questions they are getting.

Residential and business consumers have many questions (and some concerns) about LED lighting. Is this another lighting fad (like CFL’s)? Can you really save money? Will I have to change out my light fixtures?

To help answer those (and many other questions), we visited with one of northern New England’s most respected lighting and design stores, the House of Lights , and asked them to address some of the questions they are hearing.

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