Build Smart Newsletter

Welcome to the sixth edition of the Build Smart newsletter, brought to you by the Nicor Gas and ComEd® Residential New Construction Service. This quarterly communication is designed to update our builder partners on current services, provide insight into the new construction energy efficiency industry, and serve as a resource to assist you in achieving above-code levels of efficiency for your homes.

Program Update

Since the start of the current program year on June 1, 2016, the Residential New Construction Program has provided incentives for 931 energy-efficient new homes.

Each house that qualifies for RNC incentives is verified by a HERS rater as being at least 20% more energy efficient than the state energy code requires. Below are the year-to-date program statistics:

  • 931 completed houses
  • 311,186 therms of natural gas saved
  • 907,990 kWh of electricity saved
  • $577,850 in earned incentives to builders and HERS raters
  • 50 builders have participated in the program so far this year

Thank you for your participation and continued support of the RNC Program!

Building and Selling High Performance Homes

You’re already building high performance homes, but are prospective buyers aware of the unique benefits offered as a result? While energy efficiency, comfort and reduced operating costs are on the wish list for a vast majority of homebuyers, they often come with a higher initial price tag. The RNC Program is offering FREE education to participating builders on how to “sell” these valuable assets to homebuyers and increase your bottom line!

Todd Gamboa, President of Building Trust LLC, has provided training for builders all over the country on how to build more energy efficient homes and how to sell the benefits of energy efficiency to homebuyers. By attending this training, your team will gain the knowledge to effectively communicate all the great benefits of energy efficiency to your homebuyer customers. These trainings have been offered through the RNC program several times during the past year with very positive results. To increase participation, these trainings are now being offered to participating builders hosted at your office location. If you are interested in hosting a FREE training session, please contact RSR at 651.200.3412 for more information.

How Much Difference can an ECM furnace make?

Furnaces equipped with a variable speed Electronically Commutated Motor (ECM) are generally regarded as more energy efficient than furnaces with a single speed motor. But how much energy savings potential is there?

A 2013 DOE study states that electrical energy consumption accounts for nearly two thirds of the total energy consumed in the residential sector. Electric motor-driven systems account for over one third of residential electrical energy, or a quarter of the total residential energy consumed. HVAC applications account for 63% of electric motor-driven consumption. In Illinois, natural gas forced-air heating and central cooling systems are the most common approach in new homes. Most systems utilize a fixed speed permanent split capacitor (PSC) motor for the air handler.

As an energy-efficient alternative, ECM air handlers deliver energy savings due to two advantages: they require less power to operate, and when combined with variable controls they can operate at reduced speeds when appropriate. The DOE estimates a 30% energy savings potential when upgrading to a furnace with an ECM air handler, with a simple payback period of 7 years. An additional retail cost of $180 for the ECM upgrade and annual cost savings of $24.38 were used for the payback estimate.

A similar study from Wisconsin used field data and monitoring on 31 new furnaces to measure the electric savings impact of ECM air handlers. Each furnace included in this study was a sealed combustion, condensing unit rated at 90 AFUE or higher. Approximately half were ECM and half were non-ECM furnaces. This study found that non-ECM furnaces consumed about 1.0 kWh/therm of gas, while ECM furnaces consumed 0.5 kWh/therm of natural gas. To put that into perspective, the average house participating in the Nicor Gas and ComEd RNC Program consumes 754 therms annually for heating. Using the results of the study, this would mean an ECM furnace would save 377 kWh/year. There are electrical savings due to ECM air handlers on the cooling side as well, for houses that have central air conditioning. The study estimates average electrical savings for central air conditioning systems tied to ECM air handlers is 95 kWh/year. Thus, assuming a cost of $0.10/kWh, ECM furnaces will save approximately $47 per year on heating and cooling cost.

If the air handler is used for ventilation outside of its operation for heating and cooling, there is potential for even more electrical savings. This would include supply-only or balanced heat recovery ventilation strategies, where fresh air is circulated through the duct system by the air handler. The study observed that in this kind of ventilation mode, the ECM furnaces operated at their slowest speed drawing a median of 100 Watts of power. The non-ECM furnaces ran at full speed, drawing a median 500 Watts.

This data strongly suggests that switching from a high-efficiency non-ECM furnace to a high-efficiency furnace equipped with an ECM air handler can result in significant energy savings. If you are building homes with non-ECM furnaces, consider making the upgrade to ECM in 2017 and deliver more energy savings to your customers.

Enjoy the Benefits of Contractor Circle

Contractor Circle members can take advantage of exclusive benefits, and enrolling is easy…and free!

When you join Contractor Circle, you can take advantage of many exclusive offers from energySMART, a Nicor Gas program. Benefits include:

  • “Find a Contractor” search tool:  Customers are able to search for Contractor Circle installing members on the energySMART website, increasing visibility for your business. Customers can search by company name, location, customer type and desired equipment/service.
  • Free marketing materials: Order free marketing materials and have them shipped directly to you. Some materials can even be customized with your company information and logo.
  • Logo use and co-branding opportunities: Only Contractor Circle members are allowed to use the energySMART Contractor Circle member logo and Nicor Gas name on their company websites and marketing materials.
  • Training: Access to energySMART-sponsored trainings and webinars on a variety of technical, business, sales and related topics.
  • Communications and updates: Be the first to find out about updates and special offerings.
Don’t miss out on the chance to provide more visibility for your business and increase your sales. Enroll in Contractor Circle using our online form today!