Energy Matters

What is energy and why does it matter? What can you do to save energy in your daily life? How can you take advantage of rebates and programs to help you improve the efficiency of your home? These questions and more answered on the energy blog.

List of suggested uses for REC dollars presented at the City Council March 21 Work Session

Posted by Carl McDaniel on May 5, 2016 in Energy Matters

Click below to download a copy of the REC project ideas from the March 21 City Council Work Session.  They have been compiled into a single document. Print copies are available at the Oberlin Public Library as well.

all rec dollar use suggestions for city council may 2016.pdf

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Oberlin Receives Bicycle Award

Posted by Sharon Pearson on June 11, 2015 in Energy Matters

BFC BronzeOn Tuesday, June 9, 2015, the League of American Bicyclists recognized Oberlin, Ohio with a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFCSM) award, joining 350 visionary communities from across the country. With the announcement of 42 new and renewing BFCs today, Oberlin, Ohio joins a leading group of communities, in all 50 states, that are transforming our neighborhoods.

“We applaud this new round of communities for investing in a more sustainable future for the country and a healthier future for their residents and beyond,” said Andy Clarke, President of the League of American Bicyclists. “The growing number of leaders taking up bicycling as a way of solving many complex community problems is encouraging. We look forward to continuing to work with these communities as we move closer to our mission of creating a bicycle-friendly America for everyone.”
 
The BFC program is revolutionizing the way communities evaluate their quality of life, sustainability and transportation networks, while allowing them to benchmark their progress toward improving their bicycle-friendliness. With this impressive round, there are now 350
 
BFCs in all 50 states. The bronze level BFC award recognizes Oberlin’s commitment to improving conditions for bicycling through investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.Over the past few years the Oberlin Community has made significant improvements for cyclists.  Oberlin College received bronze level for the University category in the fall of 2013. This spring Oberlin City Council passed the first Complete Streets policy in Lorain County.  In addition, there have been improvements in the downtown area for designated bicycle parking that increases safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.  Continued efforts are planned to assist Oberlin's move from bronze to silver level designation in the future.The BFC program provides a roadmap to building a Bicycle Friendly Community and the application itself has become a rigorous and an educational tool in itself. Since its inception, more than 800 distinct communities have applied and the five levels of the award – diamond, platinum, gold, silver and bronze – provide a clear incentive for communities to continuously improve.To apply or learn more about the BFC program, visit bikeleague.org/community.
 
About the Bicycle Friendly AmericaSM ProgramThe Bicycle Friendly CommunitySM, Bicycle Friendly StateSM, Bicycle Friendly Business and Bicycle Friendly UniversitySM programs are generously supported by program partner Trek Bicycle Corp. To learn more about building a Bicycle Friendly America, visit www.bikeleague.org/BFA
 
The League of American Bicyclists is leading the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone. As leaders, our commitment is to listen and learn, define standards and share best practices to engage diverse communities and build a powerful, unified voice for change.

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Oberlin among elite communities across the nation leading the way on energy efficiency

Posted by Sharon Pearson on January 15, 2015 in Energy Matters

GUEP Semifinalst MapOberlin, Ohio – January 14, 2015 – Today, Oberlin officially advances to the Semifinal round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national competition that is challenging communities across the U.S. to rethink their energy use. At a press event in Washington, D.C. today, Oberlin was announced as one of the 50 communities who are leading the way on energy efficiency.

“Oberlin has made a commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions below zero by the year 2050 and energy efficiency is a huge part of that equation. Right now, the average Oberlin home is losing an estimated $450-500 per year in missed energy savings at today’s energy prices. We have access to efficiency programs that will, in most cases, nearly triple a homeowner’s investment. Some income-qualified programs pay for all the work. Collectively, over the course of the two-year competition, the status quo in Oberlin will lose us nearly $8 million. So while winning the $5 million prize purse will help these efforts, we have an opportunity to “win” a far greater amount of money in the process. And those savings will continue after the competition ends.” – Sean Hayes, The Oberlin Project

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2013 Green Energy Ohio Oberlin Guided Tour

Posted by Sharon Pearson on September 24, 2013 in Energy Matters

Over 200 Open Houses at Over 100 Tour Sites, 7 Guided Tours Across Ohio will showcase clean energy and green design in events throughout local areas. Oberlin is offering a guided tour on Saturday, October 5 from 10 am – 3 pm. The public is invited to take the FREE “Green Energy Ohio Tour” and network with friends and neighbors using renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green design. 

For the last 11 years, the educational non-profit organization Green Energy Ohio (GEO) has sponsored the tour on the first weekend in October tour to showcase the industry across the state. A few years ago GEO changed the "Ohio Solar Tour" name to the"Green Energy Ohio Tour" to more accurately describe the tour that features not only solar, but tour sites with wind, energy efficiency, biomass and other green energy technologies.  

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Grow Your Way to Less Carbon

Posted by Carl McDaniel on July 29, 2013 in Energy Matters

Why have a vegetable garden?

Oberlin Community Service’s June networking lunch was crowded—perhaps 50 people were there. A panel of nine represented the diversity of local food and gardening projects in Oberlin from school to neighborhood gardens.

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Do Electric Vehicles Make Sense in Oberlin?

Posted by Carl McDaniel on March 11, 2013 in Energy Matters

Several months ago my wife and I, along with a friend, drove our new Prius plug-in hybrid 40 miles on state roads to an evening picnic. The battery was fully charged and on arrival the dash board display showed 100 miles per gallon (mpg) for the trip. Being the first local trip out of Oberlin on which I noted the mileage, I was surprised and said to our friend, “That seems high.”

On the way back we were in hybrid mode, which means the car is powered by a gasoline engine as well as an electric motor using electricity generated by the engine and when the car coasts or breaks. Each of us made a guess for the return trip mpg: my wife, 65; our friend, 70; and I guessed what I thought would certainly be too high, 75. Back in Oberlin, the dashboard display showed 73 mpg. We were impressed!

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Oberlin Participates in 10th Annual Green Energy Ohio Tour

Posted by Sharon Pearson on September 21, 2012 in Energy Matters

The public is invited to take the FREE “Green Energy Ohio Tour” and network with friends and neighbors using renewable energy, energy efficiency and green design.  There are many open houses and guided green energy tours taking place across the State of Ohio. Oberlin will be participating with a guided tour on Saturday, October 6 from 10 am – 4 pm.

For the last 10 years, the educational non-profit organization Green Energy Ohio (GEO) has sponsored the tour on the first weekend in October to showcase the industry across the state. A few years ago GEO changed the "Ohio Solar Tour" name to the "Green Energy Ohio Tour" to more accurately describe the tour that features not only solar, but tour sites with wind, energy efficiency, biomass and other green energy technologies.  

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Oldies and Goodies: The Greenest Buildings Are Already Built

Posted by Pat Murphy on September 7, 2012 in Energy Matters

Older buildings are often unfairly maligned as great energy hogs and money pits that are too expensive to rehabilitate.  While not every building can be preserved, demolishing existing buildings to make way for new is costly, gobbles up new resources, and adds to the landfills of the country.  Many older buildings have irreplaceable architectural details and a strong sense of space and pride of place that is rarely found in new construction, no matter how "green."   

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, together with local preservation organizations such as the Cleveland Restoration Society and the Oberlin Heritage Center, are working to encourage property owners of older buildings to weatherize, retrofit and rehabilitate them in ways that both retain their character defining special features and adapt them for 21st century living.   Start by having an energy audit; you can call POWER at 440 789 4531 for a 1 hour assessment, or call Columbia Gas at 1-877-644-6674 to receive a thorough heat loss inspection. Then learn what you can about your building's history.  Get to know your building, inside and out.  Inspect it regularly, and be proactive in addressing maintenance concerns.  

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Technology is Not Enough

Posted by Dale Lucas on August 23, 2012 in Energy Matters

How much can we rely on technological advances to solve our energy problems?  Some new technologies have the potential to be a powerful way to save energy.  For example, automating HVAC systems and enhancing their digital control capabilities has saved lots of energy and money in buildings. However, many technologies -- including these -- require some level of human intervention to fully benefit from them. If people don’t use the technology properly, the expected benefits will not be realized.

The most important people are those who directly manage the new technology:  building operators, facilities staff, etc. If they are given a new system, but not taught how to use it, the system will not work properly.  I have witnessed this first hand during a recent installation of an automated and digitized HVAC system at a local institution. The Operations & Maintenance Staff didn’t have the required knowledge and experience to operate and maintain the new technology, and the system underperformed.  Also, too many staff members had the ability to change system operating parameters without a full understanding of how these changes would impact the operation. There was also reluctance from a few staff members to actually experiment and optimize the new technology. Eventually this harmed the equipment energy performance.

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Cooler in the Shade

Posted by Cindy Frantz on July 23, 2012 in Energy Matters

I don’t know if it’s hot as you’re reading this, but it is HOT while I’m writing it.  In Oberlin, the days we use the most electricity are the hot ones – everyone has their air conditioning on, and the refrigerators are working over time to keep things cool.  As the planet heats up, we are going to have more and more hot stretches to make it through.  But we can be smart about how we do it.

My family survives most of the summer without using AC – and the house never gets above 78 degrees (80 degrees is my freak-out point, and no one wants to go there!).  We have two main strategies:  The first is keeping heat out of the house in the first place.  The second is to get in as much cool air into the house at night as we possibly can, then lock it in during the day.

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Driving for Efficiency

Posted by Cindy Frantz on June 29, 2012 in Energy Matters

Now that summer is here, many of us are heading off in our cars on vacations and day trips.  We’d all be vacationing out at the Reservoir if we didn’t have the power of gasoline to take us hundreds of miles away.  Let’s get the most out of this superfuel.

With gas often $3.50 a gallon, there’s an obvious financial benefit to using it efficiently.  And the hot summer temperatures remind us that a planet that’s 2 degrees warmer will not be a pleasant place for our children to live.  Decreasing our gas use helps decrease our dependence on foreign oil as well.  The Consumer Federation of America estimates that simply increasing our fuel efficiency by 5 miles per gallon would save about 23 billion gallons of gasoline each year, and cut oil imports by about 14 percent.

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Is Local Food Energy Efficient?

Posted by Brad Masi on May 17, 2012 in Energy Matters

Food is energy. Not much thought is given to it, but every time that we eat, our bodies convert food calories into a fuel that powers everything that we do, from typing at a computer, making art, walking or biking into town, fixing a house, or digging a garden bed.

Over the past 10,000 years, humans have developed agriculture -- the cultivation of land and active management of crops and animals to increase the food-calories available for growing human populations.

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This Old House: Efficiency meets antiquity

Posted by Cindy Frantz on May 3, 2012 in Energy Matters

Most of us live in a house that is less than ideal in terms of energy use.  In my family’s case, this fact was obvious to us the moment we moved in.  Our house is 103 years old, and when we bought it in 2002 it was about as inefficient as any house could be.  There was no insulation; the floor joists of the attic were open to the air, so cold air blew over the second floor all winter; and there were wide cracks in the foundation that let in a constant supply of winter air into the basement (where the heating ducts are).  Old empty heating ducts in the wall meant that cold, moldy air from the basement would get syphoned up as the air above heated and rose.  And there was an extra 1950’s refrigerator guzzling electricity in the kitchen.

Where to start?  We unplugged the extra fridge right away, and as soon as it got cold we called Oberlin’s local utility, OMLPS, for a free heat loss inspection.  The OMLPS technicians broke the news that outside air was leaking in from every direction.  Before Christmas, we had an insulation company blow cellulose into the walls, and we threw up some fiberglass batting in the attic.  We pulled out the caulk gun and bought cans of spray foam insulation, and starting plugging up cracks.  It was a start.

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Ecolympics at Oberlin : The Race to Energy Conservation

Posted by Simbarashe Runyowa on April 20, 2012 in Energy Matters

The Olympic Games kick off in London this year in just under 100 days, but students here in Oberlin, Ohio are warming up for a different sort of competition: The ECO-lympics. The Ecolympics are a campus wide competition aimed at reducing the college’s water and energy consumption as much as possible within a three week period.  This year’s competition, dubbed “Race to a Gigawatt”, will reward the dorm that reduces consumption by the biggest margins with an ice cream party that will take place in the middle of finals.

This year’s Ecolympics, which are being run at Oberlin College as a subsidiary initiative of the nationwide Campus Conservation Nationals, aim to encourage students to become more cognisant of their personal and collective energy and water consumption patterns, as well as highlight some simple but effective strategies that can be employed on an individual basis to help curb energy and water usage.

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Changing Our Energy Habits

Posted by Cindy Frantz on April 5, 2012 in Energy Matters

I am a creature of habit. Sticking to my routines makes things go better.  For example, when I throw a shirt in the laundry basket, I have a habit of also throwing in a hanger, so that when I’m down in the basement doing the laundry, I can hang the clean shirt up right away, and avoid a lot of ironing later.  It took a while to remember to do this, but now I do it on autopilot. When we do something on autopilot we can do it more efficiently. 

Unless the habit itself is inefficient.  Chances are we all have a lot of daily behaviors that actually don’t make a lot of sense, but we do them automatically anyway because we haven’t stopped to think about them. Why do I not automatically put things like tools and scissors away when I finish using them? They clutter up my space, and the next time I need them I waste time and energy tracking them down. Sometimes they stay lost for months, and on more than one occasion I’ve bought an unneeded replacement.  That’s not efficient.

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What’s the Best Way to “Energy Diet?”

Posted by Cindy Frantz on March 8, 2012 in Energy Matters

So, you are a homeowner and you want to save energy.  You know that it’s the right thing to do, and it will save you money, but the hard part is deciding what to do.  What will give the most savings and comfort for the least hassle?


The most important step you can take to preserve your planet and your paycheck is to make investments in weatherization, insulation, and heating and cooling systems as soon as possible. These will pay dividends for as long as you live in your home, without any further effort on your part. (If you’re a renter, stay tuned.  I’ll have ideas for you in my next column.)

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What’s doing all the work? : Energy Matters in Oberlin

Posted by Cindy Frantz on February 10, 2012 in Energy Matters

Why would anyone want to read a column on Energy?  Well, because energy matters.  Let me demonstrate with a few common questions about life.

Q:  What gets you out of bed in the morning? 

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Carl McDaniel
Carl McDaniel is a university research scientist who retired to Oberlin several
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Sharon Pearson
Sharon Pearson is the Program Coordinator for the Oberlin Project and liaison to
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Sharon Pearson
Sharon Pearson is the Program Coordinator for the Oberlin Project and liaison to
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Sharon Pearson
Sharon Pearson is the Program Coordinator for the Oberlin Project and liaison to
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Carl McDaniel
Carl McDaniel is a university research scientist who retired to Oberlin several
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Carl McDaniel is a university research scientist who retired to Oberlin several
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Sharon Pearson
Sharon Pearson is the Program Coordinator for the Oberlin Project and liaison to
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Pat Murphy
Pat Murphy is the Executive Director of the Oberlin Heritage Center. She enjoys
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Dale Lucas
Dale Lucas is the Manager of Plant Operations at Lorain County Community College
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Cindy Frantz
Cindy Frantz is the Co-Chair of the Energy Planning Committee of the Oberlin Pro
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Cindy Frantz is the Co-Chair of the Energy Planning Committee of the Oberlin Pro
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Brad Masi is a graduate of Oberlin College and long-time Oberlinian. Previously
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Cindy Frantz is the Co-Chair of the Energy Planning Committee of the Oberlin Pro
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My name is Simbarashe Runyowa, (aka Simba) and I am first year student studying
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Cindy Frantz is the Co-Chair of the Energy Planning Committee of the Oberlin Pro
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Cindy Frantz
Cindy Frantz is the Co-Chair of the Energy Planning Committee of the Oberlin Pro
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Cindy Frantz is the Co-Chair of the Energy Planning Committee of the Oberlin Pro
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