News

on Monday, March 13, 2017

Ten years ago this week, WECC staff moved into our high-performance, energy-efficient headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin!

In honor of 10 great years, we have compiled a list of 10 ways our building helps maximize energy efficiency and productivity. 

1. Going for the Gold: The U.S. Green Building Council awards LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification to buildings based on how they address various sustainability issues. WECC is proud that our building achieved LEED Gold Certification.

2. Sustainably Sourced Materials: Materials for our building were selected with the environment at the forefront. One hundred percent of wood found in our office was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Floors in our kitchen and other common areas were constructed from recycled tires, and our reception desk was beautifully crafted with wood from storm-damaged trees.

really new

3. Solar Power: Photovoltaic (PV) panels on our roof and in our parking lot generate renewable energy for our electricity and water. You can track our solar panels’ performance here and see the energy savings in real time!

4. Environmentally Sound Lighting: Natural daylighting is the most environmentally-friendly lighting technique available. The south-facing orientation of our office allows natural light to illuminate 80 percent of the building. As an added bonus, each individual workstation has a view of the outdoors!

5. A Fresh Approach to Air Quality: All paint, finishes, and adhesives used throughout our building are low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) to reduce fumes and indoor air pollution. 

6. Water Savings: WECC uses innovative plumbing fixtures, including waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets in all restrooms, and low-flow faucet fixtures. The result is a 30 percent reduction in water usage.

7. Smart Landscaping: Many of our green building features can be seen before stepping inside. Two rain garden bioswales and a canopy roof garden reduce water run-off, and our pervious pavement allows rain water to seep into the ground.

garden

8. High-Efficiency Appliances: Every appliance in our building is ENERGY STAR® certified. ENERGY STAR appliances are independently certified to use less energy and cause fewer harmful emissions.

9. Green Commuting: WECC provides preferred parking for hybrid vehicles and carpools. Our close proximity to public transportation and walking paths, as well as our indoor and outdoor bike racks, make choosing energy-efficient methods for commuting to work convenient.

bike rack

10. Sustainable Business Practices: WECC staff is committed to reducing the impact of our business operations on the environment. On-site composting bins, the use of reusable and recyclable products, and hybrid company cars are just a few of the ways we stand by our mission! 

We’re proud of the fantastic work we’ve done over the past decade, and look forward to many more years of championing and delivering innovative energy initiatives.

To learn more about our headquarters or how we can help you become more sustainable, call or email us today! 

on Friday, December 30, 2016

Looking to trim your budget in 2017? One way to reduce costs—and do your part to protect the environment—is to take simple actions at home to save energy. Over time, just a few small changes in behavior can add up to make a substantial difference!

1. Change or clean your furnace filter once a month. As dust and dirt build up on the filter, it becomes more difficult for air to pass through—causing the motor to work harder—and use more energy. Your furnace could overheat, resulting in costly repairs or even a complete replacement. 

By consistently cleaning or changing your filter, you could save 5 percent to 15 percent on utility costs. A clean filter will also help maintain healthy air quality and extend the life of your entire HVAC system.  Mark your calendar or set a monthly reminder in your phone to stay on top of it!

2. Set the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees. In addition to saving energy, lowering the temperature to 120 degrees provides a number of benefits: 

  • Slows mineral buildup
  • Reduces corrosion in the water heater and pipes
  • Increases safety/prevents scalding

Set too high (at 140 degrees), your water heater can waste $30-$60 per year in “standby heat losses” (heat lost from the water heater into the surrounding basement area), and more than $400 in “demand losses” (energy used to heat the water used in your home). 

3. Dry your clothes differently. On average, clothes dryers use the most energy of the major household appliances. In addition to purchasing an ENERGY STAR® model—which uses about 20 percent less energy than conventional models—you can save energy by: 

  • Cleaning the lint screen before every use. A clogged screen can make your dryer use up to 30 percent more energy, and can also create a fire hazard.
  • Removing clothes from the dryer while they’re still damp and hang them up. This will save energy, prevent static, and reduce wrinkles and shrinkage.
  • Drying one load of clothes immediately after another. This minimizes heat loss, reducing warm-up and drying times.


HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

on Wednesday, December 21, 2016

This holiday season, give yourself the gift of energy savings! Between the lights, cooking, and cold weather, this is one of the most energy-intensive times of the year. However, by making just a few small changes, you could see a big difference on your energy bill. Read on to discover five easy tips and tricks for saving energy this holiday season and beyond!

Organize your errands. To-do lists pile up this time of year! There always seems to be one more gift to buy or one more ingredient to pick up for dinner. Planning ahead and combining several trips into one will not only save you time, but money at the gas pump! Several short trips taken from a cold start can use up to twice as much fuel as a longer trip with a warm engine. 

Clean green. Family gatherings mean plenty of food--and dishes. To reduce energy use, run the dishwasher only when it’s completely full. If you rinse your dishes before loading them, use cold water to avoid heating water unnecessarily. Finally, use air dry settings whenever possible to save up to 10 percent on energy costs. 

Deck the halls with LED holiday lights. In the market for some new indoor or outdoor festive lighting? Opt for Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights. They’re available in nearly every color, use up to 90 percent less energy, and last longer than traditional bulbs! To save even more, use an automatic timer to keep lights off during the daylight hours.

Get cozy with warm accessories. Instead of cranking up your thermostat when the temperature drops, bundle up with warm sweaters and socks. Keep throw blankets handy and use area rugs to insulate your floor. At night, try lowering your thermostat an extra five degrees, and stay toasty with warm sheets and comforters. 

Give energy-efficient gifts. When purchasing that cool new gadget for your loved one, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. Battery chargers and LED bulbs also make great stocking stuffers! 

WECC wishes you a happy and energy-efficient
holiday season! 

on Monday, December 19, 2016

We are excited to share that WECC was named a 2016 Green Master at the 9th Annual Wisconsin Sustainable Business Conference! This distinction is yet another stepping stone in our quest to advance our corporate sustainability goals.

The Green Masters Program assesses and recognizes Wisconsin businesses for accomplishing and improving on their sustainability initiatives. The Program aims to provide organizations with a sustainability benchmark, and the opportunity to compare their performance to other companies in their sector. The Green Masters Program serves as a means to recognize businesses for their efforts, helping distinguish them from their peers.

Green Masters

The Program is based upon a points system, with participating businesses earning points by measuring sustainability performance in nine key areas: energy, carbon and other emissions, water, waste and materials management, transportation, supply chain, community and educational outreach, workforce, and governance. Achievement is recognized at three levels:

  • Green Apprentice—participants earning 9 to 250 points
  • Green Professional—participants earning 250 points or more
  • Green Master—top 20 percent of participants

The Program is designed to foster continuous improvement, and WECC is a testament to this model: Last year, we earned 454 points, placing us in the Green Professional category. In 2016, we accumulated 587 total points, scoring in the top 20 percent of approximately 200 participating businesses!

We may have met this goal, but we’re not stopping here! Stay tuned for more information regarding the results of our 2016 corporate sustainability plan.

on Monday, December 5, 2016

WECC’s Energy Finance Solutions (EFS) has launched PACE Wisconsin, a statewide program which provides commercial property owners with low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation improvements! The program has already been adopted by 11 Wisconsin counties.

PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is an innovative program utilized by communities across the United States. PACE authorizes municipalities and counties to work with private sector lenders to provide upfront financing—usually for 100 percent of the cost of energy-saving improvements—to property owners for qualified projects.PACE Wisconsin

PACE drives economic development by helping communities:

  • Stimulate job creation and investment in goods and services.
  • Lower the cost of doing business by reducing the cost of capital to fund improvements, which in turn saves building owners money on operating expenses.
  • Revitalize aging buildings, thus improving the local building stock—and raising the value of property and the potential tax base.
  • Achieve sustainability goals by fostering the completion of energy and water conservation projects.

Any local unit of government may elect to become members of the PACE Commission, pursuant to the terms of the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement (JPA). To offer PACE Wisconsin, counties must pass a resolution authorizing execution of the JPA, and pass the Model PACE Ordinance through the county board of supervisors.

To get started, contact EFS at info@pacewi.org.   

on Friday, October 28, 2016

WECC has a rich history of providing weatherization services for income qualified residents in Wisconsin. That's why we're excited about these two major milestones:

1. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)! Combined, our Residential Training and Technical Assistance team boasts more than 150 years of WAP experience (through work with WECC and a variety of other agencies across Wisconsin).

2. Sunday, October 30 is National Weatherization Day! WECC is lucky to have a highly-experienced, award-winning weatherization staff. We're extremely proud of our talented team of innovative experts!

Recently, we spoke with some of our most seasoned industry veterans to learn more about their work with WAP and the most important lessons they've learned throughout their weatherization careers.

Adrian Scott

Adrian has been involved with WAP for nearly 29 years. In that time, he says, the most dramatic change has been the shift in focus to building forensics and energy efficiency. “When I started, we would have a handwritten work order and a few tools,” he reflects. “We did the same thing on every house and didn’t think as much about building science. Today, we think a lot more about how to keep the building healthy.”

The crews Adrian worked with during his early years in the field developed many of the standardized methods used today. “As we went along, we learned what worked and what didn’t. We used a lot of trial and error. Now, those things we learned on the job are considered best practices.” 

In the field, most of Adrian’s satisfaction came from a job well done and the knowledge that he was directly helping people. As a trainer, he enjoys knowing that he is contributing to the high-quality work done by weatherization agencies. “I love the moment when a concept suddenly clicks for a student, and I see that lightbulb go on,” he says.

Robert Parkhurst

Robert has worked with WAP for nearly 30 years, during which the improvements in technology have been profound. In particular, he feels that the introduction of the blower door was a game-changer for the program. 

The blower door, which became more prevalent in the 1980s, creates a pressure differential between the interior and exterior of the home. This allows crews to quantify the amount of air movement and locate leaks, sealing homes more effectively.

When asked what advice he would give someone new to the weatherization field, Robert said, “It’s not just a job; it’s a career. Find the good that is coming out of your work, even if you’re doing dirty and grueling labor. Look for the parts that are rewarding.”

For Robert, that reward comes from seeing the positive impact that weatherization has on clients. “There were countless times that we helped an elderly person or a single mother,” he remembers. “Maybe all we did was change a lightbulb, but it made a huge difference in their life, not just their energy bill.”

Bob Pfeiffer

Bob was hired by a weatherization agency in February 1978 as part of President Carter’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). At the time, he was just happy to have a job. However, he loved the work right away, and found great satisfaction in a job well done. 

For Bob, the most rewarding part of his long career is having been on the ground floor of innovation. The field of building science, while still young, has grown immensely during his time with WAP. “We started to gain a real understanding of the physics of air and heat. That understanding opened doors into new technologies and serious energy savings.”

One of Bob’s proudest moments was the first time he presented at a national conference. “I was happy to represent our program, but also to meet this entire network of people who do the same work,” he says. “There is a sense of collaborative learning in the industry. There’s no competition, because the new technologies and innovations benefit everybody.”

Cory Chovanec

Cory began his career with WAP 20 years ago as an entry-level crew member. Today, he is a highly-respected expert in the field. “Weatherization is a place where you can advance your career, if you’re willing to put in the effort and take advantage of the trainings available,” Cory says. “Weatherization is a unique field, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunities I’ve had.”

Recently, Cory supported the development of WECC’s Quality Control Inspector Training – the first of WECC’s training programs to be accredited by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Helping students become certified as Quality Control Inspectors—a certification he was one of the first in the nation to earn—has been one of his greatest career accomplishments. 

Cory’s favorite thing about being a trainer is hearing from students how helpful a course was and how much they learned. As an inspector, he is often able to see students’ quality work firsthand. He loves hearing from homeowners how happy they are and how much their energy bills have gone down. “Whether you’re helping a client or a student, you get to provide a service,” he says.