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This article was originally published in the July/August 1997 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.

 

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Home Energy Magazine Online July/August 1997


TRENDS

Sustainable Energy Appeals to Insurers

The North East Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) hosted the 13th Annual Quality Building Conference in Cromwell, Connecticut on March 12-15. The title of this year's conference was Ensuring a Sustainable Future, and was held concurrently with two other NESEA conferences, Renew '97: Promoting a Renewable Energy Future and Building Strategies to Manage Risk: A Symposium for Insurers.

Connecticut, the insurance capital of the nation, provided the perfect setting for the conference's focus on risk management. Among the highlights was a presentation entitled No Regrets Loss Prevention through Energy Efficiency given by Evan Mills, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Mills, who has been investigating how energy efficiency can help reduce insured losses, indicated that the recent dramatic increase in natural disasters has accounted for 85% of all insurance losses over the past two years--$9 billion in 1996 and $14 billion in 1995. He stressed that energy efficiency is a promising strategy for insurers, since the burning of fossil fuel is the largest contributor to global climate change. He also pointed out that many energy efficient technologies also have the potential to reduce ordinary insured losses involving property, health, or liability.

For example, halogen torchieres have been linked to fires in homes (see Bright Prospect for CFL Torchieres, HE Jan/Feb '97, p. 13). Replacing these devices with compact fluorescents (CFLs) is more environmentally friendly, via greater energy savings, and increases safety within the home as well. Unfortunately, said Mills, the booming use of halogen torchieres in the last few years has offset all of the energy savings obtained through CFLs.

Another example of how energy-inefficient building practices lead to structural damage and insurance claims is the formation of roof ice dams from improperly sealed and ventilated attic spaces. Not only are ice dams a sign that energy is being wasted, but they can also cause structural damage (see Out, Out Dammed Ice! HE Nov/Dec '96, p. 21).

Other sessions focused on building practices, construction waste management, and the need to educate consumers about energy products. In one of the afternoon plenaries, Karl Rabago, of the Environmental Defense Fund, spoke about the need to get more information into the hands of consumers. There is [currently] more information on a bag of Chee-tos, he observed, than on your utility bill. Rabago hopes that devices like the photovoltaic shingle, which taps into a renewable energy source, will become more common and will eventually blend into the everyday fabric of our lives.

In some of the hands-on training sessions, participants got practical advice in using diagnostic equipment. In one session participants looked through the lens of an infrared camera to see how dense-packing affected wall temperatures. Contractors also spoke of getting shocked by a static charge when using PVC piping to dense-pack the belly of a manufactured home. To avoid the shock, they recommended substituting copper piping or tying a grounding line to the PVC pipe.

For more information on the NESEA conference contact Tom Thompson, NESEA, 50 Miles St., Greenfield, MA 01301. Tel:(413)774-6051. World Wide Web: http://solstice.crest.org/nesea.

--Mark O'Sullivan

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