Yale Carbon Fund makes progress in New Haven

Since joining forces with the New Haven Office of Sustainability a year and a half ago, the Yale Community Carbon Fund has worked to expand renewable energy use in the city.

Having exceeded its goal of installing programmable thermostats in 125 New Haven low-to-moderate-income homes in the 125 Homes Project, the Fund is now in the process of providing the thermostats to households undergoing free energy assessments courtesy of a current Office of Sustainability program. The thermostat project comes as the Carbon Fund is planning other renewable energy initiatives to disseminate throughout the city.

“We’re really looking to bring about a reduction in emissions and change behavior in the long-term, and do so for low-income people for whom it would be more difficult to make these changes themselves,” said Annie Harper GRD ’10, coordinator for the Yale Community Carbon Fund. “[Yale is] a center of excellence and we have a responsibility to expand expertise and learning outside just the campus.”

Through the 125 Homes Project, which began in 2010, the Carbon Fund aimed to install programmable thermostats — which allow users to pre-set the temperature at different levels during the day — in 125 households throughout the city. Though the Fund has installed 50 more thermostats than originally intended, Harper said, it is possible that some homes received more than one thermostat. Still, Harper said, she feels that the goal of the project was met.

“The aim was to improve energy efficiency in as many homes as we could cover,” she said, adding that houses can vary in the number of thermostats they require.

She added that she is just starting to assess the impact of the project and is planning to survey thermostat users to see whether their energy bills dropped. According to the Carbon Fund’s website, the thermostats are estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 342 tons of carbon for the first 125 homes reached.

The Carbon Fund distributed the thermostats through the Elm City Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, which offered to install them when conducting free energy assessments for homes in New Haven. The energy assessments include a blower-door test to pinpoint critical drafts and air leaks, as well as a duct test assessing air leaks within the ductwork system, said Christine Eppstein Tang, director of the New Haven Office of Sustainability. Additionally, she added, the assessments entail the installation of energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs and hot-water saving measures such as low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators.

Eppstein Tang said 870 energy assessments had been conducted by the end of 2011 — 208 in low-income homes ­­­­— each of which costs approximately $75.

Homes that undergo an energy assessment can also choose to have a tree planted in front of their residence for free, said Eppstein Tang. The city’s goal, she said, is to have 10,000 new trees planted by 2015.

But the tree-planting initiative has faced budget cuts in the past year, said Colleen Murphy-Dunning, director of the Urban Resources Initiative (URI), the non-profit partnership with the University that plants the trees. As a result of cuts from the city, Murphy-Dunning said, URI is no longer able to meet the mayor’s initial goal of planting 1,000 trees annually, but has adjusted its goal to 333 trees per year.

“Our goal has not changed, but it might just take a little longer to reach it,” she said.

Moving forward, Harper said, the Carbon Fund is developing a home insulation program which would reduce the amount of heating needed in the winter. Though the program already has funding available, Harper said, no money has been used so far since she has yet to decide whether to focus on houses or apartments. She added that some buildings, especially those built in or before the 1970s, are likely to have thinner insulation than current standards regulate, and others may not have any insulation at all.

The Carbon Fund also has plans to outfit local nonprofit organizations. The Fund hopes to install solar thermal panels on the roofs of the Mary Wade Home, a nursing home on Clinton Avenue, and the Columbus House homeless shelter on Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, Harper said. She added that this project is currently awaiting funding confirmation from Connecticut’s Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority.

The Yale Community Carbon Fund is a joint project of the Yale Office of Sustainability and the Center for Business and Environment at Yale.

Contact Liliana Varman at liliana.varman@yale.edu .

Comments

  • Catherine08

    As if Connecticut needs more trees!