Q: You often mention ENERGY STAR when you talk about things like appliances and lighting. What is this exactly? Is this a brand or manufacturer? A: Im glad you asked. The ENERGY STAR label indicates that a product exceeds minimum federal energy efficiency standards. Products of any brand or manufacturer can qualify to receive the ENERGY STAR label. You can find this label on lighting, appliances, home electronics, heating systems, office equipment and much more. You can even buy an ENERGY STAR home or hire a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor who has been specially trained to assess homes and make them more energy-efficient. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, designed to reduce energy use as well as the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with power generation. According to energystar.gov, Americans using ENERGY STAR products and services in 2006 saved $14 billion on their utility bills and prevented as much pollution as is produced by 25 million cars. Here in Vermont, you can get rebates for certain ENERGY STAR products through Efficiency Vermont. Stores throughout the state sell these products and can help you get rebates. For more information, visit the residential section of efficiencyvermont.com. For rebate info, click on Rebate Center. To find an ENERGY STAR retailer, click on Marketplace. Q: I grew up in Florida and went to college there, but I recently got a job in Vermont so Im getting an education about heating systems. By the spring, I hope to buy a house instead of renting, so Id like to know if Id use less energy in a house with a boiler or with a furnace. Thanks in advance. A: If youre comparing new furnaces and boilers, the heating systems with the best AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, are furnaces. But if your goal is to save heating costs, it doesnt make sense to choose a house strictly because it has a furnace. There are more important considerations that could make a house with a boiler more energy-efficient than a house with a furnace or vice versa. For instance, the insulation and air-tightness of the home will have a much bigger impact on your energy bills than will the type of heating system. Also, the condition and AFUE rating of the individual furnace or boiler will play a role in the size of your energy bills, as will the condition of the furnace ductwork or the boilers baseboards. I should also mention one advantage of some boiler systems: You can save on water-heating costs if the tank is the type that enables the water to be heated by the boiler. When youve found a house that youre seriously considering, I recommend asking the seller for permission to have a comprehensive home analysis performed before closing. This will inform you about the energy efficiency of the house and about what kinds of improvements will increase your energy savings. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR certified contractors can do this assessment for you, for a fee, and can make recommended improvements once you own the house. To find a contractor in your area, visit efficiencyvermont.com/homeperformance. Good luck in your house search.

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