How To Convert Your Building to “Net-Zero Emissions”

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Town of Philipstown

- Climate Smart Communities Program -

January 2019

The Town of Philipstown’s Climate Smart Communities Task Force has prepared this guide to assist local homeowners and business-owners in our efforts to increase the energy efficiency of our buildings. The two primary benefits of energy efficiency are 1) Decreasing our buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions and 2) Saving money on our energy expenses over time. This brochure serves as an introductory guide to converting an existing building into a “Net Zero Emissions” building. As for new construction, the Task Force recommends building to “Passive House” standards as the most-cost effective way to produce “Net-Zero Emissions” and save money on energy expenses over time.

Why Should I Convert to Net-Zero Emissions?

What is a Net-Zero Emissions Building?

A “Net-Zero Emissions” building produces no net greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. In short, this occurs by improving the energy efficiency of the building, its appliances and mechanical systems, and by using only renewable energy sources to power the building’s systems.

What are the benefits of converting your building to Net-Zero Emissions?

  •   It can save you money over time.

  •   It improves the local economy by investing in local energy sources and jobs.

  •   It is good for the environment, especially air and water quality.

  •   It decreases reliance on foreign energy and improves national security.

What are the drawbacks of converting your building to Net-Zero Emissions?

  • It can require a substantial initial investment in order to achieve long-term savings.

Steps to Convert to Net-Zero Emissions:

1. Conduct a Building Energy Assessment

  • Homeowners can apply for a NYSERDA Home Performance with Energy Star Assessment, which is a free or low-cost home energy audit.

  • Businesses can apply to the Flexible Technical Assistance (FlexTech) Program for funding support.

  • Or hire an energy audit company directly.

2. Improve the Building’s Energy Efficiency

  • Air-seal the attic, rim joists & sill plates, basement, walls and HVAC ducts. Recommended air leakage rates are: 1) For building envelope: less than 3 Air Changes per Hour (ACH) at 50 pascals of pressure, and 2) For ductwork: less than four percent of conditioned floor area (Sources: DOE and IECC - Climate Zone 5).

  • Weather-strip and/or update windows and doors, or install window inserts.

  • Install vapor barriers in appropriate areas, especially in crawl spaces, to avoid mold and mildew growth.

  • In order of priority, insulate the attic ceiling (conditioned attic) or attic floor (unconditioned attic); rim joists; basement floor (conditioned basement) or basement ceiling (unconditioned basement); and all conditioned walls. Recommended insulation amounts are: Attic +R49, Rim Joists +R20, Basement +R25, and Walls +R20 (Sources: DOE and IECC - Climate Zone 5).

  • Insulate HVAC ducts and all pipes in exterior walls / unconditioned spaces. Recommended Insulation amounts are: Ductwork +R12, Water pipes +R3.  (Sources: DOE and IECC - Climate Zone 5).

  • Replace all lights with LEDs and old appliances with the most efficient models.

  • Install a clothes dryer heat diverter in the exhaust line to recover outgoing heat and humidity during the winter.

3. Convert to 100% Renewable Electricity

  • Install on-site solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, or micro-hydro.

  • Purchase 100% renewable electricity via Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), a Community Solar Project or from a third-party Energy Service Company (ESCO).

4. Convert all Energy Usages to Electricity

  • Electrify space heating and cooling with Ground Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps or Air Source Heat Pumps, and install Smart Thermostats.

  • Electrify Domestic Hot Water with a Tankless Electric Water Heater or an Electric Heat Pump Water Heater.

  • Install a Heat-Recovery Ventilator to save energy while exchanging stale air for fresh air in an airtight house.

  • Convert gas or diesel generators to energy storage in the form of batteries or electric vehicle battery.

5. Change Occupant Behavior

  • Reduce winter thermostat setpoints and increase summer thermostat setpoints.

  • Turn off unused lights or install motion-sensor light switches.

  • To reduce phantom power losses, unplug appliances when not using them.

  • Use fans / open windows instead of using AC in summer, if appropriate.

  • Use less hot water for bathing, laundry and dishes whenever possible.

  • Hang laundry instead of using the clothes dryer.

How Can I Finance These Improvements?

*Each highlighted title below is a direct link to each program’s website.

1. Building Energy Assessment

a. NYSERDA Home Performance with Energy Star

  • Free or low-cost home energy audit.

b. NYSERDA EmPower NY Program

  • Free home energy audit for low-income homeowners

c. NYSERDA FlexTech Program

  • All commercial and industrial facilities in New York State that pay into the electric System Benefits Charge (SBC) on their electricity bills are eligible to receive assistance in paying for an energy audit.

2. Air-sealing and Insulation

a. NYSERDA EmPower NY Program

  • Free energy efficiency upgrades for low-income homeowners

b. NYSERDA Assisted Home Performance With Energy Star

  • 50% energy-efficiency-upgrades subsidy for income-eligible homeowners

c.  “HomeAdvance” With Sealed

  • Program to gradually pay off energy efficiency upgrades via energy bills.

d.  Federal Non-Business Energy Property Tax Credit

  • Varying tax credits on building envelope improvements

e. Energize NY Commercial Program

  • Offers Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to commercial building owners to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades.

3. HVAC, Domestic Hot Water (DHW) and Lighting

a. Federal Non-Business Energy Property Tax Credit

  • Varying tax credits on HVAC and DHW equipment upgrades.

b. Energy Star Rebates Via Central Hudson

  • Varying rebates for HVAC, DHW and Lighting equipment upgrades.

c. NYSERDA Air Source Heat Pump Rebate

  • $500 per installed ASHP system rebate for HVAC installers.

4. Solar Photovoltaic

a. NYSERDA NY-Sun Residential / Non-Residential Incentive Program

  • Subsidies for NYSERDA-approved solar installation contractors to lower solar installation costs.

b. NYSERDA Affordable Solar Program

  • Doubles the amount received by installers from NY-Sun for households earning less than 80 percent of the median income in the area.

c. NYSERDA On-Bill Recovery and Smart Energy Loans.

  • Loan amounts are available from $1,500 to $25,000 with loan terms of 5, 10, or 15 years to help New York residents finance solar installation.

d. Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

  • 30% tax credit on solar energy systems through 2021.

e. Community Solar via NY-Sun

  • Purchase solar panels at or subscribe to a community solar project to access solar energy without installing PV panels on your property.

5. Small Wind Turbines

a. NYSERDA Small Wind Turbine Program

  • Subsidy that can pay up to 50% of the cost of a small wind turbine system

b. Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

  • 30% tax credit on small wind energy systems through 2021.

6. Geothermal Heat Pumps

a. Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

  • 30% tax credit on geothermal heat pump systems through 2021.

b. NYSERDA Ground Source Heat Pump Rebate

  • Rebate for designers and installers to lower the cost of geothermal by up to $1,500 per “ton” of cooling capacity ($15,000 max. for single family homes).