New home financing for Illinois veterans, military families
In December, Illinois launched the Welcome Home Heroes program to promote homeownership for Illinois veterans, active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members.
Welcome Home Heroes is open to all qualified Illinois veterans. Active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members must be first-time buyers. The financing package includes a forgivable $10,000 grant for down-payment and closing cost assistance, an affordable interest rate (4 percent at this time) for a secure 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, and a mortgage credit certificate worth up to approximately $20,000 for the life of the loan.
The program builds on the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s existing affordable home loan program, SmartMove, also available through IHDA’s lenders. Income thresholds and purchase price limits apply. Administered by the IHDA, the package applies to 1-2 unit residential properties that are located in the State of Illinois and are purchased as a primary residence.
For more information contact a lender in your area. Application is free. A list of lenders is available at www.ihda.org/homeowner/heroes.htm.
Illinois hunting and fishing licenses available online
Illinois fishing, hunting and sportsman combination licenses for 2012 are available now from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Direct license and permit vendors, online through the IDNR website www.dnr.illinois.gov or by calling 1-888-6PERMIT (1-888-673-7648). The 2012 licenses are valid through March 31, 2013 unless otherwise noted.
Energy auditors help pinpoint savings
For the most part, companies offering energy audits are reputable and legitimate and will help you both save money and reduce your carbon footprint if you follow their advice in regard to upgrades. Your local electric cooperative or heating and air conditioning contractor are a good place to start for advice on energy auditing services in your area.
The DOE’s energysavers.gov website has guidelines to help homeowners conduct their own do-it-yourself home energy assessments. For instance, DOE recommends that homeowners make a list of obvious air leaks. The potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home can be as high as 30 percent per year.
You should also check filters on heating and cooling equipment to see if they need to be changed. And if these or other appliances are over 15 years old consider replacing them with newer models that meet federal EnergyStar efficiency criteria. Also, swapping out older incandescent bulbs in light fixtures with higher efficiency compact fluorescents is an easy do-it-yourself project.
A professional energy auditor with dedicated assessment tools and the knowledge of how to use them will carry out a more comprehensive assessment than you can do yourself.
For more information go to DOE Energy Savers, www.energysavers.gov; EnergyStar, www.energystar.gov.
Answers sought about impact of EPAs power sector rules
Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee continue seeking answers from administration officials about the potential impacts of EPA’s power sector rules, sending a pair of letters exploring how the rules could affect energy security and reliability of the electric grid and other critical infrastructure.
In a letter to Secretary Napolitano, members expressed specific concerns that EPA’s power sector rules, including the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and Utility MACT rule, could adversely affect our nation’s Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources.
The letter references a recent report, based on EPA modeling and power plant retirement announcements, showing at least 28 GW of generating capacity will close as a result of EPA’s new regulations.
Lighting upgrades provide quick room makeover
Ever wonder how designers make the rooms you see in magazines or on decorating shows look so good? It doesn’t always depend on paint colors or fabric choices. From fresh and airy, to intimate and cozy - and everything in between - lighting sets the tone of a room and should be an integral part of its design and layout. And you can make dramatic changes by doing something as easy as switching out a light bulb.
Not only does a good lighting plan make a room more inviting, it also makes it more functional. To create a good lighting plan, you’ll need different kinds of light:
Ambient - Provides overall illumination and a comfortable level of brightness, allowing people to see and move around safely and easily.
Task - Helps you perform a specific activity, such as reading or playing games, by concentrating light in a particular place.
Accent - Sets the mood and highlights certain areas and objects, such as paintings, walls and collectibles.
Decorative - Fixtures become an element of the space themselves, such as chandeliers or pendants.
The type of light bulbs you use matter as well. Due to the EISA Act of 2007, traditional incandescent light bulbs will eventually be phased out; however there are several energy-efficient options, ranging from CFLs to halogen or LED light bulbs.
For more lighting tips and information about energy-efficient bulbs, visit www.SYLVANIA.com or www.youtube.com/sylvanialight.
FERC chair praises electric co-ops
When it comes to energy efficiency, electric co-ops should “keep doing what you’re doing, and do more of it,” according to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.
The FERC chief called for continued efforts to assist consumers in accessing information about energy efficiency, as well as low-cost financing to incorporate such efficiency into homes and businesses.
These efforts will benefit co-ops as well, increasing the sector’s viability and “making more consumers want to be part of a co-op,” the FERC chief emphasized during a recent interview.
New DOE Fuel Economy Guide says one car gets 112 mpg on average
DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the 2012 Fuel Economy Guide in November. While fuel-efficient vehicles come in a variety of fuel types, classes, and sizes, many new advanced technology vehicles debut on this year’s annual list of top fuel economy performers.
The 2012 all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV topped this list, after a conversion from gas-to-electric was factored in to give it a 112 mpg average.
Some 2012 models will be voluntarily displaying new fuel economy and environment labels that provide consumers with more comprehensive fuel efficiency information, including five-year fuel costs or savings compared to the average vehicle, as well as new greenhouse gas and smog ratings. These labels are will be required in model year 2013.
The mpg rankings are available online at www.fueleconomy.gov. The online version of the guide allows consumers to input their local gasoline prices and typical driving habits to receive personalized fuel cost estimates.
Finally a thermostat that programs itself
Nest Labs has announced that it has created the Nest Learning ThermostatTM. Nest learns from your behaviors, preferences and surroundings to create a custom heating and cooling schedule, keeping you comfortable when you’re home and conserving energy when you’re away.
“It was unacceptable to me that the device that controls 10 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. hadn’t kept up with advancements in technology and design,” said Tony Fadell, co-founder and chief executive officer of Nest Labs. “Together with the team, Co-Founder Matt Rogers and I set out to reinvent the thermostat using advanced technologies, high-quality manufacturing processes and the thoughtful design elements the iPhone generation has come to
expect. We hope it will not only save money and energy, but that it will teach and inspire people to think more about how they can reduce home-energy consumption.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the annual energy bill for a typical single-family home is approximately $2,200, with heating and cooling (HVAC) accounting for approximately half of the bill. The programmable thermostat, developed in the 1970s, promised to help people conserve energy, but 89 percent of owners rarely or never set a program.
The Nest Learning Thermostat addresses the programming problem through a combination of sensors, algorithms, machine learning and cloud computing. Nest programs itself based on the temperatures you set. Nest then learns your personal schedule in a week and starts automatically turning down heating or cooling when you’re away to save energy. The Auto-AwayTM feature uses sensors to detect when you’re not home, lowering the temperature and saving energy.
You can connect Nest to your home’s Wi-Fi to control it from your laptop, smartphone or tablet. Change the temperature, adjust your schedule and check your energy usage.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is expected to be available at www.nest.com and retail outlets for a suggested retail price of $249.
United States Postal Service increases prices
It now will cost a penny more to mail letters in the U.S. The new 45-cent price for Forever stamps is one of the changes filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) back in October.
Effective Jan. 22, 2012, prices are as follows:
• Letters (1 oz.): 1-cent increase to 45 cents
• Letters additional ounces: unchanged at 20 cents
• Postcards: 3-cent increase to 32 cents
• Letters to Canada or Mexico (1 oz.): 5-cent increase to 85 cents
• Letters to other international destinations: 7-cent increase to $1.05
Prices also will change for other mailing services, including Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services and Extra Services. While actual percentage price increases vary, the overall average price increase across all mailing services is capped by law at the rate of inflation calculated based on the Consumer Price Index. The cap for this increase is 2.1 percent.