A small crowd made their way up the stone-covered drive of 4 Balsam Way — the home of Paul and Joanne Coons — Wednesday afternoon to hear National Grid’s annual winter heating season cost projections for upstate New York.
“It’s wonderful, we are very honored,” Joanne Coons said. “And they want our electrons, which is the best part!”
It’s a tradition for National Grid to select a homeowner or business to make this announcement before the snow starts to fly. This year it chose a home with a solar array in the backyard, from which some electricity actually flows into the grid.
National Grid is projecting that natural gas heating customers will see a reduction of 2 percent or possibly more on their total bill during November to March (the five-month winter heating season) from last year, and electricity bills may be 4 percent lower than last winter.
National Grid Regional Director Bill Flaherty broke it down into terms of therms, kilowatt-hours and dollars. “This means typical eastern New York electricity customers using 600 kilowatt-hours a month are forecasted to spend $456 over the winter heating season, about $17 less than they did last year based on normal weather conditions,” he said. “Natural gas costumers are forecasted to pay about $500 this winter, about $12 less than last year’s typical bill of 711 therms.”
If these predictions become reality, you won’t hear too many complaints; it will mark the lowest residential natural gas bills in a decade and show the continued stability of electricity costs.
National Grid also provided a few energy efficiency and conservation tips for customers such as washing clothes in cold water, repairing leaky facets and turning off electronic appliances.
“National Grid offers programs and tips for customers on making energy-efficiency improvements that will save you money, reduce your energy usage and improve your living conditions and comfort,” Upstate New York Energy Efficiency Manager Nathaniel Hancock said. “In addition, our energy-efficiency programs have benefits for the environment. Upstate New York residential customers who have taken part in our home energy report program have saved 145 million kilowatt-hours over the last several years. If you add in our commercial and small business programs, our customers have saved 1.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over the past several years; that’s equivalent to 113 million trees planted and 228,000 cars taken off the road for one year, so air quality is being improved.”
The Coons family — who reside in a picturesque white farmhouse that was built in 1830 — are a perfect example of how well energy can be effectively preserved, fusing a quaint piece of the past with modern energy-saving methods.
They have transformed theirs into a “net zero” home, generating more energy than they use. They actually sell energy back to the electric grid.
On the exterior it radiates the simple, rustic charm that makes you crave country life. This magnetism doesn’t diminish once you step inside, but that could be because of the cooktop that uses magnetic waves to heat the contents of the cookware.
“Go ahead, touch the water,” Coons said. It was completely cool inside the pot, but after a mere 25 seconds of being placed on the stovetop, it was almost brought to a bubble.
Their home utilizes solar and geothermal systems to maximize efficiency. When they first began the process several years ago, they began with baby steps — ones that everyone can take to keep energy use and costs minimal.
The key to being able to move onto tackling larger projects was to first focus on tightening their home’s “energy envelope.” They added insulation as well as sealed windows and doors.
Then, over the years, they purchased Energy Star appliances and installed 40 solar panels (where the energy is made), which now stand proudly n the back yard soaking in the sun’s rays, as well as a geothermal heating and cooling system.
Not too far from the gleaming black squares, clothes have been hung to dry in the wind on a clothes rack.
Why use electrons when you don’t have to?