David Payne: Welcome to Library Matters, with your host, David Payne.
Julie Dina: And I'm Julie Dina.
David Payne: And today we're going to be talking about energy efficiency. We're recording this in the first week of November, just a few days after we put our clocks back, which means, of course there's lighter mornings but darker evenings. It means winter is coming. And of course as winter energy bills are coming. So, what better time to talk about energy efficiency. And joining us today to share their expertise, a very warm welcome to Angelisa Hawes, who is MCPL's Assistant Director of Facilities, and ADA matters.
Angelisa Hawes: Hi, thank you.
David Payne: And also a very warm welcome to Larissa Johnson, who is with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. And you have the very elaborate title of Residential Energy Program Manager. Did I get that right?
Larissa Johnson: That is correct. And thank you so much for having me.
David Payne: So, let's start off. We talk about energy efficiency, let's start off by asking, well, what does emergency efficiency mean?
Larissa Johnson: Yes, so that is a great question, especially because of this time of the year. And what I would love to start with is the fact that there is a difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency. So, energy conservation pertains to not using energy. So we hear this all the time when people say, "Turn off the lights" or "Take a shorter shower, five minutes." That's the recommendation; things of that nature. Basically the understanding is that the cheapest kilowatt hour is the kilowatt hour that we do not use. So energy conservation is where we start when we do outreach and education in the county. And then we move to energy efficiency. And energy efficiency is when you use new technologies to do the same tasks.
So, for instance, lighting, which is a big one; it's a super easy win for everyone in their homes, in their offices, in their churches. So, switching from incandescent light bulbs to LED, or light-emitting diodes, is one of the most energy-efficient things you can do. And it's a new technology, which means it uses less energy. So, when I'm out in the community and people ask me, "But how much energy is this LED using?" A typical incandescent light bulb uses 60 watts of energy, and an LED that is the same brightness, that is the same color, uses about 9 watts of energy. So that's just a little introduction to the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency.
David Payne: Let me ask you, and this may be a rather obvious question, but why is energy efficiency important?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, so I have to say that energy conservation is the most important thing, because we want to reduce how much energy we're using. Then we want to use energy efficiently, and then we want to switch to renewable energy. So it's a little bit of a drive down the road. You want to take one stop first before you make the other stops.
So, yes, energy efficiency is super important because we want to use less energy overall, and we want to make sure that we're using our energy as efficiently as possible. We use it every single day for everything we do. We use it to heat our food, to refrigerate our food, we use it to heat our showers; everything that you can think of we're using electricity and energy every single day.
David Payne: That just about covers it.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah.
Julie Dina: Now, I know you mentioned a lot of information about energy conservation. What exactly does Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection do?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah. So they have me.
Julie Dina: Number one.
Larissa Johnson: They created the position as the Residential Energy Program Manager, it is my job to go out into the community and talk to residents about how to reduce their energy usage, how to be more efficient, and how to switch to renewable energy. That's just what we do for outreach. But then within the Department of Environmental Protection, we also walk the walk. So we make sure that we're as energy efficient as possible as well as an agency. And we really do, we have two different sides of the energy program. I work on residential matters or things that have to do with county residents. And then my colleague, Lindsey Shaw, she works on the commercial side of things. And we have a few - we have some laws that back her work up. And mine is really based on just educating and doing outreach in the community.
David Payne: So, Larissa, what are some of the service that DEP offers residents, and also businesses?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. We have a lot of different programs. Now, I do have to preface this with the fact that DEP in the Montgomery County doesn't provide programs directly or incentives directly. Now, I say that because we promote a lot of programs that exist in the state. So, for instance, in Montgomery County and in Maryland as a whole, there's a program called EmPOWER Maryland, E-M-P-O-W-E-R Maryland. And EmPOWER Maryland has been in existence since 2008. And it is a law that was passed to reduce our energy consumption as a state. So, all of the utilities, we have five utilities in the state, three in Montgomery County, we have Potomac Edison, BGE, and Pepco. And all three utilities have to provide services to residents at no cost or low cost.
For instance, when I go out and do outreach, I'm always signing people up for something called a Quick Home Energy Checkup. And that is when a contractor comes to your home, they switch out your light bulbs to LEDs, they give you high-efficiency showerheads, faucet aerators, they're going to wrap your hot water heater, they've going to give you an advanced power strip. And they do an overall look at your apartment or house to see how energy efficient it is. And this doesn't cost residents anything; it's a no-cost program. It's already incorporate into your utility bills. The EmPOWER program also does things for small businesses; it does things for large businesses. The EmPOWER program is pretty large, so as the Montgomery County Residential Energy Program Manager, it's my job to make sure people know about these programs.
In Montgomery County, what we do have though is a residential property tax credit. And that's available to anyone who does energy efficiency upgrades in their home, and they can get up to a $250 tax credit from the county. So that's a direct program that we provide in Montgomery County. Most of the other programs that are going to have dollars attached to them are going to be through the EmPOWER program as the state level. But it's our role to make sure that residents know about these programs so that they're taking advantage of it and reducing their energy bills.
David Payne: So, do residents find out about EmPOWER through your website, for instance, or directly from the utility providers?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, each utility does direct outreach through pamphlets, brochures, mailers, things of that nature. And then they can also get information from our website, of course, yes.
David Payne: Great.
Julie Dina: That's good to know.
Larissa Johnson: Yes.
Julie Dina: Now, Angelisa, being the Assistant Director of Facilities and ADA for the Montgomery County Public Library could you tell us a little bit more about your role?
Angelisa Hawes: Okay, so I started my role on April 30th, 2018. And as the Director of Facilities and ADA, I'm responsible for facilities management for the 21 branches. I like to say that from the time you step foot in our parking lot to the time you go into our buildings and use our facilities, our bathrooms; those are all the things that I'm responsible for. I also oversee ADA for the library system, new construction, so like the new Wheaton Library, and the Refresh projects, worksite safety, of COOP, our COOP plan, which stands for Continuity of Operations Planning, so planning for things like disasters, whether it be fires, or a flood, or power outages, anything that affects our normal service. I'm also responsible for risk management. I'm also the liaison for security, and for the community use of public facilities. And then I also oversee 10 library branches.
David Payne: So you're busy.
Angelisa Hawes: Yes
David Payne: So, you talked about briefly the refreshes that you are working on and the system has been working on. Can you tell us that in all your refreshes and plus the current existing buildings such as Sliver Spring, what has MCPL done to make their buildings more energy efficient and environmentally friendly?
Angelisa Hawes: With the refreshes we have gone in and we have done energy-efficient LED lighting, some of them are new fixtures, and some are retrofitted. We have placed water-efficient toilets and sinks in our facilities, some have automatic sensors, some are energy-efficient low-flow toilets. We are putting carpet tiles in, that can be removed, rinsed, and replaced when they become dirty or soiled. We use paints, adhesives, and sealants with low VOCs; we've added dual water fountains with bottle filling stations. In all those locations we've also added hand-driers in to cut down the use of paper towels. We also reuse items and furniture that are in good condition. So with the refresh we'll have new items but - new furniture, but we will also have old furniture.
Another example of us reusing something is that the only branch where we reused existing brick and laminated wood beams from the old site. We salvaged them and we put them back into the new building. At Twinbrook, we've added an outside green space that's accessible for programs. We have green roofs at Sliver Spring and Gaithersburg which helps with heating and cooling, but also with natural absorption and irrigation system. We also, in our new buildings, are doing a lot of natural lighting, so buildings like Silver Spring and Olney have a lot of natural light. The county has provided us with green power at Olney and Silver Spring libraries. And we also have solar panels at Rockville Memorial Library and at Gaithersburg.
Julie Dina: So Larissa, we've been at a lot of outreach events together. For our listening audience, could you tell us if you have any DEP outreach events that are coming up actually in any of our branches, as well as let us know if there are any recent campaigns or initiatives that you might be working on?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. As I mentioned, I love working with libraries. It's where people go for information. So for me it's a no-brainer to have outreach events at libraries. And I try to make them as interactive and engaging as possible. So when I first started with the Department of Environmental Protection, we celebrated National Energy Action Month, which is something that happens every October. And we partnered with six libraries to provide energy exploration events, which were interactive experiences for all ages. It was a way for us to bring energy efficiency, which is such a weird concept for some folks or just not a fun concept. So we made arcade games to talk about the different ways that you could be energy efficient in your homes. So we brought that to libraries in October of 2016, was the first time we did it. And then we did it again, in 2017, at six different libraries.
During that time, we also found out that the Summer Reading Program, which happens every summer, had an amazing theme. And I think in 2017 it was, Build a Better World. And so we were able to use that as an opportunity to outreach to kids and to families about renewable energy. So we did Energy Express events at all of the library locations, and we made wind turbines, and solar cars with kids during those events. And then this year, we brought that back again and when libraries rocked this summer, during the Summer Reading Program, we talked about where electricity comes from, and the fact that a lot of our electricity comes from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy, two of which basically come from rocks originally. So we were able to use that. So I try to find a way to use the summer reading theme as an opportunity to talk about energy, and to talk about what Department of Environmental Protection does.
And then of course, this October, for National Energy Action Month, we did something called Books and Bulbs. So we deviated a little bit from the Energy Exploration events just because we had been to most of the libraries with that event. So we went to six locations this October and did Books and Bulbs, where we had people bring us their old incandescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs, and they could swap them out for light-emitting diodes, the LED light bulbs I was talking about earlier. And so they were able to do that. They could bring me as many light bulbs as they wanted and then they received three LEDs in exchange. So I think - I don't think, I do know that next summer we will be partnering with the libraries again on Energy Express events, again a way to connect the summer reading with STEM or STEAM opportunities and talk about energy.
And then we are also, just so everyone knows, you can always take out a Kill a Watt meter from your library. So you just go to the catalogue system and you can find out how much energy you're using with certain appliance by using a Kill a Watt meter. And sneak peek, this is brand new, but we will be adding thermal cameras to the library catalogue in the next six months, hopefully.
Julie Dina: Oh, that's nice.
Larissa Johnson: So people will be actually able to borrow an iPhone and Android-capable thermal cameras, they're extensions that you put on your phone, and then you can search your home to see how energy efficient your house is or where you have leaks and where it's super warm and where it's super cold, and it's pretty awesome. We're going to have, hopefully, eight cameras in circulation.
David Payne: You hear it first on Library Matters.
Julie Dina: That's right.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, you really did.
Julie Dina: I know earlier you mentioned people were able to turn in their light bulbs at certain outreach events.
Larissa Johnson: Uh-huh.
Julie Dina: Now that the summer is over, does DEP have specific stations or offices where people can still turn in their light bulbs, is this a year-round?
Larissa Johnson: I do outreach in the entire county, and I don't just go to libraries. I also go the senior centers, I go to recreation centers, I go to housing complexes, I go to Manna food distribution sites, I go to a lot of different locations. So in December, I will actually be visiting a lot of senior centers, I'll be visiting Damascus, and Schweinhaut, and Bower Park, and a few other locations. And I'll be doing light bulb exchanges, and also we will be turning incandescent light bulbs into ornaments. So we're going to take your old inefficient light bulbs and turn them into a work of art. So that's a fun event.
Julie Dina: Wow.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah.
Julie Dina: I imagine people can get this information on your website?
Larissa Johnson: Yes. So our website is www.mygreenmontgomery.org, and then if you backslash energy, or if you just go to mygreenmontgomery.org you can find our information there. We have a calendar there, and all of these events are located there. We also have a Facebook page, which is mygreenmontgomery, and you can find information there as well.
Julie Dina: You heard it folks.
Larissa Johnson: Come bring your light.
David Payne: So, Angelisa, what are some of the resources MCPL offers to help customers go green?
Angelisa Hawes: Well, we have free scanning services from our copiers in all of our branches. We offer programs such as composting, Energy Express, Books and Bulbs. We have online resources such as e-books, e-magazines, music and movies; we have books and resources on green living. And with our partnership with DEP, as we've been talking about during this session, we pass out green bags, light bulbs for the Books and Bulbs program, we also have compost bins at Damascus, Maggie Nightingale, Kensington Park, and the FLO Silver Spring bookstore. The other thing that we have done recently is we have discontinued mailing out postcards for holds. So we either call you, text, or email you. So those are just-
David Payne: It's a significant contribution there.
Angelisa Hawes: Yes. I get a lot of those hold emails.
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, and they offer the Kill a Watt meters, which are housed here at Rockville Library, but again, people can request them, and then they get sent directly to their library. So that's been a resource for the last five years or so.
Julie Dina: Okay, Larissa, so what would you consider is the most important step we can take right now towards being more environmentally responsible?
Larissa Johnson: Okay, so there is not just one step, there are a few steps. The first step is to make sure that we are using less energy, so conserving our energy, so turning off our lights, shorter showers; things of that nature. The next thing would be to be more energy efficient, so switching to LED light bulbs is the easiest thing you can do in your home. The next thing would be to switching to clean energy or to renewable energy. So for those that have the ability it would be to install solar panels on their homes or on their barns or over their carports, wherever they can. And then if you don't have that ability, there are other options. So there are things like switching to clean power. So in Maryland, we're a choice state, which means you get to choose who your energy supplier is.
So in Montgomery County residents can choose to go to wind energy or cleaner energy, and they would just go to our website, mygreenmontgomery.org and then look for Green Choices, that's what they're going to look for. And it's going to tell them what companies are available to them to switch to clean energy. And then they also have the ability to go solar, either putting solar panels on their roofs or participating in community solar, and that's another project that's happening in Montgomery County. And you can find more information on our website. And again, like Montgomery County Libraries is already a leader in this. They have solar panels on the roofs of their libraries, on Rockville Memorial and on Gaithersburg.
David Payne: So Angelisa, having said that, can you give us an example of how solar power makes a difference?
Angelisa Hawes: So at Gaithersburg, Solar City installed 720 panels on the roof. And we are generating over 270,000 kilowatt hours per year.
Larissa Johnson: That's a lot of hours.
Julie Dina: Now, Larissa, could you tell us if there's any particular project the DEP is actually working on currently?
Larissa Johnson: We are actually working on a project that has been in a making for a little bit of time, but we've been trying to work with partners, and really get this program to be what the county needs. And so as part of the Pepco-Exelon merger that happened a few years ago, the county received funding for energy programs, so one of them was to create the Montgomery County Green Bank. So I don't know if residents know about that or if listeners know about that, but that is something that has been in existence for the last two years, and that's an opportunity for people to do energy projects and to have financing to help them do those energy projects. So that's something that's good for residents and for businesses.
And another part of that Pepco-Exelon merger was to bring Montgomery County an Energy Coach Network. And so we are in the process of putting that together and working with Health and Human Services, with Department of Housing and Community Affairs, with the public libraries, with the senior centers. And so we're going to be launching something soon. I can't tell you what it's called. I can tell you that you will have thermal cameras in libraries soon, and that is a part of this project, in this initiative. So be on the lookout for something super exciting, and engaging, and fun. And it's going to be a county-wide initiative and program, all around energy because energy is amazing and we use it every day.
In addition to the Montgomery County Green Bank, there are opportunities for homeowners to actually receive funding to help them to energy efficiency programs or any energy-efficiency projects in their home. And so one of those is called the BeSMART Home Loan, and it's available to all residents in the entire state of Maryland. And it's up to $30,000 for energy projects, and that can be retrofits, it could be home comfort projects, it could be installing solar panels, though it only pays a percentage of that or only provides you with a loan for a percentage of that. And that's through the Department of Housing and Community Development. And again, it's up to $30,000 worth of funding, and it's at a 4.99 APR. And so that's another opportunity for residents and listeners to take advantage of that. And once they do that program, then they can qualify for the Montgomery County Property Tax Credit, the energy property tax credit, so it's a double whammy, but in a good way.
David Payne: Well, an important part of energy efficiency is LEED certification, L-E-E-D. Angelisa, if I could turn to you and ask you, Sliver Spring, Olney, and Gaithersburg libraries have gold LEED certifications. Can you tell us a little bit about the LEED certification process, what it means, and are there any future libraries that will be trying for LEED certification?
Angelisa Hawes: Okay. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. And it is an internationally-recognized green building certification system. LEED provides point system to score green buildings' design and construction. It's basically five basic areas, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy in atmosphere, materials resources, and indoor environmental quality. So buildings are awarded points based on those sustainable strategies. The more points they're awarded the higher level of certification, which is silver, gold, or platinum. So if you decided that you wanted to have a project that was LEED certified, you would first determine which you want to achieve, do you want to have silver or do you want to have gold. You would register your project, you would submit your certification application, then you would wait, the application review, and then they would make a decision on which level you achieved.
So, as future libraries that we're trying for LEED certification would be the Wheaton Library that's going to be combined with the Rec Center.
David Payne: So Larissa, turning to you, what about getting a home LEED certified, what are some of the pros and cons of doing that?
Larissa Johnson: Yeah, so LEED certification is an option for homes. And as Angelisa just pointed out, there are five areas, and energy is one of those areas, and you can get a certain amount of points for that. The other thing is that you have to pay for LEED certification, so that's probably the biggest downfall is that there's a cost associated with it. The upside is that there is funding to help you with that through the BeSMART Home Loan, and through other programs that exist to help you make your home more energy efficient. One of the things that we talk about when we're talking about homes and energy efficiency is the Home Energy Rating System, or the HERS Index. And that's also another tool that homeowners can use especially when they're interested in selling or buying homes, they can find out how energy efficient that home is.
So LEED is more comprehensive, and talks about sustainability, water usage, environmental air quality, and the design and materials that are used, whereas HERS specially talks to the energy efficiency of a home. And also in Montgomery County, we have a disclosure form, so when you do buy a new home the homeowners - the previous homeowners have to give you the last 12 months worth of energy bills so that you can find out how energy efficient that home was. So that's something that has been in existence here in the county as well. So if you're interested in buying a home, looking for a new home, or just want to find out how energy-efficient your home is that's another opportunity. And again, it's specifically connected to energy use, where as LEED is a much more comprehensive holistic approach to sustainability.
Julie Dina: Now, Larissa, with all of that being said, how can county residents actually contact the DEP or find out more about your work.
Larissa Johnson: It's very easy. You can go to mygreenmontgomery.org, which is our website that connects residents to all things green in Montgomery County, hence the name, mygreenmontgomery. So you can find out information about what I'm doing around energy, you can find out what's happening around RainScapes and water, and all different areas that the Department of Environmental Protection focuses on. That's the easiest way. If people want to contact me directly it's email@example.com, that's the easiest way to get in touch with me. And I'm always happy to answer emails, that's the easiest way to get in touch with me because I'm out in the field so much that I'm not usually available via phone, so definitely emails. Our website is a great opportunity as well.
David Payne: And for listeners, who having heard the podcast want to take a look at how to be more energy efficient, what's the easiest step that someone can take right now to being more environmentally responsible?
Larissa Johnson: Sure. So I think that the most important step we can take right now is to take a step. So like I said before, to conserve energy, so stop using energy. Make sure that when you leave a room you are turning off the light, switching to LED light bulbs, we have lots of events where you can bring your old incandescent and CFL light bulbs to me and you can get LEDs at no cost to you. So that's an easy, easy way to do it. I want to really impress upon the fact that each choice that we make is impacting the entire system. So a lot of people think that what does it matter if I turn off my light, it doesn't really impact anything. But if you don't turn off your light, and everyone doesn't turn off their light because they don't think that their choices matter, then we have a big issue when it comes to energy choices.
So I really like to think about the solutions that we can do personally because that's going the impact the larger system. And there is another book that I love, love, love, it's called Energy Choices, and it is a look at the solutions everyday people can make just in regular things, so switching to solar panels, buying an electric vehicle if you have the ability and have the interest in that. Or super easy things, just walking to work or walking or using the metro, or using a bus. Things like that, so.
David Payne: I should of course remind listeners that all the resources that we mention today can be found in our show notes on the podcast section of MCPL's webpage.
Julie Dina: And Larissa, I know you do a lot to conserve energy and let the whole world know about it. Can you tell us about a strangest thing you've ever done in a quest to conserve energy?
Larissa Johnson: Oh gosh. The strangest thing I have ever done, so I actually, one of the things that I do provide residents with when they come to one of my workshops or one of my outreach events is a shower timer, and it's a five-minute shower timer. And I absolutely love it. I use it every single time I take a shower, I start it, and the sand starts coming down, and I know I have five minutes in my shower. So I think that's the silliest, quirkiest thing I do. And I'm happy to say that I can also share that with other residents because I provide them and I do workshops. So it's not over-the-top super crazy, but it's a great way to conserve energy.
Julie Dina: Sounds good.
David Payne: So we typically close our podcast by asking our guests to tell us about a book they are enjoying or recently enjoyed, of course, under your LED light bulb, so let's start with Angelisa.
Angelisa Hawes: So, I'm reading Radical Candor, but Kim Scott, because I want to be a better boss. I think that starting from being a branch manager to becoming an administrator is a totally large jump. And so I don't want to lose my humanity when I make decisions, and so this book was recommended by another administrator. And so that's why I checked this book out.
Julie Dina: Larissa?
Larissa Johnson: Yes, so my book is one from Libby, and it's an audiobook, it's The Book of Joy, by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. And so for me, I believe that all things are connected. And so my personal energy impacts all of the choices I make, and that is something that I really believe in. And so I really try to make sure that I am connecting to the joy that I have within myself, and the laughter. And so this book has been inspirational, it's two amazing men talking about how joy has impacted their lives, they talk about sorrow, they talk about laughter, they talk about humanity and humility, and they bring it all together. And it's just so nice. And they have two actors that - or two readers that are reading it that sound just like the Dalai Lama and sound like Desmond Tutu, so that's one of the benefits of listening to a book on tape is you get to have different accents. The downfall is you get no pictures.
Julie Dina: You just have to come to the library and check out the book.
Larissa Johnson: Exactly.
Julie Dina: Well, I've got the say a big thank you to both our guests today on the episode.
Let's keep this conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast app, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcast, we'd love to know what you think. Thank you once again for listening to our conversation today. See you next time.