About the Middletown Energy Plan
Energy use is a topic that affects every household, business, and organization in the community. As communities grow and thrive, identifying inefficiencies and prioritizing solutions in energy become an important step in planning for the future. Energy is rarely featured as a topic in communities’ strategic or comprehensive plans.
In partnership with the City of Middletown, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Governments (OKI) aims to produce a Community Strategic Energy Plan to investigate the ways in which energy affects the city and build goals that propel the city forward.
Community-Wide Energy Use
The charts below show the differences in energy use among the various land use types in Middletown. The manufacturing and commercial sectors dominate electricity use in Middletown, with 78% of all energy used, due to their energy intensive nature. Residential only accounts for 22% of electricity use.
Natural gas is used for space heating, water heating, and some manufacturing processes. Similarly to electricity use, the manufacturing and commercial sectors account for 67% of natural gas use in Middletown.
Transportation is a significant source of energy use in any community. How we choose to get around has dramatic effects on the amount of energy used. Carpooling or taking the bus uses less energy than would driving alone. Biking or walking uses none.
The age of homes and business has a direct impact on overall energy usage. Homes built before 1960 were not designed with energy efficiency in mind. It wasn’t until the energy crisis of the 1970’s that homes were built with close attention payed to the cost of electricity and natural gas.
Knowing the general age of homes and businesses is vital to understanding and managing energy use. Structures built before the 1970’s generally lack the energy saving features that we take for granted in newer constructions.
Most older homes lack energy saving improvements like proper air sealing and attic insulation. Both of these renovations are cheap for the homeowner and will lower energy costs each month. Below is a chart of the recommended renovations for houses of each era.
Some energy efficient installations are more cost effective than others. For instance, adequate air sealing didn’t become common until recently. Cold or hot air penetration is particularly prevalent in homes constructed before 1940, on account of the materials used. Caulking and air-sealing can cut down drafts and save energy with relatively low cost to homeowners.
Another issue with older homes is the lack of insulation throughout. Area’s of the home like attics, basements, and even walls weren’t insulated in early 20th century homes. Insulating areas like attics and unfinished spaces can trap heat or air conditioning, drastically improving the energy efficiency of homes.
The map below shows the average age of homes in Middletown. There is a wide range of building ages in Middletown, spanning from the late 19th century to new construction. Homes in the west side of Middletown were predominantly built before WWII. There was lots of residential development from the 1950’s through 1970’s.
Urban Heat Island
Impervious surfaces, such as roads and buildings, have an impact on the temperature of our cities. Rural areas are far cooler and temperate in the summer months when compared to cities. The rise in temperatures in urban areas has implications on energy usage.
Within communities there are “hot spots,” localized areas of higher surface temperatures, dictated by land use patterns. The hot spots are typically characterized by large areas of unbroken pavement or building material, like parking lots and commercial/manufacturing zones.
The map above shows the average surface temperature values in Middletown. The most prominent area of increased heat values is in the industrial zone, north of Oxford State Road. There is limited vegetation throughout the space, increasing the amount of heat that is absorbed and reflected. The increased surface temperatures can also affect the housing adjacent to the industrial zone. Heat is absorbed during the day and released at night, forcing air conditioners to run for longer.
Another area of increased surface temperatures is in the downtown section of Middletown (bottom right of map). Dense urban areas are far warmer than surrounding suburbs because of the unbroken pavement.
The chart below shows how Middletown compares to communities in the rest of the OKI Region.
Energy Burden is a calculation of a household’s income compared with the amount they spend on energy annually. The higher the percentage, the higher the household’s energy burden is. In the case of the map below, the data shows the average household energy burden by census block group, compared with the average energy burden for a household in Middletown. Values over one indicate areas that experience greater than average energy burden.
Energy Burden can be caused by low household incomes, inefficient housing stock, or typically both. Lower income residents are typically housed in the oldest, and least energy-efficient housing, which increases the disparity of energy burden in the community.