CHANGE YOUR WORLD IN AN HOUR—certainly a hyperbolic statement to the nth degree and redolent of the worst of false-claim late-night TV commercials, but if you consider your home your world to an appreciable degree, and notable home energy savings a worthy endeavor, Energy Trust of Oregon’s Home Energy Review walkthrough, which takes only an hour and doesn’t cost a dime, may have you gallantly declaiming such a phrase. Plus, and we’ll get to this shortly, you get free stuff. And, as the Energy Trust website points out, “Up to 60 percent of energy used to heat and cool homes can be lost due to leaky ducts, inefficient equipment, poor insulation and air leaks.”
Energy Trust of Oregon, an independent nonprofit organization “dedicated to helping Oregonians benefit from saving energy and tapping renewable resources,” works in association with Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas to help save more than $440 million in energy costs; this includes plenty of residential $$$/energy-saving assistance and guidance. The trust’s website is chockfull of useful information, and our “energy advisor,” who led the in-home review, pointed us toward the site numerous times for additional facts, figures and ways to continue the energy-saving dialogue.
Conservation Services Group (CSG) actually carries out the reviews for Energy Trust of Oregon as a “program management contractor.” The Massachusetts-headquartered group, which has been around since 1984 and has 20 offices and nearly 600 employees around the country, promotes energy efficiency, conservation and clean energy technologies, and works with utilities, public agencies, homeowners and local communities.
BACK TO THE WORLD-CHANGING WALKTHROUGH. Portland General Electric, our renewable-energy provider, first brought the Home Energy Review to our attention on their website. We then set it up with a simple phone call (1.866.368.7878; you can also schedule a visit via Energy Trust’s website). Our energy advisor showed up within the hour timeframe he had promised; it was NOT a case of “you need to take the entire morning or afternoon off to make sure you can accommodate us, thank you very much.” So far, so good. The advisor asked some general questions about our home, the age of the furnace, our priorities and concerns (we were looking to be as energy efficient as possible—he checked a box for that), and he quickly reviewed a few electric and gas bills (nothing appeared amiss or unusual).
Now it was time for the actual walkthrough, which included an inspection of the water heater (we dialed it down a bit more), furnace, attic insulation, crawlspace (and its appalling lack of insulation), windows and our “classic” cast-iron Schrader wood-burning stove (not very efficient and more a West Coast “showpiece,” we learned). We were given a handy one-page “recommended home energy improvements” worksheet, which included “opportunities to save” sections on weatherization, insulation, heating and cooling, water heating and appliances. The sheet also included action-plan priorities (in our case, “air sealing with leakage test; floor, attic, water insulation; fix attic hatch [the flimsy plastic hatch wasn’t doing the job—what were we thinking!?]”) and “other opportunities,” which amounted to considering a more energy-efficient furnace and tankless gas water heater.
The advisor also installed a more water-saving showerhead, a number of CFL bulbs to augment those we already had in place and several water-faucet aerators—all at no cost.This was pretty nifty, and greatly appreciated. Additional leave-behind materials included an Energy Trust Cash Incentives booklet with information on potential Oregon and federal tax credits and cash-back programs (the information is updated on the website to reflect legislative change), an extensive contractors list organized by service (also updated and available online) and a well-laid-out and informative Energy Savings Guide for Your Home booklet. It took just an hour, which flew right by, and will certainly change our little world, saving us energy and money and helping protect the environment; the Energy Trust website makes this quite explicit: “Because of the energy saved and renewable power generated by Energy Trust customers since 2002, three million tons of carbon dioxide will not enter our atmosphere. That’s like removing more than one half-million cars from our roads every year.”
Not in Oregon and unable to take advantage of this great program? If you don’t have access to something comparable, contact your local utilities, government, community leaders and fellow homeowners and make some noise.
—Allen + Colleen