County's energy audit program proves popular
By BRETT CIHON
Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer
January 23, 2012 · Updated 8:39 AM
Like an eco-friendly heat pump, Kitsap County’s RePower Kitsap program is humming away.
Two hundred and sixteen homes have received a detailed Energy Performance Score (EPS) as the energy program nears the end of its first full year. This is a big step toward the county’s goal of reducing home energy consumption by 20 percent in 1,550 homes, creating a more energy-efficient and sustainable region, said the county’s resource conservation manager, Autumn Salamack.
“We’re seeing really positive results,” she said. “This is a great program, and hopefully we’ll see even more people utilize it in 2012.”
RePower Kitsap offers free and low-cost energy assessments and tips for homeowners, as well as providing financing options for homeowners who decide to upgrade their energy systems.
From loose heating hoses to antiquated heat pumps, Salamack said some individuals would be surprised how inefficient their homes are. An EPS performed by a Building Performance Institute-certified contractor is a great way to find out where a home is losing excess energy, and what could be fixed in a home to decrease energy costs.
The EPS assesment — similar to a miles-per-gallon rating for a home — is recommended for all homes, said Salamack, especially ones built before 1985.
“The goal (of the EPS test) is to educate homeowners about the current performance of their home and what energy upgrades they could do,” she said. “I would recommend to anybody in an older home, anybody who feels drafts or discomfort, or anybody who is concerned about their high heating bills.”
Salamack said the cost of the energy performance test -- also known as an energy audit -- is determined by the square footage of a home, with an average size home costing $496. However, a $350 rebate will be offered through RePower Kitsap through the end of the year or until the county reaches it’s goal of 685 EPS tests. This is made possible, Salamack said, through funding by a two U.S. Department of Energy grant, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the State Energy Program.
For those not ready to spend money, RePower Kitsap also offers Free in home assessments from a Puget Sound Energy specialist, giving homeowners practical recommendations on how to operate a home more efficiently. These assessments don’t always get to the root of energy consumption and waste problems, Salamack said.
Of course, the program means plenty more than finding out the energy score on a home. The county used the stimulus money to offer low interest loans specifically used for homeowners who want energy upgrades. Rates on the loans stand around 4.5 percent, and are available through the Kitsap Credit Union.
Another aspect of the year-old program was to train a local work force capable of providing energy-efficiency services. Troy Olson, the owner of the contracting company Washington Energy Savers, is one of four area BPI licensed contractors trained to perform the energy audits. Olson took BPIcourses at Olympic College two years ago, and has since hired five employees.
“As a contractor, there were a lot of things I could have gotten involved with,” he said. “But this is he first type of experience where the work I am doing has a direct impact on saving customers money and helps the environment.”
Cutting down on costs and helping to make homes more energy efficient isn’t always a top priority for busy homeowners, he said. But the energy audits and the work done to make a home efficient always have a notable impact on comfort and cost saving.
“95 percent of homes have glaring issues,” he said. “We create a great opportunity to save money.”
Olson believes RePower Kitsap is a great way to improve efficiency and sustainability all across the board. From EPS testing to low-interest loans for energy improvements, coupled with building a workforce knowledgable in energy and sustainability concerns, Olson said the program offers help all across the board. With some energy changes to homes, people no longer have to worry about a long snowy winter of high heating bills.
And that alone, Olson said, would make the program worthwhile.
“People don’t have to sit around in their scarfs and theirs sweaters afraid to turn up their heat because it costs so much,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be like that.”
Those interested in learning more about RePower Kitsap should visit it repowerkitsap.org or call (877) 741-4340.
Contact Port Orchard Independent Staff Writer Brett Cihon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-876-4414.