Two years ago, I signed up to be part of a pilot program through which our
family received a home energy audit. Through a super-cool process that involved
blowing a giant fan in the doorway, inspecting appliances and light bulbs, and
poking around in the attic to look at the insulation, our auditor discovered
several things that we could do to make our home more comfortable and to
increase our energy savings. He sent us a very snazzy report that included
descriptions of the problem, the fix and the savings (both in energy and
Every couple of months following the audit, a researcher called me to see if
we had made any of the recommended changes. And every month I reported to her
with chagrin that we had not done a single thing. We had not even installed a
balloon in the chimney to prevent drafts: a $40 fix that required no
construction skills at all!
The last time the researcher called, it was to discern the barriers that I
was encountering in making the changes and to get some ideas of what I needed in
order to maximize my energy audit. I knew exactly what I needed: a referral to a
reliable contractor who could provide me with an estimate and who was well-versed in
home weatherization and other energy-saving types of construction.
Additionally, I needed more information about the simpler fixes like the
chimney balloon. After failing to find chimney balloons at my local hardware
stores, I had done an online search. Only to discover that there was a dizzying
array of chimney balloons sizes and styles. Clear or black? Round or
rectangular? Small, medium or large? Did it matter? I had no idea. And so the
balloon was never purchased. There was sibling bickering to mediate and dinner
to make and various other details of life that ranked higher on the immediate
Apparently I wasn’t the only person to give this feedback to the researcher,
because now the home energy audit process for Seattleites is new and improved!
And it includes Community Power
Works, a partner of the City of Seattle that specializes in helping home and
business owners identify areas where they can save energy and then actually
implement the ideas.
Community Power Works will help home owners who have already had an energy
audit performed (like me) or people that need an energy audit. By working with
Community Power Works, the energy audit costs $95, instead of the normal
Once the audit is complete, Community Power Works automatically sends out a
contractor to bid on your project AND they connect you with their affordable
loan program in case you need help financing your project. Since windows and oil
furnaces are commonly needed upgrades, it is terrific to have access to low
interest loans. They will also hook you up with significant CPW rebates and
other utility incentives that might apply to your energy-saving project.
Along the way, I’ve learned a few fun facts that I know other families will
want to make the most of:
Fun Fact #1: When I started this whole process, I was
thinking exclusively of energy and money savings and not about the connection
between home efficiency and children’s health. It turns out that crawl spaces
and attics are notorious for spewing dirty air into a home. Cut off the air
pathways that flow through those spaces, and voila!, cleaner air.
Fun Fact #2: Across all building sectors, Community Power
Works projects have already reduced 48,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, the
equivalent of taking 7,700 cars off the road for an entire year. Yippee!
Fun Fact #3: Community Power Works for Home participants are
achieving an average of 27 percent energy savings, with some homeowners saving
more than 50 percent! That can add up to at least $2000 of savings in CPW
Fun Fact #4: Seattle is one of 25 communities that have
received funding through the US Department of Energy’s BetterBuilding grant
program. Seattle’s inclusion in this project means that we get to invest federal
funds in local infrastructures like our own homes, while helping build green
jobs. And at the end, we get to enjoy a comfortable, snug home. Win-win-win!