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How Home Performance is Transforming in My Neck of the Woods

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In my last article, I spoke about how Home Performance is growing in the East Tennessee area. We are seeing things happen on a broad-scale due to support from our power company and community-driven initiatives. Starting on September 1, 2015, my community is providing low-income families with the opportunity to upgrade their homes, at no cost, with energy efficient home improvements. Homeowners will be selected based on income levels, number of occupants, and age of the home. The homeowners will also be required to attend an educational workshop on low-cost ways to lower their utility cost.

The gist of the plan is to reduce the homeowner or renter’s (with landlord’s consent) utility consumption by 25% through various measures such as HVAC replacement, upgrades to home appliances, air sealing, duct sealing or replacement, insulation, and simply changing out light bulbs to high-efficiency bulbs. Safety measures will also be applied to the home in the way of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, or other measures that will bring the home up to current local codes.

The plan will provide an energy audit for each home, and determine which measures will be applied to meet the utility consumption reduction of 25%. The type of home improvements shall be based on the home’s specific needs. All homes will have a third-party blower door tested for air leakage, which will serve as the baseline for most of the upgrades. It will be the contractor’s responsibility to test-in and test-out after completion of their work to ensure air leakage has met the requirements for the measure stated. After project completion, a final testing is completed by a third-party verification to approve all measures have been achieved.

Homeowner upgrades will be based on the home’s needs such as replacing old appliances with new Energy Star rated appliances, replacing inefficient HVAC with new, higher efficiency Energy Star rated HVAC , and may have duct systems repaired and sealed, or completely replaced. Air sealing and insulation will be a major upgrade in each home, especially due to the home’s age. Another aspect of the plan is to provide homeowners who received new HVAC systems with 2-years of preventative maintenance. Again, the goal is to decrease the home’s utility consumption by 25%, which can be achieved through many of these upgrade measures.

For the low-income homeowners and renters participating in the Extreme Energy Makeover project, this is a blessing in disguise. Many of these families struggle with the cost of home repairs, payment of their utility bills, and just making ends meet. Thankfully, in my community, there are many current, smaller programs in place to assist low-income homeowners in need of emergency home repairs, but those funds are limited in scope and can only provide home upgrades to a certain financial threshold. That being said, upgrades based on the smaller programs are applied, but only upgrades which provide the most impact to the home’s safety and structure, and some limited home performance upgrades, are approved. The Extreme Energy Makeover’s main focus is the 25% reduction in utilities, so these homeowners and renters will receive the benefit of true home performance at no cost for the upgrades.

This week the term Home Performance came full circle in my neck of the woods. During the Extreme Energy Makeover’s kick-off announcement and ribbon cutting ceremony of the project, our city’s mayor stated, “We are bringing Home Performance to those who need it most.” Low-income families in East Tennessee will know what Home Performance means. I literally had goose bumps when she made that statement to the masses! Here at A-1 Certified Service, Inc., we are driven to provide our customers with Home Performance by educating them on what Home Performance means to them and their home. Over the last year, we have seen significant increases in the number of Home Performance projects undertaken by homeowners.

Many of the projects we have tackled this year have consisted of upgrades to high-efficiency HVAC, duct sealing, repair or replacement, air sealing, and insulation in walls, attics, and crawlspaces. As many of us who work in this field know, these are costly projects shouldered by homeowners, but now with the Extreme Energy Makeover project, Home Performance will be offered to the masses.

Michele Thomas

Posted In: Building Performance, Residential Buildings

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