Community Post

Green Home Revolution Rumbling Through Central and Southeast Seattle Neighborhoods

When the City of Seattle launched CPW last spring, homeowners in the eligible areas began to take advantage of government subsidized energy assessments and energy upgrades. Now that winter has arrived and homeowners are feeling the chill, the program is starting to heat up.

The CPW program currently offers rebates and incentives that help to off-set the overall cost of the upgrade to the tune of $1,000 for most homeowners. In addition, time-sensitive offers, such as a current incentive for homeowners to sign up by Thanksgiving to get an extra $500 off the cost of the upgrade. Affordable financing options are also available through the program, including a loan from the program that enables participants to put no money down and repay on their Seattle city light bill.

Washington Park home owner Allyson Adley said, “When we learned that 86% of the warm air in our house was escaping each hour and being replaced with cold air from outside, we were shocked. That provided us with the motivation to act.”

CPW is a federally funded, neighborhood energy upgrade initiative that aims to upgrade over 2,000 homes and small businesses in 24 neighborhoods throughout downtown, central and southeast Seattle. The process involves signing up for the program through CPW and working through CPW’s home energy experts to receive a deeply-discounted whole-home energy audit, getting expert advice on prioritizing the work based on the needs of the home and homeowner, receiving bids and having the work done by CPW’s highly-qualified partner contractors, receiving financing, rebates and incentives to help offset costs, and finally having work quality-checked by program experts. Residents can find out if they qualify for CPW by visiting the program’s website. The program will last through June 2013.

CPW is designed to help homeowners and small business owners invest in making their home and business space energy efficient. For example, many homes from downtown through the Central District down to Rainier Beach depend on oil heat, which is more costly and inefficient than more environmentally friendly alternatives, such as a heat pump.

The process starts with a $95 energy audit, which is normally $400. Then the homeowner determines what improvements should be made and selects a contractor, and if needed, a lender. The contractors only get paid once the worked has been quality checked by Community Power Works and customer is satisfied.

Many clients say they have learned more about their home through the energy assessment.

Carrie Evans and her husband bought a 1930s house in Mt. Baker last spring. Two months after moving in, she heard about the Community Power Works program from a friend and signed up for an audit.

“We learned a lot about our house,” said Evans. “The auditors were professional, thorough, and explained their process well. We knew that our old house was leaky and not very energy efficient. The auditor identified for us a list of potential projects and their estimated costs, which helped us prioritize what projects to move forward on now, and what can wait until a future year.”

“We go into homes and we write a prescription for a healthier home that is the solution that fits both the house and the home owner,” said Bob Thoreson, a home auditor with Home Rx.

To become a contractor with CPW, candidates have to undergo rigorous screening and adhere to High Roads standards including paying living wages and hiring crew members that are trained in local quality training programs.

“We don’t just do the retrofit,” said Ammen Jordan, manager of Home Performance Collaborative, one of CPW’s qualified contractors. “Our people are trained energy advisors.”

Community Power Works internal and field partner energy experts guide homeowners and renters (with landlord approval) through every step of the upgrade process.

All contractors are small, locally-owned businesses, 18% of which are minority-owned, 10% of which are women-owned, and 10 percent veteran-owned. Homeowners can choose from eleven CPW approved contractors.

After the work is done, a CPW energy auditor returns to conduct a Quality Assurance check, which is built into the program.

For Adley’s home, her energy use went from 24,000 kWhe to 10,000 kWhe, saving almost 60% over previous energy costs.

“I cannot get over how much value we’ve added to the house with the CPW upgrade. We feel good that we are not buying oil any more, and it’s a relief not to have to open that bill,” said Adley.

2 thoughts on “Green Home Revolution Rumbling Through Central and Southeast Seattle Neighborhoods

  1. I’m the neighborhood organizer for CPW, and if you’d like to talk about the program, I’m available at (206) 930-6377.

  2. For us, we like the idea of reducing our energy bills but didn’t have any idea of how to come up with the thousands to do the work. We’re doing it through this program, since they have a 20-year low interest loan avaialble, and you pay it back through your Seattle City Light bill. The amount of the loan payment is off-set by the reduced bills for energy. In our case, it will reduce our gas bill (PSE) by quite a bit and we’ll pay back the loan on our electric bill (City Light). The energy analysis gives you advice on which retrofits will save you how much money, so you can make a good decision about which items to do. We chose to do about half the total possible retrofits, and with the gas bill reduction we’ll pay about $45/month beyond our current bills. That gets us a new inline water heater, new front door, and insulation in the attic and floor. The total also includes re-wiring our house to get rid of the old knob and tube, since you can’t put insulation on top of knob and tube due to fire hazards. So, it’s well worth it to me! We were always interested in energy upgrades but the loan program made it possible, and the energy analysis helped us make a good decision about which items to do first.