Published: Sep 18, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Sep 18, 2012 12:42 PM
About 90 homeowners in Chapel Hill made home energy upgrades that are saving them on average about $600 a year, thanks to the WISE (Worthwhile Investments Save Energy) program.
And theyre breathing easier. Air quality benefits from their homes energy savings equal removing more than 120 passenger vehicles from the road for one year.
While significant financial and environmental benefits are part of the program mission, WISE participants like Betty Prioux find added comfort to the home. WISE energy upgrades can add to a homes comfort by reducing drafts and moisture issues while improving indoor air quality and temperature consistency.
A typical home project includes two primary types of work: 1) improvements that keep the home better sealed and insulated against extreme outside air temperatures (e.g., insulation, weatherstripping); and 2) upgrades that improve the efficiency of the heating and cooling system, appliances or other major energy-consuming equipment within the home (e.g., HVAC, duct and ventilation sealing, refrigerator replacement, lighting upgrades).
The Chapel Hill WISE program started in March of 2011. The U.S. Department of Energy provides funding by way of two grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. WISE makes home energy upgrades easier by coordinating the home upgrade process and offering incentives of up to $1,500 towards the total cost of the improvements. While it started as a program for single-family homeowners, WISE has recently expanded its services through pilot programs for rental properties and multifamily buildings.
Participants begin with a home energy evaluation. With a list of recommended improvements, the homeowner then proceeds with the upgrades using a prequalified energy contractor. When the work is complete and has been reviewed, the homeowner receives a Home Performance with Energy Star certificate detailing the energy improvements. Because energy-efficient homes sell faster than others, this certificate can be useful to homeowners at the point of sale.
The WISE program is important to Chapel Hill. A report issued by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy states that investments of $1 million in building efficiency improvements create more jobs than the same level of investment in the economy as a whole. Based on the formula used by the U.S. Department of Energy to estimate job creation from total investment, more than 30 jobs may be directly generated by the Chapel Hill WISE program.
The Chapel Hill WISE program is also important to the Southeast. As a member of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA), Chapel Hill and Carrboro are among 15 cities that have been awarded grant funding to help establish an industry for home energy upgrades. Growing the energy upgrade industry is critical to reducing the countrys energy demand.
Residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are encouraged to take part in the WISE program to help achieve a local goal of more than 500 energy upgrades by May 2013. To learn more, visit wiseprogram.info
or call 919-914-0094.
John Richardson is the sustainability officer for the Town of Chapel Hill.