The economic benefits of energy improvements are well known within the energy conservation community, but probably still not adequately appreciated by the general home owning public. Large upfront expenditure still is a barrier despite the potential for great bang for a buck in terms of the net long term savings that accrues from money invested in home energy conservation. Indeed a recent US study concludes that energy efficient homes are 1/3 less likely to incur mortgage defaults.
Building on the growing movement toward including health as a key consideration for any improvements to homes, several government agencies released a new vision for healthy housing in February, 2013.
HUD, EPA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Surgeon General, and the DOE jointly announced their The “Advancing Healthy Housing – A Strategy for Action”. The strategy can be summarized with the five following goals:
1) Establish healthy homes recommendations
2) Encourage adoption of healthy homes recommendations
3) Create and support training and workforce development to address health hazards in housing
4) Educate the public about healthy homes
5) Support research that informs and advances healthy housing in a cost-effective manner
More details about these goals can be found on the HUD website.
Melissa Podeszwa from BPA has posted an article in the online web log, Conduit NW, about the May 24 Open House hosted by the BPC for Washington State utilities and stakeholders. The article can be found here and is open for comment, so feel free to read and post!
In early March the Building Performance Center in conjunction with Habitat International held an Integrating Weatherization with Critical Home Repair training in Tacoma, WA. for western Washington and Oregon Affiliates.
The training was designed to introduce project leaders for Habitat to Building Science and Weatherization retrofit materials and processes. Course participants represented affiliates from Salem and Florence Oregon, and the Washington communities of Ellensburg, Whidbey Island, Bremerton, Kelso/Longview and Tacoma.
The first half day was spent in the classroom covering Building Science basics, weatherization priorities and the importance of thinking of a house as a system. After lunch attendees used training props to watch and experience proper air sealing, duct sealing and insulation techniques. Afterwards attendees worked with our House of Pressure to watch and understand air leakage diagnostics, forced air heating diagnostics and combustion safety diagnostics.
The morning of day two was spent observing and participating in a combustion safety test of a home built several years earlier by the local affiliate. The home provided an excellent example of how code compliance doesn’t necessarily assure 100 percent safety when it comes to “open” (air intake and/or exhaust not totally separate from inside living space) combustion appliances.
After testing house one we moved on to a 1911 home that provided the challenge of how to integrate home repair with weatherization. We spent over 3 hours collecting information including blower door and combustion diagnostics that would provide the foundation for a written work scope and budget. An excellent discussion followed as we determined what could be done on a limited budget to make the homeowners safe and comfortable.
Thanks to all the great work and help from the folks at the Tacoma Habitat affiliate in making this training a success. And thanks to Aimee from NCERT for her help with the House of Pressure and the filming and training preparation.
Combining preventative health measures with traditional weatherization continues to make news and draw attention. Home Energy magazine posted an article this week about this practice and programs around the US that are leading practitioners. A case study insert in the article describes how such a typical project might proceed at Bellingham’s Opportunity Council, one of the originators of weatherization plus health.
How clean is the air in your home? The outdoor air in our locale, Bellingham, WA., is typically quite good (see our current air quality), but what about our indoor air? Most of us spend the majority of our time indoors. Unfortunately the quality of indoor air is often significantly poorer than outdoor air. The EPA estimates that we receive 72% of our chemical exposure at home (read about indoor air quality.) If you are interested in air quality news, both local (Pacific Northwest) and global, follow the online news from our friends at the Northwest Clean Air Agency.
What does the national weatherization assistance program accomplish? Just in terms of cash, the DOE currently calculates that the average weatherization provided to low-income residences saves $437 per year, with some variation depending on fuel costs. If you wish to read more about this program and other benefits it creates, visit the DOE website: Weatherization Assistance Program
The BPC and its parent, the Opportunity Council, have been receiving recent recognition for innovation in combining health initiatives with weatherization and energy assistance. Programs created here in Bellingham have been recognized nationally as worthy of development (see previous post here). A recent post on the National Association for State Community Services Programs website provides details about how the OC combines health programs with weatherization.
A January 3 article from Home Energy magazine describes a number of successful efforts in Washington state to leverage recent federal funding into ongoing energy savings for businesses and homes. The BPC’s own Community Energy Challenge is described in detail and receives compliments both for overcoming various hurdles presented by such a new effort and for achieving the results the CEC has to date.
In the Wall Street Journal , November 30, 2011, an article details how LEDs have become the best buys in areas of commercial lighting. And they are increasingly able to compete in other types of lighting as their costs plunge.
Blessed with low power usage and high light output, the key factor that has held recent-vintage, high-quality LED adoption back has been their high purchase price. But due to their exceptionally long life span, LEDs are beginning to take off in commercial applications where the economy of infrequent replacement trumps bulb cost. Bulb costs are predicted to continue dropping 30% per year until 2015.
New energy conservation legislation with bipartisan support has been introduced in the Senate. If passed this legislation will provide for up to $5,000 in home owner tax credits for the installation of energy efficient home improvements through the creation of a new 25E tax credit. The credit would require a home energy analysis by a certified energy auditing company. More details about this proposed law may be found in this fact sheet.
BPC head trainer, Chris Clay, traveled to New Mexico in mid-November and worked with the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority to provide dense pack insulation training for the Central New Mexico Housing Authority.
The trainees spent the first 1/2 of day 1 in the classroom hearing and seeing how and why dense pack insulation is an indispensable technique for weatherization. Later that day the crew put their classroom learning to work, first using a density box to adjust their insulation machine, then blowing a wall full of insulation.
Onsite the second day students tackled how to access stucco siding from outside efficiently and effectively. Previously CNMHA had been accessing wall cavities from the inside which at times had prevented complete insulation coverage. Crew leads and inspectors also reviewed combustion testing to ensure tenant safety after all insulation and air sealing work was completed.
Early in 2011 it was announced that the Home Performance w/ENERGY STAR program would be placed entirely within the Dept. of Energy (DOE) and would no longer be managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The move was scheduled to be completed by October, 2011 and it is hoped that this move will lead to more consistency in home performance initiatives with the greater consolidation of home energy conservation efforts in the DOE which has also historically managed weatherization. There is some concern about the DOE possibly removing the ENERGY STAR brand from this program. For more about this concern, read here.
John Davies, the director of the BPC, was honored recently by a leading Pacific Northwest environmental organization. John is one of five 2011 environmental heroes chosen by RE Sources as local citizens or organizations that stand out in their dedication to the environment and sustainable community. We at the BPC congratulate and celebrate this well deserved recognition of John and his many years of environmental work and advocacy.
The Building Performance Center has expanded it’s lead clearance testing services beyond providing testing solely for residents in low income weatherization and repair programs to any home owners and property owners within Whatcom, Skagit and Island Counties. “We anticipated a growing need within our local communities for services to help property owners navigate the new laws covering lead hazards in homes and landscapes and think we are uniquely qualified, given our many years of experience with lead testing and mitigation in low income households. We possess the necessary state of the art testing equipment and certified staff. This is a social enterprise venture for the Building Performance Center as any earnings on our services go directly back into the Opportunity Council to provide other needed services within the community or to grow our ability to earn additional revenue given the reduction of funding at the federal and state levels” states Kathy Bastow, Business Manager for the BPC.
According to EPA legislation, as of April 2010, “Property owners who renovate, repair, or prepare surfaces for painting in pre-1978 rental housing or space rented by child-care facilities must, before beginning work, provide tenants with a copy of EPA’s lead hazard information pamphlet Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools (PDF) | en español (PDF) . Owners of these rental properties must document compliance with this requirement; EPA’s sample pre-renovation disclosure form (PDF) may be used for this purpose.
After April 22, 2010, property owners who perform these projects in pre-1978 rental housing or space rented by child-care facilities must be certified and must follow the lead-safe work practices required by EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Remodeling rule. To become certified, property owners must submit an application for firm certification (PDF) (9 pp, 642K) and fee payment to EPA. EPA began processing applications on October 22, 2009. The Agency has up to 90 days after receiving a complete request for certification to approve or disapprove the application.”
To be in compliance with the EPA legislation “Property owners who perform renovation, repairs, and painting jobs in rental property should also:
- Take training to learn how to perform lead-safe work practices.
- Learn the lead laws that apply to you regarding certification and lead-safe work practices beginning April 22, 2010.
- Keep records to demonstrate that you and your workers have been trained in lead-safe work practices and that you follow lead-safe work practices on the job. To make record keeping easier, you may use the sample record keeping checklist (PDF) (1 pg, 83K) that EPA has developed to help contractors comply with the renovation record keeping requirements that took effect April 22, 2010.
- Read about how to comply with EPA’s rule in the EPA Small Entity Compliance Guide to Renovate Right (PDF) (32 pp, 5.5MB).
The Community Energy Challenge, a program of the Opportunity Council’s Building Performance Center, has reached a new level of energy saving service for Whatcom County residential and small business community. This August the CEC completed its 500th home energy assessment. The CEC has also now performed 80 small business assessments and has completed over 200 home energy efficiency retrofits. For more information, call (360) 676-6099 or visit the CEC website