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NW Home Comfort: Better living through technology, but low-tech education first

NW Home Comfort: Better living through technology, but low-tech education first

After years working with companies like Apple and Microsoft, NW Home Comfort owner Marco Mazzoni is passionate about the potential for technology to improve people’s lives. “Technology is going to make it easier and easier to be more efficient,” he said. “Self-programming thermostats, occupancy sensors for lighting, and smart windows that convert sunlight to energy are all on the way,” he says. In the meantime, as a Community Power Works energy auditor and BPI Certified building analyst, Mazzoni’s first step to helping homeowners become healthier and more efficient is to provide some low-tech education. “There is a disconnect on health and safety issues that should matter to homeowners, but doesn’t,” he said.

During home energy audits, Mazzoni routinely informs homeowners of disconnected ductwork and decomposing animals in crawlspaces which contribute to harmful air quality. He also debunks assumptions about energy costs. “I had one customer running five electric space heaters all winter because she was afraid of paying for her natural gas furnace,” he said. “I helped her do the math to understand how her heaters cost about $100 per week to run, which was far more expensive than if she had used gas.”

Mazzoni finds a natural fit with Community Power Works and his holistic “triple-bottom line: people, planet, profits” approach to his business, which was instilled in him as a Sustainable Business MBA graduate of Bainbridge Graduate Institute. Mazzoni feels that the program benefits the homeowner, the environment, and the entire community. He has been working in the field since 2008 and says there is no other program he is aware of that offers more financial help to homeowners converting from fossil fuel heat sources like oil to cleaner, more efficient energy.  “Things can work out so that, by not buying oil, homeowners can be cash-positive through the Community Power Works program – even after expenses,” he said. read more

Community Power Works expands rebates for oil-heated homeowners

Community Power Works expands rebates for oil-heated homeowners

Community Power Works is excited to announce a host of new rebates for Seattle homeowners that use oil as a primary heat source! The program understands that there are numerous heating sources for homes in Seattle—electricity, natural gas, oil and propane. Not surprisingly, these sources are not all equal in their efficiency and environmental impacts. Community Power Works is here to help ALL Seattle homeowners make energy efficiency improvements and personalized choices, regardless of their heating supply.

We understand that oil has been an effective low cost heat source for over a hundred years in the Puget Sound. However, today cleaner and more efficient options, such as natural gas and electricity, are becoming more affordable. Coupled with the rising prices of heating oil – from $2.00 a gallon in 2007 to $4.50 a gallon in 2012 – it is easy to see why homeowners are making financial and environmental choices to switch. In response, many heating oil companies are expanding their service offerings to meet customer needs. For example, Olsen Energy Services, Community Power Works subcontractor, is helping customers install new high efficiency heating systems.

Photo: Old Oil Fuel Truck (Source: http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~dickbolt/SpfldFuelOilTruck.JPG)

For those homeowners not interested or unable to switch from oil or propane, Community Power Works will now match existing utility weatherization rebates for oil-heated homeowners! Previously, these utility-based rebates were only open to natural gas or electric customers. The purpose is to help customers living in oil heated homes become more energy efficient through such measures as insulation, air sealing, and new windows. read more

CPW Summer Events

CPW Summer Events

Summer is here and Community Power Works is excited enjoy the sunshine and promote energy efficiency! We are happy to announce that CPW now serves all Seattle City Light customers in Tukwila, Renton, Burien, Lake Forest Park, and Shoreline. Interested in joining or hearing more about our program? Catch us at the following events this summer:

Burien Farmer’s Market
When: Thursday, July 24th from 11:00-6:00
Where: 427 SW 152nd St; Burien, WA

Northwest Solar Fest
When: Saturday, July 26th from 10:00-5:00
Where: Shoreline Community College; 16101 Greenwood Ave N; Shoreline, WA

Tukwila Lowe’s Home Improvement
When: Fridays, August 1st and 8th from 11:00-6:00
Where: Lowe’s Home Improvement; 101 Andover Park E; Tukwila, WA

Shoreline Farmer’s Market
When: Saturdays, August 2nd and 9th from 10:00:-3:00
Where: 17500 Midvale Ave N; Shoreline, WA

We are excited to welcome all Seattle City Light ratepayers into the CPW community and welcome you to join us at any of these events. Hope to see you there!

SustainableWorks Mobilizes for a Mission

SustainableWorks Mobilizes for a Mission

Over two years ago, SustainableWorks began its mission of upgrading homes to be more energy efficient. A pioneering organization in the field of energy efficiency, SustainableWorks is unique among Community Power Works contractors; they’re a non-profit with a triple bottom line mission to create quality jobs, reduce our collective carbon footprint and build strong communities.

With the aid of grant funding, SustainableWorks has spurred nearly1500 homeowners to explore weatherization measures for their homes and completed 500 retrofits throughout Washington state. Even more impressive, is that SustainableWorks has assembled an army of nearly 200 volunteers to support the organization and spread the good word about home energy efficiency.

According to SustainableWorks’ Kellie Stickney, “Volunteers are the lifeblood of (our) efforts.” Our forty SustainableWorks/CPW volunteers talk to their friends, staff tables and phone banks, canvass neighborhoods door-to-door, speak at their churches and community clubs, and send out social media updates.” According to Stickney, the effort of these volunteers and others has helped to keep 2 million pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere; an amount that grows year after year.

Happy homeowner, Alec White

The work is having a positive effect. Alec White, owner of a 1907 home which received weatherization and heating upgrades through SustainableWorks said, “My house is more efficient. I’m saving money. I’m cool in the summer and more comfortable in the winter. And the people who came into my house to do the work were very professional.” Brooks Kolb, a landscape architect and Co-Chair of the Columbia City Climate Co-op (www.climatecoop.org) who upgraded his home last fall said, “I would definitely use SustainableWorks again. I strongly support the work that CPW and SustainableWorks are doing.” read more

Carlisle Pack Joins Community Power Works

Carlisle Pack Joins Community Power Works

When asked what it takes to be a contractor, Rob Carlisle says you need a truck, a dog, and a circular saw. While Denali – the charismatic Tibetan Mastiff PAWS rescue – is certainly part of Carlisle’s crew, the dogs he’s referring to are actually the team of University of Washington “Dawgs” that make up the Carlisle Classic Homes pack.

“I didn’t plan it that way,” says UW alumnus Carlisle. “There is one (Washington State University) Cougar in our midst, but he has to take a lot of grief for it.” While Carlisle Classic Homes employees were not hired specifically for their academic (or animal) affiliations, or even their in-depth knowledge of construction, they were chosen, Carlisle said, “because they are bright, talented people who are passionate about the industry and the environment.”

Carlisle’s pack mentality and concern for the environment extend from his wife and two small children to the global community.  “Having kids changes your perspective,” he said. “I want to help make a world that they will be happy to inherit, and for them to enjoy the same things that we had growing up.”

Concerned with toxic threats to children, like poor indoor air quality, Carlisle encourages his clients to incorporate upgrade measures into their renovation projects. “Renovations and energy upgrades go hand in hand,” he said. Upgrades allow for a healthier, more efficient finished product, he said, and often create more living space in homes from removing duct work or chimneys in favor of cleaner, more innovative solutions.  Also, choosing to make energy upgrades during the renovation process helps to reduce both ongoing and immediate costs, particularly with the current incentives available through Community Power Works. read more

A “Sweet” Message of Home Stewardship

A “Sweet” Message of Home Stewardship

Have you spotted the Blue House? This fall, Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders has created a Community Power Works-inspired performance series called “There’s No Place Like Home,” in which a nearly 14’ tall blue Victorian house roams the streets of Seattle, living out its dreams. The house is often accompanied by a family of blue bears, who are working to better understand and care for their home, all with the help of their gnome friends.

The whimsical performance about home stewardship encourages those in its audience to care for their own homes, especially through energy conservation. Last weekend at Gas Works Park, the gnomes hosted a “Winterweatherizing Station,” where they helped children weatherize ginger bread houses using cotton candy insulation and licorice weatherstripping!

Lucia Neare discusses the central metaphor of the series in her Artist Statement: “…an ecologically sound future is the natural outgrowth of a culture of care. If we open ourselves to nurturing and care, this naturally extends to our homes, the community, and the environment. There’s No Place Like Home celebrates values of comfort, stewardship, and sustainability.”

The Power of Peer Pressure

The Power of Peer Pressure

For the last five years, OPower has harnessed the power of peer pressure to dramatically reduce residential energy consumption. A company that runs innovative energy-efficiency programs for utilities, OPower’s neighborhood energy challenge competitions have evolved into the largest behavior change experiment in the world. In the 70 utility districts participating in the OPower program, utility customers receive inserts in their utility bills that allow them to compare their energy usage to their neighbors, to make smarter decisions about their energy use, and to help them save on their bills.

The results are powerful. OPower has discovered that 20% of residential energy consumption can be saved by encouraging better behavior through social pressure. This translates into roughly 5% of the annual energy consumption in the United States, equal to $40 billion per year. This energy does not improve wellbeing or create jobs, but contributes to climate change and other societal costs.

By making energy information more visible and engaging, OPower is helping homeowners save more than 2 Terawatt hours per year – enough to power half the homes in Seattle!

Boots-on-the-Ground at Neil Kelly

Boots-on-the-Ground at Neil Kelly

Corey Fitch, the Home Performance and Solar manager at Neil Kelly’s Seattle office, walks the talk as much as possible. Like many Community Power Works participants, Corey lived in a 100-year-old house that was in dire need of a whole-home energy overhaul. Corey decided to put his values of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and home performance to work. With the financial assistance of Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union, Corey completed a retrofit project that included air sealing and insulation, a high-efficiency furnace, LED lighting, a tankless water heater, high performance windows, a heat recovery ventilator, and a 2.4kW solar system.

Corey’s life as an energy efficiency professional began before his work with Neil Kelly when he was a green building consultant for a third-party certification program in California. Eventually, Corey wanted to make more of a direct impact in his community and saw energy efficiency in existing homes as the means to achieving his goals. Corey even seeks ways to promote his passion for energy efficiency abroad, returning recently from a three-month trip to India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. While in Nepal, he and his wife worked with Architects without Borders to renovate the country’s oldest Buddhist convent. They will continue to work with the design team to provide low-impact, resource-efficient housing for the convent.

Back in the United States at Neil Kelly, Corey takes pride in his company’s ability to listen to their clients’ concerns and goals, and to provide an appropriate solution for their retrofit projects. He says Neil Kelly’s team of energy efficiency experts are advocates for their customers, working creatively and effectively to help homeowners achieve their dreams of improved comfort, utility bill savings, carbon reductions, indoor air quality, and improved safety and durability. read more

City of Seattle Partners with Clean Energy Works to Transition Energy Efficiency Pilot Program

City of Seattle Partners with Clean Energy Works to Transition Energy Efficiency Pilot Program

Community Power Works generates economic growth by delivering energy efficiency solutions to Seattleites

The City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) announced this month that it will partner with Clean Energy Works to develop a business plan and explore funding opportunities for the next phase of Community Power Works, the City’s energy efficiency upgrade program. Clean Energy Works will collaborate with Cascadia Consulting, Fluid Market Strategies, and Habitat Home Energy to explore next steps for delivering a long-term, self-sustaining residential energy efficiency program in Seattle.

“This is an exciting moment in the evolution of the program,” said Jill Simmons, director of OSE. “From the beginning, we hoped the pilot phase of Community Power Works would prove that Seattle is ready for a citywide energy efficiency program. Seattleites responded with characteristic passion, helping the program exceed most of its ambitious goals. We look forward to engaging Clean Energy Works as the program grows and thrives over the coming years.”

In addition to identifying funding opportunities and developing a business plan for the next phase of Community Power Works, Clean Energy Works will work with Seattle City Light to transition the management and delivery of the municipal utility’s own residential energy efficiency program, including its rebates and incentives.

“We’re eager to work with OSE and Seattle City Light,” said Derek Smith, CEO of Clean Energy Works. “Our team brings the stakeholder relationships, technical and analytical capabilities, and innovative business planning expertise as we start thinking about what Community Power Works 2.0 looks like.” read more

CoolMom warms up in energy upgraded home!

CoolMom warms up in energy upgraded home!

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 dollars).

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 an estimate and who was well-versed in home weatherization and other energy savings types of construction.

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! read more

Community Power Works is a Seattle neighborhood-based building retrofit program that will achieve deep energy savings and create green jobs.