HomeRx: Upgrading Homes and Careers

HomeRx: Upgrading Homes and Careers

Photo caption: From left to right, Phil Sewell, Carl Stevenson, Steve Thoreson, Michael Adams, and Ryan Garrison (kneeling).

Speaking of HomeRx, the contractor that we featured in our last post about the Adley House, we wanted to tell you a little bit more about them.

“The home felt different immediately and the home owner noticed it as soon as he walked in the front door. The home smelled clean and fresh, the air was the right humidity, the temperature was mild, and the home was quiet. Building science was real. I had believed it, but this was the first time I’d witnessed it firsthand. It really works, and it’s wonderful. I only wish it could be photographed.” ~ Bob Thoreson

First of all, it’s important to note that all of our contractor partners are certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), which focuses on helping homeowners achieve energy efficiency through comprehensive evaluations and weatherization plans. In a nutshell, BPI is, as they tell us on their website, “A national standards development and credentialing organization for residential energy efficiency retrofit work.” The BPI standards and certifications are considered to be the highest in the industry. We also require all of our contractors to pay a living wage to all employees, and encourage them to hire from local training providers like Got Green and Seattle Central Community College. In short, they are highly qualified energy and weatherization experts who do great work and take great care of their employees.

That said, we asked our contractors to fill out a profile about their companies for us to share with you. We asked everybody the same questions, and since we were just talking about Bob Thoreson and HomeRx, we thought that we’d start with his profile:

Company Name: HomeRx

Website: www.HomeRxwa.com

Contact person & phone number: Bob Thoreson 206-498-2764

Neighborhood: Seattle, east side, points north, south to Kent

Years in business: Three

Size of workforce: 11

Business Specialty: Residential energy auditing, work plan development, and weatherization.

Personal Passion: To make a positive impact. Problem solving.
How/ why did you decide to get into this business? I retired as an electrical engineer, designing high-accuracy instrumentation, where controlling temperature and keeping power consumption low was paramount. It was a great background for understanding energy efficiency and thermal issues, but the application held little meaning for me. Looking around for something to do next, I discovered a field that included energy efficiency and thermal issues, but on a macro scale, and the application had meaning. Residential work has a social consciousness, I’m working with like-minded passionate people, in a new arena, with challenging multidimensional problems to work on. What else could I ask for?

Why are programs like CPW important to you & your customers? This is a relatively new area, but it’s time has come. We need to spread the word and raise consciousness. This program acts as a catalyst. It creates awareness in the public eye. It puts people to work. It lets us develop business models quickly. It will result in a lot of energy efficiency improvements, and it will produce a lot of knowledge and expertise capital in our region.

What was your most memorable moment on the job? After numerous classes on building science and dozens of audits, we expanded our business to include weatherization. We installed a vapor barrier and insulated a home, by the book. The home felt different immediately and the home owner noticed it as soon as he walked in the front door. The home smelled clean and fresh, the air was the right humidity, the temperature was mild, and the home was quiet. Building science was real. I had believed it, but this was the first time I’d witnessed it firsthand. It really works, and it’s wonderful. I only wish it could be photographed.

Here’s what else we learned about Bob. He is a passionate educator and mentor. Working daily with his crew, including those who he has hired through the Got Green program, Bob provides books and homework to help his crew members earn BPI certification, and to tries to develop individual talents to match the marketplace needs. He told us, “I tell the guys that they hold their own destiny in their hands. I look for opportunity in whatever direction they are capable of going, trying to find a good fit for them within the work at hand. It’s a major motivator for people to feel good about what they are doing.”

And one employee, Ryan Garrison, who came to Bob through the Got Green program, has proven to be particularly motivated to take his destiny in his hands. When Bob asked Ryan, “What do you want to do? What do you want to be?” Ryan responded, “I want to own my own business.” And Bob said, “Then that’s what we will work toward.” Bob is currently mentoring him toward BPI certification, teaching him how to bid a job, and how to design weatherization solutions for homes and their owners, all with the goal of setting Ryan up with his own HomeRx franchise someday.

As more than just an employer, Bob sees himself and his company as a vehicle for his employees. He said, “I am trying to help people find something more meaningful to do with their lives.”

The result is a crew that has proven itself to be professional, competent, and trustworthy. One homeowner on Beacon Hill, who has a prized art collection that was caught in the middle of his upgrade, told us, “I have a lot of confidence in those guys and feel really comfortable with Bob’s crew in my house. Having been in the trade myself, I know good people when I see them. I would hire these guys again any time for any project that I have.”

/Make Coming Home Feel like Going on Vacation /

Around this time each year, Seattleites tend to agree that the gray, damp winter months are wearing on them. Although the days are getting longer and budding plants are slowly emerging from the soil, the official start to spring looms more than a month away.

Not surprisingly, January and February are popular times for Seattleites to vacation to warmer climes. We recently caught up with Johanna, a Community Power Works participant, who accepted a phone call from us while vacationing in Hawaii. She said she was happy to spend a few minutes of her sunny holiday time chatting about her home energy upgrade because she had such a positive experience.

Prior to her Community Power Works upgrade, Johanna described her home as a “cold, concrete block.” Furthermore, her family spent little time in the living room during the winter months because of the constant noise coming from her outdated and overworked oil furnace. “The furnace was so loud we couldn’t watch TV in the living room,” Johanna explains.

Johanna started searching for solutions to her home comfort challenges, learned about Seattle City Light’s $95 home energy audit, and quickly made an appointment with Charlie Rogers of Habitat Home Energy. Through her home energy audit, Johanna learned about how inefficient heating with oil is and that the top floor of her home had no insulation“I knew my house wasn’t insulated very well, but I was surprised to find out that the upstairs walls didn’t have any insulation,” she remarked. The infrared photo below shows an upstairs room in Johanna’s house where air leakage is occurring (the dark colors represent cold while bright colors represent warm). The lack of wall insulation is apparent because of the blue/purple color of the wall – the temperature there reads 59.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

After reviewing her audit results she decided to move forward with a Community Power Works upgrade.  “I was looking for a holistic approach to improving the energy performance of my home,” she offers.

And that’s just what she got.  Working with Batt + Lear, she invested in new insulation and a ductless heat pump to replace her oil furnace. These measures increased the energy efficiency of her home by 55%—and vastly improved her comfort level. “It’s amazing! Everyone that comes over notices the difference.  The house is so much warmer.”

Although coming home to her North Seattle home after work isn’t quite like sitting on a beach in Hawaii, Johanna’s Community Power Works upgrade improved the comfort of her home dramatically. Make coming home feel a little more like going on vacation—contact Community Power Works today.

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