Friday, August 14, 2020
Aug. 14, 2020

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Don’t let the heat out: Energy audits available

Utility-sponsored program helps make homes snug and thrifty

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Energy seems to be leaking in big and small ways from all over Suzanne Day’s rental house in Vancouver. Air escapes from holes under the kitchen sink and the back bathroom wall, from the uninsulated underside of the house and from the ducts where the furnace isn’t connected properly.

She knew the house was drafty but now she also knows exactly what to fix, she says, thanks to a recent home energy review from Portland-based Northwest Natural Gas Co.

“(The audit) just gave me lots of advice on how to save on my energy costs and improve the house,” said Day.

Previously: In October, NW Natural and Energy Trust of Oregon offered energy efficiency services to Southwest Washington customers.

What’s new: NW Natural has completed 50 home energy reviews and saved 5,000 therms of energy here since Oct. 1.

Previously: In October, NW Natural and Energy Trust of Oregon offered energy efficiency services to Southwest Washington customers.

What's new: NW Natural has completed 50 home energy reviews and saved 5,000 therms of energy here since Oct. 1.

What's next: The utility hopes to save between 97,000 and 130,000 therms with the program by Sept. 30.

What’s next: The utility hopes to save between 97,000 and 130,000 therms with the program by Sept. 30.

Day was one of the first Southwest Washington customers to take advantage of NW Natural’s new energy efficiency program here. The one-year pilot program, which began Oct. 1, aims to save energy and lower residential and commercial customers’ gas bills by sharing the cost of home efficiency improvements in a partnership with the Energy Trust of Oregon.

In addition to the audits, and rebates to replace older, inefficient furnaces, customers are now eligible for rebates and incentives to retrofit or replace gas-fired hot water heaters, weatherize their homes and seal heating and cooling ducts.

NW Natural estimates the new program will save an additional 97,000 to 130,000 therms in its first year — enough to heat about 180 homes. Since October, the utility has completed energy audits in 50 Southwest Washington homes and saved 5,000 therms of energy.

NW Natural and the Energy Trust have paid out five times as much in incentives in November and December as in previous months, said Holly Meyer, environmental programs manager for NW Natural.

“5,000 isn’t much yet but the direction and the pace it needs to get going is on track,” said Meyer, “so we’re positioned to meet our goals.”

In its first year, the program will cost up to $1 million to implement, including about $150,000 in startup costs, according to filings with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

NW Natural is tracking the program’s cost and plans to charge customers $1.00 per month starting next November, if it’s approved by the WUTC.

“The tighter everyone’s homes are, the less gas we need to purchase from our suppliers, then that saves money for the whole customer base,” said Meyer.

Suzanne Day plans to make some small improvements to the house she rents, but will wait until she owns the house to make any major changes, she says. But even the small changes will make a difference, she says.

“There are things we can do that are inexpensive,” said Day, “like sealing up cracks behind the switch plates or filling in the foam in little places you wouldn’t think that energy escapes, but it does.”

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