Alderman Peter Braithwaite is gathering friends and neighbors to his living room this week to share with the community how his home can be more comfortable and save on utility bills.  He is helping Citizens’ Greener Evanston reach into underserved communities in Evanston. 

Reaching out to lower income homes and rentals is part of a new twist on a CGE program that began in 2011 with professional energy assessments and retrofits.  At Alderman Braithwaite’s party, instead of a professional energy assessment, a CGE field organizer will provide a simple demonstration:  showing party guests where the house is losing heat and sharing do-it-yourself tips. “I’m looking forward to the energy demonstration at my home,” Alderman Braithwaite said.  “It is a service every homeowner should take advantage of.”

The original program, providing professional energy assessments and cost-effective retrofits, is still available and encouraged by CGE, working in partnership with the Chicago nonprofit Elevate Energy. Under that program, energy assessments cost $99, or are free if the homeowner hosts a house party.  Professional retrofits vary by home, but generally cost $2,000-$4,000 and save enough energy within seven years to cover the cost of improvements.  Homes that save at least 15% of energy can secure an EnergyStar rating, that may help them sell quicker and closer to their asking price.  Elevate Energy provides advice and troubleshoots throughout the assessment and retrofit.

Although the professional assessments and retrofits make a big difference in home energy savings and comfort, CGE and Elevate found that lower-income residents could not afford professional retrofits.  Underserved communities were often left out of the opportunity to make their homes more comfortable and save costs. 

Describing the efficiency of homes, Robin Simmons, CGE field organizer for the program says, “Most homes I have tested, it is as if they have a three-by-three foot window open all day and night.” These homes lose significant heat during the winter or cool air during the summer through small gaps throughout the house that add up.  Common drafts occur through door jams, window frames, and poorly insulated attics and basements. 

“After learning about the energy loss of the average home in Evanston, I scheduled an appointment right away,” said Alderman Braithwaite.

Funded by Elevate Energy and the Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation, the new program is called ‘Weatherization Works’, and focuses on community demonstrations of how homes leak heat in winter or lose cool air in summer, and what steps homeowners themselves can take to save energy.   The program also provides information about the new Smart Meters being installed in Evanston and ComEd’s peak time rebates that pay back residents who take action in summer to lower their energy use.  All these programs are available in Evanston even though Evanston has selected a green energy supplier, Homefield Energy.

Through Weatherization Works, any homeowner can have a free home energy demonstration if they host a house party for 5-10 other homeowners or they can attend a workshop at community centers or places of worship to learn what they can do to save energy.  During home demonstrations, Mrs. Simmons tests homes with a blower door that increases the wind pressure on the house, and uses an infra-red camera that makes warm air loss visible. For residents who prefer not to host a house party, upcoming workshops are June 2, 2016 6-8pm at Fleetwood Jourdain Sponsored by Jubilation Way, June 11 1:30-3:30pm at Family Focus and June 25 1:30-3:30pm at Gibbs-Morrison.

“We can demonstrate to homeowners how they can save energy with simple steps, like caulking, wrapping pipes, adding foam weather-stripping,’ says Jerry Herst, CGE board member and a program leader.  Mrs. Simmons also connects homeowners to programs like the City’s Senior Handyman program that installs free insulation. CGE is giving away caulk, caulking guns and outlet covers at energy demonstrations. 

In addition to these programs, CGE and Elevate Energy also offer free energy assessments and information on retrofit financing to multifamily rental buildings, nonprofits, places of worship and child care centers.

To find out more, email CGE at buildings@greenerevanston.org, or visit http://www.GreenerEvanston.org/energy-efficiency.