MAY 2013 – City News by Council Member Jon Harrison

Community Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP)-Redlands had its first community outreach meeting on April 10. Over 100 residents, business owners and building trade contractors attended. In a nutshell, CHERP-Redlands is a community volunteer driven effort to educate homeowners and contractors about three things: the benefits (home comfort and financial) of completing energy efficiency retrofits on your home; the financing resources available; and the “how to” of performing a retrofit.

CHERP-Redlands is modeled on a very successful and ongoing program in Claremont ,, that set a goal of retrofitting just 1 percent of their homes (130 homes). They have already surpassed that target and are picking up speed to help even more homeowners save money on their electric bills and put dozens of people to work performing a whole variety of home energy retrofits. Here are just a few facts on what’s already been done in Claremont: $2.5 million invested in community real estate, dozens of local construction jobs, $600,000 in utility and state rebates funneled into the community, 27 percent average reduction in energy bills today, an amount that will only reap greater benefits going forward as energy prices continue to climb. These retrofitted homes are eligible for “green rating” as well, which is proving to increase property values by 9 percent relative to a similar house that has not been retrofitted.

CHERP-Redlands can do better and therefore have an even greater impact on our local economy. But to do so means that both  homeowners and contractors need to become better informed about the energy efficiency opportunity and better skilled at determining the retrofit work needed and then performing it properly. In fact during the April 10 kickoff meeting, knowing how to select a contractor that could really do the job – the whole job – was the biggest concern expressed by residents. That is where the Redlands business and contractor communities have to really step up and get engaged in this great opportunity. Many contractors and suppliers are specialized in just one piece of energy efficiency retrofit, for example windows, insulation, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Each of these may be part of the solution for an individual homeowner, but for the best results it is essential to start with a whole house energy audit. Using the results of the audit in consultation with a contractor who understands the sequencing of home energy improvements can help customers get the best return on their investment. As a contractor or supplier, you will have much happier customers who will come back for more work or refer you to their friends. So if you don’t offer a complete range of energy efficiency services, learn more about this approach and team up with colleagues as part of a trusted team. The Claremont website mentioned above is a good place to start your research on a holistic approach to home energy retrofit.

As part of a holistic or team approach, local contractors should be able to diagnose and fix or provide the following 13 system measures:

  1. Last 12 month energy bill disaggregation and analysis
  2. Building envelope leakage levels and causes
  3. Duct leakage
  4. Evidence of moisture and/or mold
  5. Existing HVAC air flow, static pressure, and efficiency (unless you plan on      complete replacement)
  6. Carbon Monoxide levels
  7. Attic Insulation levels
  8. Wall  Insulation levels
  9. Solar PV options
  10. Window repair and/or replacement options
  11. Major appliance and phantom load savings opportunities
  12. Interior water-saving opportunities
  13. Green Point Rating opportunity analysis

Contractors should be able to provide or work as a team to repair or replace any or all of these 13 systems in order to achieve maximum energy savings, as well as optimal comfort and health levels from the total, system-wide performance, of each system relative to the other, and relative to dollars spent.

Part of CHERP’s mission is to support the definition and creation of an Ultimate Class of Home Performance Contractors for two reasons:

  1. To      protect the public from, a. The opportunity costs of not being told of all      the potential benefits that could accrue to them by maximizing the      efficiency of all the interrelated energy systems in their home, and from,      b.  Sub-optimal levels of installation procedures and performance      outcomes in this highly technical field.
  2. To      assist in creating a working definition of excellence for becoming  a      best-of-class contractor in the industry and helping to support those      contractors in becoming role models for other contractors looking to enter      the field and to improve their existing levels of competence and business      opportunity. We need thousands of highly-skilled and successful      contractors doing energy retrofit work to meet our state and national      goals.

In short order a CHERP-Redlands website will be up. We want to use it to provide information specific to Redlands, including identification of local contractors who have the skills and expertise needed. I hope all of our local businesses that can play a role in the success of CHERP-Redlands engage with the program as soon as possible.