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Energy Efficient Home Program

reprinted from the Olympian

Incentives to repair that leaky home

Resources: Program examines house’s efficiency

JOHN DODGE; Staff writer | • Published June 01, 2010

Olympia – Eli and Molly Levitt were among the first homeowners in Thurston County to sign up for an energy efficient home program to help area residents and businesses use energy wisely.

When the couple bought a 1913 home nearly two years ago on Wilson Street in Olympia, they knew it wasn’t the most energy efficient home around.

They insulated the attic and basement, installed compact fluorescent lights and placed weather stripping around the doors, but they knew they could do more.

So they paid $95 for an intensive home energy audit offered by Thurston Energy, a program offered by the Thurston Climate Action Team and Thurston County Economic Development Council fueled by a $1 million federal stimulus grant from the federal Department of Energy.

After months of program development, the two partners are ready to roll out their program to the larger community, hoping to conduct up to 40 home energy audits a week, program director Ramsey Zimmerman said. The audits provide homeowners with a detailed report of the steps they can take and projects they can pursue to conserve energy, save money in the long run and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

“I hope the audit identifies some hidden energy leaks that we can seal,” Molly Levitt said on the eve of the assessment. “We’ll definitely follow up with some of the recommendations.”

After the audits are completed, Thurston Energy will support the customers by identifying grants, Puget Sound Energy rebates and tax incentives to ease the financial burden of energy-saving projects. The nonprofit also has a list of 12 contractors available to do the work, which is where the job stimulus piece of the equation fits in.

“This program is definitely going to keep me busy,” said Bernie Miller of Quality Renovation and Carpentry. “I’m already looking to bring another employee on board.”

Miller spent nearly four hours at the Levitt home Thursday, working up the home energy assessment. His conclusion: If the Levitts insulate around the base of the basement, replace their old hot water heater and insulate the duct work for their natural gas heating system, they’ll cut their home energy costs significantly.

Included in the assessment by Thurston Energy is an offering of up to 50 compact fluorescent bulbs, a 6-foot length of hot water pipe insulation and a low-flow shower head.

The program is also available to area businesses that are customers of Puget Sound Energy.

The climate action team, a grass-roots group in South Sound concerned about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the community, came up with the idea for Thurston Energy about 18 months ago.

They approached community civic leaders and the economic development council, which, in turn, applied for the federal grant.

The program is housed in the Thurston EDC’s business resource center in Lacey.

“It’s hard for people to argue with saving money, especially in this economy,” said Michael Cade, executive director of Thurston EDC. “When it’s a local group and local people trying to make a difference – all the better.”

“The message is about jobs, keeping money in the community and improving the environment,” said climate action team member Sam Garst.

Thurston Energy has scheduled a public meeting Wednesday night in Olympia to spread the word about the program.

“We’re issuing a call to action on climate change and providing a pathway to savings for residents and businesses in Thurston County,” Garst said.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

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