Sierra Club was founded almost 120 years ago with the mission of protecting wildlife and habitats by advocating clean energy use and encouraging Americans to live eco-friendly lifestyles. Sierra Club Oregon Chairman Wes Kempfer is doing his part to further those goals by trying to make his home energy-efficient and wants to spread the word to his fellow members and all Oregonians.
Clean Energy Works Portland provides the city’s residents with energy assessments that will help them identify what changes in their homes could make the biggest impact toward saving energy and money. Through the program, people like Wes receive financing for energy-efficiency upgrades with no upfront costs. Loans for projects are repaid through utility bills, and energy consultants are assigned to residents to help them through the process. The pilot program has been so successful that Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski recently announced a larger scale Clean Energy Works Oregon program that will use Recovery Act funding to take the program statewide.
Wes already had an energy audit done on his home a couple of years ago, but he didn’t have the upfront cash to implement the improvements. Because of Portland’s program, he was able to have $13,000 of retrofits done to his home through a low-interest loan, which Wes pays back through his gas bill each month.
“My home is a lot warmer in the winter now as a result of the retrofits,” he says. “I used to just not run my furnace and I would freeze, but now I can be much more comfortable at a lower cost.”
Work done to Wes’ home included installing insulation, sealing up leaks in air ducts and around doors and installing a high-efficiency water heater. He has seen his energy bills cut in half since the updates, meaning his usual $80 gas bill is now just $40. This puts spending money back in his pocket and saves him almost $500 a year.
Wes plans to tell more Sierra Club members about his experience with home energy-efficiency upgrades and says programs such as Clean Energy Works Portland are necessary to enable Americans to weatherize their homes.
“There are a lot of people out there in my situation who might know of some upgrades they could make but don’t have the capital right now,” he says. “These projects can put a lot of people to work in green jobs too, and through Sierra Club supporting this we can strengthen our relationships with labor groups on working toward climate change legislation.”
Wes says there is potential to save a lot of energy through being more efficient.
“A great deal of our energy use could be reduced just through efficiency,” he says. “We don’t always need fancy solar and wind to start the conversation — now retrofits, these are our first steps.”