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Innovations




Programs Push the Envelope to Deliver Savings

Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners are thinking outside the box and developing innovative ways to drive demand for energy upgrades, provide attractive financing options, foster a trained energy workforce, and create models for energy efficiency programs across the country. From neighborhood sweeps and "carrotmobs" to energy advisors and on-bill loan payment, these forward-thinking programs are figuring out what works best in their communities to transform the market for more energy-efficient buildings.


BetterBuildings for Michigan is using a political campaign-style "sweep" tactic to target homes in each neighborhood block-by-block. Trusted community partners "canvass" door-to-door to educate homeowners about the benefits of energy efficiency, upgrade options available, and the best ways to finance upgrades. Contractors follow up with homeowners to encourage more upgrades after the sweep has ended.

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To help homeowners make sense of the energy evaluation and financing options offered through its program, Clean Energy Works Oregon (CEWO) provides energy advisors to assist them throughout the process, from lending to quality control inspections once the upgrade is complete. In Ohio, a Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA) energy advisor calls participating homeowners to encourage them throughout, from requesting an assessment to hiring a contractor. Connecticut Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge volunteers help homeowners graduate from simple lighting improvements to complex projects such as solar installations. In addition, the Energy Coach for the Small Town Energy Program (STEP) walks homeowners through their energy assessments, contractor selections, and financial incentive options.

Learn More About CEWO (Portland, Oregon)
Learn More About GCEA (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Learn More About Connecticut Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge (14 towns in Connecticut)
Learn More About STEP-UP (University Park, Maryland)

EnergyFit Nevada is working with local universities to help drive demand, secure financing, and grow its energy efficiency workforce. The University of Nevada-Las Vegas conducted focus groups to gauge homeowner interest in the program. The University of Nevada-Reno is working with banks to offer low-interest loans to homeowners, and Truckee Meadows Community College is creating a job training program for local contractors.

Learn More About EnergyFit Nevada (Nevada - SEP)

Multiple partners provide their customers with a "certificate of completion" that can be framed and hung on the wall with pride once an upgrade is done. Energize New York provides a different color medallion based on the level of energy savings achieved (0-10%, 11-20%, 21-30%, 31-40%). The Milwaukee Energy Efficiency certificate congratulates the homeowner and includes information about the work that was performed. Energy Impact Illinois and Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR include energy savings and expected annual cost savings on the certificate.

Learn More About Energize New York (Northern Westchester County, New York)
Learn More About Milwaukee Energy Efficiency
Learn More About Energy Impact Illinois (Chicago, Illinois)

Because investing in energy efficiency upgrades can be daunting, partners are offering informational sessions to introduce homeowners to energy upgrade professionals and energy coaches that can help demystify energy assessments, financing options, and the upgrade process. In Sonoma County, Energy Upgrade California offered homeowners an energy efficiency "tech session" to simplify the upgrade process and explain the Sonoma Flex Package program incentives. Connecticut Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge partnered with a local university to host an educational session with residents on how to save energy in their homes. reenergize Nebraska invited homeowners right to the lending source, Peoples Choice Federal Credit Union, for an informational event where lenders, city staff, and contractors answered questions about financing and upgrades.

Learn More About Energy Upgrade California (Sonoma County)
Learn More About Connecticut Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge (Connecticut)
Learn More About reenergize Nebraska (Omaha and Lincoln)

To help homeowners cross the finish line with upgrades, some partners provide energy advisors to coach participants through the process. A Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA) energy advisor calls participating homeowners to encourage them throughout, from requesting an assessment to hiring a contractor. Connecticut Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge volunteers help homeowners graduate from simple lighting improvements to complex projects such as solar installations. In addition, the Energy Coach for the Small Town Energy Program (STEP) walks homeowners through their energy assessments, contractor selections, and financial incentive options.

Learn More About GCEA (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Learn More About Connecticut Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge (14 towns in Connecticut)
Learn More About STEP-UP (University Park, Maryland)

Using a "neighbor-to-neighbor" approach, energy efficiency programs are enhancing their contractor listings with reviews from homeowners who have completed upgrades to help new customers make informed decisions. San Diego County's California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) employs a one- to five-star contractor rating system that interested homeowners can review to find a contractor that "makes the grade". To foster homeowner satisfaction in Bedford, New York, only those contractors earning an acceptable customer approval score appear on Energize New York's list of recommended contractors.

Learn more about the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) in San Diego County
Learn more about Energize New York

Knowing that all good relationships are built on trust, Better Buildings partners are teaming up with trusted local organizations to enhance their credibility and reach wider audiences through established community groups and institutions. The Community Power Works program in Seattle, Washington, approached other city offices with outreach experience in the same target neighborhoods to discuss opportunities to build on those existing relationships. NeighborWorks of Western Vermont recruited well-respected Rutland County citizens for its energy efficiency team, recognizing that local residents consider neighbors to be the most trusted messengers. Better Buildings Program San Jose leveraged local, well-known organizations that deliver non-energy services to low-income residents, to provide targeted information on energy upgrades in these San Jose, California locations.

Learn more about Community Power Works (Seattle, Washington)
Learn more about NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad (Rutland County, Vermont)
Learn more about Better Buildings Program San Jose (California)

Partners are using "carrotmobs" to get local businesses to sign up for upgrades. A carrotmob is a contest among businesses to see which one will make the biggest commitment to a social cause (in this case, reducing energy use). Customers are then encouraged to support the business that wins the contest over a period of time. This "buycott," as opposed to a "boycott," uses a "carrot" rather than stick approach. SEEA WISE Program partner, Carrboro, North Carolina, recently orchestrated a carrotmob campaign for Earth Day. In Colorado, Carrotmob Boulder was started by students at the University of Colorado, Boulder and CoPIRG Energy Service Corp. Carrotmob Boulder creates local buzz, and EnergySmart provides energy advising services to local businesses.

Learn More About the Southeast Community Consortium
Learn More About EnergySmart (Boulder County, Colorado)

The Massachusetts State Energy Program equipped a hybrid SUV with a thermal imaging system and sent it on a journey to document evidence of wasted energy in homes. The thermal images show where air leaks and drafts are occurring in homes or buildings. Homeowners are given access to a secure website that stores the thermal images, which make it easy to identify areas where opportunities exist to improve energy efficiency.

Learn More About MassSave (Massachusetts SEP)

In New York, the Bedford 2020 Energize Community Challenge is a unique way to get non-profit groups in the area to champion energy efficiency upgrades among their members. Organizations earn points by hosting home energy workshops and getting members to complete energy evaluations or upgrades. Those with the most points earn funding for their green projects. In nearby Connecticut, the Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge uses online leader boards to track communities' progress completing upgrades and spur friendly competition.

Learn More About Energize New York (Northern Westchester County, New York)
Learn more about the Neighbor to Neighbor Challenge (Connecticut)

To help residents understand the impact of their energy use, RePower Bainbridge developed innovative Island Energy Dashboards that display real-time energy use at kiosks around Bainbridge Island, Washington and online. These dashboards are also featured in local businesses and on the island's commuter ferries to and from Seattle.

Learn More About RePower Bainbridge (Washington)

Through the Boulder County, Colorado, EnergySmart program, students are learning about energy saving behaviors through characters such as Kilowatt Kid, Count Plugula, and Dr. Drafty. The Kilowatt Kidz EnergySmart Challenge helps families learn to reduce their energy use by 5% at home.

Learn More About EnergySmart (Boulder County, Colorado)

Charlottesville's Local Energy Alliance Program uses tablets and online tools to show homeowners how their typical energy use compares to their neighbors.

Learn more about the Southeast Community Consortium

Partners are using creative yard signs to advertise their programs and pique homeowners' interest about neighbors who are saving money and energy in their homes. For example, the California Center for Sustainable Energy uses signs to promote demonstration home tours where homeowners can view installed energy efficiency upgrades, and residents who upgraded their home through Nashville Energy Works use yard signs to encourage others to "go green" and save energy. In University Park, Maryland, homeowners participating in STEP-UP show off their energy savings by displaying yard signs when they complete a home energy assessment and once they have installed upgrades.

Learn More About Energy Upgrade California
Learn More About the Southeast Community Consortium (Nashville Energy Works)
Learn More About STEP-UP

In-home energy showcases give residents a better understanding of how energy efficiency upgrades could enhance their own living space by allowing them to experience an upgraded home firsthand. Joining the trend, NOLA WISE holds homeowner showcases where community members can tour an upgraded home over refreshments. In Florida, JEA's home energy makeover parties allow homeowners to show off their upgrades to neighbors and share the energy-saving advantages. On the west coast, Energy Upgrade California helped host the Covina Home Tour Scavenger Hunt, where participants explored four upgraded homes and learned how to save energy at home.

Learn More About NOLA WISE (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Learn More About JEA (Jacksonville, Florida)
Learn More About Energy Upgrade California (Los Angeles County, California)

Better Buildings Neighborhood Programs are bringing energy efficiency upgrade benefits to life by sharing the experiences of satisfied customers. A special "Testimonials" page on the BetterBuildings for Michigan website allows customers to boast about their upgrade experience, while the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) includes its homeowner success stories and videos in its e-newsletter. Energy Upgrade California's website offers a series of Home Energy Makeover Family Stories, highlighting happy families that have completed major upgrades through the program.

Learn more about BetterBuildings for Michigan
Learn more about LEAP (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Learn more about Upgrade California (Los Angeles, California)

Home energy makeover contests represent a novel approach to increasing energy efficiency awareness. By enticing homeowners with potentially free energy upgrades, contests can generate leads and publicity for programs and qualified contractors. For example, Energy Upgrade California's Home Energy Makeover Contest awarded $100,000 in upgrades to six finalists after receiving 1,400 applications. Although awards were limited, all applicants received access to online energy upgrade resources. In Virginia, a real estate agent chosen from 1,600 homeowners to receive free energy upgrades through Local Energy Alliance's (LEAP's) PowerSave Home Energy Makeover Contest chronicled the process on his blog. Finally, EnergySmart in Colorado turned one couple's success into a useful case study. The winning couple was used to showcase the upgrade process while highlighting the improvements in their home's energy and comfort.

Learn More About Energy Upgrade California (Los Angeles, California)
Learn more about LEAP (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Learn More About EnergySmart (Boulder, Colorado)

Community Power Works (CPW) established a Carbon Reduction Incentive Fund in Seattle, Washington, to create incentives for business owners to choose energy efficiency upgrades that result in carbon reductions. CPW assigns a dollar value to the carbon emission reductions achieved by the energy efficiency upgrades and gives this amount back to the building owner to reduce the cost of the upgrades.

Learn More About Community Power Works (Seattle, Washington)

In partnership with the Green Madison program, Summit Credit Union is developing an online application with "auto-decisioning" features that let a customer know immediately if they are qualified for a loan. The program then follows up by checking income levels and other safeguards.

Learn More About Green Madison (Wisconsin)

Efficiency Maine established a revolving loan fund, called PACE, that allows owners to pay back loans of $6,500 to $15,000 at a 4.99 % fixed rate over 15 years. The loans are "junior" to first mortgages. If the property is sold, the homeowner can choose either to pay off the remaining balance or transfer the loan to the next owner.

Learn More About Efficiency Maine

Energy Impact Illinois established a managed energy services agreement with Transcend Equity Development Corporation. Under this arrangement, Transcend invests in a building's energy efficiency upgrades and uses the energy savings to recoup its investment. Transcend assumes the energy costs of the building for up to 10 years, and the building owner pays Transcend its historical energy costs.

Learn More About Energy Impact Illinois (Chicago)

Partners offer more attractive financing options and larger incentives to customers who pursue greater energy efficiency savings. EnergyWorks in Philadelphia offers loans with interest rates tied to energy efficiency—4.99% for basic upgrades and as low as 0.99% for more comprehensive upgrades. Seattle's Community Power Works assigns a dollar value to carbon emissions reductions from commercial upgrades and returns this money to the building owner. For upgrades that result in 20% energy savings, Michigan Saves offers commercial loans with interest rates as low as 1.99%—compared to 5% for all other upgrades.

Learn More About EnergyWorks (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Learn More About Community Power Works (Seattle, Washington)
Learn More About Michigan Saves

Before energy-saving upgrades can begin, some homes need basic safety and structure improvements that might not be in the budget. Partners are finding creative ways to cover these repair costs and give homes a little "TLC" alongside energy improvements. Better Buildings Program San Jose joined with the local housing department to offer homeowners grants to fix leaky roofs, address electrical problems, and make other improvements prior to energy upgrades. In Oregon, Clean Energy Works offers loan products that can be applied to non-energy home repairs needed before upgrades can begin. Greensboro, North Carolina's Minor Repair Program, funded by a Community Development Block Grant, offers grants to income-qualifying residents for work outside the energy efficiency scope but is necessary for a successful upgrade.

Learn More About Better Buildings Program San Jose (California)
Learn More About Clean Energy Works Oregon (Portland)
Learn More About BetterBuildings Greensboro Program (North Carolina )

Fayette County, Pennsylvania is partnering with the Private Industry Council (PIC) of Westmoreland/Fayette to train contractors on building performance inspections, sales, and business development to augment their technical skills. PIC is also providing grants and low-interest loans to help contractors purchase computer software and energy evaluation equipment.

Learn More About Fayette County Better Buildings Initiative (Pennsylvania)

Seattle's Community Power Works (CPW) program facilitated negotiations to establish a Community High-Road Workforce Agreement that companies must meet to participate in the CPW program. The agreement guides workforce standards, wages, hiring requirements, and quality standards for workers involved in this energy efficiency upgrade program.

Learn More About Community Power Works (Seattle, Washington)

To help homeowners make informed decisions when selecting an energy improvement professional, Energize New York developed a rating system for contractors involved in the program. The index combines three weighted performance rating indicators into a single numeric rating for each professional. San Diego County's California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) employs a one- to five-star contractor rating system that interested homeowners can review to find a contractor that "makes the grade". To foster homeowner satisfaction in Bedford, New York, only those contractors earning an acceptable customer approval score appear on Energize New York's list of recommended contractors.

Learn More About Energize New York (Northern Westchester County, New York)
Learn More About CCSE (San Diego County, California)
Learn More About Energize New York (Bedford, New York)

In Kansas City, Missouri, the EnergyWorks KC program is creating a "business incubator" building that will showcase energy efficiency projects to the community and help fledgling businesses get involved in building upgrades. This building, which will receive energy efficiency upgrades itself, will house 10 offices devoted to fostering growth for green start-ups.

Learn More About EnergyWorks KC (Kansas City, Missouri)

Energy Impact Illinois is creating a workforce liaison who will connect trainers with contractors and match trained job seekers to businesses looking for certified workers. The liaison will coordinate training, resources, and information dissemination to contractors to ensure a seamless training and education process.

Learn More About Energy Impact Illinois (Chicago)

Because contractors are often hesitant to hire new workers to meet fluctuating demand for energy efficiency upgrades, the NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad in Rutland, Vermont, is taking the heat for them. By hiring trained and experienced—but underemployed—installers, the program makes the professionals available on a paid temporary basis to contractors that are part of the H.E.A.T. Squad program, helping to keep workers employed and meet customer demand.

Learn More About NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad (Rutland, Vermont)
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Partners offer tools and resources to contractors, helping them build and maintain thriving, effective and sustainable businesses. NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad in Western Vermont provides contractors with co-marketing opportunities through door hangers, advertisements, and events. Clean Energy Works Oregon supports contractor growth and development through peer mentoring and training in business management, finance, and sales. Efficiency Maine offers contractors sales training to enhance their communications skills, helping them clearly explain the benefits for energy upgrades, which has boosted sales.

Learn More About NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad (Rutland, Vermont)
Learn More About Clean Energy Works Oregon
Learn More About Efficiency Maine

Sometimes a morale boost is all it takes to build a better workforce. Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners are using awards and recognition to motivate contractors and other program staff who are pushing the energy-efficient envelope to reel in deep upgrades. Clean Energy Works Oregon singles out its contractors quarterly with honors such as the "James Brown Award" for the hardest working contractor and the "Megaphone Award" for promoting upgrades. Efficiency Maine commends commitment and extends gratitude to its best contractor, supplier, and even customer during its annual awards ceremony. The Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) "Blower Door Boss" award goes to the contractor performing the best energy assessments, while the "Thermal Rock Star" title is bestowed upon the best insulation company serving homeowners in Central Virginia.

Learn More About Clean Energy Works Oregon (Portland, Oregon)
Learn More About Efficiency Maine
Learn More About LEAP (Virginia)