Collective Impact: Sustainable Jersey Program Encourages Town-Wide Energy Audits

Posted on by Randall Solomon, Co-Director, Sustainable Jersey
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To celebrate the 100th home energy audit through the EnergySmart Homes campaign, Ciel Power surprised Princeton homeowners with an energy efficient lighting upgrade.

 “My kids said that they don’t need to sleep with their bathrobes on anymore” said Matt Wasserman, chairman of the Sustainable Princeton Board.

Ah yes, comfort is a major benefit to having an energy audit and the necessary fixes to make one’s home less drafty. Saving money is another plus, but even more important is the fact that energy audits and subsequent upgrades lead to more sustainable energy use from lower overall fossil fuel consumption.

For many people, getting an energy audit sounds difficult or is not even on the to-do list because they don’t know about it. Many New Jersey homeowners are unaware that significant incentives are available to them to upgrade insulation and replace inefficient heating and cooling equipment.

The New Jersey Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program provides incentives of up to $5,000 in cash-back rebates and up to $10,000 in zero-interest financing to residents who make these improvements on their home. Sustainable Jersey piloted a program that allows New Jersey municipalities to get into the game to encourage residents to make their energy use more sustainable by taking advantage of the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.

Princeton EnergySmart Homes Campaign

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A great example is Sustainable Princeton’s EnergySmart Homes Campaign that encourages residential energy audits that help homeowners discover where and how their home is using energy inefficiently and what can be done.

Princeton had a goal of getting at least 100 local residents to complete home energy audits. So, a town-wide program was organized to procure audit services in bulk, at a greatly reduced rate, and then promoted to residents. To date, 151 residents have completed comprehensive energy audits of their homes under the program, with 32 of those homes eventually performing the suggested upgrades to their residence.

Princeton’s EnergySmart Homes Campaign streamlines the process of choosing a home energy auditor for consumers, making the process more understandable, accessible and safer. Sustainable Princeton, working in cooperation and with the support of local officials, issued a Request for Proposal from certified home energy auditors that specified a comprehensive package of energy audit measures to be performed and requested the best price for the assessment.

After reviewing several proposals, Ciel Power, LLC, a New Jersey-based accredited provider of home energy assessments and energy-efficient retrofits, was awarded the contract to become the officially recognized home energy audit contractor for Princeton.

Residents were offered the chance to have an energy assessment done on their home for just $49 (well below the market rate of $300-$500). Once the audit is completed, homeowners can work with the municipally contracted auditing firm, or price shop among other State approved contractors, to do the recommended upgrades.

Princeton’s involvement in making this program available resulted in significant consumer participation. As a result, residents are saving money on their energy bills and New Jersey’s overall energy consumption will go down.

Presentation to Princeton community to explain the EnergySmart Homes Campaign

Presentation to Princeton community to explain the EnergySmart Homes Campaign

A home energy assessment is an important first step towards an increased awareness of contemporary energy-efficiency measures. These measures, when properly installed, provide numerous benefits to a homeowner including:

  • Economic benefits through reduced seasonal heating and cooling cost
  • Environmental benefits derived from lower overall fossil fuel consumption
  • Lifestyle benefits realized through increased comfort in a home
  • Health benefits realized through proper ventilation and moisture control

The 32 Princeton homeowners who eventually performed upgrades to their homes have collectively received close to $100,000 in cash-back rebates and incentives and on average will reduce their annual energy consumption by more than 25 percent.

“We’re thrilled that we can now calculate average energy savings of 25 percent in the 32 homes that have completed retrofits,” said Matt Wasserman, chairman of the Sustainable Princeton Board. “The collective savings are an added bonus.”

Home Energy Assessment Program Actions

Sustainable Jersey has two certification actions that guide municipalities through the process of creating a Town-Wide Home Energy Assessment Program and/or doing outreach to promote the program.  Approximately seven towns have already successfully completed one of these actions.

And more municipal programs to do these actions are planned. The Maplewood, South Orange, and Millburn green teams have joined together to get the word out about the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.  The outreach program, launching in late January 2015, will include a promotional campaign and a central website that lists the home energy auditor contractors serving the three towns. The site will include a place for residents to share their experiences and review the work done.  By working together, these three Essex County towns hope to maximize the outreach to residents from their volunteer led efforts.

All and all, these programs are an excellent example of how municipalities can facilitate and encourage more sustainable energy use in their community, and leverage “town wide” participation to improve convenience and lower costs.

Randall Solomon is one of the principals that founded and now co-directs Sustainable Jersey. He is a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. 

Connect with Sustainable Jersey on its Website and  Facebook page.

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