• Vt. workshops teach skills for do-it-yourself improvements
     | August 18,2013

    Above, contractors examine basement ductwork during a home energy audit in Barre. At left, David Keefe, training manager for Efficiency Vermont, conducts a blower test to determine how much air is leaking from a home.

    As the fall season approaches, the nonprofit utility Efficiency Vermont is offering several programs to encourage home weatherization, including a series of “skillshops” to teach the basics of home energy improvements.

    These initiatives are part of a larger effort, the Vermont Home Energy Challenge, led by Efficiency Vermont in partnership with the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, an organization that represents 150 town energy committees and coordinators.

    Making the commitment to weatherize your home pays off — the typical homeowner can recoup 10 percent to 15 percent on the initial investment every year. And buildings that are more energy efficient often have a higher value and are easier to sell.

    To make home energy improvements easier, Efficiency Vermont now offers a “do-it-yourself” option. This allows homeowners to complete the work on their homes themselves, with proper guidance and checks by qualified contractors.

    “We created the do-it-yourself option because we know that many Vermonters have basic home repair skills, and they are accustomed to doing work on their own homes,” says Kelly Lucci, spokeswoman for Efficiency Vermont.

    Here is how the do-it-yourself option works. First, the homeowner gets a professional energy audit performed on the home. Usually a two- to three-hour process, the audit involves a comprehensive evaluation of the energy fitness of the house by a contractor specially certified to do this kind of work.

    Air leaks are identified by sealing up the house and installing a blower door to depressurize the home. Reducing air leakage in a home is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to save energy.

    Other tests done as part of the audit include using infrared cameras to detect areas in the walls where there’s not enough insulation, heating system evaluations and other health and safety checks.

    The homeowner then undertakes the energy improvements identified in the audit report, choosing to work with a contractor or not at any stage in the process. The contractor conducts a midpoint inspection to ensure quality and answer questions.

    When the work is done, the contractor does a final test-out to determine the energy savings. The contractor sends the final test-out information to Efficiency Vermont on behalf of homeowners.

    The do-it-yourself option not only provides the homeowner with the necessary help and training, it also entitles the homeowner to the same level of incentives that Efficiency Vermont offers when a certified contractor performs all of the work on the home. This can add up to $2,600 in incentives per household to help pay for energy-efficient home improvements completed by Dec. 31.

    “We know that many homeowners would like to save money on their energy bills, but home energy improvement projects are not always at the top of their to-do lists,” says Lucci.

    “The opportunity to make upgrades on a do-it-yourself basis should give homeowners some flexibility to incorporate energy efficiency into other projects they might have planned in their home — or to spread the projects out over a longer period of time,” she says. “We want to make it as easy as possible to move forward — and start enjoying lower heating costs this winter.”

    To learn proper air sealing and insulation techniques, people wishing to do their own home energy improvement work are encouraged to attend a weatherization “skillshop.” Several of these will be offered throughout the state on Saturdays during September and October:

    Sept. 7, Hannaford Career Center, 51 Charles Ave., Middlebury

    Sept. 14, Burr and Burton Academy, 57 Seminary Ave., Manchester

    Sept. 21, Brattleboro Union High School, Fairground Road, Brattleboro

    Oct. 5, Essex Technical Center, 2 Educational Drive, Essex

    Oct. 12, Central Vermont Community Action Council offices, 10 Gable Place, Barre

    Oct. 19, Thetford Technical Center, 304 Academy Road, Thetford

    Each workshop will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The $25 fee includes lunch.

    Geared toward individuals with basic skills, these workshops are designed to explain the basics of building science and teach the skills required for specific weatherization tasks.

    Topics include air-sealing, insulation, attics, basements and windows and doors. To register, contact Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990.

    Other organizations, such as the nonprofit NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, offer weatherization assistance to homeowners, including affordable financing options and technical help.

    Vermont’s Weatherization Assistance program provides free energy audits and energy improvements for income-qualifying households.

    The Vermont Home Energy Challenge is designed to build momentum toward achieving statewide energy efficiency goals that have been on the books for the last few years. In 2008, the Legislature called for weatherizing 80,000 homes by the year 2020.

    Efficiency Vermont, a statewide energy efficiency utility, provides technical assistance and financial incentives to help Vermont households and businesses reduce their energy use and costs.

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