Sebastian Rubino / [email protected]
When a homeowner decides to renovate their home, ways to save energy later on may be the last thing on their mind. But to combat this mindset, Clark Public Utilities has offered some tips to people who are making home improvements so they can pay less for electricity at the same time.
DuWayne Dunham, an energy counselor for the PUD, said Clark Public Utilities has an “Energy Counselor of the Day” program available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program allows people to talk directly with an energy counselor.
“If they have certain weatherization projects they’re considering, they’ll be able to save energy, be more comfortable, and we can help prioritize those things for them and let them know what their best bang for their buck will be,” Dunham said.
Energy counselors can assist customers by looking at their energy consumption history and the year their home was built, which gives them the ability to make recommendations and help the customer prioritize what would make the most sense in terms of saving energy.
If customers are in an electrically-heated home, Dunham also said they offer window replacements and insulation upgrades during renovations, which can help capture more energy savings.
“Because they’re making that investment to save energy, we’re (also) able to assist them with rebates that help with the cost,” Dunham said. “For some of these measures, like if they’re installing a heat pump or getting new windows, it can be $10,000 or more.”
Dunham said Clark Public Utilities offers a loan program customers can use. Customers can make monthly payments for new renovation installments rather than paying for everything all at once. Another way to save energy includes sealing holes in the exterior shell of the home to prevent air from coming in.
If someone has a central air system, CPU can also seal ductwork so heated and cooled air is funneled into the home instead of leaking into other areas.
Since the energy counselors are not salesmen, Dunham intends to help customers in the most efficient way without making money on the advice he doles out.
“In some instances, we can assist customers in saving all kinds of money by not doing certain measures that aren’t going to add up to much savings, whereas they were told by a salesman that would do quite a bit of good for them,” he said. “I think it’s just a great service for our customers, and we’re not biased and not selling anything. We’re going to give people the straight-up information without any bias as far as trying to make a sale or anything like that.”
For example, if someone wants to replace their vinyl-frame window, Dunham can walk homeowners through their insulation levels and what kind of heating system they have.
“If they have the older cable ceiling heat, wall heaters, or baseboards, we’d say ‘boy, there are systems out there that are a lot more efficient than that we could offer you a rebate for, whether it be a heat pump or ductless heat pump,’” he explained.
Dunham said many customers have called about replacing their windows, but energy counselors determined the installation of a heat pump or new insulation would cost just about as much as replacing the windows and would result in less energy use. While he’s not against replacing windows entirely, Dunham said they’re one of the most expensive weatherization measures with “most often, the least amount of effect on the bill.”
Installing new insulation or a heating system often results in a better cost-benefit ratio, which weighs how much money the installation will save and how much it’ll benefit the person.
The year a house was built plays a factor in the assistance Clark Public Utilities offers. Dunham said they have a greater chance of helping customers with insulation upgrades and similar renovations for houses that were built before 1990. That’s because Washington state has regulations about the thickness of walls and insulation required in newer homes.
Windows were also installed with a vinyl frame instead of a metal one prior to 1990.
“Once 1990 came around, there wasn’t much to do to come back to a home to make it more efficient, as Washington state’s energy code really took care of that,” he said.
To utilize the energy counselor of the day program, call 360-992-3355 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Programs for homes that are electrically heated can be found at tinyurl.com/mkt239ew and programs for homes with natural gas are available at tinyurl.com/553wheda.