Taking the Duplexes Through the Community Energy Challenge

It was clear, from the moment I stuck my head in the crawl space hatch of the first duplex, that these buildings were going to need a THOROUGH clean-out, new insulation, new vapor barrier… the works!

The attics showed the same need. They were woefully under-insulated.

Some landlords will scoff at the idea of spending money to make their rental units more energy efficient, especially when the tenants are the ones paying for utilities.

I looked at it differently. In my mind, if the buildings were super comfortable and cost measurably less to heat, the tenants would be happier, they would stay longer, I’d have less (expensive) turn-over, and I could charge full market rents.

Plus energy efficiency is good for the Earth.

So I had two different contractors bid the job of re-insulating both buildings’ crawl spaces and attics: Environmental Insulation, and CAZ Energy Services.

We’ve worked with both contractors numerous times, with good results.

Environmental Insulation pointed out during their visit that, since the units are heated with natural gas (via forced air furnaces), that Cascade Natural Gas (CNG) would provide a rebate on the cost of the insulation. With the rebates factored in, this brought the cost per building down to around $3200 per building. Not Bad!!

Then I had CAZ Energy Services out. During their visit, they acknowledged the same CNG rebate, but they told  me about another program I should consider: The Community Energy Challenge (aka: the CEC).

This program began in 2009 as a way to boost energy conservation through retrofitting older homes, and to boost economic development in the construction industry.

Here’s how it works: 

First, you have a “home energy audit” performed by building performance specialists, at a deeply discounted rate (from $195 to $350 depending on the size of the home).

Next, you get a comprehensive report and consultation that lays out all the findings and recommendations. This part can be WILD! Many homes have the “heat loss equivalent” of a giant, gaping hole cut through the middle of an exterior wall — and they’re just belching heat like crazy. The energy auditors have tools to identify all the micro-leaks throughout the house that add up to this giant hole. Then they tell you how they can fix it.

Next, you decide what — if anything — you want to improve. (Note: you’re not required to take any of the recommended steps). If you do want to make improvements, you can use any licensed, qualified contractor of your choice. After the work, a 3rd party inspector for the CEC will make sure the work was done correctly.

If money is tight for you, there are very low-interest financing options specific to the program. Once the work is finished, the team at the CEC will help you apply for every available rebate and incentive, to put some of the up-front money back in your pocket!

I had recommended this program to countless homeowners, and now CAZ was recommending I use it on the duplexes! I was excited to do it… I’d heard about the dramatic savings realized on utility bills once the work was complete. It didn’t take me long to decide: I was in!

In the next post, I’ll share the realities of actually having the work done on both duplexes — four units total.