Saving Money and the Planet with Home Energy Retrofits

by Doug Burke

A new program in Illinois offers homeowners “one-stop shopping” for home energy retrofits.  It provides guidance in saving energy and money in homes.  Since buildings use more energy than cars or any other single sector, saving energy use in homes saves more greenhouse gases than anything else that most individuals can do.

Many people would like to have more energy-efficient homes, but don't know exactly what to do, what is efficient, how much will it cost, how much will it save, how can they tell if the work was done right, etc.  The goal of Energy Impact Illinois (EI2), a government-funded program, is to guide people through these questions.

A presentation at Oak Park Village Hall on March 21 laid out the program.  EI2 checks out qualified contractors who are certified in energy efficiency.  They can refer you to a contractor (their site lists a number of qualified contractors).  They will inspect the work after it is done.  They will give you a Green certificate at the end, certifying that your house is energy-efficient.  They have lined up lenders to make loans to pay for the work, if that is needed.  In other words, they will guide you step by step through the process.

Gary Cuneen, executive director of Seven Generations Ahead, and his wife Erica shared their experience with the process as it was implemented at their Oak Park two-flat.  The contractor recommended $10,000 worth of work.  With the help of EI2, they got a seven-year loan with payments of $170 per month.  The energy improvements are saving them about $200 per month, which means: they are much more comfortable from day 1, they are helping the planet from day 1, they are saving a little money from day 1, and in the long run, after the loan is paid, they will be much better off with a more valuable house.  The contractor the Cuneens used, Green Energy Improvement, says they can typically cut energy bills by 30-50%, which is equivalent to taking a car off the road.

There is nothing you can do as an individual that will fight global warming more than retrofitting your house.  Please check out this website operated by EI2:  Energy Impact Illinois.  At that site, I recommend clicking on Learn How to Maximize Your Savings.