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A Home Wise Investment

Improving energy efficiency in your household is a sound investment – saving money and energy, and making your home healthier. But for those that can’t afford the initial investment, weatherization services are often beyond reach. But what if they were free?

As it turns out, the City has a very successful and long-running weatherization program for low-income homeowners and tenants. I had been aware of the HomeWise weatherization program for low-income households for some time, but wanted to learn more about the program operated by the Office of Housing since 1980. So, last week I joined Program Manager Jennifer LaBrecque and Energy Auditor Esref Marusic on an audit of a HomeWise client’s home. I was impressed that such an amazing program has continued at the City for so long.

O'Brien-Esref

HomeWise energy auditor Esref Marusic conducts a blower door test.

A typical audit begins after the Office of Housing (OH) receives and approves an application from a homeowner or tenant. Then one of the City auditors conducts a full energy audit of the home to see what opportunities there are to save energy. The homeowner can then receive a variety of free weatherization improvements to their home including insulation, air sealing, heating system upgrades, new fans for ventilation and more. Not only does HomeWise pay for the cost of weatherization, but they hire and manage the contractor as well, ensuring a consistently high quality of work. The program reduces costs for low-income homeowners and reduces energy use for the city, helping toward our goal of carbon neutrality.

Our audit that morning was at the home of William Roberts, a retired neighbor living in Ravenna, who graciously welcomed me into his home. As Esref conducted his energy audit of the home, Mr. Roberts and I learned some of the most common ways that energy can be wasted, from holes in the building envelope to lack of insulation. Esref set up a blower door test to find any leaks and identified the top priorities for weatherization at Mr. Roberts’ house.

William Roberts signed up for the HomeWise weatherization program to save energy and money.

William Roberts signed up for the HomeWise weatherization program to save energy and money.

What makes this program remarkable is not just the high quality of service homeowners receive from HomeWise’s talented staff – it’s the fact that this service is available for free to income-qualified homeowners. Our goal as a city should be to ensure families of all incomes can live in healthy and efficient homes, and the HomeWise program has been doing that for decades. I’m proud to know this program exists and has such strong partners as Seattle City Light, Washington State Department of Commerce and Puget Sound Energy.

The HomeWise program is one of the reasons Seattle recently earned the rank of fifth most energy efficient city in the country. As the City continues to reduce our impact on the environment and resident’s pocketbooks, it will be important to support programs like this that ensure all our residents receive the benefits that come with a more efficient and comfortable home.

For more information, or to see if you qualify, call 206.684.0244 or visit the Office of Housing Website.

For households who do not income-qualify, Community Power Works is another great weatherization program offered by the City.

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