Here in the Twin Cities, one of our projects is Cooperative Energy Futures, a cooperative harnessing the power of efficiency to build community as well as energy solutions. We sell a lot of materials for home weatherization, but many of us had never tried these materials out. To educate ourselves more about how home weatherization is done, we enlisted the help of Jim Walsh, one of the founders of Project Warm in Kentucky. Last Saturday, about seven solutionaries did a walk-through of a house owned by Macalester College. Jim told us about different kinds of heat loss in a home and explained how to combat them. We mostly focused on convective heat loss (the kind that happens through the loss of warm air) rather than conductive heat loss (the kind that happens as heat moves through solid surfaces like walls). Armed with new knowledge, we walked through the house and he showed us where to look for inefficiencies.
Unfortunately for us (although fortunately for the residents), the house was already very well weatherized and there wasn’t very much for us to do. There was one window that needed weatherstripping, a door sweep to replace on the front door, some caulking to do in the basement, and a whole bunch of window pulleys to make more airtight. All of these are methods to plug up small holes in outer walls that let either cold air come in or warm air escape. We went back today to install them. They’re all fairly cheap methods — where the cost in weatherization lies, Jim told us, is in the labor.
That’s one thing that has really stuck with me, the idea that there’s so much value to add to weatherizing materials by knowing how to use them. I’ve been thinking today about the possibilities for CEF if we were really good at weatherizing. We’re already working on a workshop to teach people how to use caulk and weather stripping. As I understand it, one of the major flaws in energy auditing as it is done now is that the auditing work is separate from the installation of the needed materials. What if folks from CEF came around, did audits, and installed needed materials? I know this idea isn’t new or unique, but it really hit home for me today while I was actually installing pulley covers and caulking windows. I am really excited to figure out how we can simplify the process of making people’s homes more efficient and use it to do the parts of CEF that ARE new and unique: building communities that are empowered to create their own energy solutions.
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