Westporters like to compete in everything: SAT scores. Coolest cars. Most residential square footage.
We’re now Number 1 in a contest that matters more than most. We lead a competition among 14 Connecticut communities to achieve residential energy efficiencies
We’ve had the most home energy solution visits — 160 — since the Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge began in March. (Feedback on those visits is near 100%.)
The town with the 2nd highest number of visits is waaaaay behind — only 75. Eat our emissions, Ridgefield!
We’ve also had the most home energy improvements completed, after those visits. That number — 7 — is pretty low. Still, it beats all the other towns — combined.
Westport project leader Alan Abramson credits the town — including civic leaders, non-profit groups and, ahem, “06880” — with publicizing the home energy visits, and inspiring action.
“As you can tell, we’ve been quite busy,” Abramson says.
“Our success has been primarily a function of a good initial game plan. Now we have to get better at execution of the community leader/community group/non-profit partnership model. And to figure out how to get more people to do the recommended upgrades.”
If you’re reading this with the a/c blasting, think about your bill. Then sign up for a home energy audit.
Just like 160 of your neighbors — with lower bills — have already done.
(To schedule a visit click here, or call 203-292-8088. Homeowners who are income-eligible are entitled to a free visit — contact Westport’s Human Services Department at 203-341-1050.)
Earlier this year, the Green Village Initiative sponsored a survey. The topic — home energy efficiency — is not exactly sexy. (Actually, it’s pretty frumpy.)
Nonetheless, 213 Westporters responded. 64% say that energy efficiency and conservation is their most important “green” issue. That was followed by land and water use (54%).
The most common energy-reducing actions taken by Westporters was the installation of programmable thermostats (62%). Other popular measures include scuttling old appliances for Energy Star ones; replacing old boilers, furnaces or windows with more energy-efficient; adding insulation, and installing compact fluorescent light bulbs. Only 3% said they had taken no action.
The survey also assessed Westporters’ knowledge of, and interest in, CL&P’s Home Energy Solutions program — a visit that includes on-the-spot improvements, including caulking and sealing of critical air leaks, and additional benefits.
Of the 70 respondents who have already had an HES visit, the biggest reason (61%) was to reduce utility bills — followed by lowering carbon footprints (45%) and fighting climate change (37%). Those are also the 3 reasons most cited by homeowners who say is it “very likely” they’ll have an HES audit done.
However, survey co-chair Alan Abramson says, the biggest benefit reported afterward is comfort. Many homes are drafty, and the difference is immediately apparent.
This was not, GVI realizes, a random sample. “It was sent out to people who were probably inclined this way in the first place,” Alan Abramson admits.
Only 8% of the respondents lived in a home that was less than 10 years old. The majority — 29% — lived in a house at least 75 years old.
Still, the survey results are real — and important. GIV is now figuring out how to pass the word about Home Energy Solutions (and address those Westporters uninterested in energy efficiency).
GVI might want to remember the adage: “Strike when the iron is hot.” Or, in our case, “when we still remember how cold and miserable we’ve been this winter.”
When the oil embargo hit in the 1970s, Alan Abramson was energized by environmental awareness. But he was just starting his career as a bond trader; he was just married, had his 1st kid — you know how it goes.
But Alan never stopped wondering why America used its resources so inefficiently. And he could not understand why we bought so many resources from our enemies.
Alan, his wife Lynn and their young family moved to Westport 20 years ago. “It’s the best thing we ever did,” he says. “We absolutely love the community.” He had a successful career in bonds — but he never truly loved the industry.
“It was a great experience,” he says. He graduated in May 2009 — a horrible time to look for a new job, let alone change careers. But Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions needed a carbon markets fellow, so 2 months later Alan moved to Durham for a year.
Lynn stayed here. She was attending Columbia University’s Teachers College — getting a master’s in English education.
“People on Wall Street think they’re the smartest people on the planet,” Alan says. “Well, there’s incredible talent in academia too. And the energy level there was like being on the bond trading floor.”
When his year was up, Alan returned to Westport. Soon, Gordon Joseloff asked him to co-chair the 1st selectman’s Green Task Force. Simultaneously, Dan Levinson asked Alan to co-chair a Green Village Initiative to help local homeowners become more energy efficient.
At Duke, Alan had become intrigued by the low rates at which people take steps to reduce energy consumption. A result of his interest is a survey currently making its way around town. The questions are designed to understand local knowledge and interest in home energy efficiency measures. (Click here to take the survey.)
After the results are tabulated, GVI will organize a focus group to find out how best to market energy efficiency to Westport. Alan knows energy efficiency is not a long-term solution — as a recent New Yorker story pointed out, the more efficient energy usage becomes, the more energy is used — but he calls it “a bridge to the eventual answer.”
An energy analysis unearths plenty of information about heat loss.
As environmentally aware as this town is, there are still obstacles to more efficient energy usage. Many homeowners don’t realize, for example, that a CL&P Home Energy Solutions analysis costs just $75 with co-pay — and that we pay for the audit program anyway, through a utility bill charge.
We don’t have a lot of time to pursue energy efficiency solutions. And although a 10% reduction in energy bills sounds nice, for many Westporters the actual dollar amount is not significant for many.
“The key is to get lots of people to do it,” Alan says. “Then the reductions in use would be enormous. And the payoff for the community would be huge.”
Surprisingly, Alan is “not a big advocate of ‘green’ and ‘sustainable.’ I think those words have been marketed very poorly.” He is no marketing expert — but he knows there are plenty of Westporters with expertise in that field, who can help market the energy efficiency cause.
“It’s important for people to be aware of their consumption habits,” he says. “We’re a consumer society, and we measure our success based on GDP. Our perception is that consumption equals lifestyle.
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