A Recipe for a Successful Weatherization Program

By: Garry Dow
Community Outreach Coordinator
Clean Air-Cool Planet

The Quinn family of East Montpelier owned a classic 200-year-old Vermont farmhouse. They loved it, but the house was poorly insulated and, every winter, heat would escape through the roof. For the Quinn family, this meant high energy bills, large ice dams and a constant winter chill. Then, in 2008 – with the help of a new home weatherization program called “Button Up Vermont” – the Quinns made a number of basic home weatherization improvements to the building. 

The family saved $900 in the first year and never looked back.

In the summer of 2009 – with these kinds of success stories leaking out of Vermont faster than wood heat from a New England farmhouse in winter – Clean Air-Cool Planet made the decision to bring this highly successful home weatherization workshop to New Hampshire. With the help of Robert Walker of the Sustainable Energy Resource Group in Thetford Center, VT the program was adapted and Button Up NH was born.

The result was a pilot launch of nine regional workshops coordinated by the New England Carbon Challenge that attracted 250 attendees in just 6 weeks. Each workshop was conducted by a trained energy auditor in collaboration with a local workshop organizer. Workshop locations included New London, Concord, Dover, Sanbornton, Lebanon, Rye, Grafton, Plymouth and Atkinson.

On average participants gave the workshop high marks – and the vast majority said they planned to perform or solicit some measure of home weatherization as a result of attending the workshop.   

A typical workshop agenda included: (1) the presentation of a prepared slideshow to introduce homeowners to the basics of home energy use and loss, the value of a home energy audit, the short term benefits of simple do-it-yourself weatherization, the long term benefits of extensive energy retrofits, and the technical and financial resources available to make it happen (2) the demonstration of several pieces of equipment commonly used by professional home energy auditors (3) a lively question and answer session and (4) an optional presentation given by a local speaker on an energy related topic.

In several instances workshops were taped and aired live on local cable television. In all instances local  libraries received copies of a DVD entitled Simple Weatherization Measures to Button Up Your Home. Some workshops invited local vendors to hawk useful items to interested consumers. Others invited family-run stores to present lucky attendees with door prizes for coming. Still others asked local patrons to volunteer time or donate coffee or bake cookies.

In doing so, each workshop accomplished something of fundamental importance: it  bridged the gap between the people who had the information and the people who needed it. Button Up empowered homeowners – like the Quinn family –  to choose what is right and act on it. This is a recipe for successfully weatherizing a community or a state or a region that is infinitely replicable, to wit: Take a handful of dedicated local organizers; mix in a few trained presenters; sift in a wealth of knowledge and a gift for public speaking; sprinkle with just the right mixture of content; simmer until a curious and engaging crowd appears; and serve promptly.

Interested in learning more? Contact Garry Dow at gdow@cleanair-coolplanet.org.

The Button Up program was originally created as Button Up Vermont in 2008 by Central Vermont Community Action Council with the support of Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, with funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Funding for the initial launch of Button Up New Hampshire was made possible through grants from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Fund of the NH Public Utilities Commission and Jane’s Trust. Input and programmatic support for Button Up NH was also provided through the Residential Energy Performance Association (REPA) and the Local Energy Committee Working Group.

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