New & Notable

March 09, 2009
March/April 2009
A version of this article appears in the March/April 2009 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
Click here to read more articles about New and Notable

A key goal of the Obama administration is to increase the number of homes weatherized annually from 140,000 to 1 million. To achieve this goal,  the House version of an economic stimulus package increased funding for the Weatherization Assistance program from $227 million to $6.2 billion. While the Senate is expected to provide less than that,  the bottom line is that for the first time in many years we not only have a strong advocate for Weatherization in the White House, but we also are looking at a massive increase in funding. (The final economic stimulus package had not yet been finalized by Congress and signed by President Obama as of this writing.)

This is a long way from Weatherization’s first pilot programs, which were  launched in 1974. State and local governments, community action agencies, and nonprofits have been completing interesting and innovative projects ever since then. It is in that spirit that State & Local Energy Report, in partnership with the National Association of State Community Services Programs, representing the state weatherization directors; the National Association of State Energy Officials, representing the state energy policy officials; and the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, representing the state Low Income Home Energy Assistance program directors, established the National Weatherization Awards.

The purpose of the awards is to recognize the year’s best projects completed with public and private funds. Applications were judged by a panel of state and local weatherization experts and were awarded on February 4 during the National Association of State Community Services Programs Mid-Winter Training Conference.

The state of Minnesota won the award for single-family residence weatherization and renovation for its use of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Grant program in assisting weatherization agencies throughout the state with installation of renewable energy equipment, including solid-fuel furnaces and solar hot-air units, on low-income homes.

The Commission on Economic Opportunity in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, was give the award for best new construction for the Pine Street Neighborhood Revitalization that it completed in Hazleton. A first-of-its-kind project for northeastern Pennsylvania, the Pine Street Neighborhood Revitalization encompasses a three-block area in which 26 new single-family homes were constructed. The project stands out for its use of smart-growth ideas to take advantage of existing infrastructure and minimize energy costs.

The Maricopa County Human Services Department, Community Services Division, was recognized in the multifamily weatherization or renovation category for its project in Avondale, Arizona. This weatherization project targeted 46 multifamily, low-income housing units in Norton Circle, a housing authority complex in Avondale, to reduce energy costs and provide comfort and safety for residents. The project entailed an innovative collaboration among seven organizations, spearheaded by the county’s housing authority.

The weatherization programs of Ohio, Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin, and Washington, and the Conservation Services Group sponsored the awards this year.

—Joshua Wolfe

Joshua Wolfe is the cofounder of Project Energy Savers, which produces educational materials for state and local governments, community action agencies, and nonprofits. In addition he is the publisher of the State & Local Energy Report and the coauthor of Climate Change: Picturing the Science, which will be published by W.W. Norton & Company in April 2009.

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For more on State & Local Energy Report, go to
Find out more about the National Association of State Community Services Programs at

RenewABILITY Energy Inc, manufacturer of the Power-Pipe Drain Water Heat Recovery (DWHR) system and Habitat for Humanity Canada announced a national program that will reduce the cost of water heating by up to 40% in new homes built by Habitat for Humanity Canada in 2009. 

Drain Water Heat Recovery (DWHR) or the Power-Pipe, is an affordable, turnkey heat recovery technology that reduces water heating costs by 20%-40%.  DWHR simply pre-heats cold intake water with warm or hot drain water from showers or faucets prior to entering a standard water heater or on-demand water system in residential and multi-residential applications.  It’s designed to recycle heat energy from shower drain water to preheat the (usually very) cold water that is supplied to the house. As the hot wastewater falls down a vertical section of pipe below the shower, it clings to the inner surface of the Power Pipe in a very thin film. The heat from this film is efficiently transferred to the incoming cold water circulating through multiple tubes wrapped around the drainpipe.

“DWHR qualifies for Federal incentives as part of the Eco-Energy Program and is recognized as part of the Energy Star for new homes Ontario program,” says RenewABILITY Energy Inc CEO and President Gerald Van Decker. Not only will these systems save residents money, Power-Pipe Drain Water Heat Recovery Systems also have an important role to play in pollution reduction.  The typical unit will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 200kg/person/year when displacing natural gas water heating. In a four-person home, that amounts to a reduction of almost one metic ton of greenhouse gases per year per Canadian household! 

To watch an explanatory video, go to:
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Join the new home performance association, Efficiency First, the first and only association representing all who have a stake in the American home performance industry. Efficiency First is dedicated to improving the energy efficiency, sustainability, and affordability of America’s existing housing stock. By joining together and moving forward with a united voice, everyone in the home performance industry—from contractors in the front line of the climate battle to product manufacturers, vendors, and program administrators—can benefit from increased awareness of the benefits and importance of home performance retrofits. 

First year dues for Efficiency First are just $100.  Sign up before April 30 and become a Founding Member and receive a digital “Founding Member” logo that you can use on your Web site.  Go to join.


In September 2008, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) prepared a report entitled How Healthy Are National Green Building Programs? The report looks at the ways in which four of the leading national green building programs address housing conditions known to affect occupant health. The health problems in question include asthma and other respiratory diseases, accidental injuries, and exposure to toxic agents.

NCHH compared the four programs’ guidelines with its own guidelines for healthy housing; the latter are the basis for training delivered through the National Healthy Homes Training Center to health and housing professionals, architects, builders, nurses, and others. The NCHH guidelines include keeping homes dry, clean, safe, well ventilated, well maintained, and free of pests and contaminants.

The NCHH report shows how the four leading programs stack up when measured against all of these criteria and calls for more effort on the part of these programs to address the public health aspect of green building. It appears that the four programs don’t all function alike, and some entirely lack certain critical elements.
The two programs that ranked the highest overall were EPA’s Energy Star with Indoor Air Package and the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners Green Communities program. The National Association of Home Builders program ranked the lowest.
For more information:
The full report can be downloaded at

On January 9, 2009, the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously agreed to require the state's utilities to generate 20% of their power from renewables by 2020.

Florida shows lots of potential for sun and wind power, both on land, through solar applications, and off
the coast, through offshore wind energy applications.

The proposal includes consumer protections to limit electric rate increases, and mandates that the vast majority of electricity demands be met with wind and solar power. It bars clean coal from the definition, but opens the door to the possible inclusion of new nuclear power in a modified clean-energy goal supported by Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light.

For more information:
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