Energy Trust of Oregon offers free home energy reviews

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Marcia Lynch's home energy review from Energy Trust of Oregon examined her home heating system, appliances, insulation and more. Like so many girls, Marcia Lynch looked up to her father.

Lynch grew up in Oregon City and was raised to be energy conscious. In the early 1960s, her father — educated as a scientist — taught her about fossil fuels, water conservation and to think twice before throwing anything away.

“He was very environmentally aware,” she said.

The words and wisdom she received in her youth define her actions as a woman today. This spring, Lynch, a nurse practitioner, purchased a home in Lake Oswego built in 1971.

“When I walked in it just felt good,” she said, noting the new windows she installed and picture frames she recently hung on the wall.

While Lynch is happy with her new home, she knows it’s not as environmentally friendly and as energy efficient as it could be. So she called the experts at Energy Trust of Oregon and received a home energy review.

Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and tapping renewable resources. Its services include providing cash incentives and energy solutions for customers.

In 2004, the organization developed its home energy reviews for customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas. The free reviews provide homeowners with information and prioritized lists to make their homes more energy effective, comfortable and safe.

The review can be done in the home with an energy adviser or by telephone. The in-home review takes approximately one hour. Knowledgeable customers can receive a review by phone in 15 to 20 minutes. Last year, more than 5,000 customers received an energy review.

“An energy adviser will check the age and quality of heating system, insulation levels, the air ceiling, gaps and cracks in windows, water heating, lighting, appliances, ducts and more,” said Lakin Garth, planning project manager with Energy Trust of Oregon.

“The adviser will leave the homeowner with a list of a personalized recommendations for their home. The recommendations will be prioritized as to what makes the most sense in terms of safety and energy saving measures.”

At the end of the in-home review, homeowners may also receive free items such as compact fluorescent lights and faucet aerators. Energy advisers will also provide a recommended list of contractors who can perform the necessary work, or provide additional inspections if needed.

Garth said the home energy review is an ideal first step for new homeowners who want to learn about energy use in their homes. Most people, he said, are surprised at how much energy is wasted — and therefore can be saved — in their homes.

“Our job and our goal is to procure energy savings and give customers a list so they know exactly what they need for their home,” he said. “We are providing that initial first step. If a homeowner decides they want to do the work, we provide them with a list of qualified contractors because we know how daunting that can be.”

Lynch received an in-home review at her home in Lake Oswego. Energy adviser Kirtiraja Zakheim crawled on his hands and knees with a flashlight and looked into her crawl space. He examined her kitchen appliances, water heater and more. The inspection was part tutorial for Lynch.

“I wanted to get the lowdown on what I could do,” she said. “I didn’t know about my insulation. I didn’t know about my furnace and hot water heater. He has given me a lot of information today. Even things I didn’t think about.”

She encourages other homeowners to look into the review and ultimately reduce their energy consumption. Based upon her review, Lynch plans to have contractors install insulation in the crawl space, around the furnace vents and attic floor to get the “biggest bang for my buck.” She may even have a contractor complete a deeper diagnostic test, which would use infrared cameras to measure gaps in insulation, test the ducting, measure leaking, air flow and more.

“I’m going to take slow steps,” she said, nothing that replacing her windows was costly. “I need to look for lower-cost ways to make bits of improvements, but even a number of those things just add up.”

To schedule a home energy review, visit or call 1-866-368-7878. Customers of PGE, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas in Oregon, and NW Natural customers in Washington, are eligible for the free service.

Energy-saving tips for renters

As a renter, you can make small, affordable changes to help increase the comfort of your home and lower your energy costs. For starters:

  • Replace standard incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs.

  • Install water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators.

  • Turn off lights when not needed.

  • Set the water heater temperature to 125 degrees.

  • Check to make sure your refrigerator and freezer gaskets seal tightly.

  • Use pots and pans with flat bottoms for faster more efficient heating.

  • Unplug battery chargers for power tools, mobile phones, laptops and other devices when not in use.

  • Ask your property manager to repair leaky toilets and faucets promptly.

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