Chris Smith, who lives in a nearly 100-year-old home in Decatur, said that he was a little embarrassed to admit the amount of money he spent on natural gas and electricity this past winter.
Smith, who works from home, said that some months he and his wife found themselves paying “through the roof,” and their energy costs would range from $500 to $600 a month.
“Through the roof,” is an apt description because that was where all the Smiths hot air—and money—was going. However, in early April, Smith noticed a truck in front of his neighbor’s home on Adams Street.
“It really started with seeing the WellHome truck in front of her home; it’s a pretty descriptive truck as far as what they do,” Smith said.
Smith explained that the side of the truck was painted with an enormous amount of services and seeing the long list he decided to take a closer look. That was when his neighbor introduced him to Chris Samuda.
“Chris came and spent four or five hours over here and did an analysis…He literally went room by room with an infrared camera and took notes as he went where we were experiencing air leakage, which in our case was everywhere,” he said.
After finishing the analysis, Samuda sat down with a 30-page analysis and the past year of the Smiths’ power and gas bills and told them about the DecaturWISE program.
The WISE stands for “Worthwhile Investments Save Energy,” and the program was developed as an additional incentive for Decatur residents who want to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.
Greg Pins, a spokesman for DecaturWISE, said that participants in the program can earn up to $3,200 in rebates.
“There [are] a lot of things about energy efficiency that just make sense. It saves you money and it does have healthful benefits in your home. It cuts down dust and some harmful things that can build up in the ducts and it can make your home quieter,” Pins said.
The program, which has been running for nearly four weeks, was funded by a grant from the Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and piggybacks off a similar one already in place by Georgia Power.
The Georgia Power program offers residents a rebate of up to $2,200 based on the energy savings homeowners achieve and the DecaturWISE program will add an additional $1,000.
People can hire a contractor approved by the city—currently there are three—to do an analysis and determine how they can improve the energy efficiency of their home.
“If the homeowner decides to go forward depending on how much savings they can make, they could be eligible to receive a rebate as long as the work in their home reduces energy costs by 15 percent,” Pins said.
In early April, Smith hired WellHome to put a radiant spray on the rafters of his house, seal all of the ducts, replace a window and re-insulate both the attic and beneath the home. He said he got around $2,700 back and that he reduced his energy costs by at least 30 percent.
Decatur has many historic homes, and Smith said that programs like DecaturWISE help to create awareness that a lot of old houses could be run more efficiently and residents can help to make the city more sustainable.
“This just a great incentive for people to conserve and make moves to work on these historic homes; it’s not just the savings we’re going to experience it’s the saving that you’re creating for the community too,” Smith said.