A Rockville native, Adam is a Blog Fellow for Groundswell this summer.
I was unsure what to expect when I attended the Three Oaks Townhome Association meeting on June 27 in Silver Spring, Maryland.
A handful of homeowners in this suburban community had decided to work together to save each month on their energy use by making simple upgrades to their homes.
Tonight, a few of those community members had gathered to select a local energy efficiency business to perform upgrades. Although some of the homeowners they represented weren’t present, all of their needs were taken into account when making a decision. Photo credits: David Y. Lee for Groundswell.
In a nutshell, Groundswell’s Strong Homes Program brings together individual homeowners to form a buying group to choose an energy efficient business for those homes.
The more homeowners, the more savings for each person.
Hearing exactly what these homeowners cared about when choosing a business was eye-opening.
Quality and cost were important considerations. But they were looking for something more.
Sitting off to the side and listening to different scoring mechanisms and criteria that they were using to decide on a business, I realized that there was so much more to think about in terms of individual homes’ energy needs.
Photo credits: David Y. Lee for Groundswell.
When the contractors’ proposals came out relatively similar in terms of cost, it allowed Groundswell Lead Organizer Brett Wiley to turn the meeting's focus to the business practices of each contractor who had submitted a bid on this project.
“What do they give back to the community?” and “What are these companies’ positive business practices (wages, benefits, hiring practices)?” were two of the questions that were answered.
Purchasing energy efficiency services as a group also allows for a variety of values to be considered when reviewing each energy contractor’s respective bids for these competitive contracts.
As one homeowner put it, “You want it cost-competitive … but I’m not sure that total ‘least cost’ should be the sole deciding factor.” Photo credits: David Y. Lee for Groundswell.
By the end, the homeowners of Three Oaks had decided on a business.
Participating community members would see around 15 to 20 percent overall savings in their energy costs.
As our host for the evening Linda Akli pointed out, a lot of this work goes unseen, and requires a bit of education for the average consumer:
Photo credits: David Y. Lee for Groundswell.“Some of it [the upgrades] is for things you don’t see, and you have to remind people that it’s important to do it. I think people don’t like to do the things they don’t see, and also if they have a mindset that they’re fine, they will pay that money for the heating/air conditioning bills!”
By gathering information about individual homeowner’s energy usage, the Three Oaks community hopes to expand their buying group to save even more.