My husband and I have always tried to keep our energy consumption down by setting our thermostat a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter. We wore sweaters in winter and ran fans in the warmer months. What we didn’t realize is that those efforts didn’t add up to as much as we hoped because our house was almost completely without insulation.
We lived in what was essentially equivalent to a screened porch.
We learned how much energy — and money — we were losing out of our house when we first participated in “Go Green, District 18,” an initiative to lower the energy use and carbon footprint of one Nashville neighborhood. As part of the program, a trained energy-use evaluator examined the walls, basement and attic of our 80-year-old house. He then gave us a list of steps we could take — from small to major — to better insulate our home.
After the evaluation, we decided to have insulation blown into our walls, a vapor seal put in our basement, and extra insulation blown into our attic. Now we use less energy to heat and cool our home. For the first time, when the temperature dropped, our downstairs floors didn’t feel cold on bare feet. Another friend who participated in the Go Green program said the cold drafts that had plagued his winters were now gone.
The many crises related to energy consumption and climate change can seem overwhelming to all of us. What can one person do? What many people don’t realize is that 40 percent of our nation’s energy use goes into heating, cooling and operating our buildings. Older homes, like the majority of homes in my neighborhood, often have even greater heating and cooling costs. Retrofitting these homes can have a tremendous impact on energy consumption.
The program also has an impact on our pocketbooks. While the initial evaluation fee is $150, that money is refunded to homeowners if they do any of the work recommended with an approved local contractor. Additional funds are available from the Tennessee Valley Authority and through tax-credit programs. Even small steps, like insulating ductwork, can have a positive effect on energy bills. Energy costs are likely to skyrocket in the future, and the impact on our energy bills will be significant.
When we add our own steps to those of others, our impact can grow even larger. We started the “Go Green, District 18” program as a pilot one year ago. More than 300 homeowners are already participating in the program, an initiative of the Urban Land Institute Nashville, Village Real Estate Services and Nashville Electric Service. Throughout the neighborhood, families are proudly displaying yard signs stating their support for Go Green and encouraging their neighbors to do the same. We are reducing the overall carbon footprint of one place on the map.
The retrofitting program has expanded from District 18 to include more neighborhoods in Nashville. District 6 has launched “District 6 Energy Fix” and District 25 has begun “Greener Hills.” Other neighborhood initiatives will start up in the coming months.
Everyone in the Nashville community can participate and make their home more energy efficient, even if they do not live in a neighborhood currently engaged in the Go Green program. Please visit the Go Green Nashville website at gogreen-nashville.com to learn more.
Kristine LaLonde represents District 18 on the Metro Council