Tag Archives: utility bills

HON’s Home Energy Savings Program in Action: Chestnut Hill

Rising energy costs and utility bills have become a growing concern for just about every American in recent years, but for homeowners in many low-income areas, the problem is even more acute. This is particularly true in Middle Tennessee and Davidson County.

One Nashville neighborhood where this has become a real challenge for low-income homeowners is Chestnut Hill, a small and diverse community just south of downtown Nashville. Chestnut Hill boasts many homes that date as far back as the 1930s, most of which have never had any weatherization or efficiency upgrades. Metro Council District 17, where Chestnut Hill is located, also has the lowest median household income in Davidson County, making the prospect of skyrocketing utility costs even more worrisome for residents there.

Channeling and implementing the expertise it has cultivated since its inception in early 2011, our amazing Home Energy Savings (HES) program team and dedicated volunteers are working with community partners, including Mayor Dean’s Impact Nashville Initiative, to help ease the burden of utility costs for low-income homeowners in Chestnut Hill.

We would like to introduce you to one particular homeowner we had the pleasure of working with this past April, Ms. Starnes:

Mayor Dean checks in on the work being done at the home of Ms. Starnes.
Mayor Dean checks in on the work being done at the home of Ms. Starnes.

She lives in a small, neatly kept home on a quiet street. Family photographs and marathon finisher medals adorn the walls, and a bedroom is set up for her grandson, who often spends the night with her.

Because of serious health problems, Ms. Starnes is no longer able to participate in marathons. But she was thrilled to be able to show off her medals to Mayor Dean when he stopped by the project to say “thank you” to volunteers!

While volunteers busily worked on her home, installing insulation, adding weather stripping to doors and windows, sealing up cracks, and more, Ms. Starnes looked on with a smile of gratitude on her face.

Volunteers building a new garden for Ms. Starnes
Volunteers building a new garden for Ms. Starnes

“What a blessing these volunteers are to me,” she said over and over. She was especially thankful for the raised-bed garden that volunteers built in her backyard, and talked about how her grandson couldn’t wait to grow broccoli there.

Fast-forward two months later, and you can already see the delicious vegetables growing in Ms. Starnes’ garden!

As a result of HES volunteers’ work at her home, Ms. Starnes will save hundreds of dollars in utility bills each year that she can now put toward her healthcare. Now that the heat of summer is really here, she is also enjoying a much more comfortable home. And as part of her daily physical activity, she’s gardening and enjoying quality time with her grandson too.

Ms. Starnes proudly showing off her new garden.
Ms. Starnes proudly showing off her new garden.

Ms. Starnes is one of more than 200 homeowners that have benefited from the Home Energy Savings program since 2011.

With the generous investments of the following house sponsors, Hands On Nashville is completing 63 Home Energy Saving Projects in 2013. They include: Cities of Service, Corporation for National and Community Service, CSX Corporation, Ingram Industries, Inc., LetterLogic, The Melkus Family Foundation, The HCA Foundation, The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Nashville Energy Works, The T&T Family Foundation, Urban Land Institute, and Village Real Estate Advised Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Caulking is just one of many improvements the HES team makes to homes in Chestnut Hill.
Caulking is just one of many improvements HES volunteers make to homes in Chestnut Hill.

Our work in Chestnut Hill will continue throughout 2013 and we are always on the lookout for more volunteers to donate their time to this and other important HES projects throughout Nashville. An ideal fit for both individuals and groups of up to 10, no experience is needed and our HES leaders will guide you through every step of the process. As an added bonus, volunteers working on these projects learn valuable energy-saving tips that they can take with them and implement in their own homes!

Click here to learn more about HES volunteer opportunities and sign up!

HON Home Energy Savings Program recognized for its innovation & impact on the community

Last night, the Hands On Nashville team was thrilled to receive the Frist Foundation: Innovation in Action Award at the Salute to Excellence Awards. (This event is like the Grammy’s for nonprofits in Nashville produced by the Center for Nonprofit Management.)

HES volunteers cut insulation wrap (this is good for insulating water heaters, leaky holes, and providing additional insulation elsewhere in the home.)

Hands On Nashville’s Home Energy Savings (HES) Program was recognized for its innovation in making a real difference for those in need. We are so proud of the volunteers and dedicated HON staff members who have worked hard since the HES Program launched in February 2011 to make this program a success for our community. HON received an award of $20,000 that will be invested into the HES program. This translates into eight homes that will be safer, more efficient, and more comfortable for Nashvillians in need during weather extremes!

The HES Program engages volunteers in making energy-efficiency upgrades in low-income, owner occupied homes in North and East Nashville at no cost to homeowners. This is the only local, volunteer-centered program to focus exclusively on energy efficiency while addressing unmet community needs.

Caulking gaps between windows and other leaky areas makes a HUGE difference in making a home more energy efficient.

After homeowners are accepted into the program, they receive an in-home energy consultation with diagnostic testing. A suite of upgrades are identified, and volunteers make improvements: insulating attics, weather stripping doors, etc.

Over the last year, more than 100 homeowners have benefited from the HES Program. As a result of volunteers’ work, homes’ air infiltration (or “leakiness”) has been reduced by an average of 24 percent. This translates into average annual utility bill savings of $300 to $700 per homeowner.

Village Real Estate volunteers spent a day last week helping a homeowner in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood make her home more energy efficient. This is a GREAT opportunity for corporate groups and others looking for a good team-building experience!

Are you interested in volunteering for the HES Program and learning how to make energy-saving upgrades in your own home? We are always looking for helping hands for our weekly projects! (No experience needed! Our amazing HES leaders are eager to show you the ropes.) This is a good fit for both individuals and groups of up to 10. Click here to learn more and sign up, or email jaclyn@hon.org.

Mr. Danridge and the Case of the Caulking Gun

Guest post by volunteer Jessica Siegel –

If you had asked me last month what a caulking gun was used for, I would have made up an answer that was 99% likely to be wrong – but not anymore!

In late February, I joined six of my coworkers from the Grand Ole Opry to help Hands On Nashville make a home more energy efficient and weather proof, and that’s how I met Mr. Danridge* and learned exactly what one does with a caulking gun!

Having no home improvement experience beyond painting, I was a little nervous as I drove up to Mr. Danridge’s East Nashville home to join the HON crew. However, as soon as we began our initial project overview, our leader Jaclyn put my mind at ease. Many of the projects were simple tasks that just took a few minutes to learn, but make such a big difference in the homes once they are installed! It was amazing to learn that by simply replacing the shower heads and adding some thermometers to the refrigerator and weather stripping to the doors, Mr. Danridge would be saving a significant amount in bills each month. I even purchased a reusable air filter for my own condo this week, thanks to what I learned at the HON site!

Having some fun with the caulking guns!

After completing some of these minor tasks, I moved on to my big project of the day – caulking the living room to seal out any air that may sneak in through the cracks in the wood paneling. After several attempts, and a lot of caulk on my clothes, I think I finally perfected the art, and we got some great photos in the meantime!

It was truly inspiring to meet Mr. Danridge, a kind older gentleman suffering from dementia, and to talk with him about his home and his family, knowing that we were helping improve his home and lessen his financial burden. It was also unique to spend time outside of work with my coworkers, doing good for others.

A job well done - The crew added an insulating wrap to Mr. Danridge's water heater to make it more efficient. HON's Jaclyn Khoury, left, provided expert guidance.

Thanks Hands On Nashville for the opportunity, and I look forward to more caulking experiences (or whatever the project may call for) with you!

*Name has been changed to respect privacy.

Jessica Siegel is Events Assistant at Grand Ole Opry. Thanks to Jessica and all of the Grand Ole Opry employees who volunteered at Mr. Lockridge’s home! Interested in getting involved in HON’s Home Energy Savings Program? Learn more here.

The Grand Ole Opry volunteer crew, after a satisfying day.

Happy 1st Birthday, HES Program!

Making a Difference One Attic at a Time…

By Jaclyn Khoury, Hands On Nashville’s Director of Sustainability

The Home Energy Savings (HES) Program is celebrating its ONE (!) year anniversary this month.  It feels like a lifetime of accomplishment has been packed into these past twelve months, thanks to the help of 264 volunteers who worked hard to improve the energy efficiency of nearly 40 low-income homes in North and East Nashville.  As we analyze the utility bills of each home before and after each project, we are able to see the environmental, economic, and social impact of our work. Each metric adds up to make Nashville a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable community:

•    kilowatts of electricity saved
•    reduction in each homeowner’s utility bills
•    reduction in CO2 emissions
•    safer, more comfortable homes
•    increased homeowner awareness
•    community/neighborhood building

My desk is a living collage of all the wonderful things homeowners have given to me in humble thanks – from cards and poems to plants. I work with a lot of elderly widows that are astounded that a young woman would crawl in their attic space just to help lower their utility bills. Sometimes I show homeowners their attic space for the first time in their 30+ years of living in a home, and they are so curious and mystified… it’s like we’ve made a voyage to the moon.

Schneider Electric volunteers examine Ms. Smith's ceiling for air leaks.

One particular homeowner, Ms. Smith*, took notice of my paint-covered work boots while inspecting her home.  As we sat at her kitchen table going over the importance of shutting off lights, she said, “my, your feet must ache being in those all day.” I smiled and didn’t think much of it.

Three weeks later, 20 employees from Schneider Electric and C & W Weatherization spent the better half of a day helping weatherize Ms. Smith’s home.  All afternoon she sat at her kitchen table feverishly knitting.  The volunteers did a great job and heart felt “thank you’s” were exchanged all around at the end of the day.

Ms. Smith knew I would be working on her neighbor’s house the following week.  Mid-day while I was working in her neighbor’s front yard, Ms. Smith came up the street with a freshly finished pair of knit slippers for me.  She said, “I don’t have much money, but I know everyone needs a place to rest their feet, so I made you these, I hope you like the colors I picked.”  The knot in my throat made it hard to say thank you, I was so deeply touched.

Schneider Electric volunteers secure a window in Ms. Smith's home to be more air tight.

This week we ran the utility analysis on Ms. Smith’s utility bills. In the eight months since we completed work on her home, she has saved $654 on her bills compared to the previous year. That is $654 she can put towards more pressing needs like food, medicine, and transportation.  Furthermore, we saved 6,812 kWh**, and 10,218 pounds of CO2 emissions for Nashville residents to breathe easier.

With generous investments from The River Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, The T&T Family Foundation, and Ingram Industries, Inc., we are rolling up our sleeves to complete 280 homes in 2012 and 2013.  This will be no small feat, and it will take the many hands and hard work of volunteers like you to make this happen.

Click here to find out how to get involved.

*Name is changed to respect privacy.
**kWh=1,000 kilowatts (electricity is measured in kilowatts)

About Jaclyn: As Hands On Nashville’s Director of Sustainability, Jaclyn developed the organization’s Home Energy Savings Program, which launched in early 2011. She works with volunteers, homeowners, and her hands to create more sustainable homes in Nashville’s low-income neighborhoods. Before her move to Nashville in 2009, Jaclyn worked with Habitat for Humanity as a Construction Facilitator in Minneapolis and Central America. As a LEED ID+C and certified energy auditor, Jaclyn is determined and devoted in her commitment to integrate sustainability into the fabric of working communities. She is currently a student at Lipscomb University pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sustainability and Green Building.