Deanwood, Shaw homes audited for energy efficiency

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By Timothy Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 22, 2009

Anthony Wilson enjoys being home on Sunday afternoons during football season. A few friends come by regularly and seat themselves around a television in the living room to watch the games with him. His girlfriend, Renea Wynn, is normally stationed in the kitchen cooking dinner for later in the evening.

But a different play call was set in motion Sunday when volunteers from CarbonfreeDC, an organization dedicated to lowering carbon emissions in the District, arrived at Wilson's Deanwood home to assist with an environmental renovation.

The Extreme Green Neighborhood Makeover, a grass-roots initiative that the group launched in August, aims to improve the energy efficiency and eco-friendliness of some low-income D.C. residents by reducing their environmental impact and energy expenses at the same time.

"Our main goal here is to prove that even a small investment can reap huge rewards financially and environmentally," said CarbonfreeDC founder and LeDroit Park resident Rhys Gerholdt.

That's good news for Wilson, who said he typically spends about $600 a month for gas, electricity and water on a two-story home that was built in 1910.

An eco-audit was performed on the home to find areas where improvements could be made immediately. Most of the windows were not sealed properly; a front door did not have weather stripping to prevent air from seeping outside; and insulation in the attic needed to be replaced.

"Energy was basically escaping," Wilson said.

It was also seeping from the electrical outlets. Michael Coren, a CarbonfreeDC volunteer, attached an electricity usage monitor to several electronic devices to show how much energy they were consuming, even when the gadgets were turned off. The monitor also displayed the potential cost savings if the devices were unplugged.

The power strip supplying electricity to the television, cable modem and DVR was replaced with a version that automatically shuts off electronic devices that are not in use.

"I'm so excited," said Wynn, 44, who lives in an apartment building next door but came over to help install weather stripping. "I'm glad y'all came."

Wilson, 48, said he looks forward to the potential savings. "Anything helps," said the single father of three whose children are ages 9 to 23. "If it's an extra 50 or 60 dollars, that can go to the kids."

CarbonfreeDC, which was founded last year, won a $20,000 prize from the SunChips Green Effect Contest in July to launch the makeover campaign. By August, more than 80 homes had applied for makeovers.

Twenty homes were chosen from the Shaw and Deanwood neighborhoods to get the energy- and money-saving solutions offered by purchasing programmable thermostats, compact fluorescent light bulbs, weather stripping, caulk and power-down power strips.

Dozens of volunteers have helped caulk windows, weather-seal doors, plant flowers and conduct eco-audits at the chosen homes. The campaign has a second phase, which will delve into more intensive projects, such as replacing furnaces, water heaters and insulation and installing bamboo flooring.

Gerholdt, 26, said the amount of immediate savings from the first phase might vary, but over the long term, residents who are shown how environmentally friendly products can have a dual benefit might pass along the information.

"Now that we've introduced some families to this concept, they're bringing their neighbors along," Gerholdt said. "That's a great way to reach new audiences."

For information on the Extreme Green Neighborhood Makeover, visit http://www.carbonfreedc.org.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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