A highly successful program designed to evaluate the energy conservation quality of Rhode Island homes has inspired renewed attempts for federally mandated "house doctor" programs.
A tow-year-old program built around a state-wide, non-profit corporation called Rhode Islanders Saving Energy (Rise) has indicated that business can work with local government to cut energy usage on a wide scale.
Rise has attracted the support of Sen. John H. Chaffee (R-R.I.) and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), who yesterday were seeking to include an amendment to Senate energy legislation that would set up pilot house doctor programs in 10 states.
Created by Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy and then-Textron chairman G. William Miller, who was its first chairman, Rise has already been asked to audit about 5,000 homes in Rhode Island.
The free audits involve a 2 1/2 hour inspection by salaried Rise auditors known as house doctors. The homeowner receives a detailed written analysis and recommendations for specific conservation steps, services, products, brands and installers.
Rise also works with the local banks, which supply auditors with forms for special reduced-rate weatherization loans.
More than 50 percent of those homeowners who have been audited by Rise have spent an average of $1,500 on weatherization and solar installation, and have the highest compliance rate of any such program in the nation.
Most of the work has been insulation for windows and doors. About half of those who have been audited and who have chosen to have work done have used installers recommended by Rise. The remainder used their own contractors to do the recommended work.
According to Rise official Larry Klaus, head of Development Management Consultants, a Boston housing consulting firm, the program has succeeded because of the support it has received from the business community.
"Most programs like this throughout the country are just paper audits," Klaus said. "Rise provides a quality installation and arranges financing. We also guarantee the installation."
He said that another reason for the program's success is the cooperation among Rhode Island's utilities. In other states, each utility offers its own audit program, but Klaus said that most are inadequate or ill-conceived.