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One of the barriers to making a home more energy effi- cient is cost. Enter Energy Impact Illinois (EI2) (EnergyImpac-, a program led by the Chicagoland Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) (, in conjunc- tion with several local agencies and utility companies. They act as a liaison between homeowners, financial institutions and contractors, with the goal of making connections and improving energy efficiency. Last year, E12 received a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) ( to help fund energy efficiency improvement projects in the Chicagoland area. The grant is being used to provide rebates to people that

lower energy use in their homes. For a $99 fee, certified con- tractors do an energy audit of the whole home, testing leak- age and airflow and general efficiency of appliances. “The contractors are all local, and have been certified through the Building Performance Institute to do the audits, so the pro- gram creates jobs, in addition to helping the environment,” says EI2 Outreach Coordinator Paige Bonk. Homeowners are given a detailed report with recom-

Small Changes, BIG IMPACT

An energy-efficient home pays off in the long run

by Carrie Jackson T

om Decker’s house uses 52 percent less natural energy than comparable houses in the same neighborhood, but it’s not a new “green” building or fitted with solar pow- er equipment. His Highland Park home was built in 1951, and the furnace has been there since 1979. What makes the difference, Decker says, is that he is mindful of the ways he uses energy and took some simple steps to make his home more efficient. The major addition to the home is the spray foam insulation on the underside of the roof. That installation dramatically reduced heat loss in the winter and dropped the attic temperature in the summer from 200 degrees on the hottest days to just over 100 degrees. Decker is the owner of Eco Centric (847-987-3626), a

Chicago-based firm that provides consulting services to cli- ents looking to increase their energy efficiency. “The average American home loses enough energy every 24 hours to fill two Goodyear blimps,” he says. “In large part, this is due to human behavior and a lack of caring.”

44 Chicago North & North Shore

mendations based on the findings of the audit. While they are under no obligation, they can qualify for an instant 70 percent rebate if they make insulation and air sealing im- provements that reduce energy use by at least 15 percent. They also receive an Illinois Home Performance Certificate from Energy Star that states the house is more energy-effi- cient, which can improve its resale value. While the up-front costs of home improvements may seem daunting, Decker stresses that in the long run, home- owners are actually saving a lot of money. For example, if attic holes are sealed and blow-in insulation is installed, a family can expect to save 20 to 50 percent on their energy bills every year. “Conservation of resources is not beyond anybody’s

grasp,” says Decker, “But you have to have a baseline under- standing of what the costs are for the family.” Bonk uses the example of wearing both a sweater (as insulation) and a windbreaker (to protect from leaks) in the winter. “The two are most effective together,” she says, add- ing that, “Home energy efficiency improvements help save energy, reduce energy bills, preserve the environment and increase the comfort of one’s home.” Having an energy-efficient home isn’t going to be that

appealing if it’s not livable, however. Lenore Weiss (Lenore- is a Northbrook-based architect and de- signer whose work focuses on the need for living space to be functional, inspirational and delightful. Incorporating energy efficiency into the planning is part of what she does. Weiss explains that designing homes that optimize natu-

ral daylight through thoughtful planning accomplishes many goals. Proper window placement not only provides a stimu- lating environment, but also reduces the need for electrical light during the day. Day lighting solutions with windows have additional solar heat gain considerations, as well. “South-facing windows will let the sun shine in and add

warmth during the day, which is a great benefit in the cold weather season. But they could also make the home very hot in the summer,” says Weiss. “Sun angles at different times of

Photo by Tom Decker

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