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EWEB Partners with City, UO to Make Rentals More Energy Efficient

March 02, 2018

Picture of a bicycle parked indoor in a hallway

Did you know that rental units comprise half of the available housing in Eugene? A 2017 study by the University of Oregon Business Consulting Group identified that more than 6,000 of those rentals are in need of energy-saving upgrades.

Supporting vulnerable members of our community with conservation and efficiency programs is a priority for EWEB, which is why we are once again helping tenants and rental owners lower monthly utility bills through the Home Energy Score program.

"We care about energy efficiency because it plays such an important role in a customer's total electric bill," says Matt Lutter, an EWEB energy management specialist. "The program focuses on rental housing because many rentals are inefficient and costly to heat, and there are often significant barriers to making efficiency improvements in these homes."

One barrier is what is known as "split incentives." Property owners don't make efficiency investments because the renters pay the energy bills, and renters don't make investments in property they don't own. A Home Energy Score is similar to a vehicle's miles-per-gallon rating. The score allows customers to compare the energy performance of their rental home to other homes nationwide.

EWEB has offered on-site energy audits for homes (both owner-occupied and rentals) and businesses for a number of years, but the HES program is focused exclusively on rental housing.  

"When rental owners see the Home Energy Score report, we hope they will be more likely to invest in the efficiency upgrades that will make their rentals more comfortable and affordable, even if they are not paying the utility bills," says Matt.  

The process starts with a Qualified Assessor collecting energy and water information during a brief walk-through of the home. In addition to scoring the home, EWEB will provide the tenant and landlord with the average monthly energy costs, a list of recommended improvements and the estimated cost savings.  

The program is a partnership between EWEB, the University of Oregon's Department of Sustainability and the city of Eugene. EWEB trained nine interns from UO to become state-approved Home Energy Assessors. The city pays the interns' wages, making this a cost-effective effort for EWEB. 

This is the Home Energy Score program's second year. In 2017, EWEB scored 248 rental properties, and landlords invested over $100,000 in energy efficiency improvements with the help of EWEB's rebates and zero percent interest loans. The 2018 HES program has been expanded to include water efficiency and leak detection. 

Learn more about the Home Energy Score program and apply online.