May 29, 2015

When it comes to home performance and efficiency, I think of it in terms of what people are wasting. Often, they don’t even know it. Sure, by improving efficiency in a home or a building, a person will end up saving money on electric and heating/cooling bills and making the air inside cleaner to breath. But it’s the money they’re spending right now -- that they don’t have to spend -- that brings it home for customers I work with.

Think of it this way: if you’re walking with grocery bags and they have holes in them, and you’re losing 40% of your food, would you accept that? Of course not. That’s how much heat most homes are losing, and yet people carry on like it’s normal.

If we really put Oregonians to work fixing up homes to perform at their best, it’s the equivalent of building a brand new power-plant. That’s the promise of our industry. The desire is there too. I talk to people everyday who are interested in making their homes perform better. A lot of them are still waiting to feel the economy get going again for them. We can jumpstart things in Oregon by committing to a clean, energy-efficient future in our state policy.

When the economy crashed, stimulus money helped get things going again. During those busy times, I was running 4 crews to do all the work coming our way. That proves people will buy-in with the right incentives in the market. Those incentives have to be longer-lasting than the stimulus from the government. The next move should be to create the conditions in the market, so innovation and investment help more people access home improvements.

There’s great potential in this industry if Oregon commits to a clean energy economy. I work with subcontractors who have opportunities for different skill levels: from laborers spraying foam insulation to highly-skilled workers who are educated and trained with the best tools and techniques. There’s sales and support staff too. These are good-paying jobs for people living in our communities because the construction has to be done locally.

An added bonus to doing what we do is feeling good about it at the end of the day. We’re helping people save money and live healthier, and we’re also doing our part to protect the environment. We even run our vehicles on biodiesel because a low carbon footprint is part of our company culture. We’re part of the community and we want it to be a clean one, with happy, health homes.

The old ways, the wasteful ways -- that’s over. We need to look to the future. If we’re on a boat that’s taking on water, is it smarter to buy a bigger, more expensive bilge pump or simply plug the holes? We’re in the business of plugging holes in people’s homes and budgets. If we’re smart and efficient in Oregon, we can save a lot of money and sail into the future with confidence.

Zach Erdmann is owner and operator of Premium Efficiency in Eugene. They specialize in whole home energy retrofits. He is a board member of Home Performance Guild of Oregon.