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RePower Bainbridge enters its final year with more incentives

Chris McMasters sits next to his new energy-efficient heating system that replaced his home’s electric and propane heat. It is one of many upgrades he made to his 30-year-old house to make it more sustainable while cutting down on energy costs. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Chris McMasters sits next to his new energy-efficient heating system that replaced his home’s electric and propane heat. It is one of many upgrades he made to his 30-year-old house to make it more sustainable while cutting down on energy costs.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

For nearly two years, RePower Bainbridge has been ushering in a new age of island sustainability with incentives to upgrade homes.

But the heyday of sustainable incentives is coming to a close.

This will be the last year, and last frigid season for islanders to take advantage of RePower’s benefits.

Time is running out.

“We are entering our last year and last heating season when most work happens,” said  Yvonne Kraus, RePower Bainbridge’s program manager. “That’s when people are cold and uncomfortable, when people turn on those heaters and see their high energy bills.”

RePower Bainbridge is a program aimed at creating a more energy efficient island. Through home energy assessments, some cash-back incentives, and an insider hookup to local contractors, the organization helps island homeowners upgrade their homes while downsizing their energy costs.

Chris McMasters is one such island homeowner who took advantage of RePower’s help.

His 30-year-old house is home to his family; wife, two kids, two dogs and a cat. The building was formerly a large garage that stored machinery, but was converted into a home through various additions over the years.

The structure was left with some energy gaps that a walkthrough with RePower officials quickly solved.

“We had a whole slew of interesting things that we found out about,” McMasters said.

McMasters then engaged in a series of home improvements that included some insulation upgrades and a variety of tests.

Tests such as measuring his water heater’s temperature. By a mere adjustment, he saved a bundle.

“If it’s a 135 versus 115 degrees; you dial that back and you save a ton,” he added.

McMasters also installed a new ductless heating system.

“It’s awesome and incredibly efficient,” he said.

His home was previously heated by wall heaters and by a little bit of propane. The upgrades have translated into better energy savings for his family.

Since 2010 RePower has issued $128,900 in incentive funds across 435 home energy upgrades and 32 small business upgrades. The group has also provided 1,924 free home energy assessments to island homes such as McMasters’.

RePower, however, has a goal of providing free assessments to 4,000 island homes and 100 businesses before its grant funding expires on

July 31, 2013.

Through the assessments, islanders can be briefed on all the incentives and programs available to them.

“For example, for this fall, one package is if you do home energy upgrades, and pursue PSE upgrades with Energy Star — that gives you $400. We will match that $400,” Kraus said.

Even with Bainbridge boasting one of the highest home conversion rates in the country, RePower is behind on its goals.

“We are behind in the spending of our incentive budget, meaning the funding is there and has to be spent,” she added.

With less than a year left, RePower is scrambling to make its final round of incentives count. This translates into significant savings for islanders.

“The incentive packages for the fall are better than they’ve ever been,” Kraus said. “There’s never been a better time to upgrade your home for energy efficiency.”

RePower’s packages help reduce the financial burden on homeowners when doing upgrades and improvements to their homes.

“It’s a set of incentives that are designed to work well together,” Kraus said. “They’re designed around home improvements.”

“The more you do in your home, the more money you get back from RePower,” she added.

Kraus noted that as winter brings temperatures down, heating costs go up and residents are reminded of the benefits of an energy-efficient home.

“When you are turning on that heating system this fall think about improvement you can make,” she said.

Kraus also said that a considerable portion of the island has taken less notice of RePower’s benefits.

Islanders who use oil or propane may not often think of upgrades to their home with the absence of a rising monthly electric bill, but Kraus said that their homes have just as many upgrade possibilities as anyone else’s.

RePower Bainbridge’s website, www.positiveenergybi.org, offers more information on their incentive packages and what islanders can do to upgrade to more sustainable homes.

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