Local Self-Reliance: Home Energy Efficiency

In 1980 the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Washington D.C. was moving forward with plans to help private citizens improve their home energy efficiency.

| January/February 1980

061 Local Self Reliance - energy efficiency - Fotolia

Improving home energy efficiency goes a long way towards advancing local self-reliance.


For the past several years, the good folks at the Institute for Local Self- Reliance in Washington, D.C. have worked to help urban residents gain greater control over their lives through the use of low-technology, decentralist tools and concepts. We strongly believe that more people (city dwellers and country folk alike) should be exposed to the Institute's admirable efforts ... which is why we've made this "what's happening where" report by ILSR staffers one of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' regular features.

Over the next few months, a new national program will help many Americans take a hard look at how they use energy in their homes, and will also explain what can be done to cut a household's use of electricity, gas, heating oil, etc. Under the National Energy Conservation Act of November 1978 (which is just now getting into gear), each state is required to design its own power consumption plan. However, although there will be features that vary from plan to plan, the goals of them all will be the same: to tell homeowners how they can use energy more efficiently, and to help them finance the investment required to achieve home energy efficiency and cut down on power use.

Success at the Local Level

So far, the best energy conservation efforts have involved governments and citizens working together at the local level. For example, after a study of local power consumption that involved more than 2,000 residents, the city of Portland, Oregon enacted the nation's most ambitious energy conservation law. That plan could save the citizens an estimated 30% of their current energy use by 1995.

And we here at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Washington, D.C. are showing how citizens in a big city can work together to cut home energy costs.

An Energy Audit Program

Last March, the Institute began an experimental neighborhood energy audit program in Anacostia ... an area in the southeast section of the nation's capital. In order to measure the results, we selected a four-square-block section of 1,000 households which collectively were consuming 150 billion Btu's of electricity, gas, and oil each year . . . for a combined energy bill of $700,000.

To run the program, the Institute recruited six previously unemployed neighborhood residents from a local job bank. The crew was then given four weeks of extensive training in building construction and materials, heat transfer, heating and cooling mechanical systems, and solar applications.

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