We sat down with Councilperson Erika Strassburger to see what her experience with the Home Energy Showcase has been like so far.
Q: How did you hear about the Showcase and why did you decide to join?
A: As a board member at CCI, I have always wanted to learn more about my home by having an energy audit. My home was built in 1920, so you can imagine how cold it gets in the winter and how generally uncomfortable it can be in the always-variable Pittsburgh climate. I wanted to see what actions could be taken to achieve the most benefit and saw the Showcase as a great opportunity to also be a part of a larger effort throughout the region.
Q: How knowledgeable would you say you were about your home before the audit?
A: I knew the basics of what an energy audit was, but I had no idea how comprehensive it would actually be. I did not realize how much knowledge about my home I would be walking away with. Whether it involved energy efficiency or health and safety, I feel much more confident in my ability to make informed decisions that will benefit me and my family.
Q: What specifically have you learned about your home by having this audit?
A: One thing I learned through the course of the audit was that the leaks in my home coming from cracks, windows, etc. added up to a 13” x 13” hole. I found it extremely important to be able to visualize that. I learned that, contrary to popular belief, windows are generally not the 1st thing that you need to be worrying about in your home. Basically, the most important stuff tended to be the smaller, less expensive, stuff — like filling in cracks and sealing up random air leaks throughout the basement and the rest of the house.
Q: What stopped you from committing to more efficient decisions in the past?
A: I have definitely thought about these issues before. My heat has the tendency to kick on every 10 minutes. I feel like I’m constantly putting on extra layers. Barriers in the past have basically come down to prioritization. When thinking about home upgrades, it always tends to be easier to tackle the more visible projects that are more blatantly needed. I was glad to have the Showcase give me the chance to jumpstart these projects that I’ve known I needed.
Q: What have you found easiest about this process with CCI?
A: The entire audit process, from start to finish, was made extremely easy for me and my family. Great follow through from the CCI team in setting up and going through the audit. I got to walk around and be an active part of the audit — even counting all the light bulbs! By walking through with the auditor, I felt more involved and now feel more knowledgeable about my home. The final report was incredibly helpful as I was given a list of upgrades that were clearly prioritized with rough cost estimates. Overall, this experience has been quite enjoyable and illuminating.
Q: What are your thoughts on the overall benefit potential, given the more than 50 participants?
A: What I find to be one of the most intriguing benefits is the opportunity to connect with other participants. I’m interested to hear from others about upgrades they have made in their homes — what contractors did they use, how close were cost estimates, have they been seeing any changes, etc. With that opportunity, you really feel that you are a part of a larger cohort and that there is support out there when making these, potentially large, decisions. As a part of the Showcase, I’m glad to be able to demonstrate to the region that people are taking advantage of CCI’s services and that it is worth doing, it’s easy, and it’s enjoyable.
Q: Is there any advice you would give to someone considering home upgrades?
A: First and foremost would be that upgrading your home isn’t always as big of a commitment as it may seem. For starters, you learn a lot about your home simply by having an audit and can probably do some of the work yourself. It is exciting knowing that there are little “invisible” ways that you can be saving money and increasing comfort. Energy efficiency and home health upgrades aren’t always as overt as, say, a bathroom remodel, but big savings and benefits are there for the taking!