Celebrating One Year of the Comfort Ready Home Program!

Time flies, and it’s been one year since Bonneville Power Administration and Northwest utilities launched Comfort Ready Home.

To celebrate, we’re looking back on the ways we’ve helped communities become more energy efficient, healthier and more comfortable through home weatherization, HVAC and water-heating upgrades.

Here’s what we’ve achieved together:

We couldn’t do it all without our contractors! 

Contractor Spotlight: Great NW Installations

While most plumbers default to selling standard water heaters, Great Northwest Installations takes a more forward-thinking approach. Instead of encouraging customers to replace a water heater with a standard tank when their water heater fails, Great Northwest’s installers provide homeowners with energy-efficient options, such as heat pump water heaters.

“Helping our customers make their homes safer, healthier and more efficient is a priority for us,” says Steve Brotton, who started Great Northwest five years ago in Ridgefield, Washington. “That’s why we’ve made heat pump water heaters the default option — they save money and energy, they’re reliable, and they’re easier on the environment. It’s a win for everyone.”

toad's Plumbing, shower head image

To help his team communicate the benefits of energy efficiency with Great Northwest’s customers, Brotton chose to enroll the company in the Comfort Ready Home program. “With access to trainings and the contractor marketing toolkit, we’ve been able to create effective promotions and help our customers take advantage of utility rebates,” says Brotton.

Working with utilities has proven to be an effective strategy for Great Northwest. Brotton has found that for customers who aren’t familiar with heat pump water heaters, seeing their utility’s logo on Great Northwest’s promotional materials instills trust and gives them confidence to make an energy-efficient choice.

In the next year, Brotton looks to continue providing Great Northwest’s customers with efficient water heating solutions that fit their needs. In the face of ongoing supply chain issues, this has required flexibility and creative thinking. That’s why he plans to take advantage of Comfort Ready Home’s marketing resources and encouraging his staff to explore the program’s on-demand training courses. “The support for companies like ours, that have a mission to make a difference, enables us to lead the industry toward energy efficiency and make our world a better place for future generations.”

Contractor Spotlight: Sure Flame, LLC

toad's Plumbing, shower head image

When Paul Bennet co-founded Sure Flame, LLC in 2019, his mission was to bring friendly, cost-effective fireplace repair and HVAC services to his hometown of Scappoose, OR, and the nearby Portland Metro Area. Sure Flame grew quickly by responding to families and businesses in need of a knowledgeable HVAC company. Sure Flame fulfills this need by educating customers about the benefits of energy-efficient equipment, such as ductless heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, and showing them how to maintain the equipment after installation.

“We’re always looking out for our customers. We make sure they’re aware of available incentives and rebates for installing energy-efficient equipment, which helps save them money in the long term,” said Jason Bennett, co-owner of Sure Flame. “The Comfort Ready Home program connects us to local utilities and incentive programs, allowing us to offer our customers the latest and greatest savings. The program also helps us stay up-to-date on best practices for installations and provides us with opportunities to claim rewards for installing heat pump water heaters.”

When deciding if a home is a good fit for a ductless heat pump or heat pump water heater, Sure Flame’s strategy is tried and true. “We make our recommendations based on where the unit can be placed, the overall condition of the house and what the customer wants as the final outcome,” said Bennett.

“While they don’t work for every home, we let our customers know about other ways they can increase the comfort and energy efficiency of their home, such as weatherization. It’s all about finding the right energy solution for each unique customer.”

As a local, family business that cares about their community, Sure Flame looks forward to serving more customers in Columbia County and beyond using the Comfort Ready Home program and customer referrals.

Weatherization Day is Oct. 30!

Weatherization Day is coming up and we’re here to help you make the most of it. Weatherization Day celebrates the Weatherization Assistance Program which helps low-income households reduce energy costs while making their homes more durable and energy efficient.

At Comfort Ready Home, where we serve energy customers across the Northwest, we know the importance of making affordable energy-efficiency upgrades possible for every home. Weatherization is good for everyone — according to the U.S. Department of Energy, weatherizing your home can improve sleep, reduce asthma symptoms, and help save up to $283 per year on utility bills.

toad's Plumbing, shower head image

Weatherization Day is a great time to prepare your home for cold weather, improving comfort and lowering your energy bill. To celebrate, we’re sharing our top five weatherization tips:

  1. Give any gaps the “seal” of approval: Air leakage and improperly installed insulation can waste 20 percent or more of the energy used to heat your home. Common air-leakage trouble spots include windows, doors and ducts which can be sealed with caulk and weatherstripping. Learn more about air sealing.
  2. Go ductless: Consider installing a ductless heating and cooling system to boost your home’s comfort while using up to 50 percent less energy. Learn how you can increase your comfort and savings.
  3. Get insulated: Adding insulation in attics, ceilings, walls, crawlspaces, and floors minimizes air loss throughout your home, keeping it warmer in the winter and preventing the build-up of moisture. Learn more about adding insulation to your home.
  4. Find a contractor: Connect with contractors to get quotes or schedule service with trusted weatherization, water heating, and HVAC professionals.
  5. Take advantage of support: The Weatherization Assistance Program is a federally funded program that provides low-income households with home weatherization services. See if you qualify if you live in Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington and apply with your local community-based agency.

Make sure to check with your local utility for available incentives for weatherization, ductless heating and cooling systems, and high-efficiency water heating.

Happy weatherizing from your Comfort Ready Home Team!

Contractor Spotlight: Stutzman Services, Inc.

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Stutzman Services is dedicated to shaping the future of the water industry, and serves the plumbing, well-water and landscaping needs across Oregon’s central Willamette Valley. With nearly 50 team members, Stutzman Services provides exceptional service with a family-like culture and a focus on efficiency. “We approach our work with the understanding that water is one of life’s most valuable resources,” said Brent Stutzman, co-owner. “From educating our customers on the energy-efficiency benefits of heat pump water heaters to the use of drought-resistant plants in landscaping, we are always looking for ways to advocate for the environment and save our customers money.” 

Founded in 1966, Stutzman Services knows ongoing education and training are essential for managing water responsibly. The company stays ahead of the curve by offering customers new ways to manage water with emerging technologies such as solar water pump systems.

“Joining Comfort Ready Home was an easy decision. We signed up as soon as we learned about it,” said Stutzman. “The program supports our values of elevating our employees with education and training, and delivering excellence to our customers by offering them energy-efficient, money-saving solutions.”

As a growing company, Stutzman Services looks forward to taking advantage of Comfort Ready Home marketing tools and promotions for heat pump water heater installations.

Contractor Spotlight: Toad’s Plumbing

toad's Plumbing, shower head image

Tyler Redinger set out to start his own plumbing company, Toad’s Plumbing, in April 2021, with 13 years of experience under his belt and the goal of making his customers happy. 

Energy efficiency plays a big role when it comes to making Toad’s customers happy. “I firmly believe in the energy-saving benefits of devices like heat pump water heaters,” said Redinger. “We strive to educate customers on the long-term operational cost savings of heat pump water heaters over standard electric tanks.” Redinger is walking the talk, too: he’ll soon install a heat pump water heater at his home.  

After working for companies focused on newly constructed properties, Redinger recognized an opportunity to focus on increasing energy efficiency in existing homes and the value of working on both types of projects to maintain a healthy business model. Comfort Ready Home offers, including contractor incentives for installing heat pump water heaters, trainings, and plug-and-play marketing tools, made joining the program an easy choice for Redinger and his growing business. 

Utility Spotlight: Umatilla Electric Cooperative

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Umatilla Electric Cooperative, or UEC, has been selling energy and serving its member-owners in the Columbia Basin and Blue Mountain country of Northeastern Oregon since 1937. Today, UEC serves about 10,700 members and 15,700 accounts.

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UEC’s core values include education, training and community. For Alex Ruiz, UEC’s energy efficiency specialist, there is great opportunity in providing homeowner education. The first step is to help UEC’s members understand residential energy-efficiency options and highlight what works well in Northeastern Oregon homes. Whether homeowners make a small change, such as installing a smart thermostat or take on a larger weatherization project, Ruiz knows they can benefit from reduced utility bills, a UEC rebate and a more comfortable home year-round.

Ruiz met with Comfort Ready Home’s Northeast Oregon Field Specialist, David Olivas, and discussed how the Program could help UEC achieve its goals. The Program immediately began working with UEC-preferred contractors, and provided training that helped support and grow their businesses — an immediate benefit for contractors, UEC and their end-use customers. To assist with outreach, Ruiz used Comfort Ready Home homeowner-friendly product guides and an interactive search tool for contractors in UEC’s territory.

The housing director of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation worked with the program and collaborated on ways to improve the thermal envelopes of homes on the reservation, and develop UEC rebate options to support and incentivize the work.

By highlighting energy efficiency, Ruiz and UEC are helping their members live more comfortably, providing business opportunities for local contractors and staying true to the cooperative’s guiding principles.

Comfort Ready Home Contractor Spotlight – Cisco and Sons

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When Cisco Narez began his insulation business, he had more than 30 years of experience under his belt and two green employees ready to pitch in — his sons Francisco and Juan — who spent their first year learning the ins and outs of the business.

cisco warehouse and trucks

The key to Cisco and Sons’ growth is the quality of their work. “There’s no cutting corners. We are prompt when scheduling customers, we try to be very professional and we keep our jobs clean, so homeowners are happy,” said Narez. 

Narez earned an excellent reputation through decades of good work installing insulation, and broadened Cisco and Sons’ business offers to set the company apart from the competition. Blower door tests, for example, allow Narez and his crew to show homeowners how leaky their houses are before and after their ductwork is repaired and insulated. Offering air sealing and contracting-out HVAC work, the company also helps customers take advantage of the benefits of weatherization.

The next steps for Cisco and Sons include integrating the energy-efficiency aspect of insulation — and the potential for savings — into their marketing and outreach. This is where Narez sees Comfort Ready Home’s contractor marketing toolkit and online trainings coming in handy. By reaching out to more homeowners in Yakima and connecting them with utility rebates, he hopes to supplement the new construction projects that currently make up the bulk of Cisco and Sons’ work.

cisco blower door test
cisco blowing in insulation

To face the challenges of the past year, including delivery delays and increased material costs, Narez uses a mix of old and new tactics to keep the business going strong. He makes sure work continues to meet the expectations that come with his reputation, and future-proofs his business by focusing more on energy efficiency and taking advantage of resources in Comfort Ready Home’s Contractor InfoHub.

Over time, Cisco and Sons hired seven additional employees and upgraded their office in Yakima from a bedroom-size shed to a 15,000-square-foot-shop where they stock up on all sizes of insulation.

Cash-in With the Greener Water Heater Promotion

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Water heater installers, take note!

This summer, each heat pump water heater you install could put extra cash in your wallet.

From May 10 to Aug. 31, contractors who participate in the Greener Water Heater promotion will earn up to $400 for each qualifying heat pump water heater installation on behalf of their local utility.

Need to brush up on your technical or sales skills? Two heat pump water heater-specific training modules and a specialized marketing toolkit are available to help you hit the ground running. Tip: stock up on qualifying heat pump water heaters now and keep one on the truck, so you don’t miss an opportunity!

For participation details and to enroll, visit the promotion page.

How Adding Air Sealing Can Enhance Your Business

Integrating air sealing into your business offers is a great way to add to your existing jobs and provide better value to your customers.

Three contractors stand six-feet apart facing each other in front of a residential home.
The Comfort Ready Home team meets with Mike McMahon of RichArt Builders onsite in Vancouver, WA

RichArt Builders in Vancouver, WA sees air sealing as a necessary component of any insulation job. According to weatherization manager, Mike McMahon, the company offers duct sealing, air sealing, ventilation and insulation because these measures tend to complement each other.
A contractor crouches in an attic above a dropped ceiling with insulation positioned ready to be installed.
This dropped ceiling above the shower was found to be connected to three open wall cavities.
 
During a weatherization job in Clark County, McMahon discovered the home had no existing floor insulation and minimal attic insulation, making it an ideal situation to perform effective air sealing. He recognized the homeowner would benefit from a noticeable improvement in comfort, and also save money on their utility bill after the air sealing and insulation project was complete.
A contractor laying on the ground under a home pointing at a spot to air seal.
The RichArt team preparing to seal a large opening under the bathtub drain in the crawl.

McMahon and his crew found significant areas of air loss in the crawlspace and several large openings in the attic. In the attic, they discovered many of the home’s interior walls were wide open on top, which allowed cold winter air to drop into the living space, making the home much more difficult to keep warm and maintain a comfortable temperature. The team’s air-sealing strategy was to effectively cap off the walls and insulate over the top to create a continuous blanket of insulation that retained the home’s heat. This comprehensive approach to weatherization satisfies customers through improved comfort, which means more referrals and less callbacks for contractors.
A contractor with headlamp and facemask is air sealing open parts of an attic before installing insulation.
The team sealing open wall cavities above a coved ceiling detail.

RichArt Builders provided additional value by specifying and installing exhaust ventilation, and calibrating the fans to control moisture and ensure the proper amount of fresh air flowed through the home.

Thinking about expanding your offers? Comfort Ready Home provides training, a field guide, marketing tools and technical assistance to add air sealing — along with other weatherization, HVAC and high-efficiency water-heating to your services — all at no cost. Visit the Contractor InfoHub or contact a Field Specialist in your area.