Iowa City residents volunteer for free home energy efficient audits

Iowa City and Green Iowa AmeriCorps are conducting free home energy efficiency audits for homeowners. The audits help residents reduce their energy emissions and utility bills.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Photo Illustration by Ayrton Breckenridge.

Natasha Keicher, News Reporter

The City of Iowa City and Green Iowa AmeriCorps are conducting voluntary home energy audits to help residents make their homes more energy-efficient.

Green Iowa AmeriCorps is a statewide community service program based out of the University of Northern Iowa’s center for energy and environmental education office that focuses on environmental stewardship.

Shawn Fluckey, Green Iowa AmeriCorps energy and community program manager, said that the goal of the program is to help communities with environmental issues like land stewardship and energy efficiency.

“We provide direct, hands-on services to communities to address the state’s most pressing issues,” he said.

Sarah Gardner, Iowa City climate action and outreach engagement specialist, said the city has sponsored a team of Green Iowa AmeriCorps members to conduct home energy audits and hold educational events about energy efficiency since 2016.

The program fits the city’s climate action goals by addressing the issue of conserving resources and energy.

“One of the best things we can do to reduce emissions is to reduce the amount of electricity we use,” Gardner said. “It is sometimes overlooked in discussions of clean energy, but the cleanest energy of all is the energy you never use.”

Fluckey said the biggest culprit to excessive energy use is the heating and cooling system kicking on and off too much. This is usually caused by excessive air leakage and inadequate insulation in homes, he said.

“We try to improve the efficiency of these homes by reducing the amount of air infiltration as much as possible,” he said. “We’ve come across people who have to keep their oven on and open to heat their home.”

The home energy audits — which are free — consist of two parts. The first part being the actual audit and the second weatherization.

The audit is conducted by a team of professionally certified energy auditors with Green Iowa AmeriCorps. The team does a walkthrough of the home looking for any air leakage or insulation failure. Once the initial walk-through is over, the team will look over the findings and suggest solutions.

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Weatherization is the main solution to the audit’s findings, a process that typically includes sealing the air leakages with something like caulk and adding more insulation to areas that need it. Other things that switching to energy-efficient light bulbs may also be suggested.

Fluckey said Green Iowa AmeriCorps covers the cost of these solutions, so the homeowner doesn’t have to worry about the financial burden of the improvements.

Matt Walter, Iowa City climate action commission member and resident, had his home audited in June. He heard about the program when the city said they would be sponsoring Green Iowa AmeriCorps to conduct audits again.

“I wanted to go through the experience myself to see what we were referring people to,” Walter said.

Walter’s home was built a few years ago and he didn’t think there would be anything wrong with his home’s efficiency, but he learned that his home holds air in too well, and that adding more air circulation would help keep his home healthy, he said.

“Overall, it was a really fun, good, and informative experience,” Walter said.

Gardner said currently there have been over 560 homes that have been audited but the city is hoping to increase that number. To spread the word about this program, the city created yard signs for homeowners who had the audit done to display for free.

“As you might imagine, sometimes free programs feel too good to be true,” Gardner said. “But if someone can ask a neighbor firsthand how they benefited from the program, they might be more inclined to sign up their own home to participate.”