Latest Posts

  1. 2017 Was a Big Year for Elevate Energy: Our New Annual Report Tells the Story

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    Last year was big. We expanded our impact to serve families in Illinois and nationally and we hit some major milestones along the way. Check out our annual report (and its slick, new digital format!) for some of our greatest stories and moments. We look forward to bringing the benefits of energy efficiency to even more communities in the years to come. Here’s a preview:

    The theme of this 10-year-old birthday party was $27 million in savings!

    Ameren Illinois Power Smart Pricing and ComEd’s Hourly Pricing programs turned 10! We helped bring them into the world a decade ago and administer the programs today. Together, the programs have saved more than 50,000 participants $27 million on their energy bills.

    Mike Quigley Visits Multifamily BuildingWe champion practical solutions to problems. So does U.S. Representative Mike Quigley.

    We helped building owner Jim Saccone retrofit his 19-unit building in Chicago, creating healthier, cozier homes for his tenants and reducing his operating costs. We invited U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley to tour Jim’s building to see how supporting clean energy programs can preserve healthy, affordable housing and create local jobs.

    We connect housing and health to help people meet a basic need: to breathe easier.

    Elevate Energy installed ventilation systems in 45 homes as part of a two-year study with the Illinois Institute of Technology. Poor indoor air quality can trigger asthma attacks and lead to repeated emergency room visits. Ventilation systems help circulate indoor air more efficiently, creating energy cost savings in addition to health benefits.

    Energy Education Challenge IllinoisWe pit communities against one another, in a good way.

    We organized the Energy Education Challenge, where three central Illinois towns—Mason City, Petersburg, and Virden—competed over the course of six months to learn how to conserve energy and motivate their friends and neighbors to do the same. Throughout the challenge, almost 90 events were held and over 9,000 participants total were educated on ways to save energy.

    We’re teaching the real estate industry how to sell the sun.

    With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, we developed an online course for real estate agents, appraisers, and regulators to learn how to properly value residential solar systems in growing real estate listings.

    Lower Utility Bills, More Playtime

    Energy Efficient Childcare Center

    Our nonprofit buildings program helps mission-oriented organizations dedicate more money to their services and less to utility bills. We facilitated free efficiency upgrades for Chicago Commons, a social services organization serving Chicago families for more than 120 years. Simple lighting upgrades at a childcare center in Humboldt Park and an adult services center on the south side are expected to save the organization $8,631 on electricity annually.

    We’re proud of the work we did last year and we’re inspired to do even more this year. Please check out our annual report, and stay tuned for updates in 2018!

  2. Who Won the Energy Education Challenge in Illinois: Mason City, Petersburg, or Virden?

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    Congratulations to Virden, Illinois, the winner of $22,000 in the Energy Education Challenge! The aim of the challenge was to inspire residents in three communities to educate their friends and neighbors on how to reduce energy use.

    “We’re thrilled we won first place in the challenge, this means a lot to our community. I would like to thank everybody who had anything to do with our success,” said Virden Mayor George Murphy.

    As part of the challenge, Virden held nearly 30 energy-related events with more than 1,200 total participants.

    Virden Alderman Chris Dodd was an enthusiastic participant in the challenge. “It turned out to be a great competition, everyone in the community came together,” Dodd said. “We pulled together and had a lot of support.”

    Mason City and Petersburg each also won $14,000. The six-month challenge ended late last year and awarded a total of $50,000 across the communities thanks to the support of the Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF).

    In total, more than 9,000 people attended nearly 90 energy-related events across the three communities! That’s more than the total population of the three towns combined (based on 2016 population statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau). To inspire a deeper level of involvement and learning, residents were encouraged to attend multiple events throughout the challenge, from house parties to community meetings.

    Prizes were also awarded to the most involved organizations in each community, including Virden Knights of Columbus and Virden Area Chamber of Commerce, Petersburg Merchants and Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, and Mason City Rotary and the Mason City Christian Church Manna Project.

    The Energy Education Challenge Keeps on Giving

    While Virden took the top prize, all three communities are winners. Elevate Energy facilitated the challenge to help residents understand the concepts of energy efficiency and connect these concepts to real and tangible benefits, like saving money. When people make this connection and have a clear sense of what they can do, they are more inspired to take action—like enrolling in bill savings programs or investing in improvements to their home—and to share this knowledge with others.

    Tina Williamson, a field organizer with Elevate Energy, spent a lot time with residents in Petersburg and Mason City and said that the impact doesn’t end with the challenge.

    “They were passionate about the issues and continue to work with me to learn from the information and make changes,” Williamson said. Elevate Energy is currently planning more energy events at the request of residents (including some upcoming energy house parties) long after the challenge has ended. “The competition was an amazing introduction but they see the positive benefits of continuing this work,” she said.

    Next up, Elevate Energy will facilitate a year-long challenge in new Illinois communities with the support of ISEIF.

    Want to learn more about hosting an Energy Education Challenge in your community? We can help! Get in touch with us today.

     

     

  3. Making Motor City Multifamily Housing More Affordable

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    Here’s what we know, and we know it well: When we invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and healthy housing improvements in affordable multifamily buildings, we stabilize operating costs, decrease energy use, and provide residents with a higher quality of life.

    Detroit knows this, too. Along with Elevate Energy, the Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) recently implemented a Multifamily Green Initiative (MGI) to help owners of occupied affordable multifamily properties in underdeveloped areas of Detroit make these important investments in their buildings.

    One MGI participant, Develop Detroit, is currently working to improve buildings at University Meadows in Woodbridge and at Marwood Apartments in the North End. Develop Detroit, a part of the Housing Partnership Network, is a mission-based developer with a goal to build vibrant communities through a focus on stabilizing Detroit’s historical neighborhoods and burgeoning business district.

    At the same time, Develop Detroit also recognized an all-too-common challenge: A lack of capacity and dedicated staff to evaluate their options and incorporate energy efficiency into project planning. Enter Elevate Energy, LISC, and what we all know well.

    • Laying the Ground Work: Through the Green Asset Management Planning process, we helped Develop Detroit fully articulate the value of energy efficiency investments to both their bottom line and for the tenants of their properties.
    • Savings Potential: We also conducted energy assessments for Develop Detroit’s selected properties, identifying energy efficiency, water efficiency, and solar installation options that could produce up to 47 percent savings.
    • Assistance and Action: During construction planning, we encouraged all developers to utilize BuildingClean.Org to select healthy and local building material. University Meadows was approved for financing utilizing four percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits for water and energy efficiency improvements, and a 120 KW solar system will begin construction in spring 2018.
    • Results: Through the MGI initiative, Develop Detroit is dedicated to finding ways to incorporate all aspects of green building, including energy and water efficiency and solar, in future projects.

    We look forward to continued progress from the entire MGI cohort, which includes Develop Detroit, Bridging Communities, U-SNAP-BAC, and the Preservation of Affordable Housing.

     

     

  4. Cold Hard Truths Lead to Congressional Building Tour

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    “The winter never skips Chicago.” Even with average winter temperatures in Chicago up three degrees compared to 50 years ago, building owner Jim Saccone speaks a cold hard truth.

    In Chicago, three out of four people reside in multifamily buildings. For these residents, colder winter temperatures often mean colder homes. A tenant on the top floor of one of Jim’s buildings in Logan Square had this problem; she told him that her apartment was always cold no matter what she tried.

    Jim called us for help. We conducted an energy assessment of his 19-unit, 100-year-old building and identified the issues. The building lacked insulation and air sealing in the attic space, typical of buildings of this age. We all know that hot air rises. With no thermal barrier to stop it, the heat in the top floor units rose up and out of the units and through the roof.

    We also found additional measures to reduce his operating costs and create healthier, cozier homes for his tenants. Jim’s building had an old, inefficient boiler and the building also needed upgraded lighting and water fixtures.

    “If you’re going to keep a property long-term, it makes sense to complete these energy efficiency programs, because it will save money in the long run,” Jim said. “It’s simple mathematics if you do the correct installations.”

    Local Contractors Do the Work

    At Jim’s building, Mokena-based Minnich Insulation, Inc completed the air sealing and insulation in the roof cavity, and Fewer Boiler, Inc  of Chicago replaced the old steam boiler with a modulating boiler that keeps temperatures more consistent. We also replaced fluorescent lights with energy efficient LED bulbs and installed low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators in each unit.

    Offset the Costs

    A key part of a successful energy efficiency program is to connect building owners to resources that offset the costs of the improvements. For Jim, we were able to connect him to over $22,000 in utility funded incentives for the new boiler, lighting retrofit, and water efficiency fixtures.

    He’s already seeing results. “I’ve noticed dramatic improvements in the warmth of the units” Jim said. His tenants have noticed, too. “You get a happier customer—which is your resident,” he said.

    Showcase the Work

    The improvements to Jim’s building tell an important story of how support for housing and clean energy programs preserve healthy and affordable housing and create local jobs. It was such a good story that we invited U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley to tour Jim’s building and see the benefits of energy efficiency himself. A champion of practical solutions to problems, Rep. Quigley heard directly from the owner, tenants, and contractors – beneficiaries of  policies that support energy efficiency programs.

    Is your apartment cold? While we can’t promise a local official will visit your building, we can set you on the path to a cozier, healthier home through energy and water efficiency improvements. Let your landlord know about Elevate Energy’s services.

  5. Team Building through Scrappy Art

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    For the last six months, Elevate Energy has been hard at work developing our three-year strategic plan. Always inclusive and forward-looking, our CEO Anne Evens knew it was important for the entire staff to have a role and voice in the plan to build ownership and excitement around the direction and impact of our organization.

    While a core committee did the heavy lifting, it also collaborated with staff along the way to leverage diverse insights and assess the efficacy of the strategic plan as it was being developed. This included an all-hands-on-deck strategic planning day in October in which we gathered in small groups to discuss the organization’s vision and goals.

    And, as an organization that both works hard and plays hard, our  productive morning was capped by an equally collaborative and innovative afternoon—our friends at the Rebuilding Exchange hosted a “Scraptacular” workshop at our office.

    What is a Scraptacular, you ask? Great question! It’s a clever, hands-on concept from the fantastic Rebuilding Exchange in which a group of people use reclaimed scraps of seemingly disconnected materials (think wood, carpet, tile, and construction rubble) to contribute to a larger piece.

    We wanted this larger piece to be our beloved logo. So, we set to work. At times it was a scene of intense focus, at times it was silly, as Elevators found inspiration in our city, our people, and our work, and in architecture, nature, and the abstract.  Some designs were symmetrical, others were minimalistic or quite embellished. Some incorporated our signature marigold, others used colors found in the scrap materials.

    It may sound like an odd scene, but the result was carefully planned and quite impressive: together, the circles formed a larger-than-life collage that now proudly hangs on our office wall. One Elevator enjoyed the “individual creativity under a common theme, Viva!” Another said that it, “was a small personal commitment for a bigger activity” and many mentioned that it aligned with our mission, was relaxing, highly creative, and that “glue guns are fun!”

    We like to joke that the team that gets scrappy together stays together, but, as we close 2017, we also see the workshop as a metaphor for the ethos of our organization. We all bring unique talent and perspective, but it is our cohesive drive and dedication that makes Elevate what it is and enables us to have positive impact in our communities.

    We highly recommend a Scraptacular event for your own organization or office, whether you are in the midst of heady strategic planning or just searching for a unique and rewarding team-building activity.  Get in touch with the Rebuilding Exchange to learn more about private workshops.

  6. How Cities and States Step Up to Meet Climate Goals

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    At Elevate Energy, we’re particularly excited to see multiple examples of states, cities, and committees taking action toward climate, energy, and sustainability issues.  In Illinois, the Future Energy Jobs Act demonstrates collaboration and leadership to strengthen the Illinois economy and ensure an equitable clean energy future. We also recently presented strategies to help Iowa City’s Climate Action Steering Committee put together an action plan to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. The Iowa City committee was formed in June 2017 following the current federal administration’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

    In our backyard, the City of Chicago also committed to the goals of the Paris agreement, including a 26 to 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The City is nearly halfway toward meeting that goal! Energy use in buildings represents over 70 percent of the Chicago’s current greenhouse gas emissions—improving energy efficiency in buildings will help the City meet long-term climate goals.

    DRAFT_Chicago_Energy_RatingThe City is planning to update the Energy Benchmarking Ordinance with an aim to improve the visibility and transparency of the reported information and to make it easier to understand. The proposed updates would create a new rating systems for large buildings (over 50,000 square feet) that are already required to benchmark. Buildings in compliance would receive one to four stars based on their ENERGY STAR® score. The ratings would be issued by the City and would be posted on the buildings. If adopted, the new rating system would go into effect in 2018. See the proposed mock-up at left.

    Elevate Energy’s Critical Role

    Energy benchmarking is a valuable tool to understand how buildings use energy and to identify the steps that can be taken to reduce wasted energy and lower energy costs. Elevate Energy assists communities and individuals in numerous ways, from developing and implementing full-scale ordinances like Chicago to benchmarking institutional, commercial, or residential building portfolios of one or 200 buildings to supporting multifamily building owners with compliance services. Learn more here.

    In Chicago, we’ve been supporting the City in the successful implementation of its Energy Benchmarking Ordinance since 2014. We’re proud to operate the bilingual Chicago Energy Benchmarking Help Center, which provides detailed guidance to building owners, from how to gather initial data to electronically submitting a benchmarking report. We also help the City identify and notify owners who need to comply with the ordinance and send owners a confirmation of compliance.

    Year two results or the ordinance showed a potential savings of $184 million and staggering opportunities for even greater impact. Additionally, our impressive, agile Help Center handled more than 6,000 interactions! Stay tuned for 2017 results.

     

     

  7. Illinois Residents Have Saved $27 Million on Dynamic Pricing Programs

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    iStock_000005080333MediumThere’s a lot to be excited about in the Land of Lincoln. Nearly one year ago, we celebrated the monumental passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act to strengthen the Illinois economy and our state’s clean energy future. Illinois is also home to the two largest residential dynamic pricing programs in the country, which we administer, and both of these programs just hit some major milestones:

    • ComEd’s Hourly Pricing program reached over $17 million in total savings and more than 17,000 active participants.
    • Ameren Illinois’ Power Smart Pricing program reached over $10 million in total savings and more than 11,000 active participants.

    Congratulations to all participants on these savings!

    What is dynamic pricing?

    ComEd and Ameren Illinois each offer two rate options: the standard fixed-price rate or the hourly rate.

    On the standard fixed-price rate, you pay the same price for electricity no matter when you use it, even though the price of electricity actually varies quite a bit depending on the season and the time of day.

    Dynamic pricing participants pay the hourly, market rate, so the price paid for electricity will vary hour to hour. Shifting usage to lower-priced hours can help lower your electric bills. During the approaching cooler months, for example, prices often remain below the standard fixed-price rates, and are typically lower during off-peak times, like nights and weekends. Hourly Pricing and Power Smart Pricing are designed to help you save by being smart about how and when you use energy.

    In addition to the millions of dollars of savings, dynamic pricing participants are helping their communities and the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving grid reliability.

    ComEd-RRTP-App-Dashboard-140401_screen-169x300Alexa, am I a good fit for dynamic pricing?

    Really into home automation and the latest gadgets? Dynamic pricing might be a good fit for you. Many participants are quite engaged with the programs and leverage energy-related home products, like smart thermostats, to take advantage of energy-saving opportunities. Mobile apps, enhanced alerts, and bill comparison tools also help participants check prices and access savings information.

    However, you don’t need to be a tech whiz or monitor your usage like a hawk to save. Since the hourly rate is lower than the standard rate approximately 90% of the time, you can save without lifting a finger.

    Own an electric vehicle?

    Mike and his EVWith dynamic pricing, you can slash the cost of charging your car by plugging in during off-peak or lower-priced hours.  Many EVs have scheduled charging features that allow you to set the times your car will charge. So, you can plug in when it’s convenient for you knowing your car won’t charge until a time when prices are typically lower. Read more about how EV owner Mike saved with Hourly Pricing.

    Ready to learn more?

  8. Update: The Future Energy Jobs Act Comes to Life

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    solar_jobsNearly a year ago, we celebrated the monumental passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in Illinois, the culmination of two years’ worth of work. The act strengthens the Illinois economy by taking important steps toward our state’s clean energy future.

    We’re particularly excited about FEJA’s expansion of existing utility energy efficiency programs, its emphasis on community solar, and the job training provisions that ensure low-income and environmental justice communities will benefit. While there is always more that can be done, it’s one of the most significant energy laws to pass the Illinois General Assembly, and it positions Illinois as a prominent leader in environmental progress. It also demonstrates how states can be leaders amidst the current federal administration’s rollback of climate and public health protections.

    But at a certain exciting point, celebration turns to focus. FEJA went into effect on June 17, 2017 and now we must plan for and implement the programs and projects in a way that brings real benefits and impact.

    A Strong Foundation for Implementation

    Clean-Jobs-logo-retina

    FEJA is special because of who it brought together. Elevate Energy is a member of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition that supported the compromise result, composed of Illinois businesses and organizations representing the state’s environmental, business, consumer advocate, and faith communities. The group brought diverse perspectives but coalesced around common goals of improving public health, helping consumers, bettering the environment, and creating tens of thousands of new clean jobs across the state. This shared vision empowered and mobilized the group, lending a sense of ownership to all that were involved and better ensuring FEJA’s long-term success.

    One example we’re quite proud of is how the coalition continued to leverage its momentum, effective working dynamic, and expertise to provide recommendations on program design to the Illinois Power Agency (IPA). Elevate Energy is part of the Illinois Solar for All Working Group, a subset of members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, formed to make sure that practices and policies of FEJA would maximize benefits to economically disadvantaged communities. We were among more than 70 participants and experts on environmental justice and advocacy, energy efficiency, consumer protection, business, program design, and policy.

    FEJA jobsThe Solar for All working group produced a key white paper that helped inform the IPA as it drafted the Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan, which lays out how the state will pay for and structure the projects and programs under FEJA (the plan is currently available on the IPA website). Together, we agreed on program principles to ensure high-quality implementation that actually benefits those for whom the programs are intended to serve. The principles are:

    • Affordability and accessibility
    • Community engagement
    • Sustainability and flexibility
    • Compatibility and integration

    Elevate Energy is part of other diverse working groups aiming to ensure a smooth and equitable transition to a clean energy economy. This includes the state’s utilities. For example, ComEd announced its job training implementation plan, a collaboration with six local nonprofit organizations to create a solar job training pipeline for people in traditionally underserved communities.

    What should I do?

    Of course, there is much more ahead. What can you do as FEJA comes to life? Check back here for details on new programs and ways you can participate. You can also track Illinois policy developments and sign up to receive action alerts at citizensutilityboard.org.

     

  9. On Energy Efficiency Day, We Celebrate Energy Equity

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    October 5, 2017 is the second annual national Energy Efficiency Day. We’re joining a growing network of advocates, companies, government agencies, utilities, and others who are showcasing the benefits of energy efficiency.

    What does energy efficiency mean to us?

    You’ve heard it before: Our mission is smarter energy use for all. But what exactly does this mean? Smarter energy use means we don’t have to generate as much power to meet our needs. But to us, smarter energy use is really about the “for all” – it’s about energy equity.

    • Energy equity is actual savings. We support initiatives in our backyard like the Micro Market Recovery Program, which delivers energy efficiency and water savings upgrades to families who pay a large percentage of their income on housing and utilities. The result is that they can put that money toward their future, like paying off a mortgage or saving for college. It also means more cushion for basic necessities like groceries or co-pays at the doctor.
    • Energy equity is jobs. We’ve retrofitted 32,000 apartment units and we’re expanding our vision nationwide. We support and train local contractors to more effectively market and expand their energy efficiency businesses, so that they find more work and hire more people. And we do this with an emphasis on contractor diversity. (More on this to come!)
    • Energy equity is understanding the needs of a community. To reach underserved households, we need to know more about them. So, we apply something we’re very good at—research and data—to better understand the unique barriers facing these communities. In Michigan, we quantified the energy efficiency opportunity to create a set of tools that will help Michigan bring equity into the state’s energy future.
    • Energy equity is collaboration and getting the right people in the same room. We fill an important gap for community-based organizations and affordable housing providers by providing technical assistance and program implementation. We work with governments to promote smarter energy policies that direct more investment in low-income communities.Eya Louis Energy Efficiency Day 2016
    • Energy equity is innovation. We employ community-organizing tactics like “house parties,” we connect with other industries, like real estate, and we partner with utilities to offer innovative financial tools to help people take control of energy payments. To make sure everyone has access to the benefits of a clean energy economy, like renters or condo-owners, we pilot new concepts like community solar.
    • Energy equity means charting your own story. We want you to feel empowered to choose to participate in hourly pricing programs, to adopt simple behavior changes to use less energy, or to try out neat gadgets that boost savings. We want kids and adults to really understand how to leverage the potential of the smart grid, right in their own homes.

    What drives our work is an ambitious but achievable goal: to leverage the nation’s transition to a clean energy economy to bring energy cost savings and clean energy jobs to underserved communities. But what all of this really means is people. It means designing meaningful programs that bring real benefits to you.

    Please join us in celebrating Energy Efficiency Day October 5 and every day! Learn more about Energy Efficiency Day at www.energyefficiencyday.org. Let us know what energy equity means to you—join the conversation at #EEDay2017.

     

  10. How to Schedule a Home Energy Assessment

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    You probably land in one of two camps: rejoicing the start of fall and cooler temps, or mourning the end of summer and warmer days. Whatever your seasonal inclination, now is the perfect time to prepare your home or building for Chicago winter.

    While there are many free, small things you can do today to save energy, some measures will require more planning and upfront investment. The easiest way to kick things off before cold temperatures settle in is to schedule an energy assessment of your home or building. As your advocate, Elevate Energy will help you find the best person for the job.

    Start here: Call us at 1-855-372-8377 or email us at .

    A certified analyst will use tools to measure energy loss and appliance efficiency and determine the most cost-effective measures for your home or building. A common recommendation for Chicago buildings is attic air sealing and insulation.

    What exactly is air sealing and insulation? How long will it take?building-science-3-flat-300px

    We like this description from an earlier blog post:

    What would happen if all the gaps and penetrations into the attic were sealed up so that warm air had a harder time escaping out of the house? There would be less of a vacuum created in our living areas and less cold air drawn in from windows and doors, right? Different products, like spray foam, are used to seal up the air leaks. In a typical house, a certified contractor can finish this air sealing work in less than a day with little disruption in the house. Now imagine a continuous blanket of fluffy stuff is added on top of the tightly air sealed attic floor, like a big down comforter on a bed. That is insulation. Most effective insulation now-a-days is blown in using a hose from a truck and takes just a couple hours to do a typical attic. As with the air sealing, the process is hardly disruptive to the house and is inexpensive.

    Other recommended measures may include heating system controls or replacements, pipe insulation, and low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators.

    How will I pay for the improvements?

    When deciding whether to invest in recommended measures, be sure to consider energy savings along with other benefits like decreased maintenance costs, improved comfort, and better reliability. We’ll provide guidance every step of the way and connect you to all available financing options to help offset the costs. In fact – here’s how we helped building owner Josh reduce the cost by 31 percent in his two-story Logan Square building! Some single-family homeowners may qualify for forgivable loans of up to $8000 to cover the cost of recommended home improvements. Click here to see if you’re eligible.

    What if I rent?

    Reside in an apartment? You’re in popular company – did you know that three out of four Chicagoans live in a multifamily building? If you’re not in control of some of the measures at your building but are interested in making your unit cozier this winter, please pass our name on to your property manager or building owner. They can reach out to us anytime to learn more about reducing energy costs in their rental properties to help keep housing affordable in our neighborhoods.

    Call us at 1-855-372-8377 or email us at . Click here to download an info sheet.