WISE Home Energy Efficiency Program

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John Richardson
Planning Manager for Sustainability
Email: jrichardson@townofchapelhill.org
Phone: 919-969-5075

Third Floor, Town Hall
405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

WISE Logo     


From March 2011 to August 2013, the Town of Chapel Hill conducted its first community-wide home energy efficiency program for residential property owners. The program, known as "Chapel Hill WISE" (worthwhile investments save energy), began as a pilot with the following goals:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Support workforce development and green jobs
  • Improve home comfort
  • Lower or mitigate utility costs
  • Create a sustainable program

Chapel Hill WISE was designed for both single-family and multifamily residential property owners interested in deep energy retrofits (those estimated to save at least 15% on energy consumption). The Town worked with home energy contractors who performed both energy audits and energy upgrades. Improvements eligible for a subsidy (portion of the total cost) included:

  • Envelope air sealing and insulation improvements
  • Duct sealing and repair
  • Outdoor thermostats for homes with heat pumps
  • HVAC upgrades
  • Hot water heater replacements

The program was made possible by two grants from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Chapel Hill was a member of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) consortium of 17 non-profit organizations, local governments and utilities across eight states and one U.S. territory. 


Metrics and Results

By the Numbers*

 Total projects completed   365 total units: 167 single-family homes; 198 multifamily units 
 Percentage of eligible homes reached      1.8% (above typical energy program performances of 1%)
 Average energy saved per project  22%
 Total annual costs saved  $96,000
 Total kilowatt hours saved  716,558
 Total therms saved  29,936
 Total metric tons of greenhouse gases avoided  665
 Greenhouse gas emissions equivalencies  105 cars off the road or 33 homes powered for one year
 Surveyed participants recommending WISE  97%


*Numbers are estimated based on work performed.


Duke Energy Pilot Incentive Program

From November 2011 to April 2012, 65 WISE program participants successfully received a Duke Energy Pilot Incentive in addition to any program subsidy. As a result of this positive collaboration, Duke Energy has now instituted a standing home energy efficiency incentive across their service territory.

Clean Energy Durham Pete Street Program

To enhance the reach of energy efficiency work in Chapel Hill, the Town selected Clean Energy Durham to provide a community-scale energy efficiency education program based on their Pete Street neighbor-to-neighbor model. Clean Energy Durham describes this approach as a method of training neighborhood volunteers to help lead neighborhood workshops that equip small groups of residents with the knowledge necessary to perform energy savings projects and behaviors in their own homes and teach these techniques to others.

  • 35 workshops with 211 attendees
  • 8 trainees conducted 17 workshops
  • 83% of surveyed workshop attendees performed energy saving projects;
  • 40% taught another person;
  • 18% performed larger projects; and
  • 95% said the program was helpful


Lessons Learned

  • Home energy efficiency is a topic that requires education and marketing. 
  • A program design structured around cost-sharing and deep retrofits may have limited reach. 
  • Programs of this kind are resource and staff intensive.
  • Neighborhood champions enhance success and nothing compares to "peer-to-peer" endorsement. 
  • Performance data is an essential component to program enhancement.   


The program described above was financed through funds available to the Town of Chapel Hill from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program under provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The views expressed above are solely those of the Town of Chapel Hill.

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