HPM gifts energy saving retrofits for Claremonters

Claremont’s Community Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP) is getting a little help as it looks to outfit 10 percent of Claremont homes with energy saving retrofits.

Home Performance Matters (HPM), a Claremont-based home performance contractor, is helping out its sustainable counterpart with the recently debuted “HPM and Friends Give Back campaign”—providing an all expenses paid home energy audit and retrofit to those in need.

The company began work this week on their first gifted installation—an estimated $10,000 retrofit, complete with LED lighting, donated to Claremont resident Margaret Aichele (in photo), a single mom, volunteer and executive director of the dA Center for the Arts.

The news was a complete shock to Ms. Aichele, who thought she was having a meeting with HPM president Andrew Durben to discuss a home energy audit. She remembers feeling nervous when he asked her how much she could realistically afford.

“I didn’t want to offend him,” she explained, knowing that while energy efficiency was a priority to her, she was certain she couldn’t realistically afford the price tag.

Ms. Aichele moved to Claremont in 2007 to take up her current post with the dA arts center. She had made the trek from Jupiter, Florida, where she had worked with another arts-based nonprofit called Lighthouse Center for the Arts. She helped teach art education to migrant workers. After an extensive search, Ms. Aichele bought her south Claremont home because it was cheap and she thought it would be a good investment after several personal struggles.

Though she and her 11-year-old daughter, Merry, had found a place to call home, they hadn’t necessarily found the comforts they figured would come with it. Their 1950s-era dwelling was bare bones and lacking basic insulation, making the summer months unbearable and cold days uncomfortable.

“On winter mornings you wake up and can see your breath in the middle of the room,” Ms. Aichele said. Though better insulating the house was always a priority, it wasn’t financially feasible.

She began attending free HPM seminars at Sycamore School in hopes of gleaning advice from the experts, and ended up becoming “a groupie,” she jokes. She may not have had the funds to afford the improvements, but always held out the hope.

After attending so many HPM meetings, Ms. Aichele became friends with Mr. Durben, who found out just how bad her home was after conducting a home energy audit. He noted she would be a great candidate for a grant from the city of Claremont, but Ms. Aichele had unfortunately missed the deadline. It would take another year before she could re-apply.

“Her attic had absolutely no insulation, the ducts were leaking, it was bad,” Mr. Durben reflected. “I was inspired by what she does for a living and it bothered me knowing that she would have to go through another summer in that house and, on a nonprofit salary, wouldn’t be able to afford the retrofit. I wanted to find some way to help her.”

Building a better business

Mr. Durben has never forgotten the days HPM functioned from the garage of his Claremont home, just him and a couple friends looking to take his career in energy efficient home performance to the next level. Mr. Durben began his own venture at the suggestion of former employer Devon Hartman, co-founder of CHERP.

While business has allowed them to upgrade their digs to a building in Montclair, their roots remain in Claremont. Forming HPM and Friends Give Back was a way Mr. Durben and crew felt they could say thank you to the community that helped them get started.

The idea for the campaign was inspired by Start Something That Matters, written by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of Toms Shoes. The booming shoe company functions under one guiding principle: for every pair of shoes purchased, one pair is donated.

“Giving back makes work more enjoyable,” said Dan Moncayo, HPM’s director of operations, who brought up the idea of a give back campaign to his co-workers. They loved the idea.

HPM’s contractors have stepped up to make the program possible. For every 50 insulations performed, Mountain Fiber Insulation donates one free insulation. For every 55 Water heaters sold, Thompsons Plumbing Supply will donate a heater free of charge. The same goes for the products and services of JPL Ducting, Day and Night Heating & Cooling Products, Light Bulbs, Etc. and Winco, which are all a part of the give back campaign.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” Mr. Durben noted.

Crews continued their work on Wednesday morning, installing insulation into the walls of the home and fitting the home with all LED light fixtures, as Ms. Aichele watched on. Though outwardly poised, Ms. Aichele remains blown-away by the whirlwind of activity in her home. It was just 10 days ago she was told she was receiving the retrofit.

“It’s always been a dream,” she said.

The HPM team hopes the upgrade to Ms. Aichele’s home is just one of many the company will be able to provide to those unable to afford the comforts of home. Those interested in being considered for the program can contact Home Performance Matters at info@homeperformancematters.com or call 992-3214.

—Beth Hartnett



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