Among the many innovative programs that Peninsula Clean Energy offers its customers in San Mateo County is its Healthy Home Connect program. It’s designed to assist struggling families in San Mateo County not only with energy-efficiency issues that call for such improvements as new insulation, weather stripping and window replacement, but with health-related concerns as well. Your home could literally be making you ill. Health-related “triggers” such as poor ventilation, rodent infestation and leaking roofs can set off a host of ailments, including asthma, headaches and fatigue. To compound the problem, an unhealthy house affects the most vulnerable – the elderly and children. Peninsula Clean Energy funds Healthy Home Connect in partnership with PG&E and local, state and federal agencies. The result is free home repair for qualified customers. “We really get into the health of the house, that’s where we have to concentrate in our community, especially for fixed-income and low-income (homeowners)” says Joaquin Narvaez, green programs manager with El Concilio, a community nonprofit dedicated to improving quality of life for the underserved. It’s contracted by Peninsula Clean Energy to help run Healthy Home Connect. “People’s houses are deteriorating along with their health,” Narvaez adds. “We want to fix that, and our goal is to expand the program at least county-wide and maybe state-wide.” The Healthy Home Connect process is straightforward, involving an interview with the homeowner and a detailed house inspection.
“We get information about any mold or plumbing issues, what the air inside the house is like, the year the house was built, if the homeowner lives near an industrial area or a freeway, if they have any health issues when they’re at home,” Narvaez says. The gathered data are analyzed using the Hayward Score, a tool used to assess health-impactful problems in a home and to develop recommendations for repairing and/or replacing items involved. “The results from the Hayward Score give us our direction for making health-related improvements to the house,” Narvaez says. “Does it need exhaust fans for the air environment? Does the carpeting need replacing?” Franklin Energy of Oakland is another Peninsula Clean Energy contractor involved in Healthy Home Connect. “We manage the relationship between those getting the work done in the field and Healthy Home Connect, tailored around helping these residents eliminate health triggers and create healthier homes,” says Franklin Energy senior technical services manager Russell Bayba. “The health aspect is really important and can be a bigger concern than just reducing energy use,” he adds. That’s something Florence Jordan appreciates. She’s a senior citizen and widow living alone in an East Palo Alto house built in the 1950s. Her main issue was a rodent infestation. Workers replaced the vent coverings underneath and on the outside of the house, including the eaves. They also replaced her water heater, added weather stripping to the windows and doors, and repaired leaky faucets. “I’m very appreciative, you don’t know how much,” she says. “I talked with (the workers) and they seemed to like what they do – helping people.”