This past summer, 12 interns had a unique experience through a grant from the Hawai'i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), given to the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM)--both institutes of the University of Hawai'i. As an adjunct to the Maui Smart Grid Pilot Project, which had volunteers from 80-plus Maui Meadow's homes, interns offered free energy audits to 36 volunteers who signed up for this opportunity.
"HNEI is pleased with the success of this program that shows how introducing smart grid technologies can promote green jobs on Maui," said James Griffin of HNEI about the energy audit program. "The interns received valuable training as Home Energy Survey Professionals and helped Maui Smart Grid Project volunteers reduce energy use in their homes."
John Bendon of Green Building LLC, a local training and consulting firm specializing in clean energy and energy efficiency, trained the interns in home energy auditing in a 10-day Home Energy Survey Professional (HESP) and supervised them in the field.
"There is a lot to learn when we start thinking about our buildings as whole systems and how the parts work together," said Bendon. "Past certification trainings in Hawai'i have included some hands-on components, but not to the scale as was done with the Smart Grid project. The ability for participants to have supervised audits on a wide variety of houses is something that really helps to solidify concepts from the classroom."
After passing a nationally recognized exam, the interns each conducted energy audits on four to six homes to identify strategies to lower energy use and cost. Working in teams of two, they monitored equipment, noted appliance efficiency and looked for structural ways to improve comfort and energy use. Their findings were presented to the homeowners in a 25-plus-page report, with recommendations for upgrades and improvements.
"The training was great," said Stamati Stamatiou, "but applying what had previously just been theory helped give me the practical knowledge of how to employ the theory. I now feel confident in my ability to start my own energy auditing company, and to work with homeowners to reduce their kWh use and save money."
"I now look at a room with new eyes," said intern Ivy Waller. "I see the light bulbs and fixtures, the power strips, the appliances. How much natural ventilation is possible? Is the western sun heating up the inside of the house? I feel confident I could walk into most Maui homes and offer suggestions for improvements."
"The students had the unique opportunity to use their training to immediately gain experience in the real world," said SLIM Executive Director Jennifer Chirico. "We are grateful to HNEI for supporting local workforce development at UHMC. As a result, some students plan to use their recently learned skills by starting their own energy auditing companies to help Maui residents manage their energy use and costs."
Best of all, one of the homeowners who received an energy audit, Alfre Wolf, commented, "The report was very complete and extensive, touching on all aspects of my energy use. The recommendations it made are practical and useful, and I am implementing them."