Collage of EnergySmart Schools and Rebuilding Together logos

Rebuilding Together Energy Teams

Each year in April, EETD participates in Rebuilding Together's work of improving the homes of low-income, elderly and handicapped residents. (Rebuilding Together used to be known as Christmas in April.)

Rebuilding Together's mission is "to preserve and revitalize houses and communities, assuring that low-income homeowners, from the elderly and disabled to families with children, live in warmth, safety, and independence. In partnership with communities, our goal is to make a sustainable impact."

Every April, volunteers come together under the aegis of local Rebuilding Together affiliates to spend a weekend working on the homes of chosen residents, as well as on local community centers serving the elderly, and children. An organization or business sponsors a house, and recruits a team of volunteers to work on that house during the work weekend, painting, making repairs, adding disabled access, and doing whatever other work the house needs to made safer and more comfortable.

In the late 1990s, a Berkeley Lab Post-Doctoral scholar, Lisa Gartland, founded Rebuilding Together's Energy Teams, thanks to funding from a U.S. Department of Energy Rebuild America partnership. Energy Teams now are a part of many Rebuilding Together regional organizations.

Berkeley Lab and Energy Teams

Many Berkeley Lab employees volunteer each year for local Energy Efficiency Teams, which travel from house to house installing energy and water efficiency measures such as hot water heater blankets, weather stripping and low-flow showerheads and faucets.

This work takes place on the Saturday in April of the work weekend, Preliminary and finish work also happens during weekends before and after the April work weekend.

Berkeley Lab staff typically work in homes in the East Bay (Oakland, Albany-Berkeley-Emeryville, or San Francisco. Volunteer recruitment usually begins around February or March.

How Energy Teams Work

Energy Teams consist of teams of about four to five people each who go from house to house during the work day (or perhaps at other times), and install energy and water efficiency measures in each house. One team can visit about four or five houses. Typically, the measures installed include:

  • Replace incandescent with CFLs.
  • Replace existing faucets and showerheads with water-saving versions.
  • Caulk around windows and other cracks in the walls.
  • Install weatherstripping around doors.
  • Install programmable thermostats (after checking with the owner).
  • Cleaning out refrigerator coils.
  • Installing foam pads behind switch and outlet covers.

Larger jobs, such as adding insulation to ceilings, are usually referred to a program run by the City of Berkeley for weatherizing low-income homes.

Some energy efficiency work is done by the in-place house teams—for example, replacing an old hot water heater with a new one, adding a modern HVAC system, or installing new windows will result in improved energy efficiency, even though the work may be done for other reasons. Tasks at this scale are too large to be performed by the Energy Teams.

Organization

Running the Energy Teams requires to people, and some advance work. The major tasks are as follows:

Work planning

  • Examine energy needs surveys received from House Captains to determine what is needed at each house.
  • Call House Captains.
  • Visit houses if necessary.
  • Compile a list by house of needed work.

Volunteers

  • Recruit Energy Team volunteers—typically, we need 15 to 20 people.
  • Organize a meeting or a demonstration at someone's house, to demonstrate tasks.
  • Keep them informed about work day, tools needed, where to meet, etc.

Supplies

  • Inventory supplies on hand.
  • Purchase supplies needed.

Logistics

  • Prepare maps of house locations to hand out to teams.
  • Distribute the energy needs surveys of houses to teams.
  • Typically, one team of four to five people visits four to five houses or community centers.
  • Arrange for photography of some of the work (for publicity purposes).
  • Thank volunteers afterward by email.

For more information about Rebuilding Together, visit their websites.

Read reports of some past years' local Energy Team activities.

  • Lab Volunteers Bring Energy to Rebuilding Together (2003)
  • Christmas in April Energy Teams Get Results (2000)
  • Lab Volunteers Bring Energy Efficiency to Community Home Improvement Effort (1999)