The South Hills community in Pendleton, Ore., is in the process of installing energy-efficient window upgrades, with assistance from Energy Trust of Oregon incentives.
E.J. Harris Photography The South Hills community in Pendleton, Ore., is in the process of installing energy-efficient window upgrades, with assistance from Energy Trust of Oregon incentives.

In the two years since landlord Nate Brusselback purchased South Hills Apartments in Pendleton, Ore., a series of cash incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon have enabled him to install energy-efficient window upgrades across the property’s 80 units.

Brusselback owns four multifamily properties in and around Pendleton, a rural town of 16,000 located 40 miles south of Walla Walla, Wash. Built in 1977, South Hills had come to Brusselback with single-pane aluminum windows in the residential units. So far, working unit by unit as they become vacant, he and his team have replaced about half of these windows with highly efficient vinyl-frame upgrades, each with a U-value of 0.30.

“It seemed like a no-brainer upgrade from my perspective,” says Brusselback. “It’s a win-win for me and the tenants. I’m getting help paying for it, they’re getting a superior product, they’re probably going to stay longer, and they’re going to have lower power bills.”

Based on his estimates, the Energy Trust of Oregon’s incentives will cover about one-third of the total cost of his project—or about $10,000 altogether. This will ultimately save South Hills residents a collective $4,430 on their annual utility bills and improve their day-to-day comfort as well.

The Energy Trust of Oregon, an independent nonprofit founded in 2002, is funded by Oregon’s five investor-owned gas and electric utilities to provide incentives for energy-efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects across property and project types—residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural.

“Oregon had a commitment to energy efficiency and wanted to make sure that it was funded consistently,” says Susan Jowaiszas, marketing lead for energy programs at the Energy Trust of Oregon. So far, the organization has provided $1.7 billion in incentives across all project types, which is estimated to save its partners $2.7 billion in energy bills.

In the multifamily sector alone, the Energy Trust has provided $30 million in incentives for 12,000 properties, supporting upgraded HVAC systems, weatherization, water heating, lighting, and appliances.

“Reducing maintenance costs can be a huge benefit for the properties, and it also enhances the value of those properties,” says Kate Wellington, program manager with the Energy Trust of Oregon. “A lot of these upgrades can have a pretty quick return on investment, which frees up that money to put back into other unit upgrades or other capital improvements.”

Brusselback has been able to retrofit most of his multifamily properties with energy-efficient windows through Energy Trust of Oregon incentives. “We can get a fair bit more rent for a unit that has upgraded windows,” Brusselback says. “The aluminum [windows] sweat during the winter, so they get a little moisture around the outside. They get dingy and moldy, and when you put in a new one it just gets lighter, brighter… it has a different feel.”

While the organization only serves projects in Oregon (and select clients in southwest Washington state), Jowaiszas notes that a few states have similar incentive programs. Some are funded by state utilities, which property owners can reach out to for information on similar incentives.

“If other properties are interested and want to do something, there are places to go that are accessible and typically attached to a utility in some way,” Jowaiszas says. “Either the way we are, funded through rate-payer dollars from our partner utilities, or delivered from the utility itself through their structure. There’s a lot of resources out there for multifamily property managers.”