Murray City, Ohio might seem an unlikely place to find a trend-setting project with the potential to change an industry. But, beginning in October 2010 and for the 14 months that followed, Murray City was home to a block-by-block energy retrofit project responsible for weatherizing three-quarters of the town’s homes.
It's part of one of the little-known achievements of President Obama’s first term, the weatherization of 1 million homes under the stimulus. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act injected $5 billion into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, a five-fold increase over the fiscal year 2008 funding level. The intent was to revive the battered construction industry and reduce utility bills for struggling low-income homeowners.
The project in Murray City, a onetime coal mining boomtown now home to less than 500 residents, took its inspiration from the nation’s energy efficiency evangelist-in-chief: Energy Secretary Steven Chu. In an op-ed published in October 2009, Chu announced a new initiative, “Retrofit Ramp Up,” whose aim was to reduce the cost of energy upgrades by focusing on whole-neighborhood building energy retrofits.