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Success Story

Helping Oregonians stay safe and cool during sweltering weather

As extreme heat events continue to pose a significant challenge for Oregon’s communities, Energy Trust is exploring new ways to help keep people safe and comfortable when temperatures soar.

“There’s an urgent need to help the growing number of Oregonians who live in less energy-efficient housing and can’t afford to install cooling equipment,” said Ryan Crews, Energy Trust senior residential program manager.

For many years, Energy Trust has offered cash incentives for high-efficiency central air conditioners, as well as ducted and ductless heat pumps that deliver energy-efficient cooling and heating. Since 2002, Energy Trust has helped customers install more than 53,000 systems.

That’s why Energy Trust is also developing innovative approaches to bring cooling benefits to Oregonians who are hardest hit by extreme heat. Leveraging long-term relationships with community-based organizations and state agencies, Energy Trust is uniquely positioned to build programs for those who are most vulnerable to high heat events.

Under a new Energy Trust pilot program, customers at or below 60% of Oregon’s median income can get a ductless heat pump at no cost, giving them the benefits of energy-efficient cooling in summer, lower heating costs in winter and comfort year-round. Energy Trust works with community-based organizations that have relationships with residents and can walk them through the process.

When Ignacio Rauda worked with community partner organization Verde to install a ductless heat pump in his North Portland home, it made an immediate difference in the summer heat and lowered his energy bills when the heating season arrived.

“The day after they installed the ductless heat pump, the temperature rose to 100 degrees. But on that super-hot day, it was very cool inside when I got home,” he said.

The Landlord Provided Cooling Space Initiative is another new program serving at-risk Oregonians. Following 2021’s deadly heat wave, Oregon lawmakers passed legislation to reduce the risk of heat-related deaths, kicking off a statewide effort to provide cooling at or near multifamily properties without in-unit cooling.

Through part of that legislation, Energy Trust now helps property managers install cooling equipment in multifamily common areas in buildings where installing cooling in individual units is not feasible. Property managers of multifamily housing and manufactured home parks receive cash rebates covering up to 100% of the cost of portable or nonportable cooling equipment placed in common areas.

The initiative helps vulnerable populations, including those living in tribal housing, affordable multifamily housing, nonprofit-managed multifamily housing, senior housing, agricultural workforce housing and manufactured home parks.

Lastly, to help more low-income homeowners and renters better cope with brutal heat, Energy Trust funds no-cost cooling workshops delivered by community-based organizations. Participants receive free kits and information on how to create less heat indoors, cool their homes without air conditioning, identify and prevent heat-related illness and lower their energy bills.