The owners of a downtown Rifle building who didn't expect to see much of a change in their building's energy efficiency through the installation of better insulation have had a pleasant surprise.
East Third Professional LLC, a 6,000-square-foot, single-story 1898 office building, saw its natural gas use go down by about 44 percent last winter, after the building got an extra layer of insulation while the roof was being replaced last year.
"The numbers for our gas use are much lower," said Tracey Langhorne, who manages East Third Professional for its three owners (her husband, Michael Langhorne, Chris Manera and Jeff Johnson). "That was very noticeable."
Between December 2010 and May 2011, the East Third Professional building burned through 1,498 "therms" of natural gas for heating. A therm is a unit of heat energy, roughly the same amount of heat produced by burning 100 cubic feet of natural gas. After the insulation was added in October 2011, and during the same portion of the year (December 2011 to May 2012), natural gas use in the building dropped a whopping 991 therms, a cost savings of more than $452.
"We are really happy with it," Tracey Langhorne said. "Any time you can save, it's worth doing."
Ironically, the huge savings in natural gas came about because of other energy efficiency efforts going on at the building.
According to Langhorne, East Third Professional's adventures in natural gas efficiency started when she got a postcard from a local contractor regarding light bulbs. The card noted that T-12 lights were "going away, and that we'd no longer be able to buy the bulbs," she said.
On June 30, new ballast efficiency standards mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency went into effect, halting the manufacture of most models of the T-12 lamps that used the ballasts. Savvy contractors, well aware of the upcoming ban and the available rebates, started getting the word out to potential customers.
"I'd also been reading that Garfield Clean Energy had rebate money," Langhorne said. "So we thought it'd be a good time to replace the lights because we could save some money."
In May 2011, Rifle Electric replaced 14 T-12 fixtures and fluorescent lamps with T-8 lamps. The job cost $1,950, but working with Erica Sparhawk, program manager at CLEER, which manages Garfield Clean Energy's programs, Langhorne and East Third Professional were able to secure a rebate of $1,062 from Garfield Clean Energy and a rebate of $498 from Xcel Energy.
According to Langhorne, the new retrofitted lighting was only in part of the building, because the primary lights had already been converted during prior remodels.
This small lighting upgrade is "She did so much of the process for us. She knew the [rebate] system, which was really nice. And she had the contacts. Erica knew what she was doing. We were going to have to replace the roof anyway. It was a real bonus getting those funds toward the insulation."
Langhorne said East Third Professional's owners hope to make other improvements when their budget allows, but for now, she's pleased with the results. East Third Professional's occupants are a little more comfortable now that cold drafts have been sealed up on the roof and they are saving about $500 a year.
"It's a great example of a business taking advantage of a capital improvements - in this case a new roof - to make some changes and add insulation, remove old rooftop units to reduce air leakage, and make energy savings happen," Sparhawk said.