Even 1890s buildings can be made energy efficient | PostIndependent.com

Even 1890s buildings can be made energy efficient

Suzie Romig Special to the Post IndependentSavage Land Co. office manager Joanie Hibdon points out the foam insulation added to exposed hot water pipes in the century-old building's basement storage area. Pipe insulation prevents heat loss as hot water moves through the building from the water heater to the tap.

RIFLE, Colorado – Contractor Sally Brands already knows a thing or two about building for energy efficiency. Her company has built tight, well-insulated homes with six-inch framed walls for many years, and she completed an Energy Star home in fall 2008.

But it wasn’t until she heard a presentation explaining the Garfield Clean Energy Challenge for Business that she thought about how improved insulation and other efficiency measures might decrease her own business’s energy bills.

“I’ve always been very aware, but it just hadn’t dawned on me that there was much we could with that building until we started thinking about putting insulation in the roof,” said Brands, owner of Savage Land Co.

With offices in a circa 1896 building in downtown Rifle, Savage Land is one of more than 45 businesses between Parachute and Carbondale participating in the Garfield Clean Energy Challenge for Business, organized by Garfield Clean Energy and administered by Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER).

Xcel Energy contractors Long Energy Solutions did a commercial energy audit on the building last year. The audit yielded prioritized suggestions for energy efficiency improvements with cost estimates.

“This was a very well done, very specific audit,” Brands said. “They looked all over, looked at energy bills and usage, and were able to quantify things.”

Brands knew her 115-year-old building on Railroad Avenue, the former Rifle House hotel, would be an energy challenge. The brick walls are a foot thick, and the upstairs includes six affordable dorm-style apartments.

Brands had already installed double-paned windows in the building and replaced some old-style steam radiators, but she wasn’t sure how much else could be done.

“The audit really came up with some specific recommendations that I could look at,” Brands said. “It gave me a place to start.”

Insulation was blown into the attic. Tubes of dense foam insulation were wrapped around the many feet of exposed hot water pipe.

Brands said tenants on the top floor had complained about the heat in the summer, but the ceiling insulation is making a big difference this year. In fact, the insulation is keeping occupants much cooler while saving roughly $100 per month in air conditioning costs.

Lighting was retrofitted with more efficient ballasts. Energy experts say replacing T-12 lamps and magnetic ballasts with T-8 lamps and electronic ballasts can save 30 percent on electricity, improve light quality, and extend the lives of the bulbs.

“All of our lights were already fluorescent, but they were 20 years old,” Brands said. “I had not paid much attention to the fact that you could have more high efficiency ballasts. I didn’t know it would offer that much savings.”

The cost of the work totaled $6,282, with $4,594 in rebates coming from Garfield Clean Energy.

After the energy efficiency upgrades were completed in October 2010, the red brick building is realizing savings on energy bills of up to $273 a month. Brands advises business owners to take advantage of other types of rebates as well, which is especially important during the economic downturn.

Xcel Energy, for example, offers rebates for business customers who install high efficiency lighting ballasts. The ballasts must meet Xcel efficiency specifications. More information is available under the “Find a Rebate” section at http://www.xcelenergy.com.

Businesses across Garfield County can still sign up for the Garfield Clean Energy Challenge. Those that participate get access to CLEER energy coaches who help business owners and managers maximize utility rebates, including Garfield Clean Energy rebates. Go to http://www.garfieldcleanenergy.org for more information.

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