Home energy visits improving lives | PostIndependent.com

Home energy visits improving lives

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News
Rob Norville shows the new insulation wrapping on his family’s hot water heater, which will help the heater operate on less energy. CLEER energy coaches are wrapping hot water heaters and making other energy efficiency upgrades through the 2015 Home Energy Program. The program is helping income-qualified households reduce their energy bills.
Kelley Cox / Provided photo |


For information on the 2015 Home Energy Program, visit GarfieldCleanEnergy.org or call CLEER at 970-704-9200.

Four months after putting out the call for income-qualified households to sign up for the 2015 Home Energy Program, CLEER’s energy coaches have visited 27 homes, with another seven homes scheduled for the coming weeks.

“They have been a lifesaver for me,” said Phyllis Billmeyer, 61, of Rifle. CLEER’s energy coaches installed a programmable thermostat, applied foam insulation and insulated the hot water heater in her 30-year-old manufactured home.

“They were just so nice,” Billmeyer said of the coaches. “They even left me the foam and more light bulbs if I needed them.”

The coaches also spotted the need for new windows, and arranged for Energy Efficiency Solutions, a local contractor, to order the windows and install them in the coming weeks.

In Battlement Mesa, the coaches installed 20 new energy-efficient light bulbs for Lavelle and Chuck Bottineau. The new lights over the kitchen stove made the biggest difference, said Lavelle, with their bright, steady light.

The coaches also installed a tiny LED nightlight in the bathroom, wrapped the hot water heater, and installed faucet aerators and a programmable thermostat. And they lined up contractors to replace a broken-down back door, tune up the furnace and install a new, energy-efficient refrigerator.

Lavelle, 76, and Chuck, 81, knew the back door of their mobile home needed help. The energy coaches spotted other opportunities, and explained to the couple how home improvements also reduce utility bills and make a home more comfortable.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Lavelle.

For the 2015 Home Energy Program, CLEER Energy Coaches Maisa Metcalf, Matt Shmigelsky and Shelley Kaup are spending one or two days each week visiting homes from Battlement Mesa to Carbondale.

During the 90-minute visit, they install light bulbs and thermostats, insulate hot water heaters and hot water pipes, apply caulk and foam to air leaks, and assess each home for other needed upgrades.

Follow-up improvements for these households have included insulation and air sealing, furnace tune-ups, new doors or windows, new refrigerators and new hot water heaters. Upgrades vary depending on needs of each home and available funding from the energy utilities serving that community.

The visits and upgrades come at no cost to these Garfield County households, thanks to a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, rebates from Xcel Energy, SourceGas and Holy Cross Energy, funding from the town of Carbondale for town residents, and additional support from Garfield Clean Energy.

The combined funding will cover services for 27 households countywide, and 30 additional homes in Carbondale. CLEER and Garfield Clean Energy are seeking additional money to continue the program, as the waiting list grows.

Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), a statewide organization that helps low-income families and seniors deal with high utility bills, is a key partner in the Home Energy Program. EOC reviews each household’s income and family size to determine whether they qualify. The agency has also provided some back-up funds for unusual problems, such as one hazardous situation the coaches discovered where a furnace was being vented into the attic, not to the outside.

“We are always looking for health and safety issues in addition to helping households save energy,” said Metcalf, who is managing the 2015 Home Energy Program for CLEER.

Rob Norville, 34, of New Castle teaches environmental science at Glenwood Springs High School. He and his wife, Victoria, and their two daughters live in a 35-year-old townhouse that has no cooling system and electric baseboards for heat. Their electric bills can reach $170 in the winter.

For the Norvilles, CLEER’s energy coaches installed light bulbs, faucet aerator and showerhead, and insulated the water heater and hot water pipes. But it was obvious the home needed insulation, air sealing and a new refrigerator.

“It’s a two-story home, and it can get pretty hot at night in the summer,” said Norville. The insulation and air sealing, installed in May, will keep their home cool in summer and warm in winter. A new refrigerator is expected to arrive later in June.

As a science teacher, Norville said he has always been interested in energy efficiency.

“Some of the little things, like air sealing, I had thought about doing, but didn’t know how to do myself,” he said. Having professionals come in and do a thorough job, at no cost to his family, made a big difference.

“I would recommend it to anyone looking to do some upgrades who might need some help, both technical and financial. CLEER has been really helpful,” said Norville.

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