Seniors benefit from home energy improvements
Clean Energy Economy News
When winter winds blow and temperatures drop, seniors living in drafty homes feel the chill and pay the bills for the season’s high utility costs.
However, the county’s CARE program helps income-qualified seniors beat the cold with free or discounted home energy efficiency upgrades such as insulation, air sealing, windows, refrigerators and other improvements.
“They sealed this house up like you can’t believe,” said Garry Evenson, 81, of Battlement Mesa, describing work done by Building Performance Contractors. “They did a fantastic job, and I really appreciate it.”
In Rifle, a furnace tune-up and air sealing reduced Bessie Burr’s utility bill by $20 a month.
“They took care of all the cracks around my windows,” said Burr, 85, and she noticed a big difference during the heat of summer. “I didn’t even turn on my air conditioning last summer.”
CARE is a regional program of Energy Outreach Colorado that originated in Garfield County in 2015. Garfield Clean Energy and CLEER deliver CARE services locally, with additional funding from Xcel Energy, Holy Cross Energy, Black Hills Energy, Glenwood Springs Electric and the Town of Carbondale.
“When we can help people reduce their energy bills, their cost of living becomes more affordable,” said Tom Jankovsky, Garfield County’s board member for Garfield Clean Energy. “That’s especially important for seniors living on a fixed income.”
CARE helps income-qualified families of all ages, but seniors tend to have greater needs. Of the 127 households from Parachute to Carbondale helped by CLEER since the program launched in 2015, 32 are senior households.
CLEER estimates these 32 senior households are saving $18,460 per year with lower electric and natural gas bills, an average of $575 per household.
CLEER Energy Coaches Maisa Metcalf and Brandon Jones first make a free home visit, usually installing several LED light bulbs and a low-flow showerhead, and putting a tight insulating wrap on the water heater. They note other needed improvements, and arrange for professional contractors to do those jobs.
“They were very polite and concerned about my house,” said Burr. “They went into every room.”
The coaches also check for health and safety problems. Over the years, the CARE program has repaired improperly venting furnaces, unsafe entryways and broken windows.
At most homes the focus is on energy efficiency improvements, which also make a home more durable and comfortable.
Air sealing and insulation added in January 2017 has made a difference at Jim and Judy Lemon’s home on Morrisania Mesa.
“We do notice the house does not fluctuate in temperature near what it used to. We set the thermostat for 72 and it maintains. Before, it would cool down real fast,” said Jim Lemon, 72. “It’s a lot warmer during the cold season, and not quite so hot in the summer.”
In Silt, Laura Goodwin, 70, had two stubborn windows that wouldn’t close completely. Through CARE, Woodpecker Workshop repaired the windows so they operate properly and keep out the drafts.
Goodwin was also able to buy a new energy efficient refrigerator at a 50 percent discount. “There were some things wrong with the old fridge, so I really appreciated that,” she said.
North of New Castle, where Patricia and Wendell “Kim” Porter rely on a woodstove for heat, CARE provided air sealing, insulation and four new basement windows.
“The house does not take as long to heat up, and it stays warm longer. When we get up in the morning, it’s not freezing cold,” said Patricia Porter, 68. The old windows used to frost up at night, but the new ones stay clear and dry, she noted.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do it on our own,” Porter said, and she appreciated getting several projects done at one time. “When you get the whole enchilada, it’s more noticeable. It was an instant change.”
For 2018, CLEER received another grant from EOC, and Garfield Clean Energy has committed matching funds, making it possible for the CARE program to serve more Garfield County seniors and income-qualified families of all ages.
For a single person, the qualifying income is at or less than $39,040 per year. For couples, it’s $44,640. Homeowners and renters are eligible.
To find out more information and how to apply, visit the CARE page on the Garfield Clean Energy website, or contact CLEER at (970) 704-9200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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