94 Rifle families will be warmer this winter | PostIndependent.com

94 Rifle families will be warmer this winter

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News
The weatherization project at Rifle Creek Apartments benefits 94 families, the apartment building owner, and two local businesses working on the project. From left are Ronnie De La Garza, Laura Brown and her daughters Madison and Hayden, property manager Kim Krelovich, and the air sealing crew with Building Performance Contractors, Chris Gottschalck, Ian Rice and company owner Rich Backe.
Photo by Kelley Cox |

This year, Laura Brown is looking forward to the cold winter weather. Her apartment building at Rifle Creek Apartments has just been weatherized through a special project organized by Garfield Clean Energy, and she expects her place to be cozy and the electric bills to be a lot lower.

“Just in the past month, my electric bill was down by $40,” said Brown, who has lived at Rifle Creek since July 2014. She runs the air conditioning just in the morning, and the upstairs apartment stays cool all day. Before the weatherizing, the AC was on all day.

The project is weatherizing all 94 units in the Rifle Creek Apartments complex in north Rifle, providing air sealing and insulation to help residents cut energy costs and enjoy more comfortable homes.

The Rifle Creek Apartments weatherization is a special project within the 2015 Home Energy Program, a partnership effort by Garfield Clean Energy, CLEER, Energy Outreach Colorado and Xcel Energy,

Prior to the Rifle Creek project, the 2015 Home Energy Program provided free home energy visits, weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades for 39 income-qualified families and seniors living in mobile homes and houses across Garfield County.

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For the countywide program, Holy Cross Energy and SourceGas also provided funding for their customers, and the town of Carbondale provided additional funding for its residents.

Energy upgrades to the 39 homes are valued at $126,000, and residents are expected to save $21,600 on their utility bills every year.

As the Home Energy Program wrapped up, Xcel Energy and Energy Outreach Colorado suggested a special follow-up project. Xcel Energy was looking for all-electric homes occupied by income-qualified families, where insulation and air sealing would reduce electric demand winter and summer.

“Energy Outreach contacted us because we already had the Home Energy Program going,” said Maisa Metcalf, energy consultant for CLEER and manager of the Home Energy Program.

CLEER manages programs for Garfield Clean Energy, which is a nine-member partnership of Garfield County, its six towns, Colorado Mountain College and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

Metcalf and Luke Ilderton of Energy Outreach Colorado met with the Rifle Creek Apartments manager on Aug. 3.

“The building owner’s biggest concern was out-of-pocket costs,” Metcalf said. “Since the residents qualified for the Home Energy Program, Xcel would cover all the costs.”

In addition to helping families save on electric bills, the Rifle Creek project will help Xcel meet its statewide goals for energy efficiency among residential customers.

“Adding 94 homes to the Home Energy Program is exciting. We are really making a difference for a lot of families and seniors,” said Metcalf.

“When people have lower gas and electric bills, they can buy groceries, medication or go out to dinner, “ she added. “It improves the local economy.”

For the Rifle Creek Apartments project, Xcel Energy is paying for the work under a $138,000 contract with Building Performance Contractors of Carbondale and West Valley Insulation of Silt.

“Most of these units are more than 40 years old. They had floor insulation, but a lot of it had fallen down,” said Rich Backe, owner of Building Performance Contractors. “We are adding insulation in the crawl space and the attic. We’re also finding air leaks around windows and doors, in outlets and the electric panels, around light fixtures, the fireplaces and along the baseboards.”

Backe said air sealing is essential to make the insulation effective. “Without air sealing, it’s like having an insulated cup with a hole in it. Your coffee will be warm, but it’s all going to drain out.”

His crew of four is going from unit to unit, setting up what’s called a blower-door test. It’s a high-volume fan mounted in a vinyl sheet that covers an entire doorway. The fan blows inside air outward to depressurize the home. An infrared camera then detects where air is leaking in from outdoors and from the unheated crawl space and attic.

“We also use digital technology — our fingers and hands. You can just reach up and feel where the air is flowing,” Backe said. His crew goes after those spots with caulk and spray foam.

Work started at Rifle Creek Apartments on Sept. 1 and will wrap up by mid-October.

West Valley Insulation’s crew is working on the 11 buildings in the complex off and on during the same six-week period.

Laura Brown is the office manager for West Valley Insulation along with being a Rifle Creek Apartments resident. “We are installing insulation in the attics and crawl spaces. It is nice to have a local company doing this work,” Brown said.

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