Energy assessments help Coloradans save energy and money
By Peter Rusin, Energy Smart Colorado and Suzie Romig, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council
For years, Steamboat Springs residents Mayling Simpson and Paul Hebert maintained their Steamboat Springs house as home base during their busy careers of international health and humanitarian aid work. When they retired and returned to Steamboat full time in 2010, they knew they needed to upgrade their house to be warmer and more comfortable to hold up to the mountain winters. The old-school construction model of the 1938 house with a drafty, open basement and a leaky attic was not working.
“We knew that we could do better in terms of making this house more energy efficient and comfortable,” Simpson said.
The first step was contacting the Energy Smart Colorado (ESC) network and hiring energy analyst Ivars Mikelsons of Greenleaf Building Performance in Oak Creek. Ivars works with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, a partner of ESC. The home assessment found many areas of air leakage and lack of insulation, with the attic and basement as the priorities.
“This audit is the only way you can know what to fix, and we did learn a lot,” said Simpson, who has a Ph.D. in medical anthropology. “When you see the infrared, you can see where the heat is escaping from the house.”
Several energy efficiency improvements were completed based on the audit recommendations, and local contractors such as New Mountain Builders were used to keep the benefits in the community:
- Air sealing gaps, cracks, and holes in the attic and around exterior switches
- Upgrading insulation in the crawl space and attic and insulated hot water pipes
- Installed a vapor barrier in the crawl space to improve air quality
- Honeycomb shades and new double-paned windows installed in living room that also improved comfort
- Lighting upgrades
With the lighting upgrades, the couple’s electricity usage decreased by 46%, and their electricity bill costs decreased by 34% for a savings of $719 in the first two years. As the heated living spaces became more air tight, roof-damaging ice dams disappeared that previously formed above poorly insulated sections. A follow-up blower door test showed a 40% decrease in air leakage after the upgrades.
“Now our house stays a steady temperature more easily. We don’t have the really big dips in winter, and floors over the crawlspace are now warm,” Simpson said. “Before the energy audit we really had no idea how and where to make the improvements that we knew we needed to make. You only see the effects, but you don’t see the causes.”
As an additional benefit, ESC helped the Simpsons get rebates from their electric co-op – the Yampa Valley Electric Association – for the LED lights and air sealing.
ESC is a non-profit working in 47 counties to provide home energy assessments as well as assistance selecting and implementing energy efficiency improvements. Home energy assessments through ESC’s network provide the data needed to reduce utility bills at the lowest possible cost and include testing propane or natural gas appliances to make sure the air you breathe is safe.
ESC serves the following parts of Colorado:
- Eagle County
- Garfield County
- Gunnison County
- Lake County
- Moffat County
- Pitkin County
- Routt County
- Summit County
- Atmos Natural Gas service territory
- Black Hills Natural Gas (formerly Source Gas) service territory
- Colorado Natural Gas service territory
Sign up for an energy assessment, possible free “quick-fix” items such as efficient lights and programmable thermostats, and ESC’s expert advice at www.energysmartcolorado.com.