Grand Junction couple takes comfort in winning home energy makeover contest

Ruth Michels has noticed the difference sealing, insulation and other measures can make not only in reducing utility bills, but also increasing comfort in her home.

“I can’t believe how comfortable we are now. Our home is so well sealed and insulated that when I woke up the other night, our furnace wasn’t even running and the thermostat was still above our night temperature setting,” says Michels, who along with her husband, Robert, were the winners of an energy makeover contest sponsored by Xcel Energy.

The Grand Junction couple was among two winners selected from more than 4,500 Xcel customers in Colorado who applied for the makeover and 10 finalists who received home energy audits. A home in Wheat Ridge also was selected for a makeover.

The Michels have made a lot of changes in their home over the years to reduce their energy bills. They’ve installed new windows and a stucco exterior. They’ve also replaced the stove and refrigerator with more efficient appliances.

But the energy audit revealed a number of additional improvements were needed, including duct work, insulation, new window coverings and weather stripping.

“We’ve always believed in energy conservation and have done improvements on our own, but we knew we could do more,” Ruth Michels said. “When we were announced as a finalist, we were shocked to learn our house was not only leaking energy, it was a sieve.”

As contest winners, the Michels received an energy makeover valued at more than $10,000, including attic venting, cellular window blinds, an Energy Star-rated furnace, insulation, lighting improvements and sealing.

One purpose of the contest is to show other homeowners the kinds of steps they can take to increase energy efficiency and reduce costs. “Many homeowners believe that they have no control over their energy bills. However, energy related home improvements can save homeowners money every month,” said Tracey Fergerson of Xcel Energy.

Xcel offers home energy audits for as little as $60. Contracted professionals conduct the audits to identify ways to improve efficiency and help homeowners develop priorities and a plan of action.