Home energy audit rebates extended

Phil Castle,The Business Times: 

Kristin Winn discovered it’s not only the big renovations that improve home energy efficiency, but also the little things.

With a new roof, windows and siding, Winn believed less electricity and natural gas would be required to keep her 32-year-old Grand Junction home comfortable.

But after participating in a project offering discounted home energy audits, Winn found out that other, less significant changes would help as well. Some additional blown insulation was installed, as were new thermostats and a more efficient and quiet dishwasher. A side arm captures heat from a cast iron boiler to supply hot water.

Winn says she could immediately feel the difference in a more consistently cooler home this summer, and she’s looking forward to a warmer home this winter. While she hasn’t yet compared utility bills, she expects changes there in terms of savings.

Kathy Portner

Kathy Portner, a neighborhood services manager for the City of Grand Junction who helps oversee the Red Door Challenge, says Winn’s experience is typical. Energy audits identify ways in which homeowners can save energy and money as well as prioritize improvements that will make the biggest differences for the lowest costs, Portner says. “That is what it’s all about.”

What’s more, the Red Door Challenge has been extended to make discounted home energy audits available to more Mesa County homeowners.

Participants who sign up through Jan. 31 receive a $60 rebate.

Participants also are entered in a drawing in which four winners will receive certificates good for $1,000 worth of home efficiency improvements. To participate in the Red Door Challenge or obtain more information about the program, visit www.reddoorchallenge.com.

The Red Door Challenge is made possible, Portner says, through energy efficiency and conservation block grants funded by federal stimulus legislation. The project is offered through the collaborative efforts of an alliance of local and state government entities, utilities and energy audit companies.

Xcel Energy already provides rebates for home energy audits in the Grand Valley. The Red Door Challenge offers an additional $60 rebate that helps bring down the price of a $300 to $400 audit to just $60.

While 40 audits have been conducted since the project began in June, Portner says she hopes another 60 audits will be conducted between now and the end of January and that additional funding will be found to continue the project after that.

One of the first steps of a home energy audit is the installation of a red blower door. A powerful fan pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure and sucking outside air through any cracks or openings. Gauges measure the amount of air pulled out of the house by the fan to determine how well a home is sealed. A blower door also helps locate leaks. (Photo courtesy Energywise Companies)

Two local companies — Energywise and Frostbusters and Coolth — offer thorough examinations of homes to identify potential problems and determine what changes can be made to improve energy efficiency and comfort while lowering utility costs, Portner says.

Audits include a blower door test in which a fan pulls air out of a house to measure how well a home is sealed and locate cracks and openings. An infrared camera shows heat variations that detect air leakage and heat loss and pinpoint areas where insulation is inadequate. Attics and crawl spaces are inspected, as are heating and cooling systems.

The audit companies not only report their findings, but also recommend changes that offer the most benefit for the least cost, Portner says.

Winn says she appreciated the impartial analysis/ “I think the value for me was having a professional say here’s what you can do.”

And making those recommended changes, even the little ones, paid off, Winn says. “Little things really do make a difference.”