Our EnergySmart Story

By Bruce Drogsvold

On Nov. 6, the City of Boulder's innovative CAP (Climate Action Plan) tax won 82 percent of the vote. Voters approved five more years of funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

Our family enrolled in the EnergySmart program this year. We wanted to find out how we could reduce our monthly gas and electricity bills in our 100-year-old home. In 2011 we spent $1,700 for natural gas alone. That's too much.

Another reason we enrolled is because it would help me speak more knowledgeably, as a real estate broker, about energy issues in our city and county.

Our family has lived on Uni-Hill in west Boulder for 25 years. Our children were born and raised here. They're now both college students at CU. This is our home.

We filled out the application and sent it in. A couple weeks later, a young bright-eyed energy advisor showed up at our front door along with her co-worker, the energy inspector. For the next couple hours while the inspector did a blower door test and took photos of our walls, ceilings, and windows with an infra-red camera, our energy advisor sat down with us and went over the program. There were rebates, approved contractors, and home energy loans available. Our energy advisor would help us through the entire process.

The inspection revealed many problems. Not surprisingly, the house was leaking everywhere -- doors and windows were drafty, the boiler was less than 40 percent efficient, the attic had very little insulation (15 R). The inspector told us the insulation in the attic was comparable to wearing a windbreaker on a cold December day. The north wall of the basement was unconditioned, meaning that minus the heat from the boiler, that area of the basement would be about the same temperature as outside. Our stone foundation had numerous pinholes of daylight shining through. No wonder our floors were cold. No wonder the children had grown up wearing sweaters around the house.

Now, four months later, the air leaks in the basement are sealed and insulated and the attic has been supplemented with 50 R insulation and air vents. The combination of these two jobs alone has reduced our energy consumption approximately 50 percent and the house feels much more comfortable now.

Our energy advisor provided free CFL lightbulbs which, we learned, use only 25 percent of what our old incandescent bulbs used. She provided water savers for our faucets, which lowered the water bill. We not only learned where our house was leaking money, we got many great energy saving ideas too. Did you know that some old refrigerators can cost as much as 40 dollars per month in electricity? Or that there are rebates from Xcel when you buy energy efficient appliances? We saved $300 on a new dishwasher.

Our energy advisor helped us connect the dots between the job priorities, the rebates, the contractors, and the loan program. We couldn't afford to do everything, we had to make choices. We spent $3,300 and got $1,900 worth of rebates. The rebates equaled about 57 percent discount of the total price. Our EnergySmart loan (amortized with principal and interest with no pre-payment penalty) from Elevations Credit Union cost less than our monthly savings on the utility bills. We reduced our expenses and added value to our home at the same time.

About 6,600 Boulder County homeowners participated in the EnergySmart program in 2012. In essence all of those homeowners became job creators. For just our house alone we employed over 10 different workers and four different businesses. Those workers bought materials from local companies. They drove local vehicles, and used gasoline bought from local stations. Money got circulated around the community by funding energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Now, that's smart!

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