LONGMONT TIMES CALL | JULY 7, 2014
LONGMONT — The first time Ron Eccher had an energy audit, his home was leaking 5,285 cubic feet of air per minute — enough to inflate 5,285 basketballs.
On Thursday, after putting in new insulation and new air seals, workers from Eco Handyman checked the air flow again.
Call off the Nuggets. The home now only had a flow of 1,500 cubic feet per minute.
"We're actually going to need to open it up a little, with mechanical ventilation," worker Jonathan Brown said with a smile. Man's gotta breathe, after all.
Eccher, who's lived in his Longmont home for about three years, is the latest user of EnergySmart, a program to help Boulder County residents figure out how to make their homes more energy efficient, who can do the work and how to afford it.
Since its inception in 2011, about 3,300 businesses and nearly 12,000 homes throughout Boulder County have taken advantage of the aid.
The grant that started the program expired in 2013. Now, about $7.1 million of the grant dollars are in a loan-loss reserve fund — already drawn down from the $7.8 million that was there around this time last year — to support a low-interest loan program (2.75 percent) for energy efficiency upgrades through Elevations Credit Union.
That's leaving aside funding for the rebates themselves, of course.
This year, Boulder County set aside $250,000 for home and business energy rebates on a first-come, first-served basis; similar incentives are offered by the cities of Boulder and Longmont (partners in the EnergySmart program), or through utilities such as Xcel Energy. (Eccher himself managed to find Xcel rebates to do the insulation work and get an evaporative cooler put in through the program.)
EnergySmart adviser Kelsey Lawrence said the program tries to get people past the two biggest hurdles of an upgrade: money and time. In the case of the latter, participants can get advice on the program's pre-approved contractors rather than having to scout for bids and companies themselves.
"We probably do about four retrofits a day, give or take," said one of those contractors, Eco Handyman owner Nate Burger, who's been involved with the program from its earliest origins. "When it's a larger home, you might see up to a full week being spent on one house."
Colorado winters being what they are, the main work is often insulation — but not a simple "blow and go," as Burger puts it. As in Eccher's case, the work usually also involves sealing the home to moderate the air exchange, limiting the warm air that escapes and the cold air that enters.
"When it was zero degrees, the furnace would run all day and we'd still be bundling up," Eccher said. "I think it's going to be much more comfortable."
An EnergySmart home energy assessment, determining what work needs to be done where, costs $185. The advising service is free if an assessment has been done in the past three years.
Boulder county commissioners are still debating whether to ask voters for a "sustainability tax" to give EnergySmart and similar eco-oriented programs a new financial base. The county decided against the move in 2012.
"In the end, this stuff has such a good payback in terms of increased comfort," Burger said. "The energy savings are icing on the cake."
Those interested in finding out more about Boulder County's EnergySmart program can call 303-544-1000 (for homes) or 303-441-1300 (for businesses), or visit EnergySmartYES.com