This article is reprinted with permission from Clean Energy Economy News. Writer, Brandon Jones. Photographer, Kelley Cox.
Rifle resident Trish O’Grady applied for Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy (CARE) program because she knew her house, built in 1951, needed insulation.
“I was surprised at how much work they were willing and able to do,” O’Grady said of the work done at her home a year ago. She received a new Energy Star refrigerator, three new windows, a furnace tune-up, attic and crawl space insulation, air sealing, LED light bulbs and a hot water heater blanket.
“My home is much cozier now,” said O’Grady, who has enjoyed a year of lower energy bills thanks to the package of upgrades.
Since CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region) pioneered the CARE program in 2015, it has served 116 households from Carbondale to Parachute, and helped these households save a cumulative $70,000 on their electric and gas bills, according to Maisa Metcalf, CLEER’s Residential Program Manager.
The efficiency measures have resulted in an estimated emissions reduction equal to taking 80 cars off the road, or not burning 400,000 pounds of coal.
The CARE program, administered throughout Garfield County by CLEER, with funding from Energy Outreach Colorado, Garfield Clean Energy and the Town of Carbondale, is available to households that earn 80 percent or less of the county’s area median income. For a family of five, the qualifying income is at or less than $60,240 per year. Homeowners and renters are eligible for CARE.
The program’s goal is to increase a home’s safety and comfort while reducing energy costs by implementing efficiency measures, for no cost to the participants. Leveraging rebates from utility providers, the CARE program provides much more than just insulation and air leakage testing.
Every month, CLEER’s Residential Program Manager Maisa Metcalf visits several CARE households across Garfield County in search of opportunities to help save energy and reduce utility bills. Her expertise as a certified Building Analyst allows her to walk into a building and identify the efficiency of the appliances, windows, lighting, and insulation.
Originally from Brazil, Metcalf received her Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies at Colorado Mountain College and has become fluent in both English and Spanish languages, in addition to her native Portuguese.
“It’s a great program,” said Mary Layman, owner of Woodpecker Workshop Inc., a Silt company that has partnered with the CARE Program on more than two dozen projects, mainly window installations and repairs. “Not only do the upgrades save energy and money, but they help people in the community improve their quality of life and their comfort, and that makes people happy.”
“I like the fact that CARE employs local contractors,” said O’Grady. Woodpecker Workshop replaced O’Grady’s old single pane windows with new Energy Star certified double pane windows. “They were very respectful and able to accommodate my busy schedule.”
After the 2015 pilot CARE program in Garfield County proved successful, Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC) partnered with other local agencies and utility companies to expand the program. It now serves 22 Colorado counties in Colorado, in mostly rural areas, including neighboring Pitkin and Eagle counties.
For 2017, CLEER received another grant from EOC, and Garfield Clean Energy has committed matching funds, making it possible for the CARE program to serve more Garfield County residents.
Most people are excited about the big-ticket items like refrigerators, windows, and air sealing, but even simple changes can help households save energy.
“So far, we’ve installed over 500 LED light bulbs in CARE households across Garfield County, which is like taking 3.5 cars off the road for a year,” said Metcalf. “It all adds up to make a significant difference both in our natural environment and in the lives of the people we serve.”
Photos: Top, Trish O'Grady of Rifle shows off the Energy Star refrigerator she received through CARE. Below, Trish's energy bills are lower and her home is cozier, thanks to CARE improvements.