Today’s edition of the Clean Energy Economy News looks at emerging clean energy technologies for home cooling and hot water heating, as well as financing opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Here in western Colorado, households and businesses are using clean energy upgrades to save money, increase comfort and, in the words of Bruce Hoggan, “have a smaller footprint.”
Read on to learn how families in Rifle and Battlement Mesa are using rebates and free energy coaching provided by Garfield Clean Energy, which is managed by CLEER, to transform the way their homes use energy.
So far, Garfield Clean Energy has helped 294 households, 262 businesses and 55 government buildings invest in upgrades that for energy efficiency and renewable energy. They have invested nearly $4.5 million on these upgrades, driving business for contractors and suppliers.
In return, families, businesses and taxpayers are saving an estimated $754,000 per year on energy bills, keeping that money in the local economy for other uses.
As we reduce our energy demands, we increase the economic resilience of our communities. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about what you can do.
-- The CLEER team
info@CleanEnergyEconomy.net or (970) 704-9200
Photo by Kelley Cox
“I keep wondering why I didn’t do this years ago,” says Michelle Foster, above, of Battlement Mesa, after replacing the evaporative cooling system for her Battlement Mesa home. Now she and her dog, Dally, enjoy a cool home even on the hottest summer days.
Homeowners find relief from heat
with evaporative coolers
Today’s models are energy efficient, quiet and built to avoid rust
By Trina Ortega
No longer willing to settle for uncomfortably hot homes, Garfield County residents are choosing high-efficiency evaporative coolers over air conditioning as an economical and environmentally friendly choice to keep cool in the summer.
When Rifle resident Richard Eberle accepted new work hours a year ago, his bedtime routine changed, and he had to go to sleep at 7 p.m. But the old conventional swamp cooler in his 1,800-square-foot tri-level home wasn’t cooling the house sufficiently by that time in the evening.
“I had trouble sleeping because it was so hot in our master bedroom. We needed to do something, and last summer was so hot,” Eberle said.
In August 2013, he decided it was time to make a change to his home cooling system. With guidance from CLEER Energy Coach Maisa Metcalf, Eberle replaced a 10-year-old conventional swamp cooler for a new high-efficiency evaporative cooler. The change was immediate.
“Our house has never been hot like that again. The new unit helps cool the entire house right. If it gets too hot, you adjust it with the thermostat,” he explained.
Evaporative coolers have become a popular way for people in Colorado to cool their homes. Residents from Parachute to Glenwood Springs, in particular, are catching on to this trend. At least a dozen homeowners have worked with CLEER and Garfield Clean Energy to get free energy coaching and apply for rebates to make an upgrade or install evaporative cooling for the first time. GCE has distributed more than $4,300 in rebates toward residential evaporative cooling systems since June 2013.
A $500 rebate from Garfield Clean Energy and $1,000 from Xcel Energy was a “big incentive” for Eberle and his wife to get a new evaporative cooler. “It cut the cost more than half,” he said.
Eberle hired Mountain Air Mechanical of Rifle for the job, which included installation of new ducts to the bedrooms and an extra vent in an upstairs hallway.
“They did an excellent job of installing it for me. I was very happy with the quality of work that they did,” Eberle said. “It’s quality equipment, too, which I appreciate.”
Due to the additional vent work, the project took a little more time and Eberle also hired a drywall contractor for the sheetrock finishing. But he said it has been well worth it.
“Now I can sleep more comfortably. Our whole house is enjoyable right now. Before we got it put in, we’d spend so much of our time in our family room. Trying to cook a meal in kitchen was so unbearable. Now we can cook without it getting too hot.”
Evaporative coolers on the market today are much more efficient even than those sold 10 years ago, delivering a lot more cooling for fewer dollars, according to the Garfield Clean Energy fact sheet “Four Smart Steps to a Cool Home.” (http://www.garfieldcleanenergy.org/res-cooling.html).
High-efficiency evaporative coolers ‘do a much better job’
Mark Fergen, owner of Mountain Air Mechanical, said the newer, high-efficiency evaporative coolers are particularly effective in Colorado’s dry climate.
An evaporative cooling (EC) unit draws in hot air, moving it over a water-saturated pad (made of natural or synthetic fibers) where the natural evaporation process takes place. The return air can be up to 30 degrees cooler. Compared to air conditioning units, these systems use no refrigerants that can harm Earth’s ozone layer, and they operate more quietly.
Fergen added that new EC units hold only three gallons of water, compared to 12 gallons for older models, and they flush out regularly, preventing the units from rusting. The other benefits: evaporative coolers use less than one-third the energy of air conditioners and cost about half as much to install.
Fergen — whose business covers Aspen to Grand Junction and Vail to Craig — said he’s seen a huge increase in homeowners choosing to upgrade to high-efficiency evaporative coolers.
“For last two to three years, especially with the various rebates being offered, we were getting slaughtered by upgrades — either the window shaker or box cooler upgrade from places like Lowe’s. But now, it’s actually become fairly inexpensive to install one of these high-efficiency EC units, and they do a much better job,” Fergen said.
When the newer models were first released, Fergen bought one and installed it in his Rifle home to give it a test run. He was blown away by the improved performance. On a 100-degree day it could knock the temp down to 68 degrees.
“A box cooler would never do that,” he said.
Battlement Mesa woman trades AC and six fans
for roof-mounted evaporative cooler
Battlement Mesa homeowner Michelle Foster wonders why she waited so long to make such a change in her home. She had two small air conditioning units mounted in the walls of her living room and bedroom.
“They really did a terrible job of cooling. I had to supplement them with six fans around the house. It was hot,” Foster said.
After A-1 Heating and Cooling installed the new evaporative cooler this past May, she got rid of all but one fan, which is sitting in storage as a backup.
“I keep wondering why I didn’t do this years ago,” Foster said. “My mother was in the house before me, and she didn’t seem to mind it too much. I’ve been here about seven years and every year I’d say, ‘Next year I’m doing this if I possibly can.’ This year I decided, well, I wasn’t getting any younger and it’s not getting any cooler.”
She, too, worked with Energy Coach Maisa Metcalf, and started with an energy assessment for her home. Using the report’s recommendations, she also purchased a high-efficiency washer and dryer. For the roof-mounted evaporative cooler, Foster received a $500 rebate from Garfield Clean Energy, and also applied for a $150 rebate from Holy Cross Energy.
Foster said the work wouldn’t have been possible without the support of CLEER and the rebate program.
“It was so simple and fast, and everybody was so easy to work with. I’ve been singing their praises and telling everybody about my swamp cooler and appliances. I just can’t say enough good things about the whole thing,” she said.
Foster also has noticed a distinct reduction in her electric bill. Compared to last year, she said, it’s almost half. Other than the washer/dryer, she has not made any other changes to the home.
“I have to attribute it to the new cooler. I didn’t realize how inefficient those old air conditioning units were; not to mention noisy,” Foster said.
To learn about ways to improve the cooling (and heating) of your home, visit the Garfield Clean Energy website.
US Bank offers ‘green’ loans for
Eligible items include CNG vehicles, building HVAC,
motors, chillers, controls
US Bank is offering commercial loans for energy efficiency upgrades, renewable energy installations and alternative fuel vehicles to businesses, multi-family housing owners, farms and ranches statewide.
“For most borrowers, the loan payment comes out of the operating fund savings,” said Douglas Priest, business banking officer for US Bank in Longmont. He is managing the US Bank Energy Loans program statewide.
“My message to businesses is, ‘If you want to strengthen your company, retrofit.’ Energy efficiency is a great investment,” Priest said.
The loans can be used to cover 100 percent of the equipment cost, plus an additional 25 percent for installation and related costs.
The loans can be used for energy efficient equipment to improve building efficiency, such as:
Boilers or furnaces and associated ductwork
Rooftop units for heating and cooling
Lighting and lighting controls
Specifically not included in the loan offer are items such as windows, doors, insulation and air sealing, as these upgrades could not be readily removed in case of a loan default, Priest said.
The loan can be used to finance renewable energy equipment such as solar panels and micro-hydro systems.
And it can be used to buy business-related alternative fuel vehicles, including electric vehicles, compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles and propane (LPG) vehicles. For CNG and LPG, the loan can be used to finance kit conversions or factory-built new vehicles.
Although US Bank wants to help businesses save money through efficient equipment upgrades and replacements, energy savings is not a required element.
“This truly is equipment financing, but it works really well for energy efficiency,” Priest said. “But you don’t have to achieve any certain level of energy reductions.”
Moreover, the bank makes no claim on utility rebates that customers may qualify for if the upgrade does meet the utility’s efficiency standards.
“We don’t take any assignment on the rebates. That’s free cash back to the owner,” Priest said.
The program offers loans of $10,000 to $150,000, with terms running from three to five years, with a one-page application form. Larger loans require the business owner to submit financial records. Interest rates range from 6.25 percent down to 4.25 percent, depending on the amount to be borrowed.
“It’s well worth it if you are at $48,000 to find another $2,000 in purchases to finance,” Priest said of the interest rates, which decline with loans greater than $25,000 and again for loans greater than $50,000.
Loan approvals are promised within two business days, and the funding is available within 30 days. The $399 filing fee is rolled into the first payment, so there is no upfront cost.
Priest said US Bank financed $200 million in equipment upgrades nationwide in 2013 through the program. He is working to play up its use for efficiency-related equipment upgrades throughout Colorado and in neighboring states.
For more information, contact Priest at (303) 702-6232 or email@example.com
Photo by Kelley Cox
Bruce and Millie Hoggan, above, and their infant daughter Gracelyn, show the geothermal heating equiopment in the basement of their Battlement Mesa home.
System cuts energy bills by 14 percent while tripling hot water capacity
By Trina Ortega
Bruce and Millie Hoggan are the type of people who like to roll up their sleeves and figure things out for themselves. With five children and a busy dental practice in Parachute, they have to figure out a lifestyle that’s efficient. So when it comes to energy upgrades on their home, they’re willing to go the whole nine yards to continually cut costs and reduce their impact on the planet.
The latest clean energy upgrade to their all-electric Battlement Mesa home uses geothermal heating to pre-heat the domestic hot water. With the project, they were able to triple the capacity of the electric hot water heating system while cutting their electric bills by an average of 14 percent per month.
“It’s wonderful. We love it. There’s nothing better than being able to turn on the faucet and have hot water in about two seconds,” Bruce said.
“The Hoggans gained a lot of convenience, and they showed some very innovative thinking with this project,” said CLEER Energy Coach Matt Shmigelsky. “They tapped their home’s existing geothermal heating and cooling system to get even more energy from it. And they are getting way more hot water now, but using less electricity.”
Shmigelsky helped the couple make sure the system was properly sized for their needs, reviewed contractor bids and made sure the system qualified for a rebate. They obtained a $500 rebate from Garfield Clean Energy to help pay for the renewable energy project.
Photo by Kelley Cox
The Hoggans landed in Parachute, bought their home and opened the H-Dentistry practice in 2010, after spending three years stationed with the Army in Germany. The home already had a geothermal heating and cooling system, which quietly maintains comfortable temperatures in the home year-around.
“The magic” — as Bruce likes to put it — takes place in the geothermal unit, which resembles a wide refrigerator with a filter in the back and ducts coming out the top. A heat pump and three “loops,” or pipes, are also connected to the unit. The loops run outside and are buried horizontally, about 6 to 10 feet underground.
An electric compressor and heat exchanger pull the heat from the pipes and into a conventional duct system that blows warm air back into the home. In summer, the system is reversed to deliver cool air.
There are no pilot lights, no carbon monoxide and no direct burning of fossil fuels — all of which make this energy pioneering family happy.
But the house didn’t have enough hot water for the growing family of seven. It had a single 62-gallon electric hot water tank, which wasn’t sufficient to meet their needs.
In April, Jim Batson, a Silt plumber, installed a new system that improved the hot water system in three ways:
- Expanded capacity: Replaced the old 62-gallon tank with two new 99-gallon tanks, more than tripling the hot water capacity.
- Geothermal pre-heat: Added a secondary heat-exchange coil in the new water tanks to transfer geothermal heat to the water.
- Instant hot water: Added a recirculation system that quickly delivers hot water to any tap in the house.
“The kitchen is over on the other side of the house, so by the time the water travels, it’s a lot wasted just to get hot water,” Millie said.
The cost of the project, including labor, was approximately $4,800. The Hoggans could have opted for a system that was less costly to install, but their decision was made with sustainability in mind.
“The reason we did this was so we can cut down further on energy usage; to have a bigger house but a smaller footprint,” Bruce said.
Despite tripling hot water capacity and adding the luxury of recirculation, they have reduced electric consumption 14 percent — an average of 400 kilowatt hours per month — compared to usage in March.
The new hot water system isn’t their only investment in energy and water efficiency. After moving in, they invested in attic insulation and air sealing, added more dirt over the geo loops in the yard, and installed a water-saving, Colorado-made KISSS subsurface textile irrigation system.
“One day we’ll probably do solar, too, but that’ll be after we pay the house off and do another remodel,” Bruce said. He plans to eventually add a second story with a second geothermal system to heat and cool that level.
His advice to other homeowners considering geothermal is to go vertical if possible. Vertical systems maximize the earth’s temperature at a greater depth and avoid landscaping conflicts. But if cost is a factor, however, he advises homeowners to do the trenching themselves for a horizontal loop system.
Vertical or horizontal, the Hoggans are convinced that geothermal is the best way to go, especially now that it is also helping heat their domestic hot water.
This aerial view of Roaring Fork High School shows the proposed site of a 379-kilowatt array of solar panels on vacant land directly south of the school. The array would supply all of the school’s electric needs on an annual basis.
Roaring Fork High School solar array
will meet 100% of school’s electricity needs
The Roaring Fork School District, CLEER, Carbondale Clean Energy 2020 and Sunsense Solar are seeking community input on a proposed solar array at Roaring Fork High School.
The large array would be built with no upfront cost to the school district, and would produce enough electricity to meet 100 percent of the school’s electrical energy needs on an annual basis. It would save the district an estimated $400,000 in energy costs over the next 20 years.
The proposal will go before the Carbondale Board of Trustees for an endorsement on Tuesday, Aug. 26. A community open house to solicit feedback is set for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 8, in the RFHS Library, which overlooks the site of the array.
Sunsense Solar’s preliminary site plan depicts the array as five rows of panels mounted on ground-level framework. It would be located on vacant land on the south side of the high school. The array will produce 379 kilowatts of electricity, comparable to the amount of energy used by 76 average American homes.
Roaring Fork High School Principal Drew Adams said the proposed array resulted from a student-driven effort to make the school net-zero for electricity.
“RFHS is proud to have students with the grit, integrity and curiosity to accomplish such an amazing feat,” Adams said. “The RFHS Energy Club members and their sponsor, Wendy Boland, have been championing for energy reduction methods for years.
“Upon completion of this installation, RFHS will be able to offset 100 percent of the (electrical) energy used. This is not only great for the community, it also models the importance of being good stewards of the planet,” Adams added.
“The array will be visible from some neighboring properties and from Highway 133,” said Roaring Fork School District Assistant Superintendent Shannon Pelland.
“We want to make sure neighbors understand the multiple values of the array. It will be educational for students, will save the school district money, and will help Carbondale meet its clean energy goals. We also want to hear any suggestions people might have about the design,” Pelland said.
The array was downsized from what would have otherwise been needed, thanks to a major energy efficiency project the school district is doing this year. Upgrades to the school’s heating, cooling and lighting are expected to reduce electric usage by 20 to 30 percent, allowing a corresponding reduction in the solar system size.
Through a financing arrangement set up by Sunsense, RFHS will be able to have the system installed without paying any up-front capital costs, and will save nearly $400,000 on its electricity bills over the next 20 years, said Katharine Rushton, commercial sales manager for the Carbondale-based solar installer.
In June, Sunsense secured renewable energy credits for the project from Xcel Energy, through its highly competitive Solar*Rewards program. The renewable energy credit payments continue for 20 years, and are essential for the third-party financing arrangement set up to install the solar array, Rushton said.
Sunsense brought in California-based Sunforce Solutions International to pay for the project through a power purchase agreement (PPA). RFHS will pay Sunforce a low, set rate for power generated, plus a minimal fee to Xcel Energy for backup electric service from the utility’s grid, according to Rushton.
“Bringing RFHS to net-zero for electricity will be a giant step for Carbondale to meet its clean energy goals,” said Michael Hassig, former mayor and a member of the Carbondale Clean Energy 2020 Technical and Financial Advisory Committee. “The high school is one of the single largest electrical users in town, and presents a great opportunity for more solar energy.”
The project is one of three large solar arrays in Garfield County that secured renewable energy credits this year from Xcel Energy through Sunsense. The other projects will power the water treatment plants serving the Battlement Mesa Metro District and the Town of Silt. Together, the three arrays add up to 1 megawatt of electrical capacity and represent a $2.3 million investment in solar energy.
An array being installed on the roof of the Carbondale Branch Library by Colorado Mountain College students is also being funded in part by Xcel’s renewable energy credits.
In this issue
Bigger impact with a smaller footprint
Submit your news and events to
Clean Energy Economy News
Clean Energy Economy News accepts news, events and training information related to clean energy and sustainability for monthly publication. Send your items to Editor Heather McGregor at firstname.lastname@example.org
Colorado Mountain College offers a hybrid online and classroom course in solar PV components, with classes to be held at the Rifle campus.
The class meets from 3:00 to 5:50 p.m. every Tuesday from Aug. 26 through Dec. 9. It also includes 19.5 hours of required work online.
For more information, contact Rachel Pokrandt at email@example.com or 970-625-6945.
CLEER, Garfield Clean Energy and Colorado Mountain College will host a Facility Manager Roundtable on Wednesday, Oct. 1, in Glenwood Springs.
Facility managers from the public and private sector are invited to attend this free two-hour session focused on building controls, lighting and other current topics.
1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 1
Colorado Mountain College
Central Services Building
802 Grand Ave.
CLEER, Garfield Clean Energy and Colorado Mountain College will host the Electric Vehicle Rally of the Rockies on Friday, Oct. 3.
Three all-electric passenger cars and two plug-in hybrids will start the rally in the morning from Parachute, Vail and Aspen, and converge at the public electric vehicle charging stations in Carbondale for an afternoon celebration.
The purpose is to publicize the developing public charging network in western Colorado and to show that electric vehicles are a viable means of transportation and tourist travel even in this rural area.
The cars will converge in Carbondale around 4:30 p.m. for a short parade, a display of various electric vehicles on the market today, and refreshments. The festivities may also include electric vehicle test drives and a demonstration of the remote-controlled Solar Rollers toy cars.
The finish line events in Carbondale will coincide with Carbondale’s First Friday and Oktoberfest events happening nearby in downtown Carbondale.
Join CLEER and CORE at the Carbondale Branch Library at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4, for a one-hour presentation about five easy steps to save energy this weekend.
You’ll also learn about five energy-saving things to do to make your home comfortable for winter.
The presentation will explain how energy is used in your home, and how you can reduce your energy usage with these simple actions.
Learn about the rebates and financing options available to improve your home’s performance. The whole family is invited.
Attendees will receive free one LED lightbulb.
Money revolving through Garfield Clean Energy’s residential loan fund
On-bill financing another option for Holy Cross customers
Garfield Clean Energy’s Residential Revolving Loan Fund has financed $118,000 in upgrades for 13 families across the county, according to CLEER Energy Coach Maisa Metcalf.
Now in its third year, the revolving loan fund is helping families benefit from energy efficiency upgrades. Most are able to use the savings in their utility costs to cover the loan payments.
Money is already starting to revolve through the fund. Of the $118,000 borrowed, more than $18,000 has been paid back. The loan fund currently has $200,000 available for new loans.
“This was exactly what we had in mind with this loan fund,” said Alice Laird. “The idea is to keep these funds circulating through short-term loans, and to help people act on their energy upgrades right when they are needed.”
Another financing option is available for Holy Cross Energy customers. The utility launched on-bill financing for its residential and commercial customers in 2013 for electric-only projects. So far, one residential and one commercial customer have taken advantage of the program. The loan is repaid as part of the customer’s monthly utility bill.
“It works great to pay off your loan on your electric bill,” said Mary Wiener, energy efficiency program administrator for Holy Cross. “In theory the energy efficiency project should have lowered the electric bill, so the loan isn’t a huge financial burden.”
For more information on both residential financing options, visit www.GarfieldCleanEnergy.org.
Xcel Energy has just announced a 30% bonus rebate for any lighting project completed, invoiced and submitted from Sept. 1 through Dec. 1, 2014.
Xcel customers with lighting projects on the drawing board will benefit from quick action. The rebate will max out at 75% of total project costs.
Call a CLEER Energy Coach
at (970) 704-9200,
or contact the Xcel Energy Business Solutions Center at (800) 481-4700 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Heat pump system turns ambient heat
into usable hot water
“If you are heating water with electricity or propane, or if you’re in a business that produces a lot of indoor heat, such as a restaurant or a laundry, you’ll want to take a look at a unique product I’ve found, the modular heat pump water heater by Nyle systems,” says CLEER Energy Coach Matt Shmigelsky.
“These are modular, plug-and-play units that take advantage of a free commodity. All that ambient heat building up in a kitchen or laundry or mechanical room is available to tap as an energy resource to reduce your hot water heating expense,” said Shmigelsky.
Shmigelsky discovered the heat pump water heater while researching hot water heating for the all-electric tiny home he is building in Carbondale. The Geyser heat pumps are made in Maine by Nyle Systems.
Nyle’s heat pumps offer attractive savings on the cost of hot water heating in a variety of businesses and facilities, such as restaurants, commercial-scale laundry facilities, dry cleaners, car washes, recreation center and school locker rooms, health spas and breweries.
The heat pump draws heat and humidity from the ambient air and supplies this heat into an existing hot water tank. The heat pump has a coefficient of performance (COP) of more than 2, meaning that every unit of electricity used to run the heat pump delivers at least two units of heated water the tank. The heat pump also cools and dehumidifies the ambient air.
The system also delivers energy and cost savings for households that are using electric or propane hot water heaters. Households and businesses may also find the use of this technology as a cost effective means of lowering their carbon footprint. It’s a viable alternative for switching from fossil fuel-based combustion for hot water to a renewably-generated electric water heating.
Manufacturers have started selling electric hot water heaters with a combined heat pump unit, in order to meet the federal government’s new ENERGY STAR criteria that will soon be taking effect.
“The Nyle system has the advantage of plugging into your existing hot water tanks,” Shmigelsky said.
Nyle manufactures the systems in various sizes for residential, commercial and industrial uses. It offers a separate line of heat pumps that can operate in temperatures as low as 0 degrees F.
“If you think this system could apply to your business or facility, get in touch and let’s talk,” Shmigelsky said.
CLEER offers free energy coaching for Garfield County businesses and for commercial customers of Holy Cross Energy.