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This fall, there are more reasons than ever to make energy upgrades

By September 30, 2022October 18th, 2022No Comments

The leaves are turning and the pumpkin spice is in the air, marking the traditional start of Oh No I Need to Get the House Ready for Winter season.

It’s OK, you still have time. But if your home or business is drafty or expensive to heat, now is the perfect time to make improvements that will quickly pay for themselves in saved energy costs. And Garfield Clean Energy – the countywide collaborative whose programs are managed by CLEER – is here to help.

There are more reasons than ever to be efficient these days. Increasingly, people are looking for ways to reduce their energy consumption, whether due to rising prices (natural gas is projected to cost 24% more this winter than last), concern about climate change or a desire to be energy independent.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of financial help available to make those home energy upgrades – and more in the works. We’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s talk about how to get the best bang for your buck.

Things to prioritize now

Charles Cady performs a blower door test to determine how tight the building envelope is and where the leaks are. Photo credit: Sierra Jeter.

Safety first: this time of year, it’s always a good idea to have your furnace or boiler serviced by a professional. Doing so will give you the confidence that the equipment won’t break down in the dead of winter or leak harmful exhaust fumes into your home. Regular maintenance also ensures that the unit is operating efficiently and thus using less energy. If nothing else, at least replace the furnace filter.

Next, to dial up your home’s overall efficiency, have a home energy assessment done. This house call by a professional home energy analyst will identify which measures are most cost-effective for your particular situation. The analyst will perform a blower door test and thermal imaging to reveal where air is leaking in or out of the home, as well as test your indoor air quality for potential health and safety issues. Afterwards, you’ll get a written report listing recommended measures.

The cost and availability of home energy assessments depends on various factors – see GCE’s homeowners and renters page for more details.

The beauty of the home energy assessment is that it prioritizes what really matters. For example, people often think they need to replace their windows when in reality what’s needed is weatherization. And that’s good news, because it’s a lot cheaper and quicker to add insulation or caulk around windows and doors than to install new windows.

“Most homes we’re seeing are in need of insulation or air sealing,” says Zuleika Pevec, CLEER’s clean energy program manager. “The best use of funding is to first get the building shell tight. Then if other upgrades are needed, like say a new furnace, they’ll be sized for a more efficient house.”

A wrapped water heater holds its heat better, and that saves energy and money.

Other quick fixes that are worth doing before winter include installing programmable thermostats, wrapping your water heater and hot-water pipes, and replacing old light bulbs with LEDs (if you haven’t done so already). These items will often be thrown in for free as part of a home energy assessment.

Things to plan ahead for

If your furnace, boiler or water heater is looking like it won’t last the winter, talk to us. Our energy coaches can help you weigh your options and get the biggest possible rebate on a new energy-efficient model. They can also help you get installer quotes and point you toward financing.

But if you don’t need to replace right now, take this opportunity to plan ahead. You don’t want to be forced to make an emergency purchase when one of these essential appliances suddenly quits. Instead, prepare yourself to take advantage of the amazing technological advancements that are revolutionizing the way we heat and cool our homes.

Mini-split heat pumps take up little space in the home.

We’re talking heat pumps, induction cookstoves, home vehicle charging and rooftop solar – the veritable all-electric home. Each of these has compelling advantages over traditional technology, and they work even better when combined. For financial reasons, though, you’ll probably want to acquire them in stages, as each item is due for replacement, and that’s why it’s wise to have a long-term capital replacement plan.

There’s a lot to say about this topic and we’ll delve into it in a future article. In the meantime, feel free to contact us for individual advice.

What about financial aid?

Do you have money to burn? If not, then don’t make any big decisions without first finding out what kind of financial aid you qualify for.

GCE’s popular ReEnergize Garfield County program is designed to help low- and moderate-income households by covering up to $5,000 of the cost of weatherization and energy-efficiency upgrades. Although ReEnergize funding is tapped out for 2022, it’s well worth signing up now to be in line for 2023 funds. Plus, if you meet certain income requirements, you’ll be automatically enrolled in the state CARE program or the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, which offer even better aid.

Even if you don’t qualify for ReEnergize, you can still tap into a wide array of rebates, tax credits and other incentives. GCE’s energy coaches can help you get your fair share.

If you own a business or farm, there are plenty of resources for you, too. Utility rebates can literally knock thousands of dollars off the cost of a commercial energy-efficiency upgrade. That can make an otherwise unaffordable project worth doing, and might even prompt you to consider adding in other items from your wish list. Talk to one of our coaches before you start penciling out your budget.

The Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law in August, will usher in a host of new and generous benefits. Starting Jan. 1, 2023, the federal tax credit on solar and storage projects will increase to 30%, and certain energy-efficient home improvements will also qualify for a 30% credit. (On top of that, Coloradans will be able to claim a 10% state tax credit for heat pumps.) Even bigger IRA rebates are expected to kick in later in 2023 or 2024 – we’ll update you on those when we know more.

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