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YouthZone opts to go all-electric

By October 6, 2022November 22nd, 2022No Comments

There’s an old saying, “Energy efficiency isn’t just a free lunch, it’s a meal you’re paid to eat.” That’s not always the case, but local nonprofit YouthZone is getting ready to chow down.

The youth advocacy program, which operates from Aspen to Parachute, moved its main office to the old Glenwood Springs library on 9th Street in 2018. Last year, facing the prospect of replacing an aging heating, cooling and ventilation system, they turned to CLEER for advice.

Now, a year later, YouthZone is proceeding with a bold plan – full-building electrification with onsite solar – and the savings are looking positively mouth-watering

“This is just a stellar project,” says CLEER buildings specialist Heidi McCullough. “The bottom line is that it’s going to save so much money on energy that it will more than offset the cost of the project. That’s compared to no savings at all if they’d gone with a simple replacement.”

The 8,800-square-foot building is currently served by a hodgepodge of HVAC components, including two 20-year-old rooftop heating and AC units and a furnace in the basement. Late last year, YouthZone invited McCullough, along with representatives from Black Hills Energy and a Front Range HVAC installer, to do a site visit.

Black Hills offered a rebate for more modern and more efficient gas-powered heating equipment. The Front Range firm suggested a much more expensive heat pump scenario that would force offices to be closed during installation.

McCullough proposed swapping out all three heating/AC units, as well as the gas-fired water heater, with three simple electric heat pumps. These innovative but proven systems would tie into the existing ductwork, would be far more efficient, and would get the building off fossil fuels for heating. In addition, McCullough proposed installing a roof-mounted solar array to supply as much of the building’s electricity as possible.

What might sound like a costly envelope-pushing exercise turns out to be anything but. The components that McCullough spec’d, installed by local contractor Diamond H Enterprises, will cost a bit over $50,000. The quote from the Front Range supplier came in nearly four times higher.

Plus, McCullough connected YouthZone with funding sources that will cover much of the cost of the HVAC systems. At least $18,000 will come from the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Program (NEEP), which helps nonprofits that serve income-qualified Coloradans in upgrading their facilities to increase energy efficiency and lower operating costs, while Glenwood Springs Electric will provide a $5,000 rebate. (Update: After seeing the energy savings report, the Kiwanis Club of Glenwood Springs has pledged $6,000 toward the project.)

What’s more, according to McCullough’s calculations, the heat pumps will cost less than half as much to operate. That will save YouthZone about $3,800 annually, or more than $67,000 over the lifetime of the system.

The solar bid is still being prepared by Atlasta Solar, a Grand Junction installer that has recently opened an office in Rifle. A 25 KW system – the maximum allowed by the city for commercial customers – should provide about two thirds of the building’s electricity and is likely to cost around $60,000.

The icing on the cake? It’s estimated that the improvements will add $52,000 to the value of the building.

McCullough is particularly bullish on the Bosch IDS 2.0 heat pumps she’s selected for YouthZone’s building. She says this inexpensive and easy-to-install new product is “truly a game changer for building electrification” and a great fit for the project.

The only downside: Diamond H is the exclusive Bosch supplier in our area, and they’re so in demand that they can’t install the equipment until spring. Given these prices, YouthZone is willing to wait.

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