Aspen-area homeowners sought for energy efficiency program | AspenTimes.com

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Aspen-area homeowners sought for energy efficiency program

Charlie Eckert of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency performs an energy assessment on a house in Pitkin County. The assessment is part of a program that provides incentives for families to boost energy efficiency.

The Community Office for Resource Efficiency wants to boost the energy efficiency of 30 homes belonging to low- and moderate-income Pitkin County residents.

CORE will provide home energy assessments and as much as $2,500 in energy-efficiency improvements through its two-year-old Reach program.

Interested homeowners must apply for the grants by March 2. Applicants cannot exceed a household income of $56,000 for no dependents, and as much as $78,500 with as many as three dependents.

The applicants who get accepted will receive the home energy assessment — a $400 value — that includes on-the-spot energy improvements and one-on-one coaching from Charlie Eckert, CORE's building science coordinator. Eckert provides tips on home energy principles and small behavioral tweaks that can result in big energy savings, according to Lucy Kessler, CORE's communication and outreach manager.

The on-the-spot energy improvements include efficient lighting, programmable thermostats and water-heater blankets.

The applicants also are eligible for $2,100 in a broad range of improvements that could include insulation, air sealing of gaps and a new boiler or furnace. For expenses beyond the $2,500 Reach grant, homeowners can apply for a low-interest loan from the Energy Smart Revolving Loan Program.

Kessler said the organization's goal is to reach people who otherwise couldn't afford the energy assessment and don't explore ways of improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

Reach grants were given to 27 homeowners in Pitkin County last year. The upgrades for participants averaged $3,275, showing that people were willing to get the low-interest loans to boost efficiency, Kessler said.

CORE estimates that the homeowners are collectively saving about 40,000-kilowatt hours annually and 1,500-kilowatt hours per household because of their efficiency improvements.

"To put these savings in perspective, the average annual residential electricity consumption is approximately 10,000 kilowatt-hours," CORE said in a statement. "These energy savings translate to cost savings. On average, each homeowner who participated in the Reach program is saving $277 annually on their electricity and gas bills."

Jere Rood was among the participants last year. He received energy-efficient appliances, programmable thermostats and insulated blinds. He said he was proud of participating in the program because it's creating a better environment through less energy use.

The source of funding for the grants comes from a unique type of Robin Hood program that's been in place for years in Pitkin County. Homes and businesses that exceed 5,000-square feet and those of any size that exceed an energy budget must pay an offset fee. The funds collected through those fees are plowed back into energy efficiency projects.

An open house will be held by CORE and Roaring Fork Leadership on Thursday from 3 to 6:30 p.m. in the Rio Grande Room to outline the Reach program for interested homeowners.

More information on the Reach program can be found at http://aspencore.org/reach.