CARE program’s unintended effects | VailDaily.com

CARE program’s unintended effects

EAGLE COUNTY — A good idea might produce a few unintended consequences that translate into unexpected benefits. If it's a great idea, then those benefits change people's lives.

In the case of Energy Outreach Colorado's Affordable Residential Energy program, the idea's unexpected benefits might be saving lives.

On the surface, the idea was an obvious one — provide free home energy assessments and upgrades to income-qualified homeowners and tenants. The local Colorado's Affordable Residential Energy program, dubbed "CARE," is a partnership between Walking Mountains Science Center, Black Hills Energy, Xcel Energy and Holy Cross Energy. They were expecting to find predictable recommendations — insulation and air sealing, furnace tune-ups, programmable thermostats — at the 35 homes they performed assessments in during 2015. What they found were issues that, if left untreated, could indeed be life threatening.

"We were finding carbon monoxide just spewing into homes, homes with dangerously high radon levels, and hearing stories like 'the kids haven't been feeling well lately' before finding a hot water heater just pouring out toxic gas," said John-Ryan Lockman, the Energy Programs Director with Energy Smart Colorado at the Walking Mountains Science Center.

The program quickly evolved into a healthy homes concept, encompassing energy efficiency and the more pressing issues of carbon monoxide and radon. After receiving a $70,000 grant in its first year, the program has been renewed with a $105,000 grant from Energy Outreach Colorado and will be able to help approximately 35 more homes in 2017.

DO YOU QUALIFY?

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To qualify for a free energy assessment through the CARE program, a household must be at or below 80 percent of the area median income, live in Eagle county and receive utility service from Holy Cross Energy, Black Hills Energy and/or Xcel Energy. The program is available for both homeowners and renters (with homeowner authorization).

Melina Monreal was among the local homeowners to take advantage of the CARE program last year. She discovered it after noticing a flyer at the Eagle County Government building in Eagle; it caught her attention because her house had a draft, and other issues, she thought the program might correct.

"I could feel a slight breeze of cold air entering to the house through the main door," she said. "We would run out of hot water after one person would shower. The nursery room was always chilly and we were using an extra heater to keep the room, and the baby, in a comfortable temperature."

Monreal said she noticed a change right away after the CARE assessment and upgrades.

"We are maintaining the heat inside and knowing that now the windows are more energy efficient," she said. "The insulation in the attic was a major work and we are so thankful that with the CARE Program we were able to identify the issue and fix it. We also are thankful that CARE Program helped us to replace an old, not efficient refrigerator for an Energy Smart one that will assist us to use less energy to keep our food safety."

To sign up for the CARE program, go to http://www.walkingmountains.org/project/energy-smart-colorado/.