The energy-efficient home
The first step in making any home or building more energy efficient is an energy audit
For the Vail Daily
Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by Holy Cross Energy
- Operate heat tape only during daytime hours when melting is occurring and turn it off at night. Sun also helps melt ice dams.
- Use a timer to control heat tape automatically. HCE offers rebates for heat tape timers (50 percent of the cost up to $100).
- Make sure to turn your heat tape off at the breakers when there is no snow on the roof.
- Use smart or programmable thermostats to control heating and cooling systems.
- Don’t heat or cool your home more than necessary when you’re not home (50 degrees is sufficient in most homes to prevent pipes from freezing).
- Remember to turn off crawl space and garage heaters in the summer months.
- LED bulbs use 75 to 90 percent less energy than incandescent or halogen bulbs.
- HCE’s new online store has instant rebates on LED bulbs, thermostat, water saving devices and more.
The Tvarkunas family’s efforts to live a more energy efficient lifestyle might sound impressive, but the family believes this is the lifestyle of the future.
Patrick and Lucila Tvarkunas moved into their Eagle home about five years ago and they knew they wanted to make important changes to improve the home’s energy efficiency. After energy assessments from both Energy Smart Colorado and Holy Cross Energy (HCE), the Tvarkunases invested in insulation, LED lighting, air sealing, programmable thermostats, super efficient heat pumps and more. All of these measures have resulted in a net zero home, meaning the home’s solar panels produce more energy annually than the family uses.
“The Tvarkunas family is a perfect example of an HCE member wanting to be carbon neutral, converting all gas appliances to electric and generating their own electricity with solar panels,” said Mary Wiener, energy efficiency program administrator for HCE.
Learning how to become more efficient
HCE aims to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030 by increasing clean and renewable resources and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The path to 70 percent clean energy requires a reduction in coal-fired power generation, improved energy efficiency of buildings, vehicles and businesses, and accelerated investment in new renewable energy resources connected to the electric distribution grid.
The first step in making any home or building more energy efficient is an energy audit.
“HCE provides one complimentary residential energy audit within a 5-year period for the same member at the same location,” said Eileen Wysocki, distributed resource program manager at HCE.
“It’s important to understand what’s using energy in your home and how to reduce usage from those items. People have many misconceptions about what’s using the most energy in their homes, and are often surprised when they see the breakdown of their home’s energy use,” Wysocki said. “Having an audit can also help identify areas of heat loss through the use of an infrared camera. Audits can also help prioritize what projects should be tackled first based on the needs of the residents and the greatest energy savings.”
Those savings can reach 50 percent or more depending on the upgrades. Wysocki said the average home sees about 10 to 20 percent in annual energy savings after making more efficient upgrades, but savings aren’t the only reason to seek more efficiency.
“Upgrades can make your home more comfortable,” Wysocki said. “And a more energy efficient home may have higher resale value.”
Patrick said his family’s home is much more comfortable now thanks to increased insulation and the elimination of drafts.
Small steps for greater impacts
The Tvarkunases use HCE’s energy assessments to guide them toward ways to maximize their efficiency upgrade investments.
“From simple things like switching to LED lights that use 80 percent less power than a normal light bulb, all the way to using rebates for our solar panels and having an electric car charger installed, HCE has been a great partner in helping us both save money on our monthly bills and reduce our environmental footprint,” Patrick said. “Energy Smart Colorado has also been awesome with their own efficiency rebates which have allowed us to invest more with their matching funds.”
The Tvarkunases are committed to doing their part by being more efficient and creating locally produced energy. It saves the family money, but it also contributes to the safety, reliability, and efficiency of the local electricity grid, Patrick said.
The family has even purchased a Nissan Leaf electric car, saving them more than 500 gallons of gasoline per year, or roughly $1,500 in annual fuel and maintenance savings. They’re also composting their organic waste to use in their small garden, and they of course always take the time to recycle.
“Each small step gets us closer to a sustainable future where we all invest locally instead of sending our dollars to huge mega businesses, which definitely do not have our local interests in mind,” he said. “Overall, there haven’t been any drawbacks — we save money and have a more comfortable house while reducing our footprint and being more self-sufficient.”
HCEstore.com is HCE’s new online resource for members looking to give their home an energy efficiency makeover. Members can save up to $400 a year with upgrades such as air filters, advanced power strips, smart thermostats, LED lighting and water devices.
Visit HCEstore.com to learn more.
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