Dave Reed is communications director at CLEER.
Garfield Clean Energy is teaming up with local electric utilities to launch an energy-efficiency campaign to help residents save money by saving energy in their homes. As part of the Get Your Home Ready for Winter campaign, Garfield County customers of Xcel Energy, Holy Cross Energy and Glenwood Springs Electric will be able to get a full-service home energy audit for $100. For those who meet income qualifications, the audit is free. The campaign runs through the month of October.
“We really want to encourage people to get a home energy audit because it’s the best first step to making your home more comfortable and saving money,” says Zuleika Pevec, clean energy program manager for CLEER, the nonprofit that runs Garfield Clean Energy’s programs.
A home energy audit (or assessment) is a comprehensive evaluation of a home’s energy use by a professional home energy analyst. It typically entails a full inspection of the house and mechanical systems, as well as a blower door test and thermal imaging to reveal where air is leaking. Afterwards, the homeowner gets a written report with recommended actions.
“A home energy audit is an incredibly good investment because it identifies which measures are appropriate for your particular situation, and which will provide the best bang for your buck,” Pevec says. “And on top of that, having the audit done opens the door to rebates that will help pay for improvements, which in turn will lower your monthly bills for years to come.”
But the upfront cost can be a barrier, she notes. “That’s why we’re partnering with the utilities to lower the cost of audits, and we’re working with other partners to offer free audits to income-qualified residents,” says Pevec.
She adds that she hopes that a successful campaign this fall will unlock more funding for the program next year.The details of the October promotion vary by utility. For example, Xcel Energy customers must sign up through the company’s Home Energy Squad program, and appointments are available only during the weeks of Oct. 16 and Oct. 23. Holy Cross and Glenwood Springs Electric customers must sign up for the audit before the end of October, but they can schedule it for anytime through Dec. 31.
Pevec urges interested residents to start by signing up for free energy coaching through the GCE website, www.garfieldcleanenergy.org, by calling 970-704-9200, or by attending one of the events.
Garfield Clean Energy coaches can help residents schedule their home audit and can also determine if they qualify for financial aid based on their household income. Garfield County residents whose household income is less than 150% of the Area Median Income (AMI) can qualify for a free home energy audit and potentially thousands of dollars’ worth of energy-efficiency upgrades. Most people are eligible for aid, Pevec notes.
In Garfield County, 150% AMI corresponds to annual household income of $148,800 for a family of four, or $104,250 for a single person.
Those whose income falls in the 80-150% AMI range qualify for GCE’s ReEnergize Garfield County program, while those earning less than that will be referred to state or federal programs. However, there are waitlists for all these programs.
Energy coaches can also help residents prioritize the measures recommended by the home audit, which Pevec says depends a lot on the financial aid, utility rebates and tax credits that they qualify for.
“There’s a ton of really great rebates available for everything from LEDs and programmable thermostats to big-ticket things like heat pumps,” she says. “But they depend on which utility territory you’re in, and they change a lot, so we walk people through their options.”
Meanwhile, a raft of new state rebates and federal tax deductions became available this year, and yet more federal rebates authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act are expected to launch in 2024.
Says Pevec: “Making energy upgrades to your home is so worthwhile in the long term financially, and it can make such a difference to your comfort too. But figuring out what to do first, and how to pay for it, is kind of a complicated art. That’s what energy coaching is all about.”