Saving Energy Saves Christmas for Rural Colorado Family

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Colorado family cuts energy bill by 75% just in time for Christmas thanks to the Town of Ignacio and The Colorado Governor's Energy Office.

Broderick Family

We trained a few of our AmeriCorps volunteers through Housing Resources of Western Colorado to do these energy audits for Ignacio, say Chris Nesset, regional executive director for Southwest Conservation Corp.

It seemed like a Christmas miracle to the Broderick family when they opened their most recent energy bill and found that it was nearly $300 less than they were expecting. Well, it wasn't exactly a Christmas miracle; it was a three-tiered energy audit sponsored by the Colorado Governor's Energy Office; Town of Ignacio, Colorado; the Southwest Conservation Corps; and Housing Resources of Western Colorado that created the astounding energy savings. "It [the energy bill] was seventy-five percent less than we were expecting," says Sadra Broderick, mother of four children. "Now we can get presents for the kids and presents for ourselves this Christmas."

Like all good miracles, this one started out several years ago as a little idea. Patricia Senecal, Assistant to the Town Manager and Planner, began working on a town-wide basis to distribute energy-savings information and about 11,000 compact florescent light bulbs. "Patricia was familiar with the energy audit process and had been working with the town to implement it on a wider scale for a few years," says Sara Wakefield a planning intern for the Town of Ignacio who is assisting with the Town of Ignacio Energy Audit program.

The Town of Ignacio provides the gas utility to the community. "Over the summer we had seen drastic increases in the cost of natural gas. The Town Board of Trustees saw this as a potential threat to our residents during the upcoming winter months," says Wakefield. This small, isolated community of only 700 residents situated on the high, wind-swept mesas of the Colorado/New Mexico border has historically been a community of hard working yet low-income families. According to Census data the median income of Ignacio is around $27,000. Another winter like last year's with record cold temperatures and heavy snowfall could see energy costs skyrocket and negatively impact the already tight budgets of Ignacio residents. Senecal took this threat very seriously and moved into action.

With a hefty goal of 100% of the 377 homes in Ignacio to be audited, Senecal enlisted in the help of Southwest Conservation Corp to actually complete the tier-one energy audits. "We trained a few of our AmeriCorps volunteers through Housing Resources of Western Colorado to do these energy audits for Ignacio, say Chris Nesset, regional executive director for Southwest Conservation Corp. "Mike Hansen with Housing Resources of Western Colorado got very excited about the project. He began talking about taking the project even further and actually making the necessary adjustments to the homes. We realized what a great opportunity we had to actually make the homes more energy efficient and really save the residents some money. So, we went to the Governor's Energy Office to get the funding we needed to take this all the way to the Tier 3 level for income qualified homes," explains Nesset.

Now, back to the Christmas miracle. After the initial energy audit was preformed by Southwest Conservation Corps on the Broderick's home, Housing Resources of Western Colorado came in and applied Tier 2 and 3 energy efficiency and savings measures. These measures included: A new high efficiency refrigerator, attic and wall insulation, heat flow-thru vents, weather stripping and more. In only one month, the results have been astounding. "I think everyone should participate in this," exclaims Broderick. "The resources are out there, and there is no reason why we should have to pay these high [energy] bills."

The Colorado Governor's Energy Office has provided $48,000 in funding for the Town of Ignacio Energy Audit Program--enough to complete Tiers 1 thru 3 audits on about 188 income-qualified homes. Additional funds have been raised to help all the homes in Ignacio complete all energy audit tiers as well. "We expect to see a 20% reduction in the energy used in each home that receives a Tier I audit, education, and the tier 2 and 3 retrofits as compared to only a 5% reduction by just doing Tier 1 alone," says Hansen. The Tier 1 Audit utilizes a low-cost approach aimed at producing Tier 2 and 3 referrals to weatherization agencies like Housing Resources of Western Colorado. Specifically, the streamlined model is a comprehensive service consisting of three components: a household assessment, energy education, and energy-efficiency measures.

Helpful Links
Housing Resources of Western Colorado
http://www.housingresourceswc.org
Southwest Conservation Corps
http://www.sccorps.org
Town of Ignacio
http://www.townofignacio.com
Colorado Governor's Energy Office
http://www.colorado.gov/energy
AmeriCorps
http://www.americorps.org

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