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Partnership to help Vermonters who need it most
Energy bills can be a significant burden for many Vermont families. Families have to juggle multiple critical expenses like food, housing, and healthcare. Energy efficiency can dramatically reduce energy bills, but the upfront cost is often out of reach for these families that could benefit the most. Over the years, Efficiency Vermont has partnered with organizations across the state to help Vermont families save money and energy through efficiency. Here are a few stories of how efficiency has had a direct impact on these families’ lives.
The winter of 2017-2018 was notable for Conrad and Debra Carruth. That was when the Cuttingsville couple’s energy bills dropped by more than $150 per month. The reason for the change: energy efficiency improvements. Efficiency Vermont partnered with local weatherization agency Bennington Rutland Opportunity Council (BROC) to help the couple take control of their energy bills.
The Carruths started their home improvement efforts by contacting Efficiency Vermont for a free home energy assessment. This set the joint BROC/Efficiency Vermont process in motion. BROC’s Jason Downs came to the house and then sent his observations to Efficiency Vermont Program Manager Josh Stewart for analysis and recommended solutions. The analysis revealed that the causes of the Carruth’s high energy bills were electric baseboard heating and two aging appliances -- the water heater and refrigerator.
“We knew something needed to change. Our electric bills were extremely high. We were using space heaters in addition to the baseboard heaters. We’re very happy with the even quality of the heat and that our electric bill went down considerably. The service Efficiency Vermont provides with BROC is very valuable.”
“Energy costs place the largest burden on the smallest household budgets, because energy bills take a big percentage of their income,” said Josh Stewart. “By reducing energy costs, energy efficiency provides needed money for other essentials.”
Each year, Efficiency Vermont works with weatherization agencies like BROC throughout the state to help make housing more affordable, with healthy indoor temperatures, by making buildings more air tight and upgrading inefficient equipment.
Simone Colby lives with her kids in a high-performance modular home in Vergennes. While Colby's new home approximates the size and shape of the mobile home that once sat on the same site, that is where the resemblance ends. Traditional mobile homes are not designed for harsh winters, and are difficult to keep warm.
“This winter, my family is toasty warm and I'm not worrying about the fuel bills.”
Colby’s VerMod home, built in Wilder, VT, will use 75 percent less energy than a traditional mobile home. It can keep energy costs low and occupants cozy all year long. High-performance modular homes feature:
- Walls, ceilings, and floors that are thick and well insulated
- Ventilation that works efficiently and brings in fresh air without sacrificing cost or comfort
- Hot water, heating and cooling systems and appliances that operate efficiently
- Energy monitoring system to help homeowners control energy use
This winter, and for many winters to come, Colby and her family will have a stable energy bill and a comfortable, warm home.
Gloria and Manville Powers often struggled to pay the electric bill, in part due to inefficient equipment and appliances in their home. There were some months when their electric bill was higher than their mortgage, and as parents to seven children and nearly 400 foster children, money was often tight. “We chose to put our money into the children,” said Gloria. Now that they’ve retired and are living on a fixed income, their electric bill was even more of a burden.
“Thanks to the Northeast Kingdom Council and Efficiency Vermont, we were able to cut our energy bills in half.”
Then, in 2016, the Powers received a home energy visit from the Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging to address their home’s energy needs. Thanks to the Council, and Efficiency Vermont, the couple was able to cut their energy bills in half at no cost to them.
Their efficiency upgrades included:
- High-efficiency light bulbs: Highly efficient LEDs cost pennies to run and last up to 25 times longer than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. So lights can be left on longer, and homeowners can expect fewer trips up and down a ladder to change them.
- Energy-efficient appliances: New, high-efficiency appliances can make a big difference. For instance, ENERGY STAR® certified washers and dryers can save up to 40% on the cost of washing and drying clothes.
- Hot-water-saving shower heads and sink washers: Water heating can add up to 20% of a home’s total energy budget, and showering accounts for almost half of an average homeowner's hot water use.
Thanks to their energy efficiency efforts, the Powers saw an immediate improvement in their energy bills. The first month, their bill was $160—nearly half what they were used to.
When Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity completed its first housing in Essex Junction, three low-income families were able to take the leap from renting to owning. Beneficial as the move to ownership was, it was only part of the good financial news for these households. That’s because the housing was built to one of Efficiency Vermont’s highest energy efficiency standards, elevating the homes from affordable purchases to affordable places to live.
“It only makes sense that we take advantage of Efficiency Vermont's residential new construction services. High energy bills hit everyone, but they're a huge percentage of income for the people we serve.”
Owing to the homes’ high standards for air tightness, efficient appliances, and lighting, each of the new homeowners is expected to have yearly energy bills about $900 lower than the Vermont household average. This new triplex building also provides healthier indoor air through an energy-saving ventilation system, which transfers the temperature of exiting air to fresh incoming air.
“Our goals for affordable, healthy homes are the same as what energy efficiency delivers,” said Catherine Stevens, Advancement Director for Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity. “Low energy bills, along with a mortgage payment less than what the family paid in rent, provide the family with the ability to improve their economic stability.” By engaging with Efficiency Vermont for technical and financial support from the earliest planning stages of the project, Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity was not only able to meet Efficiency Vermont’s Certified™ Homes Base 2.0 standard for efficiency but also to achieve two top federal certifications: ENERGY STAR® and Indoor airPLUS. These achievements distinguish the project as among the most efficient housing being built in the nation.
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