Ninety-Nine More to Come!
By George Harvey, staff
Rutland residents Sara and Mark Borkowski got a nice surprise last March, when Mayor Louras and representatives of Green Mountain Power (GMP) contacted them to see if they might be interested in a complete home energy retrofit. Then they were asked if they would mind if US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, US Senator Bernie Sanders, US Senator Patrick Leahy, and US Congressman Peter Welch came over to see it when it was completed.
It seemed surreal to the Borkowskis, but now that it is done, it is a whirlwind memory with a legacy of lower costs, lower emissions, and a more comfortable life. Their home became the “Energy Home of the Future,” the first representative of GMP’s “eHome” pilot program.
Guided by CEO Mary Powell, GMP is promoting a unique holistic approach to efficiency. GMP’s plan is to bring together homeowners and local businesses to provide complete retrofits, achieving efficiency of scale, reducing costs and simplifying financing and payments. GMP asked NeighborWorks of Western Vermont to collaborate, as they could help with financing and connections with local contractors.
The Borkowskis were chosen as the first participants in the program, partly because they were people most folks could relate to, partly because their 94-year-old home needed a retrofit, and partly because of their neighborhood work. They are the first of one hundred homes intended for the pilot program.
“We expect to save up to 90% on fuel use
because of the affordable energy efficiencies.”
NeighborWorks provided a home energy audit, construction management, and financing for a $15,000 loan for the Borkowskis’ expenses. The loan will be paid off through their electric bills, which will be lower than their previous bills because of increased efficiency and reduced fuel costs.
Efficiency Vermont’s participation brings in their partnerships with many contractors that they trained in high-efficiency. They also provide quality assurance and other efficiency services.
Weatherization Works Inc., from Pawlet, VT performed the energy audit. They installed the insulation and provided air sealing: closed cell spray foam in the basement at a minimum of R-18, a thermal barrier for fire protection, and R-60 in the attic by installing blown cellulose over the existing insulation, after targeted air sealing was completed in the attic floor. The combination of insulation and targeted air sealing reduced the quantified airflow from 3100 cfm to 1760 (a reduction of 43%!).
Excel Heating and Plumbing of Rutland installed Mitsubishi cold-climate heat pumps for heating, cooling, and hot water.
Rutland’s own SameSun of Vermont installed twelve 275-watt SolarWorld PV panels on the garage roof. They also installed a new option for inverters, a Sonny Boy model 3000 TL-22, which can supply 1500 watts of emergency power to one outlet, as long as the sun is shining, when the grid is down.
Local independent contractors also worked on the project. Old knob-and-tube wiring was replaced. All lighting was replaced with LEDs.
The energy makeover is expected to reduce fossil fuel use by 80-90%. The savings should more than offset the project’s costs. Besides enjoying a warm home in the winter, Sara is very excited that the heat pumps that now keep her family warm in winter can also cool their home in the summer, without fossil fuels.
The purpose of the eHome program is to demonstrate the feasibility of efficiency retrofits inexpensive enough for everyday people. GMP is running the project because they want people to know they can live more comfortably on renewable power at a lower cost. Mary Lamson, the Communications Director of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, stresses, “We want to prove we can make this a reality anywhere.”
The experience of opening their home to the US Energy Secretary, along with Vermont’s two US Senators and its one member of the House of Representatives was not as intimidating as Sara Borkowski expected. She commented, “They are all real people who made us feel really comfortable to share our home.”
The Borkowski’s energy awareness also increased from the GMP app that displays their energy usage in real time. Sara said, “Although we have a new drier, we hang clothes out because we can see the energy it saves.” Having gone through this experience, she appreciates that the cleanest and cheapest energy you have is the energy you don’t use.