Keeping warm and saving money: How to reduce energy consumption in Routt County
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Winter has arrived early in the Yampa Valley, and with it, the higher utility bills that send chills to residents and their wallets.
As temperatures drop, energy experts are encouraging the community to take advantage of several rebate programs and educational workshops to help cut down on costs to heat their homes and businesses. Some rebates will expire at the end of the year.
In a cool, high-altitude climate like Steamboat Springs, where temperatures regularly dip below freezing, having energy-efficient buildings can save as much as $600 on annual utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Common energy efficiency issues include cold drafts, ice accumulating on roofs and overusing furnaces.
Routt County utility companies, namely Yampa Valley Electric Association and Atmos Energy, offer home and business energy audits to find ways to achieve those savings.
A home energy audit costs about $300, and a business audit costs about $500, according to Suzie Romig, energy outreach director with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. Several options exist to reduce that cost, but time is running out to take advantage of some discounts.
Atmos customers within YVEA’s service territory can qualify for a free home energy audit, but only until Dec. 31. According to Jennifer Altieri, vice president of public affairs for Atmos, not enough people have taken advantage of the company’s home audit rebates to continue the program.
“Many of the ones that were did not take the recommended steps to improve their home,” Altieri said.
Instead, Atmos will invest that money into other programs that can provide hundreds of dollars in rebates to help people pay for more energy-efficient appliances and equipment. Examples include attic insulation or programmable thermostats, which adjust the indoor temperature throughout the day and can cut heating and cooling costs by an estimated 10% to 30%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A list of those rebates is available on the company’s website at atmosenergy.com/ways-to-save/colorado-rebates.
What: Angling for Home Energy Savings workshop on how to reduce monthly utility bills
Where: Mountain Valley Bank community room, 2220 Curve Plaza
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13
What does a home energy audit involve?
As Romig explained, a certified energy auditor conducts a blower-door test, which depressurizes the house. Using an infrared camera, the auditor can identify places where heat is leaking and where insulation could be improved.
“They find all kinds of crazy things,” Romig said.
She remembers one test in a Routt County home that found a large hole behind the bathroom mirror. For years, cold air had been leaking into the bathroom and throughout the home, which ratcheted up monthly utility bills.
A home energy audit also may identify hazardous gas leaks in the home, namely carbon monoxide. Each year, approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit a hospital emergency room due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Romig said it is not uncommon for energy auditors to find such leaks during their home inspection. If that happens, they can immediately alert the utility company to fix the problem.
For those who do not want to sign up for an energy audit or who want to learn more about improving energy efficiency, the Sustainability Council is hosting a free workshop, “Angling for Home Energy Savings,” on Nov. 13. Norm Weaver, a local engineer who specializes in energy-efficient buildings, will show people how to analyze their monthly utility bills and make simple changes that can reduce costs and consumption.
“It’s really a conversation about how to pay attention,” Weaver said. “What are the things that are contributing to my monthly electric bill?”
Local utility companies, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and state and federal programs offer discounts and other rebates to help low-income residents and businesses install more efficient appliances in their homes. They also can help cover the spikes in winter utility bills.
For more information on resources available in Routt County, visit the Sustainability Council’s online energy page at yvsc.org/programs/energy-programs/.
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