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Sustainable home tour offers tips to make Yampa Valley homes more energy efficient

John Holland discusses improvements he made to his home on the 100 block of Logan Street in Steamboat Springs with Leah Fienup. Holland owns the home with his wife, Sherry. The house was featured in the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council's Sustainable Home Tour.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Check your hatches. And your light bulbs. And install insulation around your pipes.

Those are three of the most common and easiest to solve energy inefficiencies in a home, said Dan LeBlanc, an energy consultant at Colorado Building Performance.

“Attic hatches, I always find, are not sealed — are not weather stripped or insulated. That’s very important,” LeBlanc said. The same goes for installing LED bulbs and insulation around hot water pipes. These low-cost fixes can improve energy efficiency in a home.

LeBlanc conducts energy assessments across the Yampa Valley to help home and business owners improve the efficiency of their homes.

“It’s a no-brainer. Insulate your hot water and heating pipes. Don’t make me come tell you to do it,” LeBlanc said. Insulated pipe wrap can be purchased for less than $5 at a hardware store.

Yampa Valley Electric Association and Atmos Energy each pay for half the cost of an assessment, so the assessment is free if a person is a customer of both utilities. If a person is a customer of one utility company, the assessment costs $150.

During an assessment, a blower door is placed inside an external doorframe. The blower door is a fan contained inside a covering that seals the doorway, and it blows air out of the home. This lowers the air pressure inside and allows an energy auditor to detect air leaks within the house as air flows into unsealed cracks and openings.

LeBlanc also takes infrared photos of the home to see where heat is escaping the home.

“We’re really focused on heat sealing and air retention,” LeBlanc said. Though this is certainly not news to anyone who has lived through a Yampa Valley winter, it takes more work to keep a house warm in Northwest Colorado than to keep it cool. “It’s a lot less about keeping the house cool, although that’s still important, and the house will benefit. It will be cooler because of a lot of these things.”

He said good windows and good blinds can help keep the sun out and maintain a cool home. LeBlanc said plantation shutters are great at blocking out the sun, but honeycomb blinds are a better option for the Northwest Colorado climate as they can block the sun in the day and hold heat in a home at night.

Steamboat residents John and Sherry Holland renovated their 1950s era home in 2006. They underwent an energy assessment six weeks ago. They’ve already installed many of the energy efficient improvements LeBlanc recommended.

“It’s kind of funny when you remodel, and you go into that state of shock of just managing all of that,” Sherry said, swirling her hands to reflect the commotion of remodeling a home. “And then it’s done. You sort of just settle into it, and you don’t think about it. Now, we’re thinking about it.”

Sherry said it’s interesting to see how energy efficiency has improved since they remodeled their home 12 years ago.

As part of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s Sustainable Home Tour, the Hollands showed off some of their improvements.

John Holland inspects a water heater baseboard heater in his home Sunday afternoon. Photo by Eleanor Hasenbeck.

The Hollands replaced all of the light bulbs in the home with LED light bulbs. Recessed lights on the second floor created holes where warm air slipped into the attic and out of the home. These were replaced with airtight canned lights.

Hot water pipes in the basement were outfitted with insulation. Their water heater was turned down from 130 degrees Fahrenheit to the recommended 120 degrees. A programmable thermostat now controls the temperature. They also installed baseboard water heaters, which use flowing hot water to heat the home.

“It’s very comfortable heat, and it’s reasonable, too,” John said. LeBlanc estimated the improvements could reduce their utility bills by 15 percent.

They still have plans to continue to improve their energy efficiency. After LeBlanc discovered air leaks between the home and its foundation, they plan to install more insulation in their basement. LeBlanc recommended insulation with a value of R-50 for our climate.

She said they don’t anticipate slowing down on energy efficient improvements.

“There’s always something that’s broken or that needs replaced,” Sherry said. They replaced their washer, dryer and dishwasher with a more efficient model. Soon, they hope to do the same with their refrigerator. LeBlanc recommended EnergyStar rated appliances.

Right now, the Hollands use two refrigerators. LeBlanc jokingly repeated something that he’d heard earlier in the day — “Two people do not need two refrigerators.”

“But when you have a garden, you do!” Sherry quipped back. Still, Sherry admitted that eventually, they would consolidate into one refrigerator.

To schedule a home assessment, call 855-372-5064 or visit energysmartcolorado.com.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.


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