Talking Green: Home assessments help 300 families learn how to reduce energy bills |

Talking Green: Home assessments help 300 families learn how to reduce energy bills

Suzie Romig
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Since fall 2014, almost 300 families throughout the Yampa Valley have learned how to reduce their home energy bills and dispelled energy misconceptions through an in-home energy assessment.

“I was under the impression that it was the windows that were flawed,” said recent assessment customer Dave Merlina, a first-time homeowner. “It was a relief not to have to put in all new windows.”

Merlina learned that caulking around windows and installing well-fitting honeycomb shades is the more affordable fix. As long as double-pane windows are functioning well and can lock, there is no need for expensive window replacements because glass is not a great insulator anyway, explained energy analyst Greg Pohlman.

The homeowner also learned how best to maintain the heating system for efficiency and where cold air is entering the home shown through infrared camera images. The assessment indicated attic insulation in the 2004 home is insufficient compared to today’s building standards, and weather stripping is needed around the crawlspace and attic access hatches.

The blower door test conducted during the assessment to determine air tightness showed many combined air leaks are causing 50 percent of the warm air inside the home to leak outside every hour. That amount of air leakage is equivalent to an opening in the building approximately 1.40 square feet.

“The audit was very informative and very helpful,” Merlina said. “The infrared was really interesting. It’s good to know the little things that can add up to lower the heating bill.”

Other common recommendations from local home energy assessments include installing a programmable thermostat, sealing then insulating leaky heating ducts, adding simple foam gaskets behind outlets and switch covers on exterior walls and air sealing around exterior doors and flue chases.

Certified analyst Pohlman estimated 95 percent of the reviewed homes still have some incandescent light bulbs, an outdated and inefficient technology first mass produced in 1880. Switching to LED bulbs creates immediate savings on electricity bills, Pohlman said. Quality LEDs cost about $2.40 each, use one-sixth of the energy, last at least 13 years and are eligible for rebates through the local Cen$ible Energy program.

Customers with Yampa Valley Electric Association service as well was Atmos Energy primary heat can sign up for a free home energy assessment — aka audit — at YVEA customers without Atmos heating can pay $150 for the comprehensive audit.

Local families who earn 80 percent of area median income or less could be eligible for free audit and weatherization services through Yampa Valley Sustainability Council by contacting

Suzie Romig is energy outreach director for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

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