Flood Victims Can Slash Energy Bills with Smart Rebuilding

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New Report Provides Tips for Flood Victims on Energy Saving Opportunities

CoPIRG Foundation

Coloradans rebuilding from the recent floods can reduce annual energy bills by up to 55%, with smart energy saving investments according to a new report by the consumer group the CoPIRG Foundation. In the report, Rebuilding for an Energy Efficient Future, the CoPIRG Foundation provides flood victims with tips on some of the most common energy saving strategies and highlights utility programs that will help reduce the cost of rebuilding efficiently.

“In flood ravaged areas, smart investments now will bring huge savings in the future for individuals and businesses as well as the entire community” said Quinn Chasan, CoPIRG Foundation’s Energy Associate. “To help people afford smart energy-saving investments and get back on their feet, many utilities offer good programs that help reduce the costs of becoming energy efficient and everyone should take advantage of them.”

Historic flooding across Colorado destroyed an estimated 1,882 homes and damaged another 26,000 more. According to CoPIRG Foundation’s report, if the 1,882 homes that were destroyed in the recent flooding were rebuilt with a standard efficient building shell, each home would be 25% more efficient, and if the 26,000 affected homes were to utilize energy upgrades in the interior of their damaged homes, those homes could save up to 30% on their energy bills each year. Together, rebuilding the destroyed and damaged homes in this way could cumulatively reduce total energy use by approximately 73,863 MWh – or the equivalent of a week and a half of production at a typical coal-fired power plant in Colorado.

“The flood inspired several members of our community to begin conversations around sustainability and resiliency,” Said Joe Gierlarch, the Mayor of Nederland, one of the towns most affected by the flooding. “Homeowners can realize a direct energy savings by focusing on sealing the building envelope, which will continue to reduce utility bills, especially in the winter months.”

“The development of an energy efficient building envelope has become a top priority in our building designs.” Added Bob Hosanaa, the lead Architect for Neenan Construction, a large construction company based in Fort Collins. “We have seen energy savings that range from 35 to 60% with our commercial projects and we are discovering new methods that will show even more savings in the future.”

In addition to the external shell, investments in energy efficiency techniques within the tens of thousands of destroyed and damaged homes can improve energy savings on average by a total of 55% per home. Some of the strategies CoPIRG Foundation highlighted include:

  1. Efficient Insulation: As one of the least expensive and most beneficial upgrades that a home or business owner can take advantage of, insulation is a great way to save. Homes and businesses with poor insulation and air leakage can lose up to 25% of their heating or cooling energy.
  2. Roofing: Reflective roofing is a simple way to cut down on your energy costs. By using materials that literally reflect the sun’s rays away from your home, older Colorado homes could reduce peak cooling demands by 10-15% and save roughly $158 and small businesses roughly $290 every year. 
  3. Windows: Upgrades to single and double-paned windows are another effective and easy way to save. Recent upgrades in technology allow efficient windows to retain heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. Here in Colorado, ENERGY STAR estimates that replacing your home windows can save up to $266 for single-paned windows and $115 for double-paned windows every year.

According to CoPIRG Foundation, before the floods, many local utilities already had a wide variety of programs in place that flood victims can take advantage of right now, reducing the economic hardship already felt. For example, Xcel Energy provides a rebate equal to 20% or $300 of the total cost of insulation installation for home owners insulating their attics, walls, and areas that need air sealing. Fort Collins Utility provides rebates for these window replacements, up to $2 per square foot up to $600 total.

Andrea West, the owner of Fire on the Mountain restaurant in Denver, has taken advantage of several of these energy efficiency upgrades and has seen a wide range of benefits. “Like all businesses, we are constantly balancing “doing the right thing” with maintaining our bottom line. Luckily where energy efficiency is concerned, we’ve been able do both,” Andrea explained. “We have taken simple, inexpensive measures that not only save energy, but also ensure that our equipment lasts longer and create substantial savings for us in the long run,” she added.

In response to the floods, some utilities are working with the Colorado Energy Office to scale up their energy efficiency programs to help with the rebuilding efforts. For example, the Longmont municipal utility has waived administrative requirements to utilize efficiency programs, increased their rebates for insulation and gas furnaces, and created new rebates for ENERGY STAR hot water heaters to help ease the reconstruction burden on their local residents.

“As a public power provider, Longmont Power & Communications is deeply involved in our community,” Said Anne Lutz, the Manager of Energy Services for the City of Longmont. “We want to do everything we can to help those affected by the flood as they work to recover their homes and businesses. Providing rebates through efficiency programs is one way that we can help our customers save money and energy – now and for years to come.”
“Utilities are in a unique position to help people make the smart investments that will save everyone over the long run,” said Chasan. “While some offer a wide variety of programs, not every utility does. We recommend residents and businesses call their utility to find out what they offer. And we recommend utilities follow the Longmont municipal utilities approach and take this opportunity to ramp up programs for the benefit of everyone.”

“In the wake of the flooding, efficient rebuilding is a silver lining opportunity that we can’t afford to miss,” added Chasan.
For a complete copy of the report click here.