The historic flooding across Colorado destroyed an estimated 1,882 homes and damaged another 26,000 more, leaving behind whole communities that need to be rebuilt. As homeowners and small business owners begin to rebuild, they have a unique opportunity to reduce their future energy bills by investing in smart, energy-saving upgrades to the building’s external “envelope” and internal systems and appliances.
Energy Efficient Envelopes
The single biggest determinant for a homeowner or business owner’s future energy bills is the external shell or “envelope” of the building, since it accounts for 52% of energy use in homes and 34% of energy use in commercial buildings on average. The Department of Energy estimates rebuilding with energy efficient best practices on the building envelope will make a building 20% to 25% more energy efficient than a similar house or commercial building without the upgrades. ,
Big Savings for Homes and Businesses
In addition to efficiency upgrades for the envelope of the building, there is numerous energy saving improvements for inside a home or business such as energy efficient appliances, lighting, and air conditioning that can save an additional 20-30%. Combined with the external upgrades mentioned above, owners can have a cumulative savings of as much as 55%. For a standard Colorado home whose energy bills are about $1,034 per year, which equals $569 in savings every year.
Big Savings for the Community
With so many homes and businesses being rebuilt in a single community, aggressively investing in energy efficiency upgrades now will not only save those individuals but also help reduce future costs for the whole community. For example, if the 1,882 homes that were destroyed in the recent flooding were rebuilt with a standard efficient building shell and if the 26,000 affected homes were to utilize energy upgrades in the interior of their damaged homes, the cumulative total energy reduction would be approximately 73,863 MWh. This amount of energy is the equivalent of a week and a half’s worth of energy produced by a typical coal-fired power plant. A reduction in the energy footprint of this size shows how community-wide reductions can reduce energy use by a lot, putting off the need for building expensive new power generation and further savings consumers money.
Investing in energy efficiency also creates jobs and keeps money in the local economy. Energy efficiency creates three times as many jobs compared to other energy and approximately 97% of the time those jobs are local.
Local Utilities Help Coloradans Save
Even though rebuilding efficiently is smart for individuals and the community, financial resources are likely stretched by the cost of rebuilding from the flooding. The good news is local utilities can, and in many cases do, play a critical role in helping people afford energy-efficient strategies as they rebuild by offering robust demand-side management programs. Utility demand-side management (DSM) programs help residents and small business owners afford energy efficient upgrades by offering rebates and discounts to them on various energy saving technologies and devices.
Consumer Guide for Rebuilding Efficiently
While there are many ways to reduce energy costs, here is a quick list of some of the best practices that flood victims in the affected areas should utilize:
- Insulation: Insulation is one of the least expensive and most beneficial upgrades that Coloradans can do to cut down on energy costs. Homes and businesses with poor insulation and air leakage can lose up to 25% of their heating or cooling energy. One utility, 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 other areas that need air sealing.
- Roofing: Reflective roofing is a simple way to cut down on energy costs. By using materials that literally reflect the sun’s rays away from a home, older Colorado homes could reduce peak cooling demands by 10-15% and save roughly $158 and small businesses roughly $290 every year. , The City of Fort Collins Utility offers a program to help with these exterior costs. For businesses, they provide a comprehensive savings program for the entire ‘building envelope’ – windows, insulation, and roofing upgrades.
- 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. These upgraded windows have special coating that also acts like sunscreen for household belongings, reducing fading by up to 75%. Here in Colorado, ENERGY STAR estimates that replacing home windows can save up to $266 for single-paned windows and $115 for double-paned windows every year. The City of Fort Collins Utility provides rebates for these window replacements, up to $2 per square foot up to $600 total.
- Light Bulbs: Lighting makes up 15% of household energy use so upgrading the lights can make a big impact on overall costs and energy use. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LED) lights fit virtually any type of lighting fixtures and can cut down on lighting energy use by 75-80%. A single CFL bulb can save someone $62 over its lifetime. Xcel Energy also offers discounted CFL and LED bulbs for as little as $1 a piece, often less than half of their typical market price.
- Energy Audit: The best way to figure out the most effective energy savings strategies for a home or business is through an energy audit. Simply put, this is when a trained auditor comes and meticulously analyzes a home or business, identifying the best improvements based on needs and budget. Energy audits have identified and helped consumers implement programs that save them as much as 30% on their energy bills per year. The City of Fort Collins Utility provides a comprehensive audit for just $60. Check out the Department of Energy’s simple infographic to see exactly how these audits work.
The utility rebates and incentive programs mentioned above are just some of the rebates offered and are not an exhaustive list. For example, the City of Fort Collins Utility also provides rebates for appliances; crediting a homeowner with $50 for ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers and $100 for similarly qualified clothing washers.
Utility DSM Programs Vary
If Coloradans who are rebuilding from the devastating floods live in a utility territory with strong energy savings programs, the savings can quickly add up to several thousand dollars. Therefore, flood victims should contact their local utility to identify the programs that are offered. If a local utility does not offer a wide range of energy efficiency programs, urge them to offer more. Many of the utilities in Colorado are co-operatives or municipal utilities, and, as non-profit entities, exist solely to serve the energy consumer.
New Programs for Flood Victims
Some utilities are, in fact, 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, Longmont Power and Communications, 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. For those utilities that do not offer as wide a range of options, now more than ever, they need to step up and deliver energy saving programs to help communities recover from the disaster.
Download the report for Colorado Utility Contact Information