July 2016

Condo goes from sweltering to sunny and cool

Glenwood Springs man uses energy incentives to improve comfort, cut costs

Tyler Benton enjoys the view of downtown Glenwood Springs from the deck on his Spring Street condo. New insulation and efficient windows make the south-facing unit more comfortable in summer and winter.
Photo by Kelley Cox

Tyler Benton knew exactly what he wanted to do when he bought his Glenwood Springs condominium overlooking the Colorado River in 2013.

The young professional had been living in a neighboring unit at 503 Spring Street for three years, and was well aware of the upgrade potential in the building.

Benton’s electric bills were through the roof, since the building is heated and powered only by electricity, including electric baseboard heaters.

A leaky building exterior made things worse. Air from outside seeped in through outlets and seals around the windows. South-facing 1979-era glass windows couldn’t hold in warmth in the winter, and when it was hot outside, it was sweltering inside. It was time for some real work.

“Before, in the middle of summer you would walk in and it was uncomfortably hot in the unit,” Benton said. “And there is no air conditioning in the building.”

The work included new windows, new insulation, and sealing up all those places where air can leak in. Coaching from energy experts at Garfield Clean Energy connected him with qualified contractors, significant rebates and a state program that allowed him to fold some of the costs into a refinanced mortgage.

Benton’s condo is perched on the hillside behind the Hot Springs Lodge and the Hotel Colorado. His unit is three stories, with a two-car garage on the bottom, a guest suite in the middle, and Benton’s living space on top. A wall of windows face south with a great view of Red Mountain and downtown Glenwood Springs.

Benton started by gutting the top floor. He stripped it to the studs, so he could install insulation and replace the wood paneling with drywall. He replaced the old windows and sliding glass door with double-paned, energy-efficient windows and a slider. He also replaced the windows on the condo’s north side, next to the front door and in the master bedroom.

He air sealed around the new windows and electric outlets on exterior walls, and around internal doors that separate the three levels of the condominium.

In terms of comfort, the pay off was immediate. The upgrades moderated the temperature swings, keeping in the cool morning air during hot summer days, and allowing him to go longer before turning on the heat in the winter.

“The new windows help to keep the cool air in. In the winter, you don’t get as much energy loss. It has definitely helped to regulate the temperature,” Benton said.

Tyler Benton shows the new electric hot water heater in his all-electric condo.

Tyler Benton shows the new electric hot water heater in his all-electric condo on Spring Street in North Glenwood Springs. The water heater was one of several upgrades he made to increase the comfort and energy efficiency of his home.

He paid for that first round of investments with money he’d saved for the purchase of his first home.

Then he read an article in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent about free energy consulting offered through Garfield Clean Energy and rebate programs for energy efficiency upgrades offered by Glenwood Springs Electric and CORE.

Benton learned about Garfield Clean Energy and CLEER too late for the top floor projects, but he still had a lot of work to do on the second-floor suite.

With free consulting from Maisa Metcalf, a CLEER energy expert, Benton got a home energy assessment by EnergyWise Consultants of Grand Junction. The assessment included a blower door test, and an inspection of the electric hot water heater, which was failing. The assessment report showed what upgrades made the most sense for the second floor studio.

The projects included replacing the windows and sliding glass door, taking down the wood paneling on the exterior wall to insulate behind it, replacing the 17-year-old hot water heater, and insulating the new heater and hot water piping.

Metcalf helped Benton connect with contractors to do the work. DM Neuman Construction, West Valley Insulation of Silt and AAA Mechanical Group of Glenwood Springs carried out the projects, meeting the energy efficiency requirements necessary for Benton to obtain rebates.

“I’m just glad they exist,” Benton about the help he got from Garfield Clean Energy and CLEER. “It creates an opportunity for all of us who live in the valley.”

Tyler Benton relaxes in the living room of his Spring Street condo. New energy efficient windows let in fresh air on mild days, but prevent the room from overheating in summer or getting too chilly in winter.
Photo by Kelley Cox

Costs saved on electric bills, rebates, refinancing

Overall, Benton has seen a 15 percent reduction in his condo’s average annual electricity usage as a result of all the work he’s done. Given that Glenwood Springs Electric, his sole energy utility, has had to raise rates by 20 percent over the last two years, his savings and avoided costs have been significant.

Even with lower electric bills, Benton was concerned about how he would pay for it all, since he had recently invested in major upgrades on the top floor.

Metcalf directed Benton to the Colorado Energy Savings Mortgage incentive. It’s a state program that has helped home buyers or homeowners who refinance their mortgage buy down the cost of energy efficiency upgrades. He happened to be refinancing at the time, and was able to take advantage $2,500 saving though this program.

The Energy Savings Mortgage incentive program has ended, but other mortgage incentives are still available, as well as Garfield Clean Energy’s residential revolving loan program.

Benton also received $1,400 in rebates for the home energy assessment, insulation and hot water heater from Glenwood Springs Electric and CORE, offsetting about 40 percent of his costs for those projects. He was able to fold the remaining out-of-pocket costs into his refinanced mortgage.

“I was excited to be able to take advantage of those programs,” Benton said. “They allowed me to do more with the project than I otherwise would have.”