ReEnergize to the rescue for this under-insulated fixer-upper

When Chelsea Carnoali and Andrés Venerdini bought their first home in 2022, they knew they were taking on a lot. “We scratched and kicked to get into a house, so of course the only one we could afford was one that needed a lot of work,” Chelsea recalled.

“It clearly had been a rental,” she said of the 1979 three-bedroom townhome in the Fourmile area outside of Glenwood Springs.

“It was bad – forty years of neglect,” Andrés added. Lots of patches in the walls, repairs not made to last.

The couple, who have four children ages 7 to 13, were on a tight budget to do renovations. Top priorities were upgrading one of the bathrooms and replacing old flooring and windows.

And then they did two things that you might not think would be on the must-do list, but turned out to be wise investments.

The first was to install a rooftop solar system. At $20,000, it was a big commitment, but they were able to finance it for 20 years at $75 a month. Since their electricity bills are now “at least” $75 a month less than before, the system is more than paying for itself – and after it’s paid off in 20 years it will continue delivering free electricity for perhaps another decade.

The other step they took was to upgrade the home’s insulation, courtesy of ReEnergize Garfield County.

ReEnergize is a program of Garfield Clean Energy that offers financial aid for home energy improvements to middle-income homeowners and renters who don’t qualify for other programs. Since the couple earned less than the Area Median Income for the county, they were eligible for a free home energy assessment and $5,000 toward the measures that were recommended by the assessment. ReEnergize energy coach Zuleika Pevec helped them through the process and advised them on their options.

The family already knew that their insulation was inadequate – in winter they could feel cold air coming up through the floor and descending from the upstairs ceiling. The home energy assessment revealed that there was no insulation whatsoever in the crawlspace and very little in the attic. Contractors from the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments paneled the crawlspace with blueboard and a vapor barrier, blew another layer of insulation into the attic and caulked a number of gaps where air was leaking in and out.

“I was surprised and also shocked at all the opportunities to lose air,” Chelsea said. “There was no question there was a massive amount of wasted energy.”

With some LEDs, a couple of low-flow showerheads and a carbon monoxide detector thrown in, the bill came to $4,450. The cost to the Carnoali-Venerdinis? Zero. ReEnergize covered the whole tab.

Last winter – their first winter with proper insulation and air sealing – the couple saw average monthly savings on their natural gas bill of about $50 a month. Not only that, the upgrades “made an incredible difference” in reducing the drafts and improving the overall comfort of the home, Chelsea said. She added that there were “drastically” fewer icicles coming off the roof, thanks to a better-insulated attic. “The kids are bummed about that,” she joked.

All in all, Chelsea and Andrés consider it a great experience and a big help to their ongoing renovations. “Zuleika was incredible,” Chelsea said. “Every experience was fantastic. The guys who came [to do the work] were great and fun.”

What’s next for the couple? The siding on the south side of the house may need replacing. But for the next few months at least, Chelsea will be content to tend to her garden.

Is your home feeling too hot this summer? Are your winter heating bills too high? Visit our ReEnergize page and see if you qualify for financial aid to make home energy upgrades!