Coopting utility bills to invest in energy efficiency throughout Appalachia

  • During a standard energy audit, Chris Woolery completes an information sheet about the homeowner and the home. Basic information includes the number of rooms in the home, what the thermostat is set on in the winter and summer, and the age of the home. Mountain Association for Economic Development

  • In addition to technical evaluation of systems and structures, energy audits include conversations about use and habits. Over time, How$martKY will save Kentucky consumers money, reduce energy use, lessen the need for the energy coops to build costly new power plants, and provide jobs in energy efficiency/clean energy businesses. Mountain Association for Economic Development

In eastern Kentucky Chris Woolery performs an energy audit inside a woman’s house, watching her hair rustle as outside air wafts through a poorly sealed window. It’s common problem for many residents in this part of Kentucky: soaring electric bills due to hidden home energy inefficiencies.

But as specialist Woolery says,“Energy efficiency isn’t sexy—it’s expensive. It’s hard to get people to commit to large purchases or long term contracts.”

That’s where Woolery steps in. Working with Appalachia’s Mountain Association for Community and Economic Development (MACED), Woolery leads the How$martKY™ program that helps Kentucky home and business owners finance much-needed energy retrofits and upgrades. Customers make installment payments as part of their monthly utility bills, gradually paying for upgrades with their new energy savings.

“From November to February, it took everything we had to pay our heating bills,” says Jeff Gulley, of Flemingsburg, KY. Using a “whole-house” approach to energy conservation, How$martKY™ evaluated all of Gulley’s various home systems — insulation, appliances, air-leakage, and HVAC. Upgrades like spray foam insulation, a new duct system and heat pump saved Gulley over $200 in utilities that first December. “This program is one of the best things that has happened to me as a homeowner,” he happily reports.

The value of How$martKY™ is in the numbers: the program saves an average of 5122 kWh of electricity a year, which equals an average of $594 in yearly savings per customer. The program has completed energy efficiency upgrades for 228 homes in Appalachian Kentucky, which are projected to save an average of $135,432 in annual electric-bill costs.

Woolery notes what’s equally important is that How$martKY™ helps improve customers’ quality of life.

“Many folks talk a lot about benefits that don’t have to do with cost—being able to use the whole house again, being able to have the grandkids over, going from survival mode to comfort mode.”

 

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