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Northern Nevada residents reap benefits of local non-profit
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Sep 03, 2013 | 2075 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Contributed photo -- Local non-profit organization EnergyFit Nevada specializes in energy efficiency and has helped nearly 800 Nevada homeowners improve their homes while dropping costs on power bills through rebates on home assessments.
Contributed photo -- Local non-profit organization EnergyFit Nevada specializes in energy efficiency and has helped nearly 800 Nevada homeowners improve their homes while dropping costs on power bills through rebates on home assessments.
Paula Brown spent nearly 27 years in her Sparks home before realizing she could save money on what she claimed was a “reasonable” and an “affordable” power bill. Brown was tipped off by a family member about EnergyFit Nevada, a state-wide non-profit organization helping homeowners attain better energy efficiency through home assessments and improvements, which led her through a “pretty painless” process on her way to monthly savings.

“When I heard about it, I thought I had nothing to lose,” Brown said. “You pay $200 for the initial audit, and when everything was said and done, I got a new furnace, new insulation, they cleaned out the ducts and I improved my energy efficiency by 30 percent. It was seriously a significant difference.”

Brown’s home qualified in EnergyFit Nevada’s 30 percent savings range, allowing her to receive rebates for all the improvements done to her home. EnergyFit Nevada begins giving $500 rebates once homeowners reach the 15 percent savings mark, then $1,000 is offered at 20 percent which increases as homes reach the 30 percent status.

EnergyFit Nevada Programs Director Lauren Boitel said the program began with funding from the Recovery Act through the Department of Energy, which handed down the task of educating the public to individual cities and governing bodies in the northern and southern parts of the state. The non-profit then endured a shift in branding in 2009 and has since recruited nearly 400 home assessments, about 125 of which were done in northern Nevada.

“There is not too big of a difference between the north and south,” Boitel said in terms of homes being assessed. “I would say it is a very good representation of the population in the two areas.”

Boitel said the program has helped about 800 homeowners total since the program’s inception and has 11 contractors in northern Nevada to initiate home assessments.

“They have been very supportive,” Boitel said, “And we look at our contractors as the ambassadors of the program because they are the ones going into the homeowner’s houses and being trusted to represent the program that way. They have been great in promoting the program and the industry as a whole.”

Pro Energy Consultants, the Reno-based company who assessed Brown’s home, is one of the local firms spreading the word about energy efficiency in the region. Owner Neal VanCitters said the initial $199 for any whole-home assessment through the EnergyFit Program comes at $200 off the original price, which he hopes homeowners will take advantage of.

“We go in to do a complete physical inspection of the home where we look at all of the systems of the home -- the furnace, the air conditioner, the thermostat, the water heater -- that relate to how efficient the home is,” VanCitters said. “We are looking at lighting, appliances and we are going to also do an inspection of the attic or crawlspace.”

VanCitters said blower-door tests, which analyze the amount of air escaping the home, and infrared scanning were two of the major components to the home assessment. In Brown’s case, he said the age of her home factored greatly in the amount of savings she was able to attain.

“Because of our temperature extremes here...insulation is key,” VanCitters said. “You want to make sure there is plenty of insulation in the attic, and insulation around the entire home is very important. A lot of the older homes have crawl spaces which need to have good insulation as well.

“Certainly, there is more opportunity on the older homes because the building codes were not as stringent back in the 60’s, 70’s and even into the 80’s, so we find there is more opportunity on older homes, but that doesn’t mean some of the homes built in the last 15 or 20 years don’t have an opportunity as well.”

Boitel said EnergyFit Nevada hopes to continue building on its successes in the Reno-Sparks and Las Vegas areas and begin helping rural Nevada homeowners improve energy efficiency and cut costs on power bills.She added that a goal of the program is “not to exist in 10 years,” meaning the awareness has become widespread for Nevada.

“We may not find as much in newer homes,” VanCitters said of the home assessments, “But we are still, usually, going to find some things that are going to improve the home and that is really what the program is all about. You may not be able to get it to be the most energy efficient in the area or neighborhood, but you can make it a lot better.”
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