Couple wins energy-saving help

Photo by Dean Humphrey—Bob and Ruth Michels of Grand Junction look at the cantilevered portion of their bi-level home, where they lose a lot of energy because of lack of insulation. Because of an energy audit they had done, the Michelses won $10,000 for energy-conservation work from the Electric and Gas Industry Association and Xcel Energy.


Energy saving tips

• Close your fireplace damper when the fireplace isn’t in use.

• Use ventilation fans only as long as necessary.

• Lower your thermostat setting during winter to 68 degrees.

• Raise your thermostat setting during the summer to 78 degrees.

• Repair leaky faucets, especially those supplying hot water.

• Install low-flow shower heads.

• Clean your refrigerator coils.

• Run the dishwasher only when it is full.

• Wash clothes in cold water.

• Raise and lower window coverings to allow heat in during the cold weather and to keep heat out during hot weather.

A complete list of simple ways to save on home energy bills is available at

Bob and Ruth Michels were overjoyed to hear their home was the first in Grand Junction to be selected for a $10,000 energy makeover from Xcel Energy.

“I never get picked for anything, except maybe jury duty,” Ruth Michels said jokingly as she shook the hand of Ed Thomas, vice president of the Electric and Gas Industry Association, which implemented the program on behalf of Xcel.

Over the past several years, the couple has tried to make home improvements that would decrease overall energy consumption, including installing new windows and purchasing new EnergyStar appliances. But their home in the Spring Valley subdivision was built in 1973, long before builders raised the bar of energy standards, and making those improvements were costly to the couple in the short term.

“We just have been doing a little at a time as we can afford it,” Ruth said.

An infrared energy audit conducted last month revealed their bi-level home was losing the most energy under the cantilevers, a structural design concept where the top floor overhangs the bottom floor in the front of the house.

“It’s the Achilles heel of this home,” said Fritz Diether, owner of Frostbusters and Coolth Company, a subcontractor of Xcel Energy, which conducted the energy audit of the home.

The audit, which usually takes several hours, uses a blower door, infrared camera and other mechanical equipment to search for air leakage within the home. It also includes inspection of lighting, appliances, air conditioning and heating systems.

The audit is so thorough that even the types of window coverings are taken into consideration as a possible way of saving money on heating and cooling costs.

As part of the makeover, a variety of local installers have been hired to insulate air ducts, increase the attic insulation, and seal structural air leaks. All of the work is expected to be done within the next 30 days.

“It’s just going to be so exciting to the see the difference,” Ruth Michels said, adding it was not uncommon to receive an Xcel Energy bill in the winter months topping $200.

Xcel Energy strongly encourages homeowners to take advantage of its steeply discounted home energy audits. The company pays 60 percent of the usual cost of an audit, offering it to its customers for only $120.

To schedule an energy audit, call 1-800-895-4999.


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