SOCM Energy Efficiency Stories: Lauren’s Story

By Lauren Steier

Hello, my name is Lauren Steier, a recently new SOCM member, and I’d like to share a story about how my boyfriend and I made our 1950s house more energy efficient. We live in a one story, ranch-style house typical of the West Hills subdivision in Knoxville.  My boyfriend bought the house in August of 2010 and just a couple months later we decided to do the TVA Energy Right program. For $150, an energy evaluator comes to your house and assesses what all could be done to make your house more energy efficient, and provides you with a list of TVA approved contractors to do the work. If you go through with recommended work totaling more than $150, the initial fee is reimbursed to you. Plus, you have the opportunity to earn up to an additional $500 at 50% of the installation costs.  There are restrictions on how much rebate can be claimed for certain types of work, plus other stipulations on timeframe and getting the work inspected, so be sure to read the fine print.  We had about $1200 worth of work done so we received the full $500 in rebates, plus the $150, which is a total of $650 in rebates. That’s a net cost of $700. The following is what we had done to our house:

  • Air Sealing: all pipe, electric, duct penetrations, and drywall top plates in the attic were sealed with low expansion spray foam.
  • Achieve R-13 rating in the attic: loose fill fiberglass was installed to achieve an R-Value of R-38 in the attic. (A high R-value means that the insulation is more effective at restricting heat flow.)
  • Insulate skylights: remove failing insulation and cover with 3’ rigid foam board using spray foam on the gaps to create airtight insulated covering. R-Value afterwards = R-21.
  • Insulate attic pull-down stairs: installed Therma-Dome over attic stair cover with 4’ foam board, plywood, and weather stripping to make an air tight insulated covering.
  • Weatherstripping: installed weatherstripping on our back door.
  • Caulking: installed premium latex caulk on all exterior and interior windows. We supplied the materials and the labor cost was about $100.

About the same time the above work was done, we purchased a new energy efficient HVAC System with a 14.25 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. We received the 30% Federal Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit ($1500) for that installation. This system, combined with the energy efficiency work, has reduced our energy usage and lowered our bills. It has not been long enough to see the long-term savings yet, but we have three years of data for July and August. In 2010, the kilowatt hour usage in July and August was 1249 and 1236 kWh respectively, and this year they were 1027 and 820 kWh respectively.  The biggest drop in usage thus far was from October and November 2010 to 2011:

  2010 2011
October 1577 kWh$156 669 kWh$69
November 1328 kWh$127 746 kWh$76

Over all we have seen an average of 20% reduction in energy usage and bills so far. One additional step we took earlier this year was to take advantage of the recent City of Knoxville Green Incentive Program. Through this program, city residents could receive rebates for replacing older inefficient appliances with newer energy efficient ones and for solar energy technology. We decided to replace the 30 year old refrigerator that came with the house for a new energy efficient one. We decided to go all the way with a CEE Tier III energy rating, which is the highest rating and goes beyond the Energy Star rating. CEE is a consortium of energy efficiency program administrators from across the U.S. and Canada who work together on common approaches to advancing efficiency.  The refrigerator cost about $1200, but we received $500 from the City’s rebate program.  This refrigerator is rated to cost a mere $42 per year (392 kWh per year) in electricity.

We chose to take these steps to reduce our energy usage not only to save money in the long run, but also because we understand the importance of sustainability and protecting our environment. We feel it’s vital to take responsibility for the resources you consume. And a bonus, these steps have increased the value of the house, giving it a market advantage when we decide to sell.  All in all, it’s a win-win-win!


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