In the fall of 2014, the Energy Savings for Appalachia team announced the High Country Home Energy Makeover Contest in northwestern North Carolina. The goal was to help three area households save up to 40% of their energy costs through home improvements. We also wanted to raise public awareness of the many benefits of energy efficiency and to encourage the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. to establish a financing program to help its members pay for energy efficiency improvements.
We partnered with several local contractors who donated their time and services. The contest was open to BRE members who met certain criteria, and we received nearly 70 entry applications. We heard many stories of families without proper central heating systems who suffer great discomfort in the winter, but can’t pay their electric bill.
The contractors did walk-through assessments of the homes of 11 semi-finalists, and helped us decide where we can make the most impact. They also donated their time to do comprehensive energy audits of the winners’ homes to tailor the best home energy improvements for each one.
Our Energy Savings team chose three families to receive free home improvements (see the video and other stories below). During the process, we learned that the average applicant spent nearly three times the national average of his or her monthly income on their energy bills. The contest also revealed that more than a quarter of applicants spent 15% or more of their income on energy bills. (Read the press release.)
The contest and other education efforts played an important role in convincing the BRE to adopt an “on-bill financing” pilot program in April, 2016. We continue working with the co-op leadership expand the program and make it permanent.
— WINNERS OF THE HIGH COUNTRY HOME ENERGY MAKEOVER CONTEST —
Zackary Dixon • Boone, N.C.
Zackary won our grand prize of more than $3,000 in home energy improvements. Zack lives in his grandmother’s house, where he grew up. He used space heaters, but much of the heat escaped through air leaks in the house, which had very little insulation, and he chronically struggled to pay his electric bill. When we met him, a serious medical ailment had kept him out of work for several months. Read more of his story here.
Thelma and Vance Woodie • West Jefferson, N.C.
Vance and Thelma were runners-up in our contest and received $800 in home energy improvements. Their turn-of-the-century home was once heated by a coal stoker furnace in the hand-dug basement. They installed an oil furnace years ago, but the ducts were not replaced and the air intake for their heating still came from the basement, where leftover coal remained an air quality concern. We replaced and insulated their ducts, and added some insulation to their home. Read more of their story here.
Sean Dunlap • Sugar Grove, N.C.
Sean is our other runner-up. He lives with his wife and two children in a 1938 farm house built by his wife’s great-grandfather, making their children the fifth generation to live there. Despite making some energy efficiency improvements of their own, there was still plenty to do. Read more of his story here.