Front Porch Blog

Upgrade your home without breaking the bank

By Otto Solberg
Editorial Assistant, Fall 2017 and Summer 2016

Lannie by fence

Christian Lannie stands outside his home in Alleghany County, N.C.

When Christian Lannie purchased his home in Laurel Springs, N.C., nearly four years ago, it had been sitting empty for years. With single-pane windows, wooden walls riddled with holes, baseboard heat and barely any insulation, Lannie had his work cut out for him just to keep his home bearable.

As an artist and carpenter, he was able to do a lot of those repairs on his own, but running his baseboard heating for just two weeks in the winter cost him $120, so he turned it off and ran a wood stove to stay warm. In order to afford the high upfront cost of an efficient heating system, he took his friend Matt Wasson’s recommendation and participated in the Energy SAVER loan program offered by Blue Ridge Energy, Lannie’s electric cooperative.

The loan program allows homeowners to borrow up to $7,500 for energy efficiency upgrades, and pay it back through a new charge on the member-owner’s monthly energy bills. In some cases, the bills will be lower despite the loan repayment.

“The whole process was so easy from beginning to end. It was super seamless. People at the co-op organized everything and got me in touch with different vendors,” says Lannie. “We did the energy audit first. That really got the ball rolling.”

Blue Ridge Energy arranges a professional energy audit, where a local contractor examines the home to find out where the structure is losing energy. This is important for finding which upgrades will best improve comfort and lower energy consumption, and helps homeowners understand where their home is inefficient. After assessing Lannie’s needs, the co-op provided several quotes for different heating and air conditioning systems from several local contractors. The audit cost $50 since Lannie went through with one of the upgrade options.

“I got a really nice heating and air conditioning system,” says Lannie. “It’s super efficient. I’m just really thrilled with it.”

mini-split heat pump

Lannie’s new Mitsubishi mini-split heat pump is highly efficient.

He chose a Mitsubishi mini-split heat pump system that was the best-rated system for the least amount of money. With just two wall-mounted units in his two-story house, Lannie can efficiently heat or cool his entire home.

“That’s the other thing with this house, there is no room for ducting. If you read up on the energy use of what these systems use compared to a traditional duct system, it’s crazy why we don’t use them everywhere,” says Lannie.

Every house has different needs, which is why the Energy SAVER loan programs can be used for a variety of upgrades that can help save energy and improve home comfort. These changes can include improving insulation, air sealing, duct sealing, basement and crawlspace sealing and/or upgrading an HVAC system.

With winter upon us in the High Country, electric bills can get expensive, and upgrades to your home may seem out of the budget, but this loan helps with both. The energy efficiency upgrades will lower your monthly energy usage, and some homeowners can save money on their monthly payments even while paying back the loan.

“I think it’s a very beneficial program for anybody,” says Lannie. “This is a great and very inexpensive way, especially paying on a monthly basis, to afford it.”

Lannie's home

Christian Lannie’s family home is much warmer and more efficient thanks to the energy-saving upgrades financed by Blue Ridge Energy’s Energy SAVER loan.

For qualifying homeowners, the Energy SAVER loan program is an easy opportunity to save energy, make your home more comfortable and reduce your carbon footprint.

For more information visit or call 1-800-451-5474.

To learn more about the energy efficiency options available for member-owners of electric cooperatives in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, visit

Every year, Appalachian Voices is fortunate to assemble a phenomenal team of rockstar interns from numerous Appalachian and East Coast universities. Enjoy these posts from our interns.


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