Residence Power Makeover contest winner introduced
“Growing up,” said Amy Cook, “our family vacations were always camping. And I’ve always loved the forest, always loved going to summer camp and things like that. “
When Amy saw a small cabin in the middle of nature that was just outside Boone, NC, she knew she had found it. From the original pine paneling on the walls to the cabinet fittings in the kitchen, she said, “It felt right at home right away.”
“It’s just very calm and peaceful, and when I sit outside on my deck I just look into the forest and hear the birds,” added Amy. “It was a very calming place to live.”
One thing about their new home, however, wasn’t all that pleasant.
“It was a very cold winter,” said Amy, referring to the first cold season she had stayed in her new house after moving in in June 2017. “It wasn’t comfortable at all, but my utility bills were still very high. ”
Despite her best efforts to conserve energy by keeping the thermostat low and wearing a hat in bed, Amy’s utility bill was over $ 300 in February. “It was a shock,” she said. “I didn’t think the bills would be as high as they were.”
Amy’s house, like others, was built as a summer residence along her gravel road, as evidenced by the faded instructions on how to hibernate the house at the entrance to the crawl space. This means that the house was completely unprepared to accommodate the winter in the mountains.
Since Amy can only work part-time, she couldn’t afford the upgrades her home would need to make it more bearable and affordable in the winter. Nor was she interested in taking out a loan. “I just knew I had to find out something before next winter.”
Fortunately, while working at the Watauga County Public Library, she heard about our High Country Home Energy Makeover Contest and was eventually selected as the grand prize winner.
“I heard about the competition,” Amy recalled, “and I thought if I don’t apply, I definitely won’t win.”
The High Country Home Energy Makeover Contest awarded the grand prize winner $ 4,000 in energy-saving renovations. Five finalists also received a free energy audit to pinpoint problem areas in their families’ homes. (Read the stories of the other finalists.)
Before Amy was selected as the grand prize winner, she was selected as one of the finalists to receive a home energy audit from John Kidda, the owner of reNew Home, Inc. “It was so much fun!” Said Amy of the exam process. “I’m kind of a nerd so I loved knowing all the information … It would have been worth it on my own just to get this audit and then have an idea where to go from there.”
After thoroughly analyzing how Amy’s cabin uses and loses energy, John found that upgrading her heating system from the current baseboard heaters to a highly efficient mini-split heat pump would save her the most money on her energy bills and significantly improve the comfort of her your home. “I thought if I could just get storm windows that would solve the problem,” Amy explained of how the review process changed her mind. “I did not understand [a new heat pump would have a greater impact] until John and I talked and he explained everything. “The heat pump can also cool your home and complement or replace the current window AC unit.
Home improvement is often a big undertaking, especially when you’re considering how to finance it. “I feel like [Appalachian Voices has] Come next to me and I don’t have to worry about it alone, “Amy said. “I’m really grateful for the whole thing … I know I’ve said grateful 55 times, but I’m just really grateful.”
Amy looks forward to lower electricity bills next winter after installing the new heat pump. “It will make a huge difference in the quality of life,” she said. “I hope to be in this house forever so it’s great to be comfortable here … it will probably seem like a new house!”
Amy isn’t the only person in the highlands struggling with astronomical energy costs through the cold winters. Thousands of our neighbors spend more than 20% of their income on energy bills each year, mainly due to energy wasted on homes and appliances.
Some electrical cooperatives in the area, like the Roanoke Electric Cooperative in East NC, have decided to help people like Amy get energy-saving home improvement by adopting energy efficiency funding programs that are accessible to everyone, including renters and Low-income households.
Despite the widespread need in the area and strong support from the cooperative members, Blue Ridge Energy has chosen not to run a similar program despite federal funding.
Learn more about our Appalachian Energy Conservation Campaign and contact Lauren Essick, our NC Energy Conservation Coordinator, at [email protected] or 828-262-1500 to learn how your electrical cooperative can make better programs for clean energy.