Author: jgowans

25 Reasons to Get an Energy Assessment

  1. It’s the biggest bang for your buck! The assessment is valued at over $600, but we provide them for $100. See if you are income qualified, and then they are free!
  2. It’s the place to start. Many homeowners can’t figure out where to begin with energy improvements. That’s the benefit of the energy assessment report: we’ll recommend a personal Path to Zero including which projects you should tackle first.
  3. Caring about climate change means caring about energy efficiency. Natural Resource Defense Council named residential energy efficiency a significant, cost-effective strategy to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction. We couldn’t agree more, considering buildings account for 61% of emissions in Pitkin County. 
  4. Earn cash back. We put our money where our mouth is. After you’ve finished the assessment and completed recommended energy upgrades, we’ll send you a check. 
  5. Lower your utility costs. Cold air coming in means heated air (that you paid for) is leaving your home. (Picture this: dollar signs floating out of your attic). Improved home efficiency means less money spent on your gas and electric bills. 
  6. Be a part of the winning team. Join over 5,550 of your neighbors to start saving energy and celebrate as you help your community reach climate action goals.
  7. Instant savings. You are eligible for up to $200 worth of equipment that we install for FREE. These items, such as swapping out incandescent light for LEDs and insulating pipes, will jump-start your energy savings.
  8. It’s easy. Give us a call (970.925.9775) or enroll online. Our energy advisors can walk you through the sign-up process. Be prepared to answer a few questions about your home (they’re designed to help us prep for your one-of-a-kind abode). 
  9. Get comfy. Could you feel cool air coming into your home this winter? Yeah, let’s stop that, literally. We’ll pinpoint areas of air leakage and showcase where you can increase insulation. You’ll feel the benefits all winter and summer long. 
  10. Drive with directions. The assessment is your home’s energy roadmap, determining the most cost-effective upgrades to make first and what projects you can save for later on. 
  11. Leave the hard stuff to us. With an assessment, you don’t have to trek around your home feeling for infiltrating cold air. Leave it up to us to target areas of improvement, through a blower door test and infrared imaging.
  12. You can talk to an actual human about your assessment report. CORE advisors automatically call you to discuss the report after your assessment. We’ll provide you with tips, a contractor list, and our rebate brochure.
  13. Safety matters. During the assessment, your energy analyst will perform safety testing. That testing will ensure your home is safe from gas leaks and high levels of carbon monoxide.
  14. We’ve got standards. A Building Performance Institute (BPI)-certified building energy analyst will visit your home to complete the assessment. 
  15. Hang out with cool locals! Meet our local energy analysts who call the Roaring Fork Valley home. They get a kick out of spending a couple hours investigating how to help you save energy … some might call the crawlspace their favorite part of a home. 
  16. Know your home’s carbon footprint. The assessment shows where you’re wasting energy and burning fossil fuels that ultimately contribute to a larger carbon footprint. 
  17. Create a healthy home. You go to the doctor for a check-up, right? What about your home? The assessment gives you an in-depth look at your home’s energy health. 
  18. Increase your home’s resale value. Homes from California to Washington D.C. saw 2-6% increase in home value based on energy-efficiency projects. 
  19. Go solar. Interested in solar? Get a home energy assessment to help you identify areas of energy improvement prior to sizing your PV panels. It can save you money in the long-run and gives you access to our renewable energy rebates of up to $2,250.
  20. Celebrate innovation. CORE is funded by the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program known as REMP. CORE distributes the REMP funds in the form of rebates and grants with oversight from the City of Aspen and Pitkin County. Take advantage of them!
  21. It’s a win-win-win. With an assessment report in hand, you can lower utility bills, improve comfort, and protect the climate. 
  22. We’ll find the little things. That furnace filter you forgot about, or the programmable thermostats that still isn’t programmed? Our energy analysts can help with that. 
  23. Light up. Your home that is. LEDs provide the same or higher quality of light, use 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer than the old incandescent bulbs. (BONUS: they come free with your assessment).
  24. Treat your water heater to a cozy blanket. Nope, not the fuzzy throw kind, the insulated kind. Wrapping a “blanket” on your water heater can cut heat loss by 25-45% and save 7-16% annually on water heating bills
  25. Knowledge is power. In an easy-to-read format, the assessment lists top priorities, includes estimated pay-backs on projects, and breaks down your home’s energy usage.

She’s not just making vodka, she’s distilling change

What does it take to build one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries? Ask Carbondale’s Connie Baker.

On a whim, the former contractor went to distilling school where she fell in love with making vodka, discovering that, “it can be made from almost anything.” She spent the next four years creating mashes and developing recipes that would become the cornerstone of Marble Distilling Co. & The Distillery Inn (MDC), a Carbondale, Colorado-based business, and world’s first net-zero distillery, that she co-founded with friends and family in 2015.

Along the way, she also unearthed a dirty secret about the industry: most distilleries flush unthinkable amounts of resources — hot water and compostable mash — down the drain. She knew there had to be a better way.

This curiosity of how things are made — and made better — has served her team well in developing their unique approach. The sustainability pioneer is the world’s only net-zero distillery recapturing 100% of the process water and harvesting the energy off of this process. Working with a team of twenty local engineers and energy gurus, MDC created an award-winning Water and Energy Thermal System (WETS) that reclaims and reuses the water from the distilling process to heat the building. This innovative closed-loop system saves four million gallons of water and 75 metric tons of carbon each year.

Leading-edge technology like this comes at a cost. Without external funding, the vision would have remained a cocktail napkin dream. Partnering with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) — a trailblazing clean-energy nonprofit behind the nation’s first carbon mitigation fee and Colorado’s first wind power program — was a key to lift-off. CORE awarded the net-zero distillery $33,875 in grant funding, supported the team with technical and financial advising, and encouraged them to apply for a USDA Rural Energy grant that reimbursed 25% of the upfront costs of the WETS system. CORE and MDC hope their unique private-public partnership will be a model for others.  Operating from an open-source mentality, MDC invites other distilleries, nonprofits and municipalities to glean from their experiences and program designs.

Old School Aspen, New School Solutions

You don’t need a time machine to experience the rich history of the town formerly known as Ute City. Tourists and locals alike can get a taste of the good ol’ days by staying in one of Aspen’s historic small lodges. The City has recognized 13 boutique hotels for their historical, economic, and cultural importance. But old buildings aren’t exactly known for their efficiency, and in a city with ambitious climate action goals that matters — a lot. To preserve history and the environment, the City of Aspen partnered with CORE in 2015 to create the Small Lodge Energy Efficiency Program (SLEEP).

SLEEP gives financial support for energy upgrades and tailored energy advising from CORE’s Commercial Programs Manager, Mike Bouchet, for these unique properties. Each lodge can get up $20,000 per year for up to five years. The way Bouchet sees it, “the program maintains quaint pieces of Aspen’s history and helps lodges provide modern comforts with a lower carbon footprint.”

To see the power of SLEEP in action, look no further than the oldest lodge in town, the Snow Queen. The Victorian-style mansion was built in 1886 and has a history as fascinating as it’s architecture. The shed next door once housed the largest silver nugget ever mined long before it became a rallying post for the original ski bums of the 70s. The current owner, David Ledingham, recently took over the family business initially purchased by his mom in 1961. Ledingham said of days gone by: “We rented rooms with bunks for $12 a night, and when we sold out, we’d rent you a spot on the couch for $5.”

“It’s not easy running a small b&b,” according to Ledingham. “Electric bills get up to $1,500 in the winter, plus the guests these days want AC.” Ledingham worked with CORE’s Bouchet to find a solution that could handle both heating and cooling – an electric heat pump that delivers three times the efficiency. This is on top of three years of SLEEP Program collaboration that included upgrading to all-LED lighting, enhanced insulation, and a high-efficiency boiler. After a quick crunch of the numbers, the Snow Queen is on target to recoup their part of the investment within three years.

It’s All HERS

When buying a new car, most people pay attention to — and factor in — the gas-mileage sticker in the window. But did you know that there’s a similar, nationally accepted energy rating system for homes?

It’s called the Home Energy Rating System, or HERS. Developed by RESNET, a nonprofit focused on achieving a nationwide, net-zero-energy residential sector by 2040, the HERS Index is the industry standard — recognized nationally and internationally — by which a building’s energy efficiency is calculated and measured. A certified HERS rater evaluates a home’s building envelope, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, and more to create an in-depth analysis of its energy performance (and estimated energy costs). On a scale of 0 to 150, the lower a HERS-rated home is on the index, the more efficient it is.

But a HERS rating doesn’t have to be fixed forever. With a HERS score in hand, homeowners can identify ways to improve their homes’ energy efficiency — and lower their utility bills. On a community scale, more HERS-rated homes mean more opportunities to lower our collective carbon footprint. This can be particularly impactful in the Roaring Fork Valley, where the building and renovation industries play such a huge role — and where buildings account for 63% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news is, Pitkin County adopted HERS into its energy code in spring 2020. Under this code amendment, any new home or substantial renovation or addition (more than 1,000 square feet) must achieve a HERS rating of 60 or lower. A typical US home is rated 100. If the property has on-site renewable energy, the required maximum score is 30.

But what about existing homes? That’s where CORE comes in. We’re excited about the potential for HERS to move our community closer to a net-zero future, and we want to help homeowners onto that path as well. Here’s how CORE and HERS go hand in hand:

  • If you’re curious what your home’s HERS score is, we can put you in touch with a local certified HERS rater. (CORE has tripled the capacity of HERS ratings in the valley by organizing and paying for trainings.)
  • If you’ve had a HERS rating done and want to make energy improvements, we can advise you on options.
  • If you’re interested in building a net-zero home, we offer grant funding based on your final HERS score. Find out more about the Net Zero Homes Grant here.

HERS is certainly not the only tool in our toolbox, but it’s an increasingly important one.

Living the Net Zero Dream

Net-zero living is a whole lot more accessible than it used to be, but you don’t have to take our word for it. DIY homebuilder and Al Beyer Design architect, Ben Koons, is back to take us on a tour of his net-zero dream home. In CORE’s latest video installment, Koons doesn’t just break down what it means to live carbon-free, he shows us how it’s done.

Green Gigs: How a Performing Arts Center Can Be Net Zero

It was a near miss and chance encounter that started The Arts Campus at Willits on its Path to Zero. But as the arts organization winds up construction on its new Contemporary Center for the Performing Arts, AKA The Contemporary, and gets ready to welcome audiences in summer 2021, the conversation is still far from over.

A few years ago, TACAW Executive Director Ryan Honey was skiing in Snowmass for a friend’s 50th birthday party. Coming out of a line on Hanging Valley Wall, he and another skier nearly ran into each other. They got to talking later in the lodge, first about the awesome powder conditions that spurred the near collision, then introduced themselves: Turns out the other skier was Dave Munk, a board member of both Holy Cross Energy and CORE. That fortuitous meeting got the conversation rolling on how to make TACAW’s future performing arts center — then in the early planning stages — as climate-friendly as possible.

At Munk’s urging, in 2019 TACAW applied for and received CORE’s biggest grant, then called The Randy Udall Energy (TRUE) Pioneer Grant, rebranded as the all-encompassing CORE Grant, which would pay for most of the cost of a 64-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the 10,000-square-foot building. Receiving the grant says Honey, “made it clear to us we wanted to go all-in on sustainability for our new building. Everyone at CORE is so passionate about the mission. They walk the walk; they’re true believers.”

And so, the conversation evolved between TACAW, CORE, and Holy Cross. Possibilities were explored to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and everyone got excited. When the team planning the building said gas wouldn’t power it at all, “our input on that note was, no gas is great, but you have to do electric right,” says CORE Program Director Marty Treadway.

That led to, for example, a decision to use a more climate-friendly refrigerant than is typically used in the heat pump system. And an all-electric building powered by solar, Honey and Treadway both pointed out, holds the potential of storing energy in batteries, possibly for future community use.

“At a time when we’re talking about resiliency in communities and our buildings, the arts center as a community node could offer some resiliency in times of crisis,” says Treadway. “This is a unique opportunity to make a difference with a really valuable community space.”

For Holy Cross, a progressive utility that has committed to providing 100% renewable energy by 2030, the publicly accessible building could serve as an example to potential clients, a showcase of what’s possible.

Ryan Honey also doesn’t consider the conversation closed once the Contemporary opens this summer. For one, there’s planning for the rest of the arts campus — the building sits on just one-third of the parcel on which TACAW has a 99-year lease. Then there’s the Contemporary’s programming, and all the people — artists, audiences, chefs, presenters — who will be coming through. Communication about energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, and climate should be infused in all those areas.

“We see CORE as a real partner in trying to elevate the conversation on climate change with our new building,” says Honey.


So, how does The Contemporary become the first net-zero performing arts center in Colorado — and one of the few in the country? Here are 5 ways:

1. Rooftop solar
A large, flat roof in the middle of a sun-soaked valley is a great place for a solar array. TACAW worked with Holy Cross to figure out how much electricity would be needed to power the building, and solar was the obvious choice. The biggest factor in getting to net-zero and one of the largest in the valley, the 64KW system is estimated to produce 103,000 kilowatt hours per year — which is about what the building is expected to use, says Honey. There’s room for a few more panels, and “if we need additional energy, we plan to buy renewable from Holy Cross until we can upgrade our systems to get to net-zero.”

TACAW’s 64-kilowatt solar array covering the entire roof of the 10,000-square-foot building

2. All-electric kitchen
With culinary arts becoming so popular, they’ll be integral to The Contemporary’s programming — think dinner and a movie. By not having a gas line powering stoves and other kitchen appliances, “part of the story is chefs learning how to cook in a net-zero kitchen, which is where it’s all going faster than any of us think,” says Honey, who consulted with caterers and restauranteurs on the topic. And the opportunity to showcase all-electric cooking to participants and audiences in culinary events and programs — priceless.

3. LED lighting and air circulation
All the lights throughout The Contemporary are LED, which not only is the most energy-efficient and longest-lasting option available, but also offers another distinct advantage for a performing arts center: LED lights don’t generate heat. Honey tells of running the AC full blast in the middle of winter at The Temporary, due in large part to all those traditional bulbs generating heat in a room packed with people. In the new building, LED lighting and an air circulation system that can pull in fresh air from outside are expected to be a major factor in reducing energy usage.

The unfinished basement of The Contemporary’s new campus. It’s well lit and ventilated using as little energy as possible and even has extra space for battery storage.

4. Involve the artists
The performing arts are a fossil fuel-intensive industry, considering artists’ needs to tour — and all the stuff that can accompany a traveling gig. TACAW is looking to change that. Starting with the Denver-Boulder to Basalt corridor, Honey is hoping to find partners to provide zero-emissions transportation, for example — and work toward net-zero bookings one route at a time. “As a net-zero performing arts center, we have a unique opportunity to transform the touring industry,” he says.

Ryan Honey looking good in the laser-level light. As an artist himself, he knows how to drive action in his community.
 
5. Get people talking
Issue-based programming, including panel discussions about climate change and documentaries on issues concerning the mountain West, will be an important part of The Contemporary’s offerings, Honey promises. He’s also planning a display about the building’s net-zero story in the lobby area, called the Commons, where a 14-foot video wall might also show a livestream of a climate conference, for example. There will be bike racks and likely a WE-cycle station, plus ample opportunity to use The Contemporary’s backyard, which includes a 75-seat amphitheater and lots of green space. “This building will be a model building, but we also want it to be a hub for conversation and things that drive action,” says Honey. “Anything we can do to move the needle.”

The Contemporary has big plans to blast the sustainability message out to any and all that want to be a part of a carbon-free future.

TACAW is about to be the lowest carbon-producing performing arts center in all of Colorado – and as far as we know, the entire country – with a little help from a CORE Grant. Start a conversation with CORE’s Program Director Marty Treadway and learn how we can help fund your innovative carbon-cutting project. Don’t delay, CORE’s biggest and most competitive grant is now accepting applications on a rolling basis, 24/7/365!

Stitching Together a Carbon-free Community

When Matt Shmigelsky found the foreclosure sale up the Crystal in 2014, the property was in rough shape. The previous owner — a real-life junkyard owner — had left his calling cards all over the three-acre lot. “RVs, trash, a lot to clean up,” said Matt. But beneath the debris, he could sense potential on this rare piece of accessibly priced raw land where he could park the low-carbon tiny home he had just built with the support of CORE rebates.

Among the castaways on the parcel were an energy-sucking modular home and a Quonset hut with a “Swiss cheese” roof and bolts that had failed over its four-plus decades. At best, the Quonset could serve as a shed — and a leaky one at that.

The less hardy might have called in a landfill hauler to scrape the site and been done with it. But Matt, owner of Arcos Mobility, an electric-vehicle charging company that develops turnkey infrastructure solutions, is guided by a core belief that by using resources wisely it’s possible to live sustainably on a budget, even in Pitkin County. And that starts with working with what you’ve got, rather than accepting the tear-down mentality so pervasive in our valley and beyond.

Fast forward five years and Matt found a vision for the Quonset in an unexpected location. On a river trip in Cataract Canyon he met Claire Wright, owner of Cosecha Textiles, an upholstery start-up in San Juan Island, WA. Like him, she had been invited by mutual friends to join the flotilla. Sparks flew between the two entrepreneurs who shared a propensity for the reclaim-and-renew mentality (at the heart of re-upholstery) and within two months they were engaged. This year, Claire moved to Carbondale — and, you might say, to the Quonset hut.

When the two met, Matt was mostly complete on a retrofit on the modular that could be a blueprint for CORE’s Path to Zero strategy. By removing the propane furnace, replacing it with an all-electric heat pump, insulating the roof (bumping it to an R-value of 60 from about 20), converting a gas water heater to electric, and putting eight kilowatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) on the roof that offset 80% of the entire property’s electricity usage, he had done a 180 on the energy performance and carbon footprint of the space. (Note: Matt’s energy-saving work earned him $6,000 in CORE rebates, adding to the nearly $1,500 he received for the energy-efficient design of his tiny home.)

With Claire’s arrival on the scene, he now had a creative purpose for the Quonset. Afterall, he had lured her west with the promise of “a studio 30 feet from your front door.”

So the pair set about on Matt’s third sustainable build, this time together. The goal was to shore up the Quonset’s failing roof; insulate the space for warmth, comfort and efficiency; and build an inner box within the inverted-U shape structure that would be a studio for Claire’s business with a loft for Matt’s office on top.

This was no small task. Replacing the bolts alone — all 3,600 of them, by hand — took some 10 weeks in a summer of nearly 100° temps. Then came cutting down polystyrene foam which Matt had salvaged over the years, into 3” thick slabs for the floor. Again, the pair got creative: rigging up a DIY cutting system that enabled them to resize the foraged foam, which, if new, would have cost them $40 a sheet. By being resourceful, they could save money and the environment.

After the subfloor went in, the structure got spray foam on the interior roof and end walls, while the studio box was treated with fiberglass and drywall. The end result was almost continuous insulation in the 30’ x 40’ x 16’ form. When the results came back from the blower-door test, their efforts had reduced drafts by 59%, a stunning improvement.

The ability to tackle three net-zero builds on a maker’s budget in six years — just down the road from Carbondale, where the average house of a home was recently announced at $1.3M — is the product of not only creativity and grit, but also of community. Friends and family — including one key carpenter/neighbor — are swinging hammers and providing construction materials as wedding presents (toward the couple’s COVID-postponed 2021 wedding). And CORE stepped in with a third rebate. For the Quonset, Claire and Matt’s work on air sealing and insulation got them $2,500, which sheared 25% off their project costs.

“We’re grateful that CORE exists,” says Claire. “The rebate we got has made it possible for us to complete the project — and not just for us, but for the community too.”

Amidst their dream of self-sustainability, is a vision for creating a communal space for workshops, gatherings and meals. The community table is already in; heat pumps and more PV are on the drawing boards. The dream is to create a 100% net-zero property, for the whole kit and kaboodle: residence, tiny-home guest house, business, and electric vehicle.

“We want to demystify the feeling that it’s unattainable to be able to make sustainable choices,” says textile professional Claire, “and [we want to] weave it into the community.”

Claire Wright and Matt Shmigelsky, Pitkin County business owners. PC: Daniel Bayer Photography

Driving Innovation One Barrel at A Time

What does it take to build one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries? Ask Carbondale’s Connie Baker.

On a whim, the former contractor went to distilling school where she fell in love with making vodka, discovering that, “it can be made from almost anything.” She spent the next four years creating mashes and developing recipes that would become the cornerstone of Marble Distilling Co. & The Distillery Inn (MDC), a Carbondale, Colorado-based business, and world’s first net-zero distillery, that she co-founded with friends and family in 2015.

Along the way, she also unearthed a dirty secret about the industry: most distilleries flush unthinkable amounts of resources — hot water and compostable mash — down the drain. She knew there had to be a better way.

This curiosity of how things are made — and made better — has served her team well in developing their unique approach. The sustainability pioneer is the world’s only net-zero distillery recapturing 100% of the process water and harvesting the energy off of this process. Working with a team of twenty local engineers and energy gurus, MDC created an award-winning Water and Energy Thermal System (WETS) that reclaims and reuses the water from the distilling process to heat the building. This innovative closed-loop system saves four million gallons of water and 75 metric tons of carbon each year.

Leading-edge technology like this comes at a cost. Without external funding, the vision would have remained a cocktail napkin dream. Partnering with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) — a trailblazing clean-energy nonprofit behind the nation’s first carbon mitigation fee and Colorado’s first wind power program — was a key to lift-off. CORE awarded the net-zero distillery $33,875 in grant funding, supported the team with technical and financial advising, and encouraged them to apply for a USDA Rural Energy grant that reimbursed 25% of the upfront costs of the WETS system. CORE and MDC hope their unique private-public partnership will be a model for others.  Operating from an open-source mentality, MDC invites other distilleries, nonprofits and municipalities to glean from their experiences and program designs.

“Innovative thinking and community partnerships like this one will create the unexpected solutions and new technologies that are the key to our future,” said Mona Newton, executive director of CORE. “We are proud to step up to the challenge with Marble Distilling Co., a company that is an inspiration to us all.”

CORE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to leading the Roaring Fork Valley to a carbon-free, net zero energy future. Under the guidance of a Board of Directors–made up of elected officials, utility representatives, and committed citizens–CORE helps people, businesses, municipalities, facilities and nonprofit organizations save natural resources and lower energy bills while reducing their carbon footprint.