When Bob Sirkus and his wife bought a townhouse on the Snowmass Golf Course in the fall of 2020, they knew it would need a full renovation. The Snowmass Club Townhomes were built in 1982, and while their three-bedroom, 2,900-square-foot unit had likely had a few facelifts over the years by multiple owners, “frankly we had no idea what was in the ceiling, behind the walls, or anything,” says Sirkus, a Snowmass Village Town Council member who represents the body on the CORE Board of Directors.

Sirkus fully intended to improve the home’s energy efficiency — he has been conscious of making environmentally responsible home choices since installing a heat pump to cool a home he had built in the 1970s in upstate New York — but wasn’t sure exactly what could be done and to what extent until they dug in.

As it turned out, the ceilings and most of the walls had to be stripped down the studs. Part of the reason for taking down the drywall was to run ductwork for an air-conditioning system for about half the house — rooms that had high use and exposures that warranted cooling during increasingly warmer summers.

Opening the walls and ceilings so much allowed for extensive insulation and air sealing work, step 2 on CORE’s Path to Zero. A combination of foam and batting went into the ceiling and walls, and the crawl space was sealed with vapor-barrier plastic across the entire floor and up its walls, where foam was used around the typically leaky perimeter rim.

While it was a choice he made on his own, Sirkus’s decision to insulate and air seal his ceiling and crawl space was probably the best thing he could do to improve energy efficiency, according to CORE Program Director Marty Treadway.

“The importance of addressing the top and the bottom can’t be overstated,” says Treadway, who explains that those are the two areas most likely to lose heat — escaping through the attic as air rises and having cold air sucked in from outside to the subgrade spaces. So, when improving a heating system or considering a new one, it’s important to think about making sure the building holds on to the heat.

“If you don’t do that, it’s like wearing a down jacket with the zipper open,” says Treadway. But by zipping the jacket all the way up — with air sealing and insulation — “that’s going to lead to increased comfort even if you don’t address the heating system.”

“Air sealing isn’t too difficult. And you can [add] foam insulation into many places without taking down walls.”

– Bob Sirkus, CORE Board and TOSV Town Council member
Click below for a photo tour of Bob’s energy upgrades.

With their remodel, the Sirkuses chose to replace the approximately 15-year-old boiler with a new, high-efficiency one. At that point, a few months prior to joining the CORE board, Bob wasn’t aware of heat pumps to heat in cold climates, and the wheels had already been set in motion on the remodel when he learned about their superior energy performance and discussed the idea with his contractor and HVAC guy. After speaking with Treadway, Bob left the door open to adding a heat pump to his home’s heating and cooling system in the future.

“People think it’s all or nothing, that you have to tear your house apart, but you can keep a gas system in place and dabble in heat pumps,” explains Treadway. In the Sirkuses case, the add-on could supplement heat and cool the home (using the duct work installed for the A/C), and help save on gas bills.

That part of the renovation journey “highlighted to me how much there is left to do to make contractors, subcontractors — and also just everyday folk who are building or renovating houses — aware of what electric heat pumps can do, and how they can fit into a project,” notes Sirkus.

Educating the public about energy improvement measures weighs particularly heavily on Sirkus as a Town Council member. The board recently set a lofty goal of reducing the community’s carbon footprint 62% by 2030, and “there’s no way that can happen unless we get the greater community involved and interested, and doing the kinds of things we did here,” says Sirkus.

Luckily, these actions can be simple and affordable for most homeowners.

Although insulation and air sealing were obvious things to do with the walls and ceilings stripped, “you can blow foam insulation into many places without taking down walls,” Sirkus points out.

In fact, says Treadway, an insulation/air sealing project “is one of the most cost-effective things you can do to improve the performance of your home.” With an average cost of $3,000 to $4,000, such a project also qualifies for rebates from CORE (25% of project cost up to $500) and from some utility providers. City of Aspen Electric customers effectively get double rebates. And of course, all energy efficiency improvements ultimately save homeowners money in reduced energy bills.

And installing LED lights, which the Sirkuses did throughout their home, “is as easy as changing a light bulb,” Sirkus quips.

Bob received $840 back from CORE after his energy efficiency upgrades, and you can receive rebates for every step on the Path to Zero. Add insulation and air sealing to make your home more comfortable, save you money on your utility bills, and save energy. Contact CORE’s Program Director Marty Treadway to learn how you can make your home more energy efficient.