Energy Efficiency at Her Fingertips

Mary Frances Szoradi at home with daughter Amelia: “Our smart thermostats are super convenient. Controlling our thermostat and seeing our energy use right from our phones gives us more time for playing outside with our daughter, even when it snows in May.” Photo credit Michele Cardamone Photography.

When Mary Frances Szoradi explains why she and her husband are modernizing their mid-70s home, she cuts right to the chase: “carpeting in the bathroom.” But faster than you can say “outta here,” she’s breezed past the funky floor coverings and is onto what’s really got her family stoked about their renovation. In two words: energy efficiency.

Mary Frances warmed to the idea after working for the City of Aspen’s Water Department, where her office’s energy efficiency division opened her eyes to the concept. Then she met and married Steve, a DC transplant who had lived in Switzerland for a couple of years before making the move to Aspen.

“It’s very efficient over there,” she says of the mountainous European country that generates a mere 15% of its energy and last year voted to ban nuclear power and subsidize renewable energy. Energy efficiency is a big part of the culture, aligned with the nation’s goals to curb climate change, reduce energy scarcity, and boost the local economy.

So when she and her husband embarked on their home renovation — Steve’s seventh to date — they asked, “Why would we not take energy-efficiency measures?”

Why not, indeed? The steps they’ve taken to date on their remodel are projected to save almost  $400 annually.

High on their list of improvements was replacing the thermostats they inherited with the house: “very old ones with the lever, not digital whatsoever.” They exchanged them for three Honeywell Lyric thermostats that were recommended by their plumbing and heating contractor as an affordable, wi-fi enabled option. (The Lyrics start as low as $150.) The Szoradis now have unique temperature zones, one for each of the three levels in their 2,200-square-foot residence.

“The thermostat app on our phones is great,” says Szoradi. “We have accurate [real-time] readings of our temperatures. We can turn the heat off during the day, because we know the house is gaining solar heat, or we can preheat it when we’re driving home. It sends us notifications.”

The smart thermostats not only buy them comfort and peace of mind; the technology saves them time and money. Independent studies (1) estimate that thermostats like the Lyric, Nest and Ecobee can save homeowners 10-12% on utility bills. Combining these savings with CORE’s rebates on smart controls, payback periods can be as low as a year per thermostat.

For the Szoradis, smart thermostats are just the beginning. They’ve applied their energy efficiency mantra — “if we need to replace it, we might as well replace it with something efficient” — throughout the house. Their 30-year-old tank hot water heater was swapped out for combi boiler, providing both hot water and space heating while carving out room for a much-needed powder room on the ground floor. Their crawl space, now home to the smaller boiler, was buffed out with added insulation. Their new roof is tighter than the missing-shingles version that came with the house. The Szoradis plan to take the money they’re saving — in utility bills and rebates — and reinvest it toward a garage.

While the Szoradis will be tackling their renovation in phases, one lesson from their smart thermostat purchase is a constant: energy efficiency, unlike dated carpeting, is a must.

Let’s talk about your energy project! At CORE, we’re committed to helping you save energy. We offer cash-back rebates on smart thermostats and a whole lot more. Plus free technical and financial advising. Connect with us today at 970.925.9775 and energy@aspencore.org.

By |2018-10-22T15:10:46+00:00May 12th, 2018|Action of the Month, Blog Feed, You Are Powerful|

About the Author:

Lara Whitley is the Director of Brand + Creative Strategy at CORE. She gets a kick out of telling the organization’s stories and helping readers connect the dots between personal action and collective impact — all in the name of protecting our shared Rocky Mountain “backyard," where she loves to bike, hike and ski with her family.