THIS COLD HOUSE

Marty Treadway is betting the future is already here when it comes to carbon-free living.

By day, as CORE’s Program Director, he’s a Certified Energy Manager and an evangelist for net-zero buildings, the kind that generate as much energy as they use. By night, as a family man (husband to Trina Ortega and father to two boys), he is co-creating a life in Carbondale that is steering away from fossil fuels and toward fun. To flip the switch, he and Trina recently sold their residence across the highway and purchased an old, leaky cold house in town. Good-bye commute, hello energy project!

As they embarked on a four-month energy remodel of the 1968 house, starting with a home energy assessment, Marty found out first-hand what retrofitting a residence to net-zero energy really entails — and almost got more than he bargained for. Now, after restoring his family’s home, he’s renewed his family’s life.

In this photo story, we break-down the steps that Marty took to get net zero done and show how you can do it too.

PC: Daniel Bayer Photography

CORE’s zero-energy guru Marty Treadway at the all-electric induction cooktop that was a key to his family’s switch to renewable electricity. Why the big grin? Super-fast coffee in the morning and carbon-free efficiency all day long.

Marty’s Path to Net Zero:

Step 1: Assess + Address
Step 2: Tighten Building Envelope
Step 3: Electrify Mechanicals
Step 4: Power Renewably
Goal: Net-zero Living!

STEP 1: ASSESS + ADDRESS

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This Cold House

Following his home energy assessment, Marty inspects the attic of his family’s newly purchased, 1968-built home from a hole cut through the original roof. “For 50 years, there was more insulation R-value in the walls than in the ceiling. The attic was poorly insulated and the crawl space had zero. Their utility bills showed it: last December it was more than $500 for gas and electric.” 

Asbestos Blessed Us, Kinda

“We intended to just remodel the kitchen and open up the living space when we were doing our energy upgrades. But when the asbestos test came back, we had to gut the entire ceiling and most of the interior walls. Mitigation blew the budget, but once you’ve pulled the sheetrock, you notice faulty wiring and lighting layouts that don’t make sense. Now we have a healthy house and lights where we want them, all LED with the color temperatures we like.”

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STEP 2: TIGHTEN BUILDING ENVELOPE

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Marty gets cozy in the crawl space with tight air-sealing of cold spots. “The rim of the floor framing is a constant suck of heat from your house. It’s your connection to the outside and heat always wants to leave there. Spray foam increases the R-value, putting serious heat resistance where it’s needed most, and adds the benefit of air sealing” 

Attic: Where Pragmatic Meets Ecstatic

The attic is tucked into bed with insulation that keeps the whole house temperate. If you look closely, you’ll notice the cut in the original roof that Marty was standing in at the beginning of the project. “After spray foam at the heel of the truss, we blew in cellulose insulation. It’s critical that you air seal first. And don’t forget to seal the interior mechanical penetrations as well.” 

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STEP 3: ELECTRIFY MECHANICALS

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Little Magic Box

Marty preps the indoor and outdoor units of his electric heat pump, the “little magic box” that provides all the heating and cooling for his home at extremely low energy-cost.  “We were faced with replacing a natural gas wall furnace with another one just like it; there was no other distribution system in the house. [In our goal to be carbon-free], there was an opportunity cost to starting from scratch. Electricity is the future.”

Indoor Air Equality

Marty’s ERV — aka the Energy Recovery Ventilator — watches over the family.  “It’s the intelligent bath fan that brings in fresh air and exhausts the stale air. Our two bathroom units serve the whole house with air quality control. Once I get my final blower door test, we’ll know how much fresh air we need and will set them to run at a certain percentage around the clock. That way it delivers all the fresh air we require for a minimum amount of energy.”

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Hot Water On E-demand

Hot water and efficiency are just a click away with Marty’s phone tied to the family’s hybrid-electric, heat-pump water heater: “The control of this thing is amazing. You can turn it off remotely when you’re away. And the electricity usage is stunningly low: we saw a 50% reduction in demand (aka kilowatts) right off the bat. Anyone with a gas water heater should save money by putting one in and it’s a simple swap-out for those with an electric water heater.”

STEP 4: POWER RENEWABLY

Bringing Solar Home

“When I got to the heat pump, I had to justify the cost. If I didn’t go for net zero and add solar panels to offset it, the long-term cost wouldn’t have made sense. Now, I’m seeing the energy remodel as a revenue generator. Energy savings pay back project costs. Solar runs the heat pump for nothing (after it’s paid off) and when the panels are generating, they’re actually ‘producing’ money. It’s efficiency plus renewables, with money to be had from both.” 

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Budgeting-energy-efficiency

Making the Numbers Work

“After the Colorado RENU Loan for PV is paid off (seven years), I will have zero utility bills. Period. My RENU  loan payment is less than what the utility bills were. Plus we accessed CORE’s Net-zero Homes Grant (available to anyone) to help pay for the bigger ticket items, a solar rebate, and federal tax credit.” PC: Colorado Energy Office 

GOAL: NET-ZERO LIVING

Now We’re Rolling

“We go a week without anyone touching a car. I’m not talking about it as an energy dork, it’s just more fun. Biking. walking. We’re a part of town now; we’re connected.”

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Here For You

“I went through the process as a customer and it penciled out for me, thanks to the RENU Loan. I’m the perfect example of someone who wanted to do more than their means could allow. Now I want to share that and help the CORE community plug into these strategies and savings.” 

Plug into Net Zero

We’d love to help you get on the path to net zero like Marty, tapping into CORE’s hands-on expertise, free energy advising, and financial incentives and resources. No matter where you are in your energy project, we can help — and the earlier the better. The sooner in the process you start a conversation with us, the more resources you’ll have access to! We invite you to connect with our team:

Hannah Itzler, Residential Energy Programs Manager, 970-925-9775 ext. 507

Mike Bouchet, Commercial Energy Programs Manager, 970-925-9775 ext. 506

We’d also like to give a shout out to the contractors and energy advisors who helped Marty on his project:

About the Author: 

Lara Whitley is the Director of Brand + Creative Strategy at CORE. She loves using creativity as a lever for social change 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.