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C'Ville Nonprofit Offers Energy Efficiency Help to Homeowners - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Charlottesville Nonprofit Offers Energy Efficiency Help to Homeowners

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It may not yet feel like it, but warmer weather is on the way, and for some that means it's time to prepare their homes for the spring weather.

Experts from the Local Energy Alliance Program, or LEAP, say this is the perfect time to inspect your house and make sure it's ready for warm weather. With some easy fixes you can make your home more energy efficient and save money on your energy bills.

Since the fall, LEAP has been partnering with the city of Charlottesville to offer one hour walk-through to homeowners about their potential to save energy. The Home Energy Review costs $100, but now the city of Charlottesville is paying $75 of the cost for city residents, so it will only cost homeowners who live in the city $25.

It's a deal homeowner Willa Neale took advantage of.

"I have some ideas about what might help but it's good to have some experts who can tell us, who can help prioritize," she said.

Laura Fiori is a residential energy manager at LEAP who inspected Neale's home on Wednesday.

"There's a lot of information out there about how to save but nothing beats having someone come to your home and help work on your specific situation," Fiori said. "Everybody wants to do something to save energy but it's hard to see where to start."

Neale has owned her home for 10 years and has done several renovations, but none of them related to energy efficiency.

"We're far from being energy efficient so it's just overwhelming to know where to start," she said.

It starts with a one-hour assessment by Fiori, who goes through the entire home room by room, asking questions and marking observations on a clipboard.

"We make two lists: one of things people can do by themselves, maybe more straightforward things, easier things and then we also help people prioritize their bigger issues," Fiori said.

But this is just the beginning. A more detailed assessment is available for those who need it.

"If they can save, we have a path where they have a full assessment that takes two or three hours," Fiori said. And she said Neale is a good candidate.

"I'm not surprised to hear that," Neale said with a laugh.

Fiori went through everything that was discovered through the assessment.

"We've seen low attic insulation, found a disconnected duct in the attic.  We haven't looked in all the spaces yet but there's some room for improvement in the crawl space," said Fiori.

But she said it's not all bad.

"They also have some wonderful things going on: they have an addition that looks like it was very carefully done, they're using solar tubes for lighting to bring outside light to darker spots of their house where there's no windows," she said. "So there's great things and there's opportunities."

And experts say although energy efficient renovations can be costly, it shouldn't be a deterrent.

"You're talking about maybe a couple hundred dollars to fix the holes, maybe a little bit more if the house is real leaky, but in terms of payback those types of things are paying themselves back within six months to a year," said Guy Caroselli, a lead technical expert for LEAP.

And it's a payoff Neale is hoping for.

"We're terrible, we have spent any money that we've saved on cosmetic things and now we're trying to be mature and look at what will save us some money."

There is a power saver loan available through the UVA Credit Union that can help people like Neale, who are trying to make energy improvements to their homes.

"We're one of the only places in the country that has a loan specifically for energy efficiency improvements," said Fiori. "It has a very low interest rate so instead of making high payments to your utility company you can use the savings from your retrofit to pay your loan payment and you're investing money in your home instead of losing money on high utility bills."

In addition, LEAP is the local sponsor of the national program called Home Performance With Energy Star and when you make improvements to your house that are predicted to save 20 percent or more, you get a certificate saying that you've been through the program. It lists all of the things you've done to improve your home and now there's a check box on the Multiple Listing Services (MLS) for homes where buyers can search for homes that are more energy efficient through this program.

"So it's a valuable thing for people to take advantage of," Fiori said.

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