Albemarle Co. family’s home energy costs cut in half thanks to LEAP audit

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 4:54 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) is helping homeowners trying to catch a break on their energy bills. The nonprofit is doing this by offering home energy audits, which track interior changes that can be made within the home to help lower electric bills and prevent harmful emissions.

Jonathan Small, who lives in Albemarle County, had an energy audit completed about 10 years ago and says it’s now paying dividends.

“We wanted to make sure that we did the things that were the most bang for the buck,” Small said.

The audit recommended changing an oil furnace in the basement to a new heat pump. The family also added insulation around their attic opening and installed solar panels. Energy from the solar panels charges the Small’s electric vehicle.

Small says the savings over the years has been shocking.

“The cost of our bills went down 50%, roughly speaking, and then when we later added solar panels the cost went down 90%,” he said. “We saved the money in order to buy potentially an expensive thing like our electric vehicle or solar panels knowing that whilst its a fairly large up-front cost, it’ll pay for itself over a number of years.”

According to Virginia Energy Sense, which is partnering with LEAP to promote reducing energy use, more than half of those living in the commonwealth want to be more conscious energy consumers.

“A 2021 Virginia Energy Sense survey found that 4-out-of-5 Virginians are interested in learning more about steps they can take to save energy, 72% of Virginians consider saving money a very important reason to save energy,” said Ford Carson with Virginia Energy Sense.

Replacing incandescent lightbulbs for LED ones, or purchasing a “smart” thermostat that minimizes energy use are two easy ways Virginians can save money, Carson says.

For Small, saving money is a big draw, but so is cutting emissions: “For us, it’s really important for us to try and leave the world in a better place than when we found it. So the cost savings are super important to us, but it’s a good feeling to feel that we’re doing good for the future,” he said.

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