Energy savings model targets village

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BELLOWS FALLS — Even on a sweltering hot day, it's comfortably cool inside.

The Efficiency Vermont Vermod house has been sitting next to the Bellows Falls Waypoint Center since June, attracting the curious and people who want to know more about saving their energy dollars, according to Brad Long, community engagement manager for Efficiency Vermont.

Efficiency Vermont has targeted several Vermont communities this summer, including Rockingham and Rutland, in an effort to reduce the energy footprint of residents and businesses through various programs. "We've determined these communities are under an energy burden," he said, showing that people have not taken advantage of Efficiency Vermont programs. Previous Vermont towns that were targeted were Randolph, Northfield and Hardwick, he said.

Those programs include a no-cost home or business energy consultation, Long said. He said that free visit has a $450 value, and residents will learn after a walk-through what would be the top energy priorities, as well as a clear, organized plan of action "to start saving energy."

All that people need to provide is a copy of their electric bill and winter heating costs, he said.

He said people who would have the home energy visit can receive up to 12 free LED light bulbs, as well as a $50 coupon for a new Energy Star appliance.

There are absolutely no sales pitches, he said. "We go after low-hanging fruit," he said.

Old refrigerators are notorious energy users, he said.

So far about 60 residents and five small businesses have taken advantage of the free energy visit, he said.

"I'd love to see more businesses participate," he said.

The house, made by Vermod of Wilder, Vt., is the lure, Long said, so that people can learn more about the programs offered by Vermont's energy efficiency utility. The house, which arrived in Bellows Falls in mid-June, has been moved to  Manchester, Vt. for this weekend's SolarFest. It will return to Bellows Falls after SolarFest and will be open to the public on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings until Aug. 5, after Rockingham Old Home Days.

"We want people to see some of the integrated systems technology," he said.

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The house is a smaller version of various modular energy efficient homes made by the Wilder, Vt., company that specializes in energy-efficient homes. Long says it's not just winter energy, but summer energy consumption that people should pay attention to.

The Vermod home's walls are 10 inches thick, with triple glazed windows. Once Long turns on the super-efficient home's heat pump, it rapidly returns to a very comfortable temperature.

In addition, Long said, "it's a healthy house," with air filtering. "There is no mold, no toxic flooring, no off-gassing," he said.

"For people with asthma, this is a game changer," he said.

With its thick walls and triple-glazed windows, the passing trains, including Amtrak's Vermonter, are only a faint sound, he said.

The house has solar panels on its roof, with a battery back-up producing all the electricity the home needs. But the house must be hooked up to the Vermont power grid for winter power demands, just as an insurance policy, he said.

But he said at the end of the year, there are no net electricity costs.

Efficiency Vermont is a child of the Vermont legislature, he said, with a goal of reducing Vermont's energy consumption. It's 20 years old and the energy efficiency utility employs 61 people.

"We're way, way way beyond LED light bulbs," he said.

But it's not just about saving money on your energy bill, but also live more comfortably, in both the winter and the summer, Long said.

Rockingham residents will remain eligible for the special Efficiency Vermont programs until the end of the year.  After Aug. 5, the home will be at the Vermont Farmer's Food Center in Rutland.

People interested in have a free home energy visit should call 1-888-921-5900 to make an appointment.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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