A retirement community in San Antonio worked with a local Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partner, CPS Energy Saver, to make energy efficiency upgrades to 189 single-family cottages. | Photo courtesy of CPS Energy.

 

What are the key facts?

  • A retirement community in San Antonio worked with a local Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partner, CPS Energy Saver, to make energy efficiency upgrades to 189 single-family cottages.
  • These upgrades, like additional attic insulation and new appliances, improved the efficiency of each cottage by 15 percent or more and are saving $34,000 in annual electricity costs for all the cottages combined.

In a retirement community for military officers and their spouses, San Antonio’s Army Residence Community (ARC) is launching an offensive against energy waste. Working with the local utility, CPS Energy, and the city of San Antonio, the ARC made energy efficiency upgrades to its 189 single-family cottages -- helping residents cut their energy use while improving their comfort.

The ARC -- a non-profit organization that is independent of the military -- is committed to improving the energy efficiency of its buildings as a way to help support sustainable buildings and reduce its utility costs. So when residents in the retirement community reported problems regulating the temperature in their homes, the ARC decided to make thermal improvements, like adding attic insulation, to all of its cottages.

Before it started the upgrade process, the ARC worked with Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partner CPS Energy Savers -- a collaboration between the city of San Antonio and CPS Energy -- to find rebates for not only insulation but deeper energy efficiency upgrades. The additional incentives allowed the ARC to replace the cottages’ appliances -- including refrigerators, air conditioners and water heaters -- with more energy-efficient models. The ARC also sealed air ducts and installed LED lighting in some of the cottages.

The upgrades helped improve the energy efficiency of each cottage by 15 percent or more. That equals an electricity savings of about 367,000 kilowatt hours a year -- or almost $34,000 in annual electricity costs for all of the cottages combined. Although utilities are included in residents’ fees, the ARC passes these cost savings on to the residents through reduced community fees.

“With these incentives, the deeper upgrades sold themselves,” said Carla De La Chapa, program manager with CPS Energy Savers. “Incentives plus rebates led to much deeper savings; without them, it would have been just an attic insulation job.”

With the weather heating up in San Antonio, residents of the ARC are looking forward to staying cool this summer without wasting energy.

Rebecca Matulka - Digital Communications Specialist, Office of Public Affairs

Located near the Long Island Sound, Deborah Wetzel's condo is cold and drafty eight months out of the year. A home energy audit and small energy efficiency upgrades helped Wetzel improve the comfort of her home while saving money on energy bills. | Photo courtesy of Deborah Wetzel.


 

Hangout with the Energy Department on Earth Day:

  • Deborah Wetzel will join experts from the Energy Department for a home energy efficiency Google+ Hangout on April 22 at 3 pm ET.
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy experts will answer your questions about ways to save money and incorporate renewable energy into your home.
  • Submit your questions on Twitter, G+ and YouTube using #askEnergy, post them in the comments on our Facebook page or email your questions to us.

While a home situated close to the water might be a selling point for many, in the winter it can be a challenge for Deborah Wetzel, who lives in a condo near the Long Island Sound. For eight months out of the year, the wind whips off the Sound, making her home cold and drafty. So when Wetzel saw an energy efficiency flyer in her monthly energy bill, she jumped at the chance to improve the comfort of her home and lower her bills.

Working with her local utility -- the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) -- Wetzel contacted one of the preapproved contractors certified to conduct a comprehensive home energy audit. After assessing insulation levels, inspecting Wetzel’s combustion equipment and appliances, and conducting a blower door test to find air leaks, the auditor was able to give Wetzel a full picture of where her home was losing energy and the improvements that would help her save energy. For Wetzel’s home, the auditor determined that adding more insulation to the attic and making mostly small improvements would have the largest impact.

Wetzel made some of the suggested improvements -- like putting plugs in the outlets on the outside walls, sealing air leaks around her washer and dryer, adding weatherstriping around the opening to her attic and sealing up an unused fireplace -- herself at little or no cost. For other upgrades -- like adding attic insulation and air sealing throughout her home -- Wetzel hired a certified contractor to do the work. As part of an energy efficiency program, LIPA and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority offered a partial rebate, helping Wetzel offset the costs of the upgrades.

“Getting the partial rebate helped me decide to make the energy efficiency upgrades,” said Wetzel. “But I also plan on keeping my home for a long time, so it was worth the investment to make my home more comfortable and draft free.”

Since completing the upgrades almost 18 months ago, Wetzel has definitely noticed a difference. Not only is Wetzel’s home less drafty in the winter and more comfortable during the summer, the upgrades also helped lower her energy bills. The upgrades helped Wetzel reduce her energy costs by more than 15 percent -- or $30 a month. At this rate, Wetzel’s energy efficiency improvements -- which only cost her about $1,300 -- will pay for themselves in a little more than 3 ½ years.

Are you are looking for ways to cut your energy bills like Deborah Wetzel? Join us on April 22 at 3 pm ET for a home efficiency Google+ Hangout. Energy efficiency and renewable energy experts from the Energy Department will answer your questions on ways to improve your home’s comfort while saving money.

Rebecca Matulka - Digital Communications Specialist, Office of Public Affairs