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Grants help homeowners afford energy efficiency

Elise Thatcher

  The Community Office for Resource Efficiency, or CORE, has been working with homeowners for years to help bring down energy use. The nonprofit has expanded to specifically help homeowners on a limited budget. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher has this story.

Cathy Drew is standing on the front deck of her upstairs apartment. Through stiff allergies, she describes how she ended up buying the one bedroom unit in the Holland Hills area. “Well, I was desperately looking for housing that allowed dogs, which is impossible in the Valley,” she explains. Her place is cozy and welcoming, a collection of odd-shaped rooms with sloping ceilings. There are two decks with a sweeping view of the neighborhood. “And this place had been on the market for almost a year...I came and looked at it, but it was kind of out of my price range.” This home is the upper floor of a cabin that’s at least sixty years old-- quite possibly much older.


Credit Elise Thatcher
Drew's propane stove is one of two that don't work properly or at all.

  Drew is a massage therapist at various places in the Roaring Fork Valley, and she ended up getting a federal loan to purchase the place in 2014. She bought it from the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, but quickly realized something was wrong. The propane stoves that came with the house didn’t work, or not very well.  “I need heat, I didn’t have heat all winter,” laughs Drew. “Yeah, I’m desperate.”

So she applied for help to figure out how to keep her place warmer and received a twenty five hundred dollar grant from CORE. That comes with a free energy assessment, and one of the things that came up was her house has little to no insulation.

So contractor Scott Mills is in the background, getting ready to go into the attic. He and his team will rearrange the existing, minimal insulation so that it’s more effective. “Once we air seal and put down insulation on this area, you’ll go, now we’re holding the heat in,” says Mills. “And we’re keeping the air in [so] that’s what’s going to keep it warmer.”

There isn’t enough money in the grant to buy a new heating system, though. That’ll cost about five thousand dollars to replace the old one, and Drew shakes her head at the price. CORE does have low interest loans for grant recipients, so that might be an option for her. “I’m looking into some other energy programs that they have, because baseboard heat is more efficient,” she says. “So I’m going to wait until the insulation is done, and then there’s grants and rebates for baseboard heating.”

Twenty seven people received CORE grants this spring, and the nonprofit is still taking applications for 2015.