August 21, 2017 11:25:33 AM
Samella Degraffen Reid's home much more comfortable now than it used to be, and that's the most important thing for her.
Reid's home was one of 139 in Columbus that received energy efficiency improvements thanks to the Extreme Energy Makeover program.
The city and Columbus Light and Water partnered with the energy firm CLEAResult after receiving a $1.6 million Extreme Energy Makeover grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The program sought to reduce electricity usage by addressing air leaks, poor weather sealing, insulation, heating and cooling, duct seals and other issues. It aims to create 25 percent energy savings in homes that are at least 20 years old and targets homes in lower-income communities.
Reid lives in an older home that used to have window heating and cooling units. She said her energy makeover included ductwork and the installation of a centralized heating and cooling unit.
"This upgrade has really made a tremendous amount of difference," she said. "... You don't have to walk through rooms where it's cold there or hot there -- cause that's what I used to have to do. But now it's quite comfortable."
Her bills are a bit lower, but she said even if they weren't, she's gotten what she wanted from a program that exceeded her expectations.
"It's gone lower, but if it doesn't go any lower, I'm comfortable," she said.
Reid was one of a few dozen people who attended Friday luncheon where representatives from the city, CLW, the Tennessee Valley Authority and CLEAResult talked about the program and thanked residents for their participation.
David Sparks, with TVA's sales and marketing department, said more than 172,000 feet of housing has been weatherized and made more energy efficient through the program. Those improvements will save 826,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year -- enough to power 59 homes in the same period.
"For us, as an energy producer, we saved over 550 metric tons of (carbon dioxide) and removed that from the atmosphere," Sparks said. "That makes the air and the sun and the lifestyle we love and the life we live better.
"Over 105 homes have HVAC systems," he added. "Average participants could see a savings of $650 a year on their power bill."
Sparks said the program, and others like it, helps TVA partner with local entities and work to improve energy efficiency.
"The challenges we face with this program cannot be solved by any one person," Sparks said. "It takes a partnership, like we have with the city of Columbus, Columbus Light and Water, CLEAResult and you to find solutions and opportunities to make these types of programs happen."
CLW General Manager Todd Gale said he'd like to work at more homes, but it now falls to people who have learned about energy efficiency through the program to help their friends and neighbors.
"I wish we could do this every day, but we can't," he said. "Hopefully, you've learned some things you can take with you and share with your neighbors to get their bills lower too. I think we all know somebody in need, so reach out a helping hand to them."
Mayor Robert Smith said he's heard "good, exciting stories" about the program's successes.
"It's been a great program," he said. "I remember when Todd and I took that journey to Knoxville, we were wondering if Columbus was going to get this program. It's been a great partnership between TVA, Columbus Light and Water and the city of Columbus. I'm just so appreciative that, through the energy make over program, the goal was 125 homes, but we ended up doing 139 homes."
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