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Nonprofit offers energy assessments and advice

On a warm April afternoon, Drew Levy of Innovative Energy Solutions held a thermal scanner at arm’s length and slowly panned it across the living room ceiling of the Henderson home he was evaluating.

“See that hot spot around the light fixtures?” Levy asked. “That’s the kind of thing we expect to see, hot air from the attic leaking out into the living space. Light fixtures are a pretty common energy leak problem.”

A few minutes later he was continuing his work in the kitchen when he spotted a more unexpected problem.

“Whoa, that’s a missing piece of insulation there,” Levy said. “Either it was never put in, or it wasn’t put in right.”

On the scanner, a bright red and orange rectangle approximately 3 feet long and the width of the ceiling joists, 16 inches, stood out against the green and blue of the rest of the ceiling.

Levy and his assistant, Dustin Terry, were there on behalf of EnergyFit Nevada, a nonprofit organization operating statewide with a local office at 231 S. Third St. Until April, the group was based out of the Las Vegas PBS offices at 3050 E. Flamingo Road.

According to EnergyFit Nevada’s program assistant, Alisha Cahlan, the group has had a lot of ground to cover in a short time.

“Since last October, we’ve helped 300 homes statewide,” Cahlan said. “Our goal was to help 1,750 by this October, but we may have to adjust that or look into extending a grant.”

The group is dedicated to connecting homeowners with certified contractors to do an energy assessment of the home and then it helps with grants and low interest financing to bankroll energy efficient upgrades.

“What we want to do is help people make their homes more energy-efficient,” Cahlan said. “Hopefully, that will make people more happy, healthy and comfortable.”

The group is funded in part through a grant from the Nevada State Office of Energy.

“People can sign up online at our website (energyfitnevada.org) or come in to our office, and we can help them sign up,” Cahlan said. “We’ll put them in touch with one of our contracting partners who will arrange an assessment in one or two business days.”

Once a homeowner makes arrangements through EnergyFit Nevada, an energy auditor and a contractor schedule an appointment to make an energy assessment of the home. The auditor does tests and inspections including thermal scanning, sealing the house and pressurizing it to find air leaks and physical inspections of vents and attics.

“See, we’ve got a lot of gap here,” Terry said after removing the air return vent on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. “That’s not as big a problem as the location, adjacent to the garage, which isn’t insulated.”

Levy explained that the air circulating the system was being warmed not only by the hot garage but also by an interior wall that wasn’t insulated and opened straight into the attic. Those walls were a problem throughout the house, allowing air from the attic to flow out of anything set into the wall, such as door frames, electrical outlets and medicine cabinets.

“We also take the home’s utility bills and weather data and model the house in a software program,” Levy said. “We take into account the orientation of the house and the number of windows. That way we can tell them exactly how much energy they can expect to save depending on improvements they make.”

EnergyFit Nevada’s contracting partners are certified by the Building Performance Institute and have gone through the group’s program. The group also does background checks on contractors, ensuring that they have their business licenses and that other requirements are fulfilled.

The initial assessment costs the home owner $199.

“The price is kept low by our funding from the state,” Cahlan said. “If a home can be made 20 percent more efficient, EnergyFit Nevada can offer to rebate up to $1,000 in improvement costs.”

After the assessment, the contractor will go over it with the homeowner and explain which programs can help, and they can help decide which improvements are feasible for the homeowner’s budget. Cahlan said that typical recommendations include adding insulation and replacing the windows with more energy-efficient windows with a tighter seal.

“A lot of heat loss comes from windows,” Cahlan said. “New windows are a quick remedy for that.”

Homeowner Katarina Tesarova was pleased with her assessment and is looking forward to the improvements on her home.

“We’re set to have the work done at the end of May,” Tesarova said. “They were great to work with, and I think we’re going to save a lot of money and do our part for the environment, too.”

Tesarova is uniquely suited to appreciate the work of EnergyFit Nevada. She is the director of sustainable operations
for the Energy and Environmental Services Division of MGM Resorts International.

For more information about EnergyFit Nevada, visit energyfitnevada.org or call 702-734-2000.

Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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