Note: This story was updated at 10:15 a.m.
A single mother of two received free energy upgrades to her home through a program funded by a $2.9 million Tennessee Valley Authority grant, and more spots are available for qualified Oak Ridge residents interested in the free energy efficiency improvements.
During a ceremony at lunchtime Wednesday, Brittany Quilliams said the improvements to her home on Bunker Lane in west Oak Ridge include a heat pump, which replaced her old heating and air-conditioning system; ductwork under her house; insulation in her attic; and new vents at the back of her house. The updates were completed about a month-and-a-half ago.
Quilliams said she has noticed that her home, one of the first three to be upgraded in Oak Ridge, is cooling quicker. Though she’s only received one utility bill since the upgrades, she has noticed a change in the bill.
“I think more people should take advantage of it,” said Quilliams, referring to the energy efficiency program. “It saves me money. It’s a great program.”
The program is called Make Oak Ridge Energy Efficient, or MORE2. There are 200 spots left in the program, which is available to residents who meet income requirements and live in homes that have electric heat and are at least 20 years old, among other qualifications. Participants can either own or rent the qualifying home, which must be within the city limits.
One goal is to help lower-income residents lower their energy costs and make their homes comfortable, said Beth Parsons, TVA EnergyRight Solutions program manager. Another is to help reduce TVA energy use and emissions, helping to keep electric rates low.
The grant is part of the TVA Extreme Energy Makeover Program. No local match was required. The grant is being administered by Gilmartin Engineering Works Inc. of Oak Ridge. The work must be complete by September 30, 2017.
TVA has awarded a total of $40 million for seven projects in the program. Besides Oak Ridge, they include Knoxville and Cleveland in Tennessee, and projects in Huntsville, Alabama, and North Georgia, and two in Mississippi. It kicked off in Huntsville and Knoxville in May 2015, and Oak Ridge had a kickoff in April this year.
So far, 10 homes have been completed in Oak Ridge, and there are 40 applications in the system. Nine more homes could be complete this month, officials said.
“It’s a great opportunity to update our housing stock,” Oak Ridge City Council member Charlie Hensley said.
The main improvements so far have included attic and wall insulation; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) units; water heaters; and heat pumps, said Todd Gilmartin and Sara Blevins of Gilmartin Engineering. Other options include appliances, and door and window work. Attic insulation is increased from R-11 to the thicker R-38, and ductwork is insulated and sealed. Light bulbs are replaced with compact fluorescents, and aerators are added to faucets to reduce water flow.
There is a $10 per square foot target for the home improvements, Gilmartin said. He said the specific improvements are selected based on what is the most cost-effective after an energy audit of the home.
Quilliams, who works at Family Doctors of Oak Ridge, bought her home about a year ago.
The main reason to apply for the MORE2 program, Quilliams said: “Nothing’s coming out of your pocket.”
Quilliams heard about the program from a family member, and she’s been promoting it to other people. Her aunt qualified for free upgrades as well.
“It’s a very easy sign-up,” Quilliams said.
The city said Quilliams bought her house knowing that the HVAC unit would soon fail, and her home would need other repairs.
“She had no idea how she was going to provide heat and air for her children,” the city said.
But thanks to MORE2, Quilliams received the new HVAC unit (a heat pump, which heats and cools the home), and the duct work and attic insulation.
“She calls the program a true blessing,” the city said.
You can see the program qualifications here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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