Happier Holidays for Baton Rouge Family of Nine Who Won National Home Energy-Efficiency Makeover Contest | Alliance to Save Energy

Happier Holidays for Baton Rouge Family of Nine Who Won National Home Energy-Efficiency Makeover Contest

Release Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2008

36 Percent Overall Energy Efficiency Improvement Documented

Baton Rouge, La., December 2008 — Cathy Clites and her three-generational family of nine didn't expect a more energy-efficient, money-saving holiday season this year – and certainly not the “gift” of a 36 percent increase in their home’s energy efficiency in the past year.

After they won last year's nationwide home energy efficiency makeover contest for a deserving family by NBC Universal's SCI FI Channel and the Alliance to Save Energy, the Clites family was already enjoying a more comfortable and energy-efficient home – and lower energy bills – thanks to donations of new ENERGY STAR lighting, electronics, and appliances, water-saving devices, insulation, and sealing of air leaks to the outside.

But they still needed new windows to replace their older, very inefficient single-pane windows. Those windows, along with older, inefficient appliances, lighting, and other energy-draining products, had led to whopping monthly energy bills of nearly $500 that the Clites family struggled to pay prior to the energy efficiency home makeover.

Coming to the rescue just in time for the holidays, the regional electric utility, Entergy, and HomeCare, a Baton Rouge home remodeling and repair company, completed the makeover by donating and installing 29 new energy-efficient windows.

In combination, the improvements have increased the home’s overall energy efficiency by 36 percent, according to a follow-up Home Energy Rating performed this month by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LADNR).

This includes a decrease of 13 percent in the whole house infiltration rate (leakiness of the home), which is attributable to the new windows, sealing of gaps around doors, and resealing of ductwork for the heating and cooling system.

The duct leakage rate itself declined by 75 percent. In the South, heating and cooling system ducts are predominately located within attic space, so decreasing duct leakage is one of the most economical and energy saving improvements that can be done to a home in a hot, humid climate such as Louisiana’s, noted Paula Ridgeway, manager of the LADNR state energy office.

Ridgeway point outs "the importance of a detailed Home Energy Rating, proper installation of energy efficient materials, and post-retrofit verification. To quantify the energy efficiency, environmental, and economic benefits of the upgrades, our office provided the final Home Energy Rating detailing the results of the generous efforts of the Alliance to Save Energy and others that contributed to the success of this worthy project.”

Notes HomeCare Chief Operations Officer Stephanie Frederic, "In addition to saving money on monthly energy bills, the more efficient windows will keep the home warmer in winter and cooler in summer and also reduce condensation, outside noises, and interior fading of furniture and window coverings. The Clites family can now enjoy a more comfortable, quieter home."

Reflecting on the past year, Cathy Clites said, "It's been a miracle — I never won anything in my life and feel so lucky. I've learned through this process how important energy efficiency is, especially in this economy. We’re all in this together and have to make our own homes greener — to conserve and not destroy."

Like many families today, Cathy’s was touched by life-changing medical adversity. More than six years ago, Cathy’s husband Charlie, a three-tour Vietnam veteran then working as a maintenance manager, was disabled by a heart attack and then a massive stroke, leaving the family to rely on Veterans and Social Security disability benefits. Wheelchair-bound and needing daily care, the former breadwinner and “Mr. Fix-It” could no longer maintain the house.

To help care for Charlie, daughter Sheri and her husband Nate Boyd and their four children, ages 3-11, moved into the Clites home and were later joined by Nate’s older son. As crowded as they already were, the generous family sheltered Hurricane Katrina victims who fled New Orleans.

Overwhelmed since “my world changed,” Clites revealed last year that she knew very little about fixing things around the house, home energy, or energy efficiency and “had to teach myself.”

Entering the national home makeover contest was the start of her energy efficiency education. Inspired, she immediately took action, replacing energy-guzzling incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). After winning the contest, she continued her education, studying the detailed home energy audit report and picking the brains of the knowledgeable manufacturers and contractors who donated and installed energy-efficient products.

Now Cathy Clites animatedly discusses the multiple benefits of energy efficiency — reduced energy bills, energy use, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, plus increased energy security. “HomeCare has been wonderful. Tim McIntosh, the contractor who handled the installation, is like part of our family now," said Clites, who prepared lunches for all the contractors who worked on the makeover.

"You know what I miss the most about all of this?" Clites asked. "All of the wonderful people who worked on this project. Come back."