Blog : An Energy Efficiency Makeover in Bedford with the Utility to Thank

By Madalyn | Nov 14, 2014 | in

By Michael McCord

BEDFORD - Ice dams are among the many weather-related issues that New Hampshire homeowners face in winter. Ice dams cause a backup of water when snow melts on the warmer parts of the roof and back up to areas of ice on the cold sections by the eves. Recent winters have seen optimum conditions for ice dams throughout the state. The connection between roof ice dams and high heating bills became apparent during a major energy efficiency conversion at Briston Manor West, a senior independent living community in Bedford.

Briston Manor West had a lot of trouble with ice dams last winter. The 46 units of single-family rental apartments had so many air leaks melting roof snow that ice dams tore down gutters. Maintenance crews spent countless hours knocking down icicles and trying to remove the ice dams.

That’s when Briston Manor West’s property management company, realized something needed to be done. Property manager Dawn Foote first called a heating contractor who suggested an in depth energy audit through Liberty Utilities, the Londonderry-based energy distributor for many of New Hampshire homes and business along the Interstate 93 corridor.

Yankee Thermal Imaging (YTI) of Rochester was brought on as part of the initial auditing team to provide the audit work and all the weatherization improvements to the units. The audits uncovered a wide range of vulnerabilities – unattached ductwork, insulation issues, and a heating system vented through the attic, warming the air there and causing melting as well as heat loss for the residents.

Matt Silva, client services manager for YTI, said a blower door test identified air leakage and other potential energy efficiency improvements. In particular, much of the original insulation and ductwork was severely outdated by today’s recommended standards.

“Every unit is a little bit different, through the process we found that all the units needed attention” Silva explained. “Insulation work that was done 20 years ago may have worked then but was no longer adequate. If you want to know how you stack up, just look at your roof versus that newer home down the block. You’ll likely see that they have a foot of snow on their roof and yours has all melted off. That’s heat and money just blowing out of your house and it can cause a multitude of problems down the road.”

Silva said that many older apartment building and housing projects such as Briston Manor West faces similar efficiency challenges as they age. In addition to damaging ice damns caused by improperly-placed venting systems, outdated insulation products and practices lead to residents putting the heat up higher and higher to stay warm.

“As energy costs rise, so should the height of the insulation in your attic to compensate for helping you save on heating,” he said. “Your utility company isn’t thought of as the organization you can lean on to save fuel and energy, but that perception is changing. They are actually no different than a company like ours that is looking for ways to save you money in your home and business.”

By early November, more than half of the Briston Manor West units had been audited and were well on the way to energy efficiency transformation, Silva said. YTI sealed all leaks, added insulation and used 28 bags of cellulose per attic. This cut down on all the heated air that was leaking outside, melting snow, and in turn causing the ice dams.

Marissa DuPont of Liberty Utilities, which serves more than 133,000 customers in 51 New Hampshire communities, said her company has a dedicated department which assists residential and commercial customers in getting energy rebates to help upgrade their heating systems and insulation needs. The units at Briston Manor qualified for the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® (HPwES) program for the insulation and air sealing. DuPont said Briston Manor West also qualified for the Energy Star® Appliances program to replace 30 year-old original unit furnaces.

By taking advantage of rebates from Liberty Utilities for both programs, with the help of YTI, DuPont says Briston Manor West received $78,200 in rebates and reduced the total project cost by 44 percent. Additionally, she said, residents will individually start saving on their monthly heating bills and be much more comfortable.

Each unit was switched from a furnace with a chimney and combustion air intake in the attic to a sealed combustion condensing furnace, which doesn’t use any internal air and exhausts through the side of the building. This allows for better sealing, better air quality, greater energy-efficiency, and significant ice reduction, Silva added.

Yankee Thermal Imaging is a Business Partner of the Green Alliance, the New Hampshire organization representing more than 100 local green businesses, along with nearly 4,000 consumer members. Silva said this major partnership with Liberty Utilities on the Briston Manor West project is nothing new for YTI. Earlier this fall, YTI teamed up with North-Hampton-based Simply Green to provide discounted energy audits; more than 50 Simply Green customers signed up.

“Liberty Utilities is the reason this project moved forward and they really came through with the rebates that made this affordable for the owners,” Silva said. “From our side this was one of the more interesting projects we’ve done because there were different conditions in each unit. We are pleased with the bottom line. These apartments will be more sustainable and far more economical to heat.”

All Green Alliance Members receive $50 off a home energy audit or $150 off the Home Comfort Savings Plan. Email matty.silva@yti.biz to book your consultation today! Not a GA Member? Join here!