Affordable rentals benefiting from energy-efficient upgrades

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LEAP Executive Director Chris Meyer (left) and Technical Director Wilson Ratliff lead the tour as his team installs a new bathroom fan on Thursday, May 13 at one of the upgraded homes in Fletcherville energetic.

House by house, energy costs will decrease and comfort will increase for tenants in the Fletcherville subdivision of Foothills Housing Corp., a few miles north of Warrenton.

Charlottesville-based Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) last week showcased its work to improve 15 of Fletcherville’s 39 affordable rentals.

After an energy assessment of each home, LEAP employees improve attic insulation, seal leaks, install efficient bathroom fans with smart switches, and replace old bulbs with LEDs.

So far, the work has cost about $ 4,200 per home, funded by a grant from Dominion Energy’s EnergyShare program.

“The long-standing mission of the Foothills Housing Corporation to provide safe, decent and affordable housing has been terribly affected by the partnership with LEAP,” said Chief Executive Officer John Reid. “The improvements made directly affect our tenants, who pay their own utility costs, allowing them to have a much more affordable home, and help FHC in its efforts to provide affordable housing in this area.

Based on tenant income, LEAP has so far identified six of the homes eligible for EnergyShare funding to replace electric baseboard heaters and window unit air conditioners with highly efficient mini-split systems.

This could reduce a tenant’s annual energy costs by up to 60%, predicted LEAP technical director Wilson Ratliff.

The other improvements alone could produce savings of 40 percent, according to Ratliff.

Blown fiberglass insulation in attics – which costs about $ 1 per square foot – is one of the most effective upgrades.

Built in the 1950s and 1960s, most Fletcherville hikers have 4 inches of attic insulation, with an R-value of around 8. Virginia’s minimum recommendation is R-30.

Adding 17 inches of blown insulation improves the attic insulation with R-60, Ratliff said.

LEAP has its own crew and equipment to perform the upgrades.

Founded in 2010, LEAP is the result of a grant Charlottesville and Albemarle County won to create a community organization focused on energy efficiency.

The nonprofit has expanded to offer energy assessments for homes and businesses, weather protection upgrades, assistance with solar power installations, and education across much of the world. Virginia. It has 17 employees and a second office in Fairfax.

Several years ago, LEAP conducted energy assessments and made improvements to Foothills’ new eight townhouse country neighborhood in Bealeton.

A tenant said his monthly electric bill of $ 140 fell to $ 100 after the work was done, Reid said.

“LEAP is truly thrilled to serve the residents of the Fauquier area,” said Chris Meyer, executive director of the Charlottesville-based nonprofit. “Much of the area’s ‘affordable housing’ is not affordable considering the high utility bills.

“The energy efficiency improvements that we can make to these homes for free can ensure the homes have long-term affordability. “

Dominion started EnergyShare in 1982 to help qualified customers pay their bills and in recent years has expanded the program to include energy assessments and upgrades.

“EnergyShare is a flagship program of Dominion,” said Jeanne Underwood, government affairs coordinator for the utility, at the May 13 event in Fletcherville.

The program often serves as a “last resort for our customers who are in an energy crisis – a last stop for those who cannot pay their bills,” Ms. Underwood said.

Work to improve the energy efficiency of a home helps prevent a crisis, she added, noting that donations from other clients and Dominion employees are helping fund the program.

Foothills, which owns a total of 164 affordable units in Fauquier, including The Oaks apartment complex in Warrenton, purchased Fletcherville in December 2018. Rents there range from $ 650 to $ 1,550 per month.

LEAP sees the potential to help more tenants in Fletcherville and households across Fauquier, Meyer said.

“We are very grateful for what LEAP and Dominion are doing to help with housing here in Fletcherville,” said Mr. Reid.

Contact the editor “Lou” Emerson To . (JavaScript must be enabled to display this email address) or 540-270-1845.


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