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The co-op members regularly monitor their energy usage via the SmartHub smartphone app.


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Travis Armstrong caulks around a vent.


Creating a dream home One of the primary steps the couple took was to contact Cotton Electric


Cooperative’s power use advisor, Mike Stephens. They scheduled a free energy audit and worked with Stephens over a period of two months to improve their home’s efficiency.


Stephens performed a thorough audit of the home, inspecting everything from the crawl space and attic to the furnace and chimney. An infrared camera shot at the home’s exterior walls revealed one of the structure’s major issues—lack of insulation. “We could see the heat coming through the walls. It showed the tempera- ture to be 115 degrees,” Whitlaw says. According to Stephens, lack of insulation is a problem he finds in many


homes. “Their home is beautiful, but there were so many things that were over-


looked when it was built,” Stephens says. “I advised them if they put insu- lation in the house, they could save as much as a third on their energy bill.” A blower door test to measure the airtightness of the structure disclosed another problem—air leaks throughout the house equivalent to leaving a window and half open, all year-round. They took measures to seal and in- sulate HVAC ducting and used silicone caulking to seal around air vents, lighting, windows, doors, electric switches and outlets.


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“Mike helped us to understand our home much better. It didn’t cost a lot to do the things he recommended and the energy savings have been tremendous.”


- Heather Whitlaw, Cotton Electric Cooperative member


Heather Whitlaw


You pay a lot to heat and cool, so it doesn’t make sense to lose it in the ducts,” Armstrong says. “We could tell a difference immediately.” Stephens also helped Armstrong and Whitlaw to understand how both of their thermostats—on the first and second floors—were being impacted by light streaming in through skylights and high windows. For less than $200 in total, they purchased special fabric covers that allow light to pass through the glass without obstructing the view from inside, but prevent heat from entering the house. In the winter, they remove the covers and utilize the sunlight to heat their home. Outside the home, a couple more changes helped with energy savings. A


backyard pool pump had been running constantly. Stephens advised them to schedule it for 12 to 13 hours a day, during specific times. They also re- placed an extensive network of wired backyard lighting with solar-powered lights that don’t use any electricity. “Mike helped us to understand our home much better,” Whitlaw says. “It didn’t cost a lot to do the things he recommended and the energy savings have been tremendous.” Not only has the energy audit improved the efficiency of their home, it has also made Armstrong and Whitlaw more conscious about how they use energy. They program their thermostat to reduce heating and cooling de- mand when they are at work; they run major appliances when energy is the cheapest, rather than during peak hours; they unplug appliances when they’re not in use to prevent them from drawing unnecessary current, and they installed surge protectors to easily turn off power in areas of the house that aren’t in use. In addition, they regularly monitor their energy usage via


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