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Going All In: Couple Teams with Jackson EMC for Home Energy Makeover

With Jackson EMC as their coach, Jim and Shari Warren of Hoschton recently transformed their energy-weak house into an ultra-efficient home, energy fit for the future.

The couple’s odyssey into home energy fitness began in December when Shari, a retired school librarian, read an article by finance guru Clark Howard about price breaks offered for installing solar panels. Jim, retired from data processing and teaching, always seemed cold in their otherwise happy home in the Southampton Falls subdivision.

“I had to wear wool socks and sweaters no matter what setting the heat was on, and I wanted to be comfortable but also have a low energy bill,” says Jim. “I wanted my cake – and wanted to eat it, too.”

While her neighbors were prepping for the holidays, Shari researched solar companies and selected Gain Solar Services, of Gainesville, to install a 10 kW solar power system. Owner Johnny Valentine’s additional input was sobering: to achieve true efficiency, the Warrens would have to look at their home’s overall energy effectiveness.

The couple entertained several contractors, but conflicting suggestions left them concerned that some of the businesses were more bent on selling products than in helping them achieve energy efficiency. Those concerns were put to rest when Mike Walker, of Global HVAC Inc. in Hoschton, offered advice that set the Warrens on a trajectory to success: Contact Jackson EMC and request a home energy performance study, the Personal Home Fitness Evaluation, for an objective analysis; they could end up saving 20-30 percent on annual heating and cooling costs, plus, Jackson EMC offers rebates for certain energy improvements.

The Warrens scheduled their Personal Home Fitness Evaluation, and an energy technician with Home Diagnostic Solutions (HDS, a Jackson EMC-approved performance testing contractor) used state-of-the-art equipment to check the home’s heating and cooling system, determine the quality of insulation and air sealing, check supply and return air flows, measure air infiltration and determine humidity and temperature. Results from this thorough and objective analysis were presented to the Warrens in a notebook that detailed the findings and gave recommendations for improvements along with a list of vendors in Jackson EMC’s Participating Contractor Network.

“This book was our blueprint for the project,” says Shari, noting the reassurance she and Jim felt from working with an impartial company.

“We’re vested only in the homeowner’s satisfaction,” says Kevin Luhr, of HDS, who identified the Warrens’ worst energy problems as insufficient insulation and poor ductwork, the two most common culprits when it comes to energy loss. When these and other improvements were suggested, according to Luhr, “The Warrens went all in.” Their energy improvements included adding:

  • An energy efficient electric heat pump and new ductwork to provide comfort.
  • Foam insulation sprayed in the attic to prevent outside air from coming in and to serve as a moisture barrier.
  • An energy efficient Marathon water heater, with 2.5 inches of foam insulation, minimizing standby heat loss to keep water hot longer.

Jackson EMC rebates for insulation, ductwork, heat pump, hot water heater and the Home Energy Fitness Evaluation put a cool $1,700 back in the couple’s bank account. (Plus, they received a $4,500 Jackson EMC rebate for the solar panels.)

As contractors completed their tasks, HDS returned to the home to make sure specifications were met, and throughout the experience, Jackson EMC was on-call to assist.

“Our contractors said Jackson EMC has great people to work with, and we found that to be true,” says Shari. “Whenever I had a question, I could call them, and I looked at the Jackson EMC website to see what else I could do to save energy and money.”

After the four-month energy makeover was complete, the Warrens realized savings when their May power bill was only $72, less than half what they paid for power the same time period last year. The savings continued in June when their bill was $66, less than a third of the $209 they paid last year. “I feel the return on our investment will pay for itself,” says Shari.

“There are two types of return on investment,” adds Jim. “One is the actual monetary return, but the second is comfort, and I don’t know how you put a value on that. It’s priceless. After we made these changes, I wasn’t cold anymore.”

Global HVAC’s Mike Walker takes pride in that fact. He enjoys helping Jackson EMC help families like the Warrens meet their energy challenges.

“I know I’m with a good group with Jackson EMC,” says Walker. “Like them, we want our customers to be happy. I know I’m going to be in the supermarket some day and see Shari in the aisle, and I want her to be satisfied with the job we did.”

If Walker sees Jim in the bakery aisle, he shouldn’t be surprised if the happy, energy-fit homeowner is buying cake – and eating it, too.