Skip to main content

Markian Feduschak & Sue Nicolai, Eagle

It was early December 2021 when Markian Feduschak was able to get a cold-climate heat pump installed in his home. His gas furnace was at the end of its life and had needed to be repaired on a few occasions – even failing to operate during a previous winter.

The estimate Markian received to replace the aging gas furnace was comparable to the cost of a cold-climate heat pump, but the heat pump installation required an upgrade to the home’s electric panel. Rebates available from Holy Cross Energy and Walking Mountains Science Center offset the increased costs of the electrical panel upgrade — making all the difference in his decision to remove the fossil fuel heating source.

From Fossil Fuel to Electrification

Swapping out his original gas furnace turned out to be a five-day project — one that Markian had hoped to complete in the summer — and the last bit of work was done on a Friday, while plug-in electric heaters blasted to keep the home at a comfortable temperature. If the heat pump didn’t function properly, it would be a long, cold weekend before the contractor could return on Monday.
Luckily, everything went smoothly, and on Saturday morning, when it was minus-15 degrees outside his home in Eagle, which sits at an elevation of 6,600 feet, Markian and his wife, Sue Nikolai, were warm and cozy in their newly electrified home.
“The cold-climate heat pump worked well from day one,” says Markian, who is president of Walking Mountains Science Center, a science and environmental education nonprofit in Eagle County.
In fact, Markian and Sue have yet to see any issues with the heat pump operating at super low temperatures. As the mechanical contractor, R&H Mechanical, explained, the “recovery” time takes longer to increase indoor temperatures when it’s cold outside, so some might choose to run the heater at a constant temperature, like 68 or 70 degrees. But like many, Markian and Sue prefer to sleep in cooler temperatures, around 64 degrees.
The couple sets their thermostat down to 64 degrees around 10:30 pm and then, to compensate for the longer recovery, the thermostat is programmed to bring the house back up to 68 degrees starting around 5:30 am. Unlike a gas furnace, it can take a heat pump up to two hours to return to 68 if it’s cold out.
“For us, this is a minor inconvenience and we could play with the set points more, but it doesn’t matter so much to us how long it takes to bring up the house temps,” Markian notes. “I’ve been really thrilled with it — it’s super energy efficient. What I didn’t expect is the dramatic drop in our utility bills.”
Where they used to spend around $4,000 per year on electricity and gas, according to Markian, now those utilities cost them $300 to $500 per year. The entire project — which started with installing solar panels, then tightening the building envelope, and finally adding an air-source hot water heater after the heat pump — cost around $50,000, so it’ll take several years before Markian realizes true savings. But it was worth it — in so many ways.

“There’s a lot more to home improvement than what’s aesthetic in nature like a kitchen or bathroom remodel. People shouldn’t underestimate how much this kind of work can improve your comfort and your health and safety, while also doing what’s best for the environment, making economic sense and adding value to your home.”

– Markian Feduschak

Assessment Process & Findings

Markian and Sue’s journey toward a more energy efficient, healthier, and more comfortable home began back in 2011, when they received their first home energy assessment. The assessment found that the three-bedroom home, which was built in the mid-1990s and has a walk-out basement level with two bedrooms, a study, and a mechanical room in the middle, was pretty leaky. Markian admits he “didn’t do enough” from the recommendations in that first assessment, which included improving insulation and air sealing, replacing furnace filters, adding thermal window curtains, and replacing bulbs with CFLs. A second assessment, conducted in 2020, provided many of the same recommendations, plus new ones due to exciting technological advances. And this time — having been empty nesters for a few years — Markian and Sue were ready to make the big changes.
“It was a values-based and economic decision for me,” says Markian, noting that he’s acquired a lot of knowledge thanks to his professional role (besides leading an environmental organization, he sits on the board of Energy Smart Colorado). “And the timing was right — this gave us something to do to fill the void and put all I had learned to good use.”

Energy Plan of Action

The first major step was installing a 5.04-kilowatt solar PV system, which was completed in November 2020. Next was the more multifaceted part of the project: sealing and insulating the home. This included replacing leaky recessed lighting with LED lights and sealing around the fixtures, sealing a gas fireplace with plexiglass, and properly insulating a dropped ceiling — all projects identified by a blower-door test that showed where air was leaking.
“When the contractor was done with his three- or four-days’ worth of work, I could tell the difference right away,” says Markian.
Besides improving comfort, the air sealing and insulation work reduced the size needed for the cold-climate heat pump, which was the next and biggest part of the project. Luckily, the ducted heat pump system replacing the gas furnace was able to use already installed duct work. The final piece of the puzzle — and the easiest, least expensive step — was installing a heat pump hot water heater. For this step (as well as for a few of the other small projects), Markian’s involvement in the project paid off. Doing his own research, he purchased the heat pump hot water heater and hired a plumber to install it. He was also able to install flexible ducting for the cold air exhaust by himself, which saved thousands of dollars overall from the quote he received from a mechanical contractor. 
“The house just stays warmer in general due to the tighter building envelope and the fact that I was able to seal the air combustion vents from the old gas furnace,” Markian explained. “We constantly had cold air coming into the house through this vent, since we had an older combustion gas furnace that did not have sealed duct work.”
As of this writing, Markian and Sue have enjoyed over a year of living in their well-sealed, energy efficient home. Besides keeping the home warmer more efficiently in the winter, a heat pump acts as an air conditioner in the summer — a bonus that’s becoming increasingly necessary with hotter temperatures due to climate change. Previously, just the basement level stayed cool, except when windows had to be shut to keep out wildfire smoke — another more frequent climate change-era occurrence.
“We’re finally getting to sleep a lot easier,” says Markian.
So, what’s next? Markian might look into battery storage, to further capture solar energy during the two or three months that they currently pay for supplemental electricity from the grid. And installing an induction range. Besides that, it’s all about talking to friends, neighbors, and anyone who will listen about the project, and why it makes sense for anyone who cares about the environment, household finances, and their comfort, health and safety to take that first small step with an energy assessment — and see what’s possible.

Costs, Rebates and Energy Savings


More Success Stories

Continue reading

Herr/Stevens Household, Copper Mountain

When Mitch and Anne signed up for an energy assessment, saving energy wasn’t their first priority – comfort was. Their Copper Mountain townhome tended to be drafty, taking the enjoyment out of sitting in their living room.

Assessment Process & Findings

By reviewing their monthly utility bills, home energy analyst Mark Anderson identified that the townhome’s electricity and gas use was almost two times more than the average (often inefficient) Summit County home.

While a blower door test was performed to depressurize the home, Mark used an infrared camera to see the temperature differences in walls, ceilings and floors throughout the home. As 61% of the air exchanged each hour with outside air under natural conditions, the home was considered “very leaky.”

The infrared images showed warm air in their home escaping out of the fireplace, around doors, through recessed lighting, bath fans, and exterior wall outlets and switches, as well as around the crawlspace hatch and air ducts – many places Mitch says he never would have guessed.


Air leakage is the number one energy problem in most homes. Air typically enters low in a home and escapes up high. Air sealing and insulation improvements were recommended to Mitch and Anne as some of the most cost effective improvements a homeowner can perform to increase comfort and reduce utility costs.

“I would tell all our neighbors to get an energy audit. Your investment makes your home more livable, comfortable, and energy efficient.”

– Mitch Herr, Copper Mountain

Project Costs

The homeowners invested roughly $2,900 in air sealing and adding insulation in all the accessible recommended places.

$1,450 in rebates awarded by High County Conservation Center and Xcel Energy covered 1/2 of the improvement costs.

Energy Efficiency Savings

The energy efficiency improvements produced an estimated annual savings of $606 on energy and utility costs – translating to a lifetime savings of 22 tons of CO2.

More Success Stories

Continue reading

Janice Godard, Breckenridge

Wellington neighborhood homeowner Janice Godard obtained her college degree in sustainable management so it was an easy decision to sign up for a home energy assessment with Energy Smart Colorado.

Assessment Process & Findings

Janice noted that her kitchen always tended to be cold – even in summer months. During the assessment, local analyst Mark Anderson performed a blower door test which simulates a 20 mph wind hitting all sides of the house by sucking air out of the house.

During the blower door test, the building analyst found the home to be VERY leaky. 93% of the air in the home was being exchanged every hour with outside air. With the help of an infrared camera, Mark found significant air leaks around the attic hatch, recessed lighting, “mystery” vents in the top floor bedrooms, around the front door and bath vents as well as all exterior wall outlets and switches, baseboards, and the plumbing chase. Additionally, large areas of the attic and the home’s crawlspace were found to be missing insulation.

Measures Completed

With a contractor list provided by High Country Conservation Center in hand, Janice employed a local contractor to caulk and provide air sealing measures, as well as improve the insulation in the lowest and highest levels of the home.

“The Energy Smart program is an excellent opportunity. My analyst was super easy to work with, and the whole process was painless.” 

– Janice Godard, Breckenridge

Project Costs

With rebates from High Country Conservation Center, $400 was knocked off the $1,764 crawlspace insulation costs.

Energy Efficiency Savings

With an annual savings estimated at $365, Janice’s after-rebate cost of $1,364 will payback in less than four years.

More Success Stories

Continue reading

Bowes/Weight Family, Dillon

High utility costs, freezing pipes and comfort concerns prompted Margaret and Richard to reach out to Energy Smart to learn more about how their all-electric home used energy. Built in the late 70’s, the home was constructed prior to today’s building codes that tend to consider a home’s potential energy efficiency.

Assessment Process & Findings

During the home energy assessment, a local analyst performed blower door testing and used an infrared camera to identify air leakage. Through the assessment process, the contractor observed significant air leakage throughout the two-story home. The home’s building design, with large windows and cantilevers on the north and east sides of the home, in combination with poor attic insulation was creating significant heat loss. The home’s clothes dryer and a bathroom fan were venting to the crawlspace and the roof cavity, respectively, causing potential for mold and contributing to the cold air entering the home. Several photos included in the audit report showed dramatic holes around wiring and piping that were sending heat directly to the outdoors. With the 15-page assessment report in hand, the owners tackled each of the analyst’s recommendations over the next several years.

Measures Completed by Homeowners

  • Encapsulated vertical knee wall in attic
  • Insulated attic door hatch and added strong latch
  • Replaced soffit board (which was vented) under shed roof and added insulation
  • Added spray foam to gaps around plumbing and wiring pentrations
  • Vented a bath exhaust fan and clothes dryer to outside
  • Replaced dining room sliding glass door
  • Adding ceiling fan to upstairs bedroom

Measures Completed by Local Contractors

  • Added R40 blown insulation on top of existing R23 insulation in attic
  • Insulated two cantilevered floors with closed cell R54 rigid polyurethane foam
  • Insulated crawlspace with closed cell R24 rigid polyurethane foam

“One of our guests used to pack warm clothing to stay our house. Seriously, it felt that cold! Once we learned (from the energy assessment) where our home was losing heat, we were able to address many of the issues ourselves. After several relatively inexpensive energy efficiency improvements, the warmth and comfort of our home noticeably improved. The dramatically lower energy bills presented another bonus to us.” 

– Margaret Bowes, Dillon

Project Costs

Over five years, the homeowners invested roughly $3,200 in energy efficiency improvements. More than $1,000 in rebates awarded from High County Conservation Center, the State of Colorado and Xcel Energy covered 1/3 of their costs.

Energy Efficiency Savings

Following the upgrades, the analyst returned to perform another blower test for the homeowners. The “post” blower door test revealed a 33% reduction in air changes in the home. The resulting utility bills though spoke for themselves.

The energy efficiency improvements produced a household savings of 40% on energy and utility costs:

Baseline of home’s energy use: 
22,757 kWh annually

After energy efficiency improvements were completed:
14,109 kWh annually

More Success Stories

Continue reading

Lara Whitley, Aspen

Sixteen days into my marketing gig at CORE, I was signing up for a home energy assessment. I figured first-hand experience was a must if I was going to be touting the assessment — a foundation of CORE’s energy-efficiency gospel. Plus, I wanted to know exactly how easy, or not, it would actually be to lower our carbon footprint. And how quick we could get some of those dreamy solar panels installed on our roof.

Here’s what we learned after we got a home energy assessment.

1. Our Biggest Priority Was Invisible to Us.
We found out that our house earned an air exchange rating that put us on the “very leaky home” end of the spectrum. This data helped us single out our most effective next steps: air sealing and insulation, things that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. Not as sexy as solar, but surprisingly rewarding. Why? We got immediate feedback on the effectiveness when we couldn’t start a fire in our wood stove — a sign that our house was now so tight that we didn’t have ANY drafts. Wow.

2. Cozy + Savings = Awesome.
Cold spots were banished and our house was notably cozier. Suddenly everyone was hanging out in the living room. This was backed up by a 20% reduction on our gas bill.

3. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. And That Can Be Dangerous.
We got the “all clear” on carbon monoxide and gas leaks, but found out that we were on the bubble for radon levels. The results keyed us to go back in with more sophisticated testing. The peace of mind on our family’s health and safety can’t be understated.

4. CORE Rebates Made It Easier to Do the Right Thing.
Home energy improvements can be spendy. The home energy assessment qualified us for CORE’s cash-back rebates to the tune of $1,000. These helped us to make sustainable choices that we might not have been able to otherwise, aligning our home with our values.

5. Solar Is Sexy, but That Doesn’t Mean It Comes First.
In fact, it probably shouldn’t. With our home energy assessment, we received advising on the basics of creating a clean energy future at home:
First, get lean. Do everything you can to make your home hum as efficiently as possible.

Then, find your baselines. Your energy-efficiency efforts will determine the minimum energy you need to power your home.
Next, go renewable. With this data, you can start replacing your coal-powered energy with renewables like solar.

Written by: Lara Whitley, Former Brand + Creative Strategy Director, Community Office for Resource Efficiency
Photo credit: Michele Cardamone Photography

Measures Taken

  • Air sealing & insulation
  • Radon testing

Program Benefits

In the end, the home energy assessment has become a journey, rather than mere marketing research, or something to check off my list in my rush to bright and shiny PV panels. I received far more than I bargained for: knowledge, comfort, peace of mind, a healthier home, cash in our pocket, and a roadmap to a low-carbon future. Those are their own rewards, but I also sleep well knowing our home is optimized for efficiency.

More Success Stories

Continue reading

Beneficial Electrification for Eagle County Housing

Comprised of about 80 mobile homes, Dotsero mobile home park has historically been fueled by propane gas. This adds up to steep bills for its residents and presents major risks of carbon monoxide, gas leaks and combustion from appliances that are often in disrepair. Wood-burning stoves and dangerous space heaters are often used to heat these homes when furnaces fail.

Developing A Beneficial Electrification Program 

Energy analysts observe that over half of the manufactured homes they visit have health or life safety issues related to propane or natural gas lines and appliances. To address these concerns, Eagle County Government formed a partnership with Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) to improve the comfort and safety of mobile home residents while tackling climate change.

With funding from Eagle County, Colorado Energy Office, Holy Cross Energy, and the Energy Smart program at Walking Mountains Science Center, NWCCOG is transitioning Dotsero mobile homes from propane to electric heating and cooking. As several residents qualify for federal assistance, the Weatherization Assistance Program provides initial investments in the homes to reduce energy costs through weatherization improvements.

Following the weatherization improvements, NWCCOG replaces old propane furnaces with cold climate air source heat pumps, converts propane water heaters to electric heat pump water heaters, and updates propane ranges to high efficiency electric induction cooktops. This transition to a fully electric home – known as beneficial electrification – reduces energy use significantly, improves health and safety, and enhances an occupant’s quality of life. These improvements are especially important for Colorado’s low-income residents who spend a large portion of household income on energy costs and are at high risk for health and safety concerns from outdated propane appliances.

Program Benefits

As of August 2023, 24 families are living in a safe, efficient and comfortable home that no longer uses carbon-based propane and eliminates the possibility of gas leaks or carbon monoxide poisoning. Through the Beneficial Electrification for Eagle County Housing program,

  • Households are saving an average of $110 per month in utility bills
  • $60 per month in propane costs are eliminated for each resident
  • Each home’s greenhouse gas emissions is reduced by an estimated 6.4 tons per year
  • Upgraded electrical service eliminates existing fire hazards
    Propane leaks disappear and carbon monoxide-producing ovens and hazardous space heaters are removed
  • Ventilation and indoor air quality is improved

“This local partnership has inspired and driven us to make more of a difference than ever before━we are now adding reducing greenhouse gas emissions to our portfolio of services. With CEO’s support and guidance, we are now installing cold climate heat pumps, and thanks to our local collaboration with Eagle County, Walking Mountains Science Center and Holy Cross Energy, we are taking it a step further with a full beneficial electrification package.”

– Doug Jones, Energy Program Director at Northwest Colorado Council of Governments

Weatherization Improvements

Prior to electrifying any home, basic weatherization improvements are critical. An energy assessment identifies the opportunities to increase each home’s energy efficiency. In the Dotsero mobile homes, the following measures are improving occupant comfort and efficiency:

  • Crawlspace encapsulation
  • Air and duct sealing
  • Insulation improved
  • Refrigerators replaced
  • LED light bulbs installed
  • Bathroom exhaust fans mounted
  • Windows replaced and storm windows installed

Electrification Improvements

Electrifying a home often requires upgrades to the electrical panel to manage the electric load of the new appliances. Once the weatherization improvements were made, electrical upgrades allowed the installation of:

  • A cold climate air source heat pump
  • A hybrid heat pump hot water heater
  • An induction cooktop/range and ASHRAE range hood

These efficient appliances eliminated the need for expensive fossil fuel to heat the home and the propane lines and tanks were removed entirely from the mobile homes, reducing the homeowner’s monthly utility expenses.

More Success Stories

Continue reading