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May 20, 2021

Affordable rentals getting energy-efficiency upgrades

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
LEAP Executive Director Chris Meyer (left) and Technical Director Wilson Ratliff lead the tour as its crew installs a new bathroom fan Thursday, May 13, in one of the Fletcherville homes getting energy-efficiency upgrades.
The improvements made directly affect our tenants, who pay their own utility costs, allowing them a noticeably more affordable home.
— Foothills Housing Executive Director John Reid
How to Get Help
LEAP offers free home weatherization to income- and age-qualifying Fauquier residents.

If 60 or older, or if you have an annual household income of less than $79,600, you may qualify for a free energy assessment and home energy improvements such as insulation and air sealing.

For more information, call 434-227-4666 or submit a form.


Click here for information about Dominion Energy’s program to help customers with difficulty paying their bills.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
House by house, energy costs will drop and comfort will rise for renters in the Foothills Housing Corp.’s Fletcherville subdivision a couple of miles north of Warrenton.

Charlottesville-based LEAP (Local Energy Alliance Program) 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 light bulbs with LEDs.

The work so far has cost about $4,200 per home, funded with a grant from Dominion Energy’s EnergyShare program.

Foothills Housing Corporation’s long-standing mission to provide safe, decent and affordable housing has been terrifically impacted by the partnership with LEAP,” Executive Director John Reid said. “The improvements made directly affect our tenants, who pay their own utility costs, allowing them a noticeably more affordable home, and assists FHC with its efforts to provide affordable housing in this region.”

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

That could cut a tenant’s annual energy costs as much as 60 percent, LEAP Technical Director Wilson Ratliff predicted.

The other improvements alone could produce 40-perecent savings, according to Mr. Ratliff.

Blown fiberglass insulation in attics — which costs about $1 per square foot — represents one of the most effective improvements.

Built in the 1950s and ’60s, most of the ramblers in Fletcherville have 4 inches of attic insultation, with an R-value of about 8. Virginia’s minimum recommendation stands at R-30.

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

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

Founded in 2010, LEAP resulted from a grant that Charlottesville and Albemarle County won to create community-based organization to focus on energy efficiency.

The non-profit has expanded to offer energy assessments for homes and businesses, weatherization improvements, assistance with solar energy installations and education across much of Virginia. It has 17 employees and second office in Fairfax.

LEAP several years ago conducted energy assessments and made improvements at Foothills’ newer eight-townhouse Countryside neighborhood in Bealeton.

A tenant there said his $140 monthly electric bill dropped to $100 after the work, Mr. Reid said.

“LEAP is really excited about serving residents in the Fauquier area,” said Chris Meyer, executive director of the Charlottesville-based nonprofit. “Much of the ‘affordable housing’ in the area isn’t affordable when you consider the high utility bills.

“The energy-efficiency improvements we can bring to these homes for free can ensure the long-term affordability of the homes.”

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

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

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

The work to improve a dwelling’s energy efficiency helps prevent a crisis, she added, noting that donations from other customers and Dominion employees help fund the program.

Foothills, which owns a total of 164 affordably-priced rentals in Fauquier, including The Oaks apartment complex in Warrenton, bought Fletcherville in December 2018. The rents there range from $650 to $1,550 a month.

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

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

Contact Editor “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.

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