It's Earth Day, an annual event that encourages us to remember the environment and our place in it. Good news: By cutting back on your energy and water use, you don't just help conserve resources, you put money back in your pocket — where it belongs. Save Energy Mary Morris was wary when she had to pay for an energy audit of her single-family home in the North Park Hill to qualify for an Xcel rebate. Twelve months later, she's a convert. Since contractor Casey Staley from REenergizeCO completed an energy audit on her home, which was built in 1948, and performed subsequent improvements last spring, Morris has saved $438 on her energy bill. That's in addition to Staley finding $1,100 in rebates for a $3,800 project. "For $2,700, we got the audit, our duct work in the attic sealed with flexible mastic, and I could sense an improvement in the air quality within 24 hours," she says. With that money Morris also insulated the attic as well as a 1,700-square-foot main floor that included a large sun room, and weatherized a nearly 1,500-square-foot "bomb bunker" basement, where Staley added a threshold to her energy-sucking boiler room. The money also went toward purchasing an energy-efficient dishwasher. Staley, who's a vetted contractor through Xcel and Denver Energy Challenge, works to make sure his clients receive all rebates possible. He says residents are often unaware of how much money they can save on up-front costs. He added that residents who performed home improvements saw additional savings in their tax returns this year through a federal credit. "That tax credit is 10 percent," he said. "If the work is $4,000, you're getting $400 back from the (feds)." Morris, who received around $300 back from the tax credit this year, looks forward to a summer where her air conditioner will keep her home at a comfortable 71 degrees. "My husband says the sign of a civilized life is when you're warm in the winter and cool in the summer," she says. "And I agree." Energy-efficiency resources
• Find a rebate through Xcel Xcel offers qualified Colorado residents rebates on home improvements ranging from heating and cooling to insulation and weatherization. xcelenergy.com • Denver Energy Challenge If you're a Denver resident having trouble navigating rebates, Denver Energy Challenge offers free advising services. They'll connect you to approved contractors, and review bids. They also help with applications for low-interest energy loans. denverenergy.org • Boulder EnergySmart This service provides Boulder residents with free phone advising on home improvements. If you've had a home energy audit, their services are free. If not, for $90 they will do the audit and pair you with an energy adviser. energysmartyes.com Short-term solutions
• Replace traditional incandescent lights with energy-efficient ones According to the Department of Energy, replacing 15 traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs like compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, saves $50 a year. CFLs last 10 times longer and can pay for themselves in savings in less than nine months. • Set your refrigerator and freezer to optimal temperatures Xcel recommends setting your refrigerator between 34 and 37 degrees and your freezer at 5 degrees for optimal energy performance. • Monitor your thermostat The DOE recommends setting your thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 in the summer. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat and save $180 a year.