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Minnesota's Project ReEnergize brings rebates and work

Posted Aug 12 2010 12:27pm
• $2.5 million in Recovery Act funding designated for energy efficiency rebates
• Project ReEnergizes improved 1,200 Minnesota homes
• Participating homeowner saved 30% on energy efficiency renovation costs

Just 100 miles from the Canadian border, Charles Miller's 90-year house in Goodland, Minn., was drafty.

"It's a two-story house, and the upstairs was always about 10 degrees cooler than downstairs. It was coldest when the wind blew. We had a lot of air infiltration from the windows," Miller says.

When he heard about Project ReEnergize—Minnesota's energy efficient renovation rebate program—he knew it was time to take action and make his home more energy efficient.

Project ReEnergize
Charles Miller's home received 10 new windows and attic insulation from Project ReEnergize. | Photo courtesy of Charles Miller

"I always thought that I needed to get this stuff taken care of, it was on my list of things to do," he says, of improving his home's energy efficiency. "When this program came up, it prompted me to react and get this done."

ReEnergized by Recovery Act

Miller's home is just one of 1,200 that received rebates last fall. The program opened in October with a controlled number of rebates, and distribution on rebates checks will be concluded this summer.

Under the $2.5 million program funded through the Recovery Act, Minnesotans could receive up to $4,000 in rebates for home renovations, including installing ENERGY STAR windows, advanced attic air sealing and attic insulation.

"We're happy with the results," says Jeremy de Fiebre, supervisor of Minnesota's Office of Energy Security. "The program did what it was intended to do in a time when it was difficult to get things launched."

The program also was a chance to get some projects out to contractors across the state in a time when residential construction activity was down, says de Fiebre. 

In addition, Minnesota is home to several window manufacturers who have seen a decline in business in the last few years.  "Boosting the number of homes getting new windows was a chance to help these manufacturers out while providing a program that reaches residential contractors," de Fiebre says.

"This program uniquely fit Minnesota," he notes.

Good boost to Minnesota business

Richard Larson, owner of Larson Construction in Hibbing, saw increased business through the rebate program. The 10-person company secured two renovation jobs from Project ReEnergize, including Miller weatherization home project. For Miller, Larson's company replaced all 10 windows and insulated the home's attic.

"It was a nice boost for business in the fall," says Larson. "I probably had about 50 calls about the project. The response from homeowners was overwhelming."

Although the modifications took place in early December, Miller says he saw a huge improvement in the temperature of the house—and lower heating bills—throughout the winter.

"The house was overall warmer and didn't seem as drafty," he says. Miller has also noticed the house is much cooler during the summer.

As he draws closer to retirement, he couldn't be happier about participating in Project ReEnergize. He estimates that the rebates allowed him to cut nearly 30 percent off the cost of the renovations.
"It's really nice to have this in place," Miller says. "Plus, it'll be more economical for me when I'm retired an on a fixed income."

Larson is also pleased and hopes that Minnesota will run a similar program sometime in the future. "It was a great program, we'd absolutely participate in something like this again," he says.

The Minnesota State Energy Program worked with the Builders Association of Minnesota, which distributed the rebates to Minnesotans for the eligible residential energy efficiency upgrades.

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