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Fruitfull Energy: The Energy Detective

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Patty and family up on the roof to celebrate her new solar panels
Photo credit: Patty Tashiro

Source: Jackson Berman, EAN/University of Vermont Clean Energy Internship Program

It Starts at Home…

Patty Tashiro, and her husband, John, bought their home in South Burlington in September of 2013 and immediately began making energy efficiency upgrades. After receiving a free energy audit from Vermont Gas  Patty personally upgraded her home’s crawl space, with some much-needed help from her husband and a friend. Working with Vermont Gas on the energy upgrades was very helpful. As a new homeowner, Patty appreciated having Jeremy King, the Vermont Gas auditor, on her side to consult throughout the process.  She explained, “it was so helpful to have someone with so much experience make recommendations on what improvements would be most effective.”  Additionally, Vermont Gas paid for 1/3 of the weatherization costs on her home.

 Patty calculated the reduction in her carbon footprint, from about 57,000 British Thermal Units per square foot (BTU) to just 36,000 BTUs!   

A Step by Step Approach

Follow in Patty’s steps, and you too can reduce your monthly bills and your carbon footprint!

Step 1: Insulate and reduce moisture

Patty installed a vapor barrier in the crawl space and after just 5 days the relative humidity level in her home dropped from 70% all the way down to 50% and kept decreasing. After she and her husband insulated the foundation walls in their utility room, she noticed a significant increase in how warm the room was and thought, ‘Wow, these energy efficiency updates actually worked!”

Additionally, Patty hired a contractor to air seal and insulate the attic, as well as install up-to-date fans in the bathrooms and kitchen to help remove moisture from the home. (Too much moisture is expensive to heat!) Patty and her family noticed immense improvements in their home after the crawl space and attic were weatherized. With the decrease in moisture and an increase in attic insulation, Patty saw a significant drop in heating expenses, as well as dehumidifying expenses.

Step 2: Install a heat pump and replace appliances

In February of 2014, Patty installed a cold climate heat pump. The heat pump (mini-split) works as an air conditioner when it is warm or as a heater when it is cold and, according to Patty, is best in late spring and early fall to delay when they have to turn their gas furnace on. She also replaced old appliances, like the washer and dryer, the stove, and the dishwasher with Energy Star models. Further, she installed a heat pump hot water heater, which takes heat out of the air to heat water. This replaced her gas hot water heater.

Step 3: Add insulation and install solar

In March 2016, Patty started Phase Two of energy upgrades. She wanted to increase the insulation in her home’s foundation to bring her energy use to the lowest possible level, and then shift to solar to generate electricity for her much smaller electric load.  She had the walls filled with dense packed cellulose, then had a few trees removed, so she could install solar panels on her roof.  She wanted the panels to be ready for the Summer solstice – a celebration of the sun.  She got the whole family, including her sister-in-law and nephew, who were visiting from Japan, up on the roof to celebrate! 

Step 4: Help others become energy heroes!

            Patty not only completed major energy improvements on her home in South Burlington, but she also started her own businesses to help others improve their energy efficiency. Fruitfull Energy, Patty’s business, is unique in that Patty helps clients decrease their heating load and their electric load. Most energy auditors focus on heating fuel costs, as they also sell weatherization services and more efficient heaters. But a lot of money can be saved by cutting wasteful electric bills too.

Patty, the owner and founder of Fruitfull Energy, is Building Performance Institute (BPI) certified and provides energy assessments as well as direct installs (on request), including quick fixes like smart powerstrips, high-efficiency showerheads, LED lights, pipe insulation and more.  She shows customers how regular maintenance (like cleaning filters) can bring down costs then helps them decide next steps to getting the biggest bang for their buck. One of Patty’s colleagues on the South Burlington Energy Committee feels that Patty adds an important new outreach strength to the energy assessment world.   “As Vermont’s first female owner of an energy assessment company, Patty has been able to connect with women making household energy decisions in a different way, with huge success!” says Linda McGinnis.   In addition to working with individual homeowners, Fruitfull Energy also works for VT Gas and Burlington Electric to conduct building energy assessments.

For Patty, doing energy assessments is like detective work.  You discover clues that lead to solving a homeowner’s energy problems….and you help the planet one home at a time.

Below is a link to Fruitful Energy’s Facebook page! What are you waiting for? Call today for an energy assessment.