09/14/16 : Emma Gilmore

#EEforMe: Efficiency Opens Doors for Regis Borsari

Energy isn’t free – and individuals often have to take extreme measures to afford the cost when utility bills get out of control, sometimes even sacrificing basic comfort to reduce energy use. But that doesn’t have to be the case. That’s where energy efficiency comes in – by reducing monthly utility costs without sacrificing home comfort. And for Regis Borsari, the idea of using less energy to do more couldn’t ring more true.

In October of 2015, Regis participated in the Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover (KEEM), a partnership between the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC), the Knoxville Utility Board (KUB) and the Alliance to Save Energy. The program aims to reduce utility bills through free home weatherization projects. KEEM provides energy upgrades for local Knoxville, Tennessee families through a $15 million grant from TVA.

Regis’ story

Before participating in the KEEM program, Regis tried to reduce her utility bills by only heating her house to 55 degrees in the winter, maintaining a warmer temperature in her bedroom with a space heater. During the colder months of the year, she was limited to her bedroom and only used the rest of the house when absolutely necessary. And during hot southern summers without running the air conditioner, she would keep cool by sitting out on her front porch.

After learning about KEEM’s free retrofit program, Regis attended a workshop to learn about energy efficiency techniques she could implement in her home. However, even after adding what she had learned at the workshop to her own efforts, her utility bills still came out to about $85 per month – a continued financial hardship for her.

In May, certified contractors from the KEEM project completed an energy audit of her entire home to evaluate how much energy her house consumed and identify measures to make it more efficient. Within a couple of weeks, the contractors installed a new, efficient HVAC system and water heater along with improved insulation. With a tightly sealed home after the weatherization, Regis could afford to run heating and cooling throughout her house during one of the hottest times of the year.

Now Regis attests to being more productive throughout the day. She has even given interviews to disadvantaged youth seeking green jobs through Knoxville’s SEEED program, educating them about the benefits of energy efficiency. A testament to the local economic benefits of energy efficiency, KEEM is estimated to create 120 jobs for individuals throughout the entirety of the program just like those who visited Regis and later made presentations on the benefits of weatherization in their own communities.

Regis summed up the experience, saying, “After attending a training workshop and receiving my free weatherization upgrade through the KEEM program, I now have the tools to make changes to save energy in my daily life. In addition, because of a more comfortable home with less expense, I can use the whole house again.” 

KEEM meeting: Alliance to Save Energy's Jennifer Alldredge (second from left) and Regis Borsari all the way to the right 

Modest savings add up

While weatherization projects are often limited to the “low-hanging fruit” of energy savings, Regis’ story proves that even the modest improvements of a weatherization retrofit can have a significant effect on individuals’ daily lives. And when more and more residents sign up for programs like KEEM, the cumulative energy and cost savings add up.

The Alliance to Save Energy’s education program manager, Jennifer Alldredge, who serves as KEEM’s educational workshop organizer, said, “The Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover program offers free weatherization projects to over 1,200 low-income households to significantly improve the day-to-day lives of individuals throughout the community.”

Now celebrating its one-year anniversary, KEEM has invested $6 million in Knoxville (including $4.5 million in local and small businesses), weatherized over 600 homes and provided over 100 energy efficiency education workshops to over 1,200 attendees.

So let’s be clear: the so-called “low-hanging fruit” of weatherization has the power to dramatically improve lives, allowing individuals to maximize the use of their homes, manage their monthly utility bills and see real change in their local economies through energy efficiency.

Learn more about the Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover and how you can save money on your utility bills just as Regis did by visiting their website

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero at the KEEM 1 year celebration