Trish Helm is a gardener and an active member of the community for a long time. “I’m in the Garden Club of New Haven, there are a number of civic activities that the garden club sponsors and I’m often part of those,” Trish said. Trish is also a garden coordinator at the Springside Community Garden, together with Kathy Fay, Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven (NHS) Community Sustainability Department.
Trish and her husband, Dick Taylor, have retired and live on a fixed income. They bought their house 40 years ago. “It had central air, but the central air broke a few years after we lived in the house,” Trish recalled. “I had heard, in the course of my reading, about a heat pump. So, I asked Kathy about a heat pump and what it is. Through that, she told me about the I Heart My Home CT Program.”
I Heart My Home CT is NHS of New Haven’s cost-free, one-stop-shop to coach participants on the best decisions to make home improvements for health, comfort, energy savings, and lower utility bills. “I Heart My Home customers receive help-seeking and comparing contractor bids when needed,” Kathy said. “We make sure that each customer gains access to the most cost-effective resources for their particular circumstances and needs.”
After speaking to Michael Uhl, I Heart My Home’s lead technical consultant, Trish realized that more upgrades were needed in addition to her central air.
First, Trish had a Home Energy Solutions (HES) energy audit, that included air sealing, conducted by New England Conservation Services (NECS). The air sealing reduced air leakage, which is felt as draftiness, by 11%. NECS also added substantial insulation into her attic and basement. “It works like snuggling her whole house between warm blankets,” Kathy explained.
Trish and Dick already had solar panels on their roof, which helped cover their electric costs, including the cost of running their old, inefficient electric-resistance water heater. “We were talking with Michael about the heat pump, and then one thing led to another, and we knew that our water heater needed to be replaced because it was more than 10 years old,” Trish explained. The second project phase was to upgrade their water heater. A hybrid heat pump water heater, installed by RAPS Plumbing, also runs on electricity from the solar panels but uses far less of it.
Then, a ducted heat pump system, installed by Highwood Mechanical, replaced her long-defunct central air conditioning. It takes care of home heating and air conditioning through the same ductwork and supplements her aging oil-fired heating system. Trish appreciates how professional the installation was, “Highwood Mechanical, who installed the heat pump, was very knowledgeable and very capable, and their crew was terrific.”
Even now, during the coldest time of winter, Trish can stay cozy in an energy-efficient home. “It has been beneficial,” Trish said, “we know we’re doing the right thing because we’re using our solar panels and using much more electric and hardly any oil.”
The whole process took about a year and a half, and Trish considers it worthwhile. She values how Michael uses his experience and knowledge to help a homeowner like her who doesn’t know about home improvement elements. “Michael Uhl has just been with us every step of the way. If there were any questions, Michael could answer them. The contractors that he brought in were terrific.” Trish said.
Kathy points out that “Many of our customers are eligible for energy upgrades at little or no cost to themselves.” Never turning down an inquiry, I Heart My Home CT counsels residential renters, owner-occupants, and landlords to make their buildings more energy-efficient and deploy clean energy and sustainability practices to ensure a transition to an inclusive, equitable energy future “This also helps Connecticut move toward its climate and energy equity goals,” she adds.