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Columbus home becomes state’s first eScore 10

Taking on a larger project, she decided to improve more than just her air conditioner and become more energy efficient. After $15,000 in upgrades, Alford and her family’s home in Columbus became the first in Mississippi to score a perfect 10 on Tennessee Valley Authority eScore evaluation.

“We started with a busted air conditioner that wasn’t working,” Alford said. “… The last three years have been dreadful, hot summers with no air conditioner. We had window units in every window to help compensate for no central air.”

Alford’s energy provider, 4-County Electric Power Association, recognized the state’s first perfect 10 Monday (July 29) morning at the Alfords’ home in Oakdale Park. The residential energy efficiency program, eScore, guides homeowners to become as efficient as possible.

Homeowners start this process with a 4-County adviser giving an initial eScore rating on a 10-point scale. The evaluation includes the inspector’s list of recommendations needed to achieve better ratings, such as better insulation, LED lighting or improved HVAC systems.

The TVA eScore program spans parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia. Since 2015, 4-County — which has customers in Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Noxubee, Monroe, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Winston and Webster counties — has assessed 751 homes for eScores, with the average score being 6.5. Of those, only 81 4-County homes have scored an 8 and only five have scored a 9. Out of nearly 75,000 eScores across TVA’s coverage, Alford became just the fifth homeowner to achieve perfection.

“Especially on an older house like this, these houses were not built to be energy-efficient,” said Jon Turner, 4-County manager of marketing and public relations. “To retrofit it and bring it up takes more work than a house that was recently constructed. They’ve really put a lot of effort into this.”

Alford’s first eScore was 7. After a 4-County inspector recommended adding insulation and ventilation in the attic and weather-proofing the doors and windows, Alford installed new windows, doors, insulation in her attic, a new HVAC unit and new hot water heater.

“It was very painless,” Alford said. “I expected more of a headache or it to be more expensive, but it wasn’t and it’s tremendously helped with our cooling and our electric bill.”

Before the improvements, Alford spent more than $300 a month on her energy bill, whereas this summer she’s yet to break $150. For her and her family, she said it was worth the investment for the long-term benefits.

“Everything needed to be updated,” Alford said. “The windows had no real weather sealant anymore because they were so old. The house was built in 1984 or (1985) and it hadn’t had much work done to it other than band-aids here and there. … I knew it was going to be a hot summer and I had to do something.”

The family’s new HVAC system is now automated and adjusts temperatures based on when people are in the house. They also upgraded all the light fixtures and replaced all bulbs with LEDs.

“Throughout the day (the air) fluctuates with what needs to be done,” Alford said. “Times when we’re home, it’s obviously going to be cooler, but when no one is home it’ll be slightly warmer. We noticed a big difference just changing the light bulbs. I noticed my light bill would go from a really high number to almost nothing compared to what it had been. Overall, it’s just made it better quality of life inside the house.”

Turner said more 4-County customers strive to be energy efficient. Although taking on the challenge Alford and her family has can be costly, he said each energy user can make minor behavioral changes including turning off lights, changing the thermostat and being overall energy conscious.

“We want to help our members. That’s why we are here,” Turner said. “We can make their lives better through helping them improve the quality of their home and reduce their energy use, whether it’s through a program like eScore … or if it’s through educating them on simpler low-cost or no-cost ideas. We want to support our members and make sure the energy use they have is not driving them crazy.”

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Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, http://www.cdispatch.com

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