Fort Smith family wins $50,000 home efficiency prize

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 114 views 

A Fort Smith family was given a surprise today (Aug. 8) as the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas announced that Kyle and Alisha Quenga had won a $50,000 energy efficiency home makeover.

The couple, along with their two children, were under the impression that they had come in second place in the contest, having been told they would be winning a new water heater. But they were surprised when Bret Curry, the manager of residential energy marketing at Electric Cooperatives, announced that the family had won the grand prize.

in choosing the Quenga family home for the makeover, Curry had said the family underwent an energy audit, along with the other finalists, after being selected from more than 2,800 applicants.

"Our diagnostic testing revealed that more than 70 percent of the air volume with the home (built in 1979) was leaking outside every minute of each day," he said. "We also discovered substandard insulation levels, inefficient windows, dramatic ductwork leakage, an older inefficient heating and cooling system and no-Energy Star appliances. Combine all of these circumstances and you have a very uncomfortable home with very high utility bills."

Prior to the surprise announcement, which the Quangas were told would an announcement of their second-place win, Curry said the makeover would be life-altering.

"These people have high bills, they have a very uncomfortable home and they are about to have their lives changed forever."

In the next four to six weeks, various companies will be in and out of the Quenga home to make improvements that will save the family from being not only uncomfortable during both the summer and winter months, but will also save them serious money each month when they pay their utility bill.

The following items will be provided to the family at no cost as winners of the contest:
• An ultra-efficient water furnace geothermal heat pump installed by Rood Heating and Air;
• High-efficiency windows provided by the Harry G. Barr Company;
• Energy Star appliances and a GeoSpring Hybrid water heater provided by General Electric; and
• Demilac Sealaction 500 expanding foam will be installed by Building Performance Solutions in the crawlspace and attic.

Many of the companies involved with the project are Arkansas-based companies, according to Curry, who added that finding and using local businesses was an important part of the contest.

Once the audit is complete, another energy audit will be conducted to determine the home's new level of efficiency.

Alisha Quenga said once the makeover is complete, her family would be able to afford to do more than just pay the ever-increasing utility bill.

"Oh, it's going to make a world of difference for us. We're going to be able to be more comfortable in the house and also save money. We'll be able to do way more stuff we wouldn't have been able to do."

She said with a grin that a trip, possibly to Disneyland, could be on the horizon, depending on how much they family was able save each month with the expected lower monthly bills.

Curry said he hoped the makeover would highlight for other families how they could make changes to their homes that would save them money in the long run.

"Now some of these are expensive and we realize not everyone can win a makeover, however, they can implement these things one at a time. We target the key areas that impact their bills and comfort."

One area he said where a lot of energy escapes is from drafty windows, which is why Curry said replacing inefficient windows and fixing cracks around the window seal is so important.

Running Energy Star-rated appliances is also important to reduce overall energy consumption, according to Curry.

Kyle Quenga said the makeover, which started at his home this afternoon, was more than he could have hoped for and he made sure the Electric Cooperatives knew his appreciation.

"I would like to thank every one of you. This is an absolute blessing. God bless you."