The Western Colorado University & University of Colorado at Boulder (Partnership Program) teamed up with the Gunnison Valley Home Energy Advancement Team (GV-HEAT) to create a beneficial building electrification implementation plan for income qualified homes in Gunnison County. Emily Artale, Professional Engineer and lecturer for the partnership program, and Gesa Michel, Sustainability Practitioner and GV-HEAT’s coordinator, guided the project. Beneficial electrification is when a space is converted to run solely on electric appliances where the end-user (the homeowner, the grid, and the surrounding environment) will benefit from the conversion. The main goals of this project were to increase the homeowners’ quality of life (i.e., improve indoor air quality, reduce health risks, and increase overall comfort in the home) to reduce their energy burden, identify the environmental impacts, and educate the community on the benefits of building electrification. GV-HEAT hopes to install cold-climate air source heat pumps (ccASHP), following weatherization upgrades completed through the Colorado Affordable Residential Energy (CARE) program. The ccASHP’s that will be offered will either be mini-split or ducted ccASHPs depending on the needs and condition of the home. The process for electrifying these homes, and an outline of the advantages and remedies for disadvantages, is covered in section 8 of the plan. There are many reasons why implementing this plan in Gunnison County is a good idea:
- Implementing the ASHP upgrades into income qualified homes will increase the quality of life for these residents.
- There are a lot of rebates available from the Inflation Reduction Act, and there are rebates from the City of Gunnison and Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA), which can cover up to half of the capital cost of the ccASHP upgrade.
- Due to Gunnison’s cold climate, this will serve as a great example of how far the technology in ccASHPs has come and how efficient they can be, even in freezing temperatures.
- According to the Crested Butte News, Gunnison Valley produces more emissions than other similar cold counties per square foot of livable space. Using electric appliances instead of combustion appliances will help to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions as our grid is actively becoming cleaner.
GV-HEAT and the partnership program hope to further this plan by continuing education for the community on ccASHPs, finding more contractors to perform ASHP installation work, seeking out funding opportunities to cover the purchase and install costs, and collecting data from fully upgraded homes to quantify the benefits of ccASHPs. Future classes may continue to expand on and develop this plan with the hopes of spreading awareness and improving the lives of homeowners. Eventually this will be a community driven plan informed via community engagement. For further information please reference the full plan.