Energy makeovers transform Arkansas homes

bret curry

Bret Curry is the residential energy
manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative

The homes of 17 electric cooperative members are much more efficient after being transformed as part of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas’ Eighth Annual Energy Efficiency Makeover contest. These winning homes had higher-than-normal electric bills and undesirable comfort issues. Each of the 17 winning households received a $3,000 retrofit package that included solutions designed to put a dent in their high bills and provide newfound comfort.

This year’s new format was exciting; improving so many unique homes gave the makeover teams a wonderful challenge to demonstrate their professional expertise as a teaching format for you, our members. I hope you will watch the educational videos and read the information posted on our website and our Facebook page. Many of the components and measures we exhibit are do-it-yourself projects. For those who prefer to choose a professional retrofit vendor, our resources will assist you to ask the proper questions for your energy efficiency projects.

I want to thank everyone who submitted an application this year. I also want to thank our winners who allowed us to utilize their homes as teaching resources and trusted our teams to transform their homes. Furthermore, we could not complete a project of this magnitude without the help of our professional energy efficiency partners— EEtility, DK Construction, Summit Builders Group, Energy Design Group Enterprises, SEAL Energy Solutions, Energy Savers and Energy Efficiency Design & Development. All of these folks understand building science, and I’m proud to have worked with them on this project. Arkansas is blessed to have their businesses available to those who seek help with energy and comfort solutions.

I’ve condensed some of the key elements of our 17 projects to give you an idea about the makeovers. You may be able to identify with some of them as they relate to your home. First, the average sizes of the homes were 1,350 square feet. All were single-story and Return air duct is completely disconnected- most had three bedrooms. Each received a comprehensive energy audit in order to reveal four key areas that impact the electric bill — air infiltration, ductwork leakage, attic insulation levels and incandescent lighting.

missing insulation

Missing insulation in the attic of a makeover home shows up clearly in this infrared image.

The average age of the homes was 37 years. The average annual energy bill for these homes was $2,521. In comparison, a new home built according to the co-ops’ “Building Guidelines for Energy Efficiency” booklet would use approximately half that amount. The average attic insulation amount was a mere R-11. As part of the makeover, each home received a dense layer of cellulose insulation, increasing the R-value to R-38, today’s recommended standard. Some homes were even missing large areas of insulation. Also, the lighting load in each home was reduced by 75 percent.

leaky -ductwork

MReturn air duct is completely disconnected. Leaky ductwork was the main energy inefficiency culprit found in makeover homes.

The biggest energy inefficiency culprit in all the homes was disconnected, uninsulated and leaky ductwork. The average amount of leakage was 400 cubic feet per minute, or the equivalent of one ton of heating or cooling. Now, every home has less than 11 percent leakage. I’m proudto report that the average annual estimated energy savings is $627 per home! Everyone wins with energy efficiency!

Please feel free to contact me at with any energy efficiency questions. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook at as well as listen to our podcasts.

Bret Curry is the residential energy manager for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation