Total Turnaround: 30% Reduction in Energy Use

Enhabit customers in Hood River

Cute-as-a button, not buttoned up

Sandy Bielen was on a mission to find a house in Hood River. After an exhaustive, yet unsuccessful five-year search, she and her husband Brook focused their sights on Rocky Road, which is just steps away from their kids’ elementary school and a nature trail. With two kids and a baby on the way, she started writing letters to homeowners there. “My husband thought I was crazy,” she said. “Then, we got three responses.” One was the owner of a “cute-as-a-button” 1930 Dutch Colonial they fell in love with instantly. But, beneath the home’s beauty, issues lurked.

Trouble ahead

The first thing they noticed was a window air conditioning unit, despite a central air system: wasted energy! The home was aesthetically beautiful, but with a staggering $450 a month natural gas bill, not exactly an energy-efficiency achiever.  The homeowner’s 10-year-old daughter wasn’t doing the sales pitch any favors. “She said she had to use tons of blankets. And her mom was like, Shh!” Bielen said. With a sparkling new kitchen, original Doug Fir wood floors and loads of charm, the Bielens weren’t going to let cold air give them cold feet. They bought the house in January 2013 knowing they’d need major energy upgrades and applied for Enhabit.

Pinpointing upgrades

A deep home energy assessment, performed by Enhabit contractor McDowell & Son, confirmed their suspicions. “Our energy score was off-the-charts awful,” she said. Plus, the hot water heater was not vented properly, and raccoons were nesting in the crawlspace. The house was so unsafe, the inspector advised the family to get a hotel room. Luckily, the Bielens had time to renovate before moving into the house.

Contractor to the rescue

McDowell & Son installed a new forced-air modulating furnace, an on-demand hot water heater and a central air conditioning unit appropriately sized for the house. They installed new insulation in the attic and crawl space, forcing the raccoons to find a new address. McDowell & Son also insulated under the Doug Fir floors, which was important since the floors actually are the subfloor.

Total turnaround

“You could feel a difference the day the insulation went in,” Bielen said. Since winter just started, the effects on the gas bill will be evident soon. In the meantime, the Bielen’s daughter has done away with blanket-piling. “She just has one blanket,” she said. Even though Hood River is the wind capital of The West, the Bielens don’t notice it inside. “Sometimes we can hear the wind, but we’re not feeling the draft,” she said.

Estimated savings: 30%


  • New forced-air modulating furnace
  • New tankless on-demand water heater
  • New central air conditioning unit
  • R49 attic insulation
  • Crawl space insulation
  • R25 under floor insulation
  • Duct sealing
  • Attic ventilation