Is it time for Summit County residents to start prepping roofs for winter?
July 17, 2018
A result of regular snow and ice removal, the Northstar Townhomes Homeowners Association in Keystone was facing a rooftop replacement in 2012 much sooner than expected.
Men with axes were having to knock ice off the roof winter after winter, and the townhomes were seeing shingle degradation and leaks at a rate far sooner than they should be. Beyond the new roof, the HOA was also looking into the addition of an electrical de-icing system, or de-icing cable, which can prevent ice but doesn't go unnoticed on the electrical billing statements.
On the advice of a property-management company, the HOA enlisted the help of Comfort by Kodiak, a local contractor whose owner, David Koons, has over 25 years of experience working in Summit County.
The company's recommendation for the Northstar Townhomes, two-dozen units in all, was for a very different course of action.
To address the problem, Comfort by Kodiak took numerous air-sealing measures across the townhomes' attics, including sealing off hatches and covers for recessed lighting while also sealing attic bypasses to prevent heat loss through the fireplace and furnace.
According to Koons, the ice dams were forming when heat leaking from the townhomes' roofs melted the snow, the water flowed down to the eaves and then refroze. It lead to the problems the townhomes were experiencing, in addition to other safety issues.
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With the attics sealed, the fiber insulation was able to perform at its listed rating, and Comfort by Kodiak put in eave-soffit baffles to ensure attic air-flow while adding blown fiber insulation in compliance with current energy codes. Additionally, with spray foam, Comfort by Kodiak cut off other leaks at the top wall plates and electrical and plumbing penetrations.
The project wrapped up in a little over a month. While the work went quick, the effects will be much more long lasting, Koons said. Additionally, rebates were secured from Xcel Energy for the work, accounting for approximately 10-15 percent of the project's cost, he added.
Earlier this year, Comfort by Kodiak undertook a similar project with 25 units at the Starfire Townhomes, also in Keystone. In this case, the company helped the townhomes ditch their de-icing cables in favor of improvements that not only cut electrical costs but made the townhomes more energy efficient and livable in the process.
For Koons, every project is different and specific to the home. Still, it blows his mind that more property owners don't undertake such initiatives, especially considering the benefits against the high cost of suitable alternatives.
The process in which Comfort by Kodiak works generally starts with a building performance evaluation, and is endorsed by the Xcel Energy Home Performance with Energy Star Rebate and Quality Assurance Program.
In addition to the rebates from the electric company, Summit County's most active environmental group, the High Country Conservation Center, also has some cash to put down on residential energy evaluations and similar efficiency projects, too.
According to Koons, the rebates might be the least of someone's incentives because a 100-foot section of typical deicing cable generally costs about $300 a season in terms of electricity. Keep in mind that the Starfire Townhomes had about 9,000 feet of cable, he said, and that added up to about $11,000 to $12,000 every year just for the electricity to power those cables.
According to Koons, home construction is a science that comes down to "build tight but ventilate right." He described an air-sealed house without proper ventilation as vulnerable to air quality issues, like mold, radon and other pollutants, much like someone living inside a plastic bag, "so the other side of our business is we do fresh-air systems," he said.
Based on Koons' experience with over 300 evaluations under his belt, he said the average homeowner who makes these kinds of improvements can expect a full return on his or her money in about seven years. Because the savings grow exponentially over time, the same homeowner can expect to triple his or her investment in about 14 years.
"That's the average of what I see," Koons said.
And he would know, according to Jen Schenk, executive director of the High Country Conversation Center.
"David is really dialed in," she said. "(De-icing cable) is just such a huge energy suck in Summit County, but if homes aren't built properly and the insulation isn't done properly, sometimes the homeowner has no choice."
Schenk said she has had some of the same improvements Koons referenced made to her personal home. The work wasn't done by Comfort by Kodiak, but it falls along the same lines, nonetheless.
The additions to Schenk's home not only made it greener and cut her energy bills, she said, but they made it "so much more comfortable" for her and her family.
Schenk explained this is why she thinks Summit County needs companies like Comfort by Kodiak to perform energy assessments and "really nail down what homeowners are looking at and give them good estimates about which actions will produce the best payback."
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