Midwest Energy’s How$mart program recently reached a milestone of investing $10 million in energy efficiency improvements in its customers’ homes and businesses.
The How$mart program, which provides up to 100 percent of the funding for energy efficiency improvements, has completed more than 1,710 projects since the program began in July 2007. The average How$mart participant saves about $53 per month on energy bills.
“This program has been a win-win for everyone – for Midwest Energy, our customer-owners who participate in the program, local contractors who perform the work, and the environment,” said Brian Dreiling, Midwest Energy’s Manager of Energy Services in Hays.
Dreiling noted that How$mart now saves its participants 3.96 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year (enough to power 329 homes for a year), and 456,000 therms of natural gas (enough to heat 600 homes ).
Since How$mart began, Dreiling’s team of five energy auditors based in Hays, Great Bend and Colby oversee completion of around 17 projects per month. “It keeps us busy,” Dreiling noted. “We’ve completed How$mart projects in nearly all of the 40 counties Midwest Energy serves.”
Each How$mart project begins with a whole-home energy audit by a certified auditor, who makes recommendations on insulation and air sealing, and improvements in heating and air conditioning systems. Once the homeowner identifies which projects they’d like to complete, they select contractors from an approved list to make the upgrades. Midwest Energy pays for all or most of the costs, with customers making up any difference. Customers pay back the funds through a small surcharge, offset by the energy savings.
“We’re able to provide this program thanks to a series of grants and loans through the USDA,” stated Pat Parke, Midwest Energy’s Vice President for Customer Service. “How$mart allows us to offer our customer-owners real savings, reducing energy consumption while bringing work to dozens of contractors in central and western Kansas.”
More than 200 local and regional contractors participate in the program, putting them in touch with customers seeking work done to How$mart standards.
“Our business started in March of 2013 with two employees; since then we have doubled our staff to four, and we’re still growing,” said David Randa, owner of Reliable Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning in Hays that has completed 41 How$mart projects. “The program has helped us grow by finding customers that may not know anything about us. If we have a customer struggling with the financial side of a new HVAC system due to theirs not working, or if it’s running on its last leg, this program is a great financial resource for them.”
Midwest Energy, headquartered in Hays, is an electric and natural gas cooperative, serving 92,000 customers in Central and Western Kansas.