Routt County nonprofits use grants to increase energy efficiency |

Routt County nonprofits use grants to increase energy efficiency

— As they looked intently at the pages of a "Clifford the Big Red Dog" picture book Thursday, a circle of preschoolers at the Laurel Street Preschool didn't pay any attention to the newly installed fluorescent light ballasts above them. They also didn't notice their school's new insulation and furnaces, or the new windows that open up to Crawford Avenue.

But Laurel Street Preschool Director Kim Kueber said she soon will start to educate her students about how the recent changes to the school are saving energy.

"This is a very old building," Kueber said in her office at the school, which is run in a house finished in 1937. The home last was renovated in the early 1970s.

"The windows were very drafty, and they didn't have screens. It got chilly in here, and we always had to crank up the heat," Kueber said. "But I think these improvements will save us some money all around."

The preschool is one of two Routt County nonprofits that is starting to see the benefits of recent upgrades funded by Energy Outreach Colorado's Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Program. The grant program funded the installation of $27,000 worth upgrades that included more efficient light fixtures, new furnaces, insulation and windows in the preschool and also bought LIFT-UP of Routt County seven new energy-efficient refrigerators that have expanded the food bank's storage capacity.

Big savings

As children played outside on the Laurel Street Preschool playground Thursday, Kueber said Energy Outreach Colorado has estimated the improvements to her school could save an estimated $1,500 annually on energy costs. She added that the upgrades long have been on the school's to-do list but that funding has been tight.

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"Ever since the economy went down, extra funding is kind of hard to come by," she said. "It's nice that we can get a grant to do this and not have to raise tuition prices or cut other budget line items. It keeps our costs down and makes everything more affordable for families."

The Laurel Street Preschool upgrades mostly were funded by a donation from Atmos Energy to the state program.

Kueber applied for the funds last year after researching grant opportunities online. Energy Outreach Colorado performed an energy audit on the school a few months ago and determined how best to spend the $27,000.

West of the preschool, workers who manage LIFT-UP Food Bank were busy stocking eggs and milk in the new refrigerators Thursday.

"They add a different quality to our food bank and give us more space," assistant food bank manager Sage Price said about the new appliances that replaced seven old, donated refrigerators, some of which were manufactured in the 1980s. "Because of this grant, we have the ability to take in more produce and offer our clients more quality food."

Investing in efficiency

Luke Ilderton, Energy Outreach Colorado's director of energy efficiency programs, performed the energy audits at LIFT-UP and the preschool. He said Thursday that the projects are two of about 30 the grant program will support this year.

He estimated LIFT-UP's new refrigerators will save the nonprofit about 4,885 kilowatt-hours of energy, or about $493, each year. He added that the upgrades at the preschool will save an estimated 7,000 kilowatt-hours of energy.

"It's extremely rewarding to do this work because we come in and offset their operating costs so they might provide more services to their underserved clients," Ilderton said. "They operate on shoestring budgets already."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

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