On a morning like Thursday, with the temperature minus 15, it was a good time to get the house winterized for free.

That's what happened at the home of Nancy and Josiah Smith in Security, thanks to the Home Efficiency Assistance Program administered by Colorado Springs Utilities.

"I didn't know they would do so much," said Nancy Smith, watching a couple of masked workmen disappearing into her basement. They were putting in a new wall of insulation, wrapping the water heater in a blanket, weather stripping windows, adding insulation in a crawl space.

But what Smith is really thrilled about is that she will get a new energy efficient refrigerator to replace the old electricity eater that has been in the house for at least 15 years.

It was the high energy bills, more than $250 some months - that spurred her to contact the assistance program.

HEAP provides free energy and water home improvements for qualifying residential customers who have a household gross income at or below 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and have homes in much need of energy saving upgrades. Since its inception in 2003, about 1,300 families have been helped, said Deborah Mathis, program manager.

The utility company contracts with the non-profit Energy Resource Center, which runs the program, conduct audits and performs the services.

Customers who own their home can apply by providing a year's worth of utility bills, proof of income, photos of the home and other information. Those who qualify get a home audit. If warranted, upgrades to the home are made for free.

If furnaces need replacing, the homeowners pay $500 of the cost.

Nancy and her husband, who met in Germany when they were both in the Army, bought the two-story, 2,500-square-foot house in December 2011, according to the El Paso County assessor's website. She is now a civilian employee at Fort Carson. Josiah is looking for work.

Smith said that they spend at least $250 a month to warm the house. Even keeping the heat at around 70, it isn't exactly toasty warm. There are several cold spots, including the basement, where two family friends are staying, the bathroom and master bedroom.

"Downstairs we have to turn on the gas fireplace sometimes, and that is really expensive," she said.

Two of their three daughters, Viktoria, 15, and Michaela, 10, were home for Thursday's event because school was cancelled due to the cold. They were excited that they will be more comfortable.

"We bundle up in socks and blankets and clothes," Viktoria explained.

The cat Stripey may benefit, too. They usually cover him with a blanket.


Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371. Twitter @mcgrawatgazette Facebook: Carol McGraw