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Winter is Coming! Is your home as energy efficient as it can be?

The temperature is dropping, but it's not too late to make sure your home is ready for Old Man Winter's return. Energy efficient homes keep your family warm and reduce heating bills. Now, homeowners in the Grand Forks area can get a free 15-minut...

The temperature is dropping, but it's not too late to make sure your home is ready for Old Man Winter's return. Energy efficient homes keep your family warm and reduce heating bills. Now, homeowners in the Grand Forks area can get a free 15-minute home energy consultation to identify problem areas in their houses. 401(e) Energy Services provides energy assessments, coordinates and performs energy upgrades, and even finds financial incentives or tax rebates for homeowners.

Essentially, 401(e) is a one stop shop to find, fix, and fund home energy improvements. This ENERGY STAR endorsed program utilizes a whole-house approach for assessments and improvements, while also helping to protect the environment. In general, homeowners in cold climates that have invested in energy efficiency upgrades can see immediate results with utility bills reduced an average of 20-30%, dependent on the investment in improvements.

"We purposely named this entity 401(e) because it is an investment in your home, but the greater investment may be in your community," says Jason Schaefer, 401(e)Coordinator. 401(e) helps homeowners identify, address, and improve home energy issues to maximize energy efficiency and achieve significant cost savings on utility bills. And like two other well-known socially conscious companies - Tom's Shoes and Pura Vida Coffee - 401(e) also gives back to the local community.

401(e) Energy Services is North Dakota's first and only social enterprise in the state. This new Grand Forks-based entity gives 100 percent of its profits to social programs. The social enterprise aspect of 401(e) takes all of the profits generated by the agency's services and reinvests in non-profit programs provided by Red River Valley Community Action (RRVCA). The best part is, 401(e)'s customers get to select which organization will receive the profits from the home improvement work they book through 401(e).

The RRVCA has over 30 programs it administers including programs such as:

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  • Helping Hand - This program provides emergency home repair services to low-income and disadvantaged clients of RRVCA. It is a vital program that keeps a seemingly small emergency from financially derailing disadvantaged individuals and families who struggle to make ends meet.
  • Individual Development Accounts (IDA) - This program helps families and individuals of modest means establish a pattern of savings for such thing as a college education, invest in lasting asset such as a home, and earn a 2:1 match upon completion. It is a hand up, not a hand out.
  • Ernie J. Norman Center - This home, owned by RRVCA, provides temporary safe housing and case management for homeless women and children. Keeping a family safe and providing direction and confidence to move forward is a hallmark of this program

"The great thing about the social aspect of 401(e) is the customer can choose which program they want the profit to go to," says Schaefer. Customers can choose one of the three programs described above or choose the option of "where it is needed most." 401(e) will invest the profit wisely to make the most of the funding they are given and let the customer know how their money was spent.
"This entity was developed both from necessity and ingenuity," says Kent Keys, RRVCA Director. "Federal funding continues to be cut and we realized in order to be sustainable, we had to find another way to fund our programs."

Providing energy efficiency services was a natural fit to branch off into a separate for-profit entity. "The RRVCA has been providing energy efficiency services for over 30 years for low income households as social program," says Keys. "When we stopped and evaluated what we were really good at and what this region needs, it was kind of a no-brainer".

401(e) has a staff of professionals that conducts energy assessments, contract work, assists with incentive or funding programs, and performs project management of the process. The service has several partners including Xcel Energy, local financial institutions, and contractors. Most recently, the program earned an ENERGY STAR endorsement. "This is a pretty big deal for us," says Schaefer. "There is no other service in North Dakota that has earned that endorsement."

Homeowners can inquire about energy assessments through the 401(e) website at www.401-e.com or by calling 701-795-7114.

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