Bright Ideas Grant: Yellow farmhouse gets efficient makeover

Thanks to hard work from the Wilton community on green initiatives and a resulting $10,000 Bright Ideas grant funded by CL&P and Yankee Gas, the yellow farmhouse at Ambler Farm was made significantly more energy efficient last week.

The farmhouse — a town-owned antique building that is the home of Ambler Farm’s program coordinator Kevin Meehan and his family — has been completely retrofitted with advanced-technology insulation and high-efficiency light bulbs thanks to the grant. New England Smart Energy Group performed much of the work on the house as its general contractor, while Sky Property Services installed the insulation.

Both the attic and the walls of the house were insulated last week.

Insulation in the attic consisted of open cellulose spray, energy commission member Patrice Gillespie said Monday. This insulation will be covered in fire-retardant paint next week.

While insulation was simply sprayed into the attic, installing it into existing walls was a more interesting process, she said.

“They remove a string of clapboard and drill 2.5-inch holes in between each slab [in the walls] and they take shredded newspaper treated with fireproofing materials and blow it vertically in between the studs — up and then down. Then they plug the holes with a foam cork and replace the clapboard,” Ms. Gillespie said.

At the forefront of this project was the Wilton Energy Commission, which worked with First Selectman Bill Brennan in deciding where to apply the Bright Ideas grant.

“The energy commission and the first selectman assessed various ways in which the grant ... could be used by the town and settled on the town-owned farmhouse as the best use of the $10,000 grant,” said Ms. Gillespie.

The town earned the grant after accruing 100 points in the Bright Ideas program, Ms. Gillespie said, which encourages residents to consider cost-effective energy renovations to their homes.

The points were earned when members of the community at large accomplished energy conservation measures in the recent past.

As with many 19th-Century homes, the farmhouse was uninsulated and cost the town more than $5,000 to heat during calendar year 2013. In that year, the heating system burned more than 1,300 gallons of oil.

Stephanie Weiner, of the New England Smart Energy Group, said insulating the farmhouse and installing new lights is a excellent example of retrofitting an old home.

“The Ambler farmhouse energy retrofit project is a perfect example of how owners of older homes — and Wilton has hundreds of antiques like this one — or almost any home in Wilton can benefit from Connecticut’s generous energy efficiency programs,” she said. “The great loan programs and generous incentives and rebates often make it less expensive to get this work done, than not to.”

These incentives and rebates are a part of the Connecticut Clean Energy Communities program, which has been supported and managed in town by the Energy Commission for many years.

As part of the program, Wilton town leaders have pledged to reduce energy use in schools and municipal buildings by 20% within the next four years.