Tuesday, August 09, 2011

TOP STORY >> Co-op’s home improvement

Leader staff writer

Imagine a presentation by Publishers Clearing House, only without the bouquet of flowers.

That’s what it was like Monday morning at the home of First Electric Co-operative customers William and Nancy Ferrell of the Hopewell community between Rose Bud and Heber Springs, when a caravan of cars and trucks filled with representatives from Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, First Electric of Jacksonville and several businesses arrived with an over-sized check for $50,000 representing the value of the work that will be done making their home energy-efficient.

The surprise was the same and so were the gasped expressions of disbelief.

“Oh, my God,” Nancy Ferrell said as she realized she was the big winner, not just one of the 16 runner-ups who will receive a 40-gallon high energy-efficient Marathon water heater.

“Thank you, man. You just don’t know what this means to us,” William Ferrell told First Electric’s Bret Curry who informed them about what was included in the grand prize for the fourth annual Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas $50,000 Energy Efficiency Makeover Contest: new windows and doors, energy-efficient appliances, foam insulation in their walls and attic, caulking all around the house and a geo-thermal heat and air system that Curry called “the best on planet earth.”

The contest, which was open to customers of all 17 electric cooperatives, started in May and ended in mid-July.

Asked the purpose of the contest aside from making the lives of a few customers easier, Curry said, “It’s all about education.”

The electric cooperatives strive to educate customers about saving energy and the makeovers provide proof that it can be done.

The Ferrell’s bought their 1,400-square-foot, 31-year-old rock-and-wood home 12 years ago when they moved to Hopewell from Bartlett, Tenn., outside Memphis.

Leaky windows and doors, leaky air ducts, and a pieced together heating and cooling unit were just some of the problems with the Ferrell’s home, Curry said. Heating and cooling the home was expensive and so they turned the thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter. In the summer they also run ceiling fans and box fans. In the winter they burn wood in a heater in the living room.

Their electric bill averaged $200 a month and they were uncomfortable.

“They were doing without,” Curry said. “That’s the American way. People will sacrifice comfort to keep that bill down.

The Ferrells split their firewood with a hydraulic log splitter that two weeks ago caught two of Nancy’s fingers and would have done real damage if she hadn’t been wearing gloves, William said.

They told Curry they would gladly give up that stove after the new geo-thermal system is installed.

William, 66, is a retired truck driver. Nancy, 60, is out of work since the glove factory closed in Heber Springs.

The work on their home that will start this week should last for the rest of his life, William said.

“I would have been happy with the water heater,” Nancy said. “I’ll never be able to say enough thank yous to the people who decided we should be the winners.”

The Ferrell’s application was one of more than 2,000.

These applicants will receive a 40-gallon Marathon water heater:

 Jackie Ray, Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative of Ozark;

 Sam Taunton, Ashley-Chicot Electric Cooperative of Hamburg;

 Ernesto Muniz, C and L Electric Cooperative of Star City;

 Dawn Harris, Carroll Electric Cooperative of Berryville;

 Ronnie Davis, Clay County Electric Cooperative of Corning;

 Kimberly Markum, Craighead Electric Cooperative of Jonesboro;

 Albert Cathey, Farmers Electric Cooperative of Newport;

Paul G. Borden, Mississippi County Electric Cooperative of Blytheville;

James F. Bonewits, North Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Salem;

Doyle Vann Jr., Ouachita Electric Cooperative of Camden;

Matt and Carrie Brandenburg, Ozarks Electric Cooperative of Fayetteville;

Leonard Coe, Petit Jean Electric Cooperative of Clinton;

Steve Holton, Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative of Mena;

Doris Dunlap, South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Arkadelphia;

Edward L. Caldwell, Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Texarkana; and

Jerry Green, Woodruff Electric Cooperative of Forrest City.

In addition to the electric cooperatives, the contest’s primary sponsors include: The Doug Rye; WeatherBarr Windows of Fort Smith; Marathon Water Heaters; Rood Heating and Air of Russellville; and Water Furnace Geothermal.