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More contractors needed for Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover

By: Ed Marcum 

The Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover program, launched to help weatherize the homes of low-income families, has been a boon to contractors.

John Underwood, whose company Castles of Choice LLC does subcontract work on the homes for ABC Weatherization, said KEEM was an opportunity that came along at just the right time.

"We were a young company and ABC got us involved in the program," he said. "It really helped us get going," he said.

Part of the idea behind the program is to help minority-, women-owned and other small businesses, and organizers want to get more of them involved, said Erin Gill, director of the city's Office of Sustainability. To accomplish this, a workshop will be held at 10 a.m. on Oct. 21 at the Knoxville Area Urban League headquarters at 1514 E. Fifth Ave.

There will be a presentation to explain the program, and a chance to talk with representatives and learn how to get involved, Gill said. There is a bit of urgency because the program is running out of time and money, and organizers want to get as many homes weatherized and as many contractors involved as possible, she said.

"The program is in its final year, so we want to make sure the doors are wide open for people who want to participate," Gill said.

The program kicked off in August 2015, funded by a $15 million grant awarded by the Tennessee Valley Authority to the city, the Community Action Committee, Knoxville Utilities Board, and the Alliance to Save Energy. CAC administers the program.

"Generally, CAC goes into low-income homes that have electric heat, and if the family is income eligible and meets other qualifications, CAC evaluates the home and does a full audit to find out what the home needs in terms of energy efficiency," Gill said.

CAC makes a list of improvements needed and hires a contractor to do the work. This usually involves sealing doors and windows, replacing or repairing HVAC units and water heaters, and/or installing insulation and repairing duct work.

However, a stipulation of the TVA grant is that all the $15 million should be spent by September 2017.

"We are ramped up and will continue at full speed until we are out of money," Gill said.

There still is much to be done, she said. The program aims to weatherize 1,278 homes and has done 725 so far. To quicken the pace, more contractors are needed, Gill said. Only nine general contractors are involved, she said. One of those is ABC Weatherization.

Jim Beardsworth, co-owner of the company, said it has about 26 subcontractors, representing about 40 or 50 people, that work on KEEM projects.

Beardsworth said that a subcontractor must be trained and accepted as a TVA contractor, and he believes that probably inhibits some contractors from trying to get KEEM work. The workshop will provide information and help guide subcontractors through the process, he said.

The Smarter Cities Partnership, a coalition of 20 organizations looking to make homes in Knoxville's core more energy efficient, is looking for funding sources to continue KEEM after the current funds run out, Gill said.

So far, the program has had an impressive impact, Gill said. It has resulted in $6 million being invested into the community, including $4.5 million to small businesses.

The weatherization jobs that have been completed thus far have resulted in an estimated 3.7 million kilowatt-hours of electricity saved, enough to power about 225 average homes, she said. The energy savings have prevented an estimated 2,600 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being produced, which is the equivalent of taking 549 cars off the road.

For more information on KEEM or the workshop, call 865-244-3080 or

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