Main Street grants cut costs for businesses

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Moss House Bed and Breakfast was one of the recipients of a Main Street grant through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, distributed by the N.C. Energy Office. The grant was used to replace three energy-hogging heating/air systems at the Washington business. (WDN Photo/Meredith Loughlin)

The North Carolina Energy Office is using its website to tout the success it’s had in making North Carolina a more energy efficient state, business by business.
Funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and distributed by the N.C. Energy Office, three Washington businesses have benefited from Main Street grants designed to replace the energy-hogging systems of the past with more energy-efficient ones.
The Moss House Bed and Breakfast, Carolina Wind Yachting Center (Havens Wharf) and Edward Jones Investments Office were all recipients of energy saving, cost-effective retrofits that cut down on energy bills and made Washington part of a federal and state movement to save energy.
The only catch in the process was that business owners had to come up with 50-percent of the cost of replacing outdated systems, then funds were matched by Main Street grant money.
For Becky and Scott Sipprell, owners of The Moss House Bed and Breakfast, that meant $14,983, augmented by the grant, for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning units providing climate control for the inn.
“It was worth the money,” said Becky Sipprell. “It’s made a really big difference.”
The Sipprells were told The Moss House’s units were over 15 years old when an energy auditor came to assess the business’s eligibility for the grant. By age alone, they qualified, and three new units, one for upstairs guests, downstairs and the Sipprell’s separate living quarters were installed in 110-year-old bed and breakfast.
Though it takes time to assess the overall impact of the efficiency upgrade, Sipprell said the retrofit has already made a big dent in the couple’s bills — bills that reflected the expense of cooling their place during the summer months.
Jules Norwood at Carolina Wind Yachting Center said the same: “I can definitely tell just from the little graph that comes on every bill,” Norwood said. “In comparison to previous months and years, it’s lower.”
Norwood is unsure of how old the units at the Havens Wharf were before the switch, but Norwood said they were “relatively ancient.” The building has plenty of history: built in 1802, Havens Wharf is North Carolina’s oldest commercial property continually used in the same commercial vein for which it was built. It also survived the Civil War burning of Washington, twice.
Norwood said he appreciated the fact that the city took the initiative and sought out local businesses to participate.
“I think it’s great that they were able to take advantage of the funds that were available,” Norwood said. “It certainly helped us do some upgrades that we probably wouldn’t be able to do at this point.”
Washington City Manager Josh Kay said the Main Street grants fell in line with what the city is already doing: finding ways to assist residents with cost effective energy, thereby lowering the cost of a business’s overhead.
“We are always looking for funding opportunities that align with our mission-one of those being assisting our businesses,” Kay added.
While Kay and his staff assess other block grant opportunities that parallel the city’s energy cost-saving measures for its residents, Norwood will be assessing exactly how much Carolina Wind will save this year through their new HVAC system and retrofitted lighting in the 15 rental offices in the historic building.
The coolest thing: “The programmable thermostats are really neat,” Norwood said. “We can have them back off at night so they’re not running full tilt — when they really don’t need to be.”