Award will improve efficiency in two Decorah apartment buildings

The Woolen Mill apartment building was originally constructed in 1867 and was renovated into 15 apartments in 2002, many of which serve lower income households.(submitted)

The City of Decorah was recently notified that it was approved for a $233,638 grant from the Iowa Development Authority’s Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program. The funds will be used on a project that will provide cold climate ductless heat pumps at two Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation properties in Decorah — the 15-unit Woolen Mill apartment building located downtown Decorah and the 16-unit Washington Court apartment building at 600 Washington Street. The grant will also enable Decorah households to access energy coaching services with the goal of connecting them to tax credits and point of sale rebates provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Woolen Mill energy upgrades

The Woolen Mill apartment building was originally constructed in 1867 and was renovated into 15 apartments in 2002, many of which serve lower income households. At the time of its renovation in 2002, the entire building was equipped with electric resistance heat, with each tenant paying their own electricity and Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation (NEICAC) responsible for common area and hallway heating and cooling. The building was also outfitted with primitive ductless air conditioning, but most units have since failed. Most tenants now rely on window air conditioners.

Last year, electricity bills at Woolen Mill for single-bedroom units averaged $90-$120 per month, whereas two-bedroom units averaged $120-$140 per month. The installation of new electric air source heat pumps with seasonally averaged efficiencies of 275-300 percent relative to electric resistance heating should reduce tenant electric bills by at least $35/month per unit. Building-wide, the new heat pumps should reduce annual energy consumption by 43,500 kWh and energy bills by $7,220.

Washington Court energy upgrades

The other building to benefit is the 16-unit senior housing Washington Court, which was built in 1996 and utilizes electric resistance heating and through-the-wall window air conditioning.

Last year, tenant electricity expenses averaged $71 per month, and it is anticipated bills will decrease to $51 per month once new heat pumps are installed.

Free energy coaching for low-income households

The EECBG grant award will also help lower-income Decorah households access free energy coaching to help them identify opportunities for efficiency improvements and savings through tax credits and rebates funded by the IRA. 

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