Sheila Marr was raised as an Air Force brat, “is from all over and lived all over,” and settled here in 2005. She and her husband Tommy owned a residential construction firm in Eastern Tennessee. Southern Valley Services is a TVA Quality Contractor and an Energy Professional with the Nexus Energy Center. The TVA, in partnership with local utilities and Nexus Energy Center have programs offering rebates for energy improvements that can save home owners on their utility costs, make homes more comfortable, and help to prevent or solve such problems as the sometimes life threatening production of mold.
Sheila has always enjoyed working with home owners through experience in residential construction and real estate sales. In 2011 she obtained the HERS Certification. HERS has nothing to do with gender, rather it stands for Home Energy Rating System, and is the certification that is now standard to the building industry nationwide. Later that year she obtained BPI AP & ES Certification from the Building Performance Institute, which is geared more toward improving existing homes.
Sheila’s goal in to help home owners have more affordable, comfortable and healthy homes. “People need to think of their whole house as a system. Sometimes they are dealing with energy costs, and sometimes comfort and safety. Often the least expensive things make the biggest difference,” she told me, and that’s what she helps homeowners to understand and implement.
I asked her why I should seek out her services, and not surprisingly, it was her heart as well as her expertise that showed up in her gentle, confident response. “I think a lot about families paying way too much for energy, costing them money, making them uncomfortable.” I didn’t ask her if that keeps her awake at night, but it would not surprise me if it did. Then she began to educate me about what can go wrong, and how to make it right.
One of the things she tackles is potential health and safety hazards in a home. She explained to me that when there are energy leaks in a house that is not “tight,” as they call it, cold, treated air can hit warm air in a crawl space, condense, and could cause mold in the house. Another problem she looks for is gas leaks, which are more obvious, and other gas related safety issues. “Many people are unaware of potential safety hazards we can create in a home when we have gas appliances.”
Another quality she brings to the table is that her opinion is unbiased. There is a TVA Quality Contractor Network, and only qualified contractors who pass muster with the TVA are allowed to belong. If Sheila recommends a particular firm to help the homeowner take the next step, there is no financial gain for Sheila. She does, however, get the assurance that the job will be done right, and that can be worth far more than money.
Some projects are low cost Do-It-Yourselfers, others are more costly. Sometimes rebates are available, and Sheila especially wants to help people who think they have no options to improve their home. With the rebates through the NEXUS Energy Center’s WISE Program of up to $400, (available in Madison, Limestone, Morgan, Lawrence and Cullman Counties,) and TVA’s Energy Right In-Home Energy Evaluation Program, home owners with participating utilities can get rebates up to $500. In 2013, there is up to $500 in Federal Tax Credits available, and there are also WISE Rebates for businesses.
Being a HERS rater involves using some interesting equipment to get the best possible ratings. The following are examples of the technology used by Southern Valley Services to rate homes:
Blower Door – This checks for “tightness,” in other words, how much conditioned air leaks out of the home. Some people think a house has to breathe, and it does, but “It’s about taking control over where air is coming from,” she told me. “Living in a ‘tight’ house is different, and there are some adjustments, but it’s worth it, particularly if you have unhealthy air in crawl spaces and attics and have allergies.”
Duct Blaster – This tests tightness of the heating & cooling duct system.
Thermal Imaging Camera – shows temperature changes as small as 1/10th of a degree, identifies the
unwanted presence of moisture, the tiniest leaks of conditioned air, and more.
Combustion Analysis – The aforementioned example of the gas water heater in the laundry room and the potential backdrafts and combustion gas leaks.
Sheila’s dream is that sometime in the future Southern Valley Services will grow to where she can grant some improvements for those that can’t afford the improvements they need, and I believe with her savvy and servant’s heart, she’ll realize that dream.
If you feel that your home is in need of the services offered by Southern Valley Services, please call Mrs. Sheila Marr at 256-497-5595, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner