Sheila Marr, along with her husband Tommy have shown that outstanding customer care, hard work and a high level of professionalism have made taking the risk of starting a business in a recession a worthy one. They own Southern Valley Services, and their primary focus is providing energy audits and consulting for homeowners and builders who are interested in having a more efficient home. Their goal is to help homeowners have more affordable, comfortable and healthy homes. “Homeowners should think of their whole house as a system. Each building component affects the other. If the home or duct work is leaky or not insulated properly, the heating and cooling system has to work harder to do its job. Thus higher energy costs, less comfort. So, just replacing or upgrading the heating and cooling system doesn’t solve the problem, and sometimes can make it worse,” said Sheila. By conducting a thorough inspection of the property and diagnostic testing, Southern Valley Services is able to determine the source of the loss, and make prioritized recommendations. Often, the least expensive improvements make the biggest difference, and that’s what they help homeowners to understand and implement.
Sheila and Tommy relocated to the Athens area in 2005 from East Tennessee where they owned a residential construction firm. Tommy grew up in the construction industry, and began building on his own right out of high school. Both he and Sheila have worked in Real Estate and had Broker’s licenses in Tennessee and Alabama. Tommy has also managed commercial construction projects, and oversaw construction of several large projects here in Limestone County. He was also a regional manager for the TVA Energy Right Solutions In-Home Energy Efficiency Program in North Alabama.
Because of their understanding of construction and true cost of home ownership, SVS was formed to work with residential builders to build more energy efficient homes while assisting them in obtaining Energy Star Certification and qualifying as a TVA Energy Right Solutions New Home. The Marrs have continued to increase their knowledge and certifications to be able to provide more services to their customers. The company is a member of the TVA Quality Contractor Network and Energy Professional with the Nexus Energy Center. TVA, in partnership with local utilities, offers rebate programs for energy improvements that can save homeowners on their utility costs, and make their homes more comfortable.
As business has increased, Tommy has joined SVS full time. He had the following to say:
“Southern Valley Services is growing and expanding services to include Certified Home Inspections for people who are in the process of purchasing a home, or preparing a home to sell. Homebuyers are encouraged to have the potential purchase inspected for unseen issues that could turn the excitement of a new home into the burden of unexpected costs and repairs. Alabama is still a “buyer beware” state, which means a seller is not required to tell you if there are things needing replacement or repair unless it is a health or safety issue; so a home inspection should be on the must do list.
Alabama has also adopted an energy code. October 2012 marked the beginning of required energy code compliance on new construction. Southern Valley Services inspects hundreds of homes each year during the construction process to certify both Energy Code compliance, as well as a HERS index rating. A HERS index rating is sort of like the “miles per gallon” label on a car; telling the buyer the estimated energy usage of that home. In areas where no permitting is required, like Limestone County outside of the city of Athens, the State still mandates compliance with the Energy Code. However, since there is no enforcement present, people should consider having a home inspection done in these areas even on a new home.”
Services available now through Southern Valley Services include:
• Home Energy Assessments
• Certified Home Inspections
• New Home Energy Code Compliance
• HERS Index Rating
• Home Energy Modeling for New Home Construction or renovations
With Tommy as the Chief Operations Officer, services have been expanded to include facilitation of energy improvements. Because they conduct the inspections and testing, they know exactly what needs to be done and how. Tommy is now in a position to be present on site during the improvement process until its completion. Once completed, post testing can be conducted to insure that the improvement process was successful. Sheila mentioned “this was a service that many customers were requesting because they didn’t feel confident about having the work done properly or being able to do the work themselves. Tommy makes sure it’s done right.”
They are able to consult on everything from brand new construction to historical homes. Recently they were involved in improving the energy outlay of a house built in the 1800s, and were able to do so without compromising its historic integrity.
She said, “We see places where the attic is full of insulation, and it’s still cold or hot.” That can be as the result of leaky duct work or other sources of energy leaks, and that’s what their crew searches out and corrects. Spring and Fall are the best times to schedule home improvement projects like heating and cooling system replacement, adding or improving insulation, and window replacements. This is because the two high demand seasons have not hit yet. There is time to do a methodical energy assessment, and not have to be in “crisis mode,” either because someone is freezing or melting.
There is a virtual “Trifecta” when it comes to energy audits and resultant problem solving. First, there is “air sealing,” that is, finding the leaks wherever they may be and stopping them. Then, it is installing proper insulation to fix what is known as “heat bleed.” The final step is making sure the duct work is installed correctly and with no leaks. Let Southern Valley Services come and give a careful assessment of the most important material investment of your life, your home.
Call Sheila Marr at 256-497-5595, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Libby McGaw