MARSHFIELD When Tracey Witherspoon first saw the 1863 farmhouse she eventually bought, she immediately fell in love with its old look. But the Marshfield resident never anticipated how the rustic farmhouse would feel in the dead of winter. My children and I could barely go upstairs it was so cold, said Witherspoon, a mother of two. The house was old, drafty, and desperately needed work. We were basically heating the outside, and we had the largest icicles in the state to prove it! Fed up with the houses extreme temperatures and equally extreme heating bills, Witherspoon took the advice of a friend and contacted a local builder who specialized in energy efficiency. Malcolm Gray, of Montpelier Construction, is a certified Home Performance with ENERGY STAR contractor. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is a national training program, sponsored statewide by Efficiency Vermont, which trains contractors to take a whole-house, diagnostic approach to energy efficiency. Witherspoon initially wanted to focus on her basement. However, after seeing results of Grays comprehensive tests of the buildings tightness and heating system, she decided to add insulation to her attic and walls. In addition, Gray installed a mix of new windows and storm fixtures on other existing windows, and added weather stripping on the doors to reduce drafts. Malcolm made the house livable, said Witherspoon. He explained to me why the house was so inefficient, and helped me understand how each improvement would increase the overall comfort and affordability of my home. It feels good to know were going to be much warmer and that our electricity and heating bills will be lower from now on. All told, the improvements helped reduce Witherspoons fuel consumption by almost 50 percent and her electricity bills by 30 percent compared to the previous winter. With Traceys home, we identified the areas that would make the most impact within her budget, and the results were pretty dramatic, said Gray. The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR approach really helps me document to my customers why an energy efficiency improvement makes sense from both a practical and financial standpoint. And with more and more Vermonters interested in green building, it has made our services more attractive to potential customers. To learn about how Home Performance with ENERGY STAR can help improve your homes comfort, durability and energy efficiency, and to identify a certified contractor in your area, visit www.efficiencyvermont.com/homeperformance. Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy and protect Vermont's environment. Efficiency Vermont is currently operated by Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), an independent organization under contract to the Vermont Public Service Board. VEIC is a Vermont-based nonprofit organization founded in 1986. For more information, contact Efficiency Vermont at 1-888-921-5990 or visit www.efficiencyvermont.com .