Big factories belch smoke; cars expel exhaust fumes. Their energy use is obvious.
What may not be as apparent is the amount of energy consumed by residents in their homes everyday.
The residential sector is responsible for almost a quarter of the all the energy consumed in the nation, according to an annual energy review by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
A couple of Summit County residents are doing their part to help community members save money and conserve energy. Kevin Berg is the High Country Conservation Center’s new energy operations manager. He replaces Matt Wright, who is opening his own energy-saving business, Deeper Green Consulting.
Berg and Wright specialize in helping homeowners become more energy efficient. They perform home energy audits, using technology like infrared cameras, to assess how homes perform. They can take note of air leaks, inspect insulation levels, and determine the energy efficiency of home lighting and appliances. They can also evaluate home health and safety issues involving air quality.
“It’s more than just energy,” Wright said. “We are like a house doctor.”
After a house is evaluated, energy-auditors make a report of top-priorities and recommendations to improve the performance of a home.
“It helps educate people about what they can do not only to consume less energy, but also to have a lower impact on the environment by using less fossil fuels and change the way we draw energy into our homes,” Berg said.
Wright is in the process of handing off his role at HC3 to Berg. Although Wright will be continuing on a similar path by creating his own business, he said the two are not competitive.
“It’s in both of our interest to keep the programs going,” Wright said. “We don’t see each other as competitors, we see each other as working hand-in-hand promoting the industry together in Summit County.”
The cost of an home energy audit varies on the size of a home, but start at $350. Excel energy customers can get up to a $200 rebate. Excel also offers some home rebates for homeowners to incorporate energy-saving practices.
HC3 is also trying to work with local jurisdictions and the county to establish a revolving loan fund provide more incentive for the homeowner to do some of the retrofits to improve their energy performance, Berg said.
“The key here is to really get people to do something after we perform the audit,” he said.
Some efficiency improvements are “low hanging fruit” in terms of cost, but bigger upgrades can make a greater impact overall, Berg and Wright said.
“There are some higher-cost upgrades that, in the long run, will certainly pay itself back. But it’s a matter of that initial ‘sticker shock,’that scares homeowners away,” Wright said.
A common misconception of homeowners is that they need to put their money into new windows, when they should be focusing on other problems, such as poor insulation and the performance of lighting and appliances, said Berg.
“I’m honestly surprised with how many homes I’ve been into that only have a few CFL lightbulbs,” Wright said.
This might be because of a stigma of their performance when they first came out, but they have come a long way, he said.
Air sealing is another low-cost, simple measure that can have a significant impact on air quality and consumption, Wright said.
Each homeowner can do their part to save on energy.
“It’s important to have more people out in the community doing these programs,” Berg said.
The pair of energy-savers want to make home energy conservation practices commonplace in Summit County.
“We are at that tipping point where it’s finally starting to take off and more people are starting to pay attention,” Wright said.