Ask Eartha: Lowering home heating bills |

Ask Eartha: Lowering home heating bills

Dear Eartha: My heating bills are so high, I feel there is something amiss with my home. I have heard about these “building energy audits” and would like to know if this could help me. – Sherrie, Summit Cove

For this week’s question I’m going to hand it over to the energy crew at the High Country Conservation Center.

Sherrie, a building energy audit would indeed be the first step in tracking down the issues contributing to your high heating bills. Let’s sit awhile and chat about building energy audits, shall we?

We spend most of our time in buildings, so it seems like common sense to evaluate their efficiency in order to spend less money while remaining comfortable and safe. However, most people are not aware of a building’s underlying qualities, such as details about the buildings, how they are designed, built, and how well they are maintained. These details have a strong effect on how much we enjoy a building and how much it costs.

The financial side of the story tells us that for every $1 decrease in annual energy costs, the market value of a home increases by $20, according to a study published in the Appraisal Journal. If you decrease your energy costs by $300 per year, the value of your home increases by $6,000.

In addition, an “energy-efficient” building is more comfortable than a wasteful building. It needs less fuel for heat and less electricity for cooling. A building that is badly designed and poorly kept up wastes money.

As an example of the energy losses that can occur in an average building, 40 percent of home energy losses occur through the ceilings, with 25 percent through walls, 15 percent through windows and 10 percent through floors and 10 percent through drafts (such as unblocked chimneys, windows and doors).

A building energy audit is a service where the energy efficiency of a house is evaluated by a person using professional equipment (such as blower doors and infra-red cameras), with the aim to suggest the best ways to improve energy efficiency in heating and cooling the house.

Beyond simply identifying the sources of energy use, an energy audit seeks to prioritize the energy uses according to the greatest to least cost effective opportunities for energy savings.

An energy audit is the crucial first step to assess where energy is consumed in your home or commercial building. It establishes which measures will make your structure more energy efficient and save you significant amounts of money over time.

An energy audit involves conducting blower-door tests (which should be done both before and after upgrades), combustion appliance inspection, and air quality testing including carbon monoxide detection, duct testing and airflow testing.

Upon entering the home, we conduct a building inspection. This includes a review of your insulation, heating systems and thermal envelope. A blower door is used to depressurize the house, enabling us to locate and measure the volume of air leaks. An infrared camera is then used to detect heat loss, air infiltration and moisture problems. Finally, we complete an inspection of the boiler/furnace, lighting, and appliances.

After inspection and testing, we submit a report of our findings. Our reports include a detailed list of recommended work and with projected energy savings for each recommendation. The audit report includes a list of certified contractors and a prioritization of improvements to provide the best return on your investment.

The audit report ensures that any dollars you invest in improvements will be spent where they’re needed most.

So, to answer your question Cherry, a building energy audit will be the optimum approach to figuring out the mystery of your high heating bills. Good Luck!

For more information about energy audits and energy incentives contact the High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668.5703 or email You can also visit our website at for information about our energy programs and services.

Our special guest writer this week is Trevor Schatz, HC3’s Energy Programs Manager. You can email Trevor your energy issues and questions at The High Country Conservation Center (HC3) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Submit general questions to Eartha at

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