Ask Eartha: Your Rx for home energy efficiency
I saw an ad in the paper advertising free home energy assessments. I’ve been thinking of signing up because my energy bills are so high. What can I expect from the process?
As dedicated readers know, I’m all about conservation. And I especially love energy efficiency because it’s not only good for the environment but also our wallets! Today, I’m going share my own energy assessment experience, so you can learn how all the tests an energy auditor performs tell the story of your home’s efficiency.
The energy doctor is in
When the auditor showed up the morning of my assessment, he unloaded an impossible amount of gear and boxes from his truck. But before he got to work, he spent a few minutes asking questions about my house. This helped him determine if there were any specific problem areas he should look out for — like if I had any uncomfortable or drafty rooms, giant icicles dangling off my roof in winter or suspiciously high energy bills.
Next, I showed him where my crawlspace and attic were located and confessed that I was nervous he’d recommend replacing all my windows. To my relief, the auditor explained that he was focused on identifying cost-effective improvements to recommend — what he called “low-hanging fruit.” For a lot of homes in Summit County, he explained that the most important projects are often sealing places where indoor air escapes outside or adding insulation. In winter, these actions help keep your house warm and prevent heated air from leaking outside, in which case you’re literally paying to heat the outdoors!
To diagnose my home, the auditor busted out some very fancy equipment. With a big fan installed in my front door, my home was depressurized to expose any air leaks. While the fan was running, the auditor went from room to room, taking photos of my walls with an infrared camera. The camera visibly depicted all the leaks in my home as blue-colored streaks of cold outdoor air pouring in through outlets, window trim and the attic access hatch. In a matter of minutes, my auditor had identified the culprit for roughly half my monthly energy bills.
Can you believe I’ve never stepped foot in my attic? Well, the auditor did. As it turns out, the lack of insulation and air flow up there was the reason behind the massive icicle farm that forms every winter on the west side of my roof. And my cold kitchen floor? That was from a lack of insulation in my crawl space.
The auditor also made sure that my home wasn’t making my family sick. He tested all my gas lines for leaks and made sure my heater was running efficiently and safely. Finally, he dug into three mystery boxes he had brought and installed LED light bulbs, insulated my water heater and even gave me a new shower head to replace an inefficient one in my guest bathroom — all for free!
Your efficiency Rx
My inbox pinged with the results of my assessment a few days after my auditor’s visit. The report was thorough to say the least, with plenty of photos, infrared images and commentary specific to my home. It also detailed opportunities for improved efficiency, comfort, durability and even safety. The best part was that staff from the High Country Conservation Center followed up with a phone call to help me understand the report and chat about next steps.
Those ads you mentioned? Well, the fine folks at the Conservation Center want to make improving energy efficiency extra easy this summer. While they always offer incentives to help pay for energy assessments, this June and July, they’re offering extra money so that your cost will be zero dollars after those rebate checks show up in your mailbox (although larger homes will still have to pay a portion). There’s also money to help you pay for the improvement projects recommended in your report.
Helping the environment, improving my home, saving on my energy bills and getting paid to do it? That’s what I call a win-win-win-win. So, what are you waiting for? Enroll your home today by visiting HighCountryConservation.org or calling 970-668-5703.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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