Sunday, November 13, 2011

Energy Audit

Bonus: Now I know I never want a red front door!

One of the most popular tips one reads when deciding to go green is to seal and insulate your home. But how do you know where to start or which jobs provide the biggest payoff? Two weeks ago I had an energy audit that helped answer these questions. Getting the audit was something I had been thinking about for some time, especially given the fact that my house is just shy of 70 years old. Since Columbia Gas has a program for their customers to get a complete audit for just $50, I finally took the plunge.

What happens during an energy audit?
Well, first the contractor (for lack of anything better to call him) took a tour around the house and asked about any problems or concerns I had. Were any of the rooms hotter or colder than the others, etc. Then he started the safety check. This was the part of the program I wasn't expecting, but I find it comforting to know that my gas appliance are drafting properly and not leaking. He checked the hot water heater, furnace, stove and dryer; all were working properly. While everything was running, he checked for carbon monoxide, and again all was well.

Then came the part I was most excited about: the blower door test. With all the windows and doors shut, a fan was placed in the front door to create negative pressure. Then we walked around, the contractor armed with an infrared camera, in search of air leaks.

Surprisingly, my little old house is pretty well sealed, especially considering its age. There are two big areas which could be improved: sealing around the rim joist in the basement, and sealing the attic and adding insulation to the attic floor. The contractor also pointed out some smaller fixes, most of which I can handle myself with just a tube of caulking.

One area which wasn't on the upgrade list is my original, single-pane wood windows. I was delighted to hear the contractor say that the need to replace old windows tends to be majorly over-hyped when it comes to energy efficiency. Now, I do have--and use--the original storm windows that came with the house, which makes a big difference.

"Many people spend thousands to upgrade the efficiency of 5% of their house, when it would be way more cost-effective to spend hundreds to seal and insulate the other 95% of their home."

Plus I hate the idea of replacing old, repairable wood windows with new, cheap toxic PVC ones. Not to mention the cost factor. So my time spent painting and repairing my windows hasn't gone to waste -- they're staying!

If you happen to be a Columbia Gas customer, you should check out the Home Performance Solutions program and see if it's offered in your area. Many other utilities offer similar programs as well. The best part is that if you end up getting the recommended work done, you can be eligible for major rebates.

1 comment:

  1. I had an energy audit done about a while back and they told me that they couldn't legally seal up the house any further than it already was without putting in some sort of vent to allow fresh outside air in. So I guess I did a pretty good job with all of my caulking! They also plugged my refrigerator into a little device which told us that even though it's 12 years old it's performing up to energy star levels. Booyah!

    The only thing that would make a real impact would be to do blown in insulation in the walls, but since they'd have to drill holes in the walls from inside to do it - through the lovely 1970's era faux wood paneling, that would pretty much require remodeling the entire house... which I'm not quite ready to do at the moment... but some day!

    Still - it's REALLY nice to know all of that before I spent a pile of money on windows or a new fridge or or something like that.


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