Cut your energy bill with a home energy audit

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A professional blower door test provides readings for air leaks in a house.

A professional blower door test provides readings for air leaks in a house.

Most people don’t turn to Gary Hurley until it’s too late.

Hurley is Energy Services Manager for Springfield City Water, Light and Power and oversees the utility’s energy audit program. According to Hurley, CWLP has conducted about 110 energy audits so far this year, but the utility can conduct up to 300 audits after an especially hot or cold season.

“It usually follows an extreme weather pattern,” says Hurley. “From the customer’s point of view, it is a reactive thing when a large bill comes up.”

This is because CWLP’s energy audit provides an inexpensive option to determine where a home is losing or wasting energy, which in turn shows homeowners where to save money. Best of all, you can get an audit done essentially for free.

A home energy audit usually includes a non-invasive inspection to find air leaks, poorly insulated areas, and inefficient equipment that could cost the homeowner money. CWLP has been providing household energy audits since the 1980s, and Hurley says he’s seen homes with 40-year-old air conditioners that are still in operation.

“They are still doing great work and customers have no complaints, but the efficiency is far off the beaten track,” said Hurley. “Situations like this can mean big improvements in a house’s energy use.”

The main component of a home energy audit is the “blower door test,” in which all windows and doors in a house are closed and then a large, calibrated fan is installed in a door to extract all of the air. The fan has measuring devices that measure how much air is being sucked in through cracks in windows, doors, foundations and other problem areas. A “smoke pen” can be used to detect individual leaks by releasing a small amount of non-toxic smoke vapor in likely locations and watching for air movement.

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Wood paneling on doors and windows should be caulked to seal in leaks that can let cold air through.

Wood paneling on doors and windows should be caulked to seal leaks that allow cold air to pass.

Wood paneling on doors and windows should be caulked to seal in leaks that can let cold air through.

CWLP can also use an infrared camera that “sees” heat to find hot or cold spots that may be leaking air or radiating heat due to lack of insulation. The infrared camera isn’t always used because it requires a difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures of around 15-18 degrees Fahrenheit, which may not be there in mild weather.

According to Hurley, CWLP’s energy audit capabilities have grown significantly in recent years with the introduction of home modeling software. A technician creates a digital model of the home and uses it, along with local weather data, to determine how much energy the home is using. If there is a significant difference between the model and the customer’s utility bill, it could indicate an issue that Hurley’s crew can help diagnose.

After a home energy audit, the homeowner receives a report detailing problem areas, possible improvements, and possible savings. The report looks at the condition of windows, doors, foundations, insulation and heating or cooling equipment and gives homeowners a detailed picture of their energy consumption.

An upfront energy audit from CWLP costs $ 25. This is a steal when you consider that home energy audits from a private company typically cost between $ 200 and $ 300. If a homeowner completes the improvements suggested in the audit report within a year, they are eligible for a $ 25 discount, which makes the program essentially free. Additionally, CWLP is offering an additional reimbursement of up to $ 25 to cover costs such as weathering foam or caulking. According to Hurley, homeowners who install new insulation or more efficient appliances can also qualify for bigger discounts.

Both new and old homes can benefit from an energy audit, says Hurley. The reduction in energy consumption after a home audit is typically between 5 and 40 percent, which means that an energy audit could help the owners of a particularly inefficient home cut their electricity consumption – and, consequently, their bills – by more than a third.

“This is definitely something that a lot of people can benefit from,” said Hurley.

For more information on the CWLP home energy auditing program, please visit www.cwlp.com/eso/audits/audits.html.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at [email protected]

CWLP is holding a workshop on home efficiency and wintering on September 20th. The workshop is free and focuses on simple DIY weathering projects. Registration is required. Call the CWLP Energy Services Office at 789-2070 or email [email protected]

CWLP offers various other discounts to homeowners looking to improve their energy efficiency, including:

  • Discount for air conditioners
  • Heat pump discount
  • Insulation discount
  • Rain barrel discount
  • Round-off refrigerator discount
  • Solar rewards discount
  • Highly efficient toilet discount
  • Water heater discount

For more information about discounts, visit cwlp.com/eso/rebates/rebates.html.

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