Decrease your utility payments: Dwelling power audit can result in rebates and interest-free loans to assist cowl effectivity enhancements

Patrick Ryan of Ryan, Inc. in Union sets up the blower door test, which depressurizes a Randolph house to find the air leaks that waste energy. Ryan, a certified contractor under the Home Performance with Energy Star program, is conducting a home energy audit to help homeowners save money on electricity bills and reduce the home’s environmental footprint.

Anyone who’s bought a new device has likely seen Energy Star rating labels that show a model’s power consumption. You’re in luck if there is also a sign indicating a cash discount or other incentive that encourages replacing that old refrigerator, washer, or dryer with a newer, more efficient model.

Given the current discounts under the New Jersey Clean Energy program, such a purchase could mean a return of $ 75 to $ 100 for a new high efficiency refrigerator and $ 50 for a washing machine or dishwasher. Those who call (877) 270-3520 to drop off a power-guzzling fridge or freezer get free transportation and $ 50.

But what if an entire house is wasting energy through air leaks, inadequate insulation, and inefficient heating and cooling? There is also a discount for it.

Under the Energy Star Home Performance program, a home energy audit can help identify energy-saving improvements for homes that can result in discounts of $ 1,000 to $ 4,000 on projects with total energy savings of 10 to 25 percent or more.

Qualified homeowners may also be eligible for an interest-free loan of up to $ 10,000 to cover improvements made by program-accredited contractors.
“The energy audit is the first step,” said Greg Reinert, spokesman for the New Jersey Office of Clean Energy, which funds program incentives. Much of the state’s energy master plan is based on promoting energy efficiency in businesses and homes. “There are a number of residential programs,” he said. “Home performance with Energy Star is probably the most successful.” However, reducing homeowners’ energy use is only part of New Jersey’s clean energy goals, he said. By 2020, the state aims to have 20 percent of all energy generated from wind, sun and other safe, renewable sources.

The combined push towards renewable energy and energy conservation can help reduce carbon dioxide, the heat scavenger gas behind global warming, and lessen the release of compounds linked to lung and respiratory diseases. Home improvement and appliances purchased in connection with clean energy programs are also helping the economy.

The Home Performance with Energy Star program is offered to customers of public utility companies in New Jersey including PSE & G, JCP & L, Atlantic City Electric, Orange & Rockland Electric, South Jersey Gas, New Jersey Natural Gas, and Elizabethtown Gas. Those who use oil, propane, and municipal and cooperative electricity can also participate, but only until May 31, as federal recovery and reinvestment law limits the funding of homes that use these fuels. Those who switch to gas from other fuel sources are not subject to the May deadline.

TO BEGIN

First stop: njcleanenergy.com. The Office of Clean Energy website explains the program and links to a nationwide list of certified contractors authorized to conduct the energy audits. In New Jersey, those who conduct Home Performance with Energy Star audits must be certified by the Building Performance Institute, an organization in Malta, NY that requires contractors to pass written exams and field tests. Note, however, that auditors may come from different backgrounds and have different levels of experience with the program. The New Jersey Office of Clean Energy states that it does not endorse a contractor. Therefore, homeowners should discuss a prospective auditor’s experience, including the number of audits performed, and the methods and tools used to assess a home’s energy consumption.

Audits, which typically cost between $ 150 and $ 300, last a minimum of three hours, checking a home’s exterior, interior, heating, and cooling systems and more. Auditors often use high-tech tools like infrared cameras, carbon monoxide and natural gas detectors, and a special door fan that helps detect air leaks. Many companies will credit the cost of the audit for improvement work.

In addition to looking for energy wasted, the audits include safety reviews for gas leaks, carbon monoxide hazards, and moisture conditions, says Patrick Ryan, a contractor whose 74-year-old second-generation company, Ryan Inc. in Union, has conducted about 50 audits since it was certified about 18 months ago . Mold growth and gas leaks could be an increased risk in a house that is made airtight to save electricity, he said. “Can you imagine that we sealed a house and carbon monoxide leaked? That would be a disaster, ”he said.

After the audit, contractors use a computer program to further analyze energy usage and recommend improvements, Ryan said. “What I’m trying to find is a combination that will save you at least 25 percent energy,” he said. Options include adding insulation to the attic or walls, replacing heating and cooling systems or water heaters.

“In some homes, half of their energy goes into air infiltration,” said Ryan. Air leaking from a house was usually either heated or cooled. Fresh air may then need to be heated or cooled. It’s a tremendous waste of energy, says Ryan, and preventing it by sealing is an integral part of the energy-saving process. As part of the program, those making the improvements will need to thoroughly seal areas where air can leak into or out of a home in addition to other recommended work, he said.

Even with discounts and the prospect of an interest-free loan, homeowners need to continue researching to make sure they are getting fair prices on workers and newly installed systems. Projected energy savings, while based on an estimate of the conditions of a home, are still estimates.

Based on the recommendations of an audit, a homeowner can choose the improvements that best fit their budget or goals, said Reinert of NJOCE. Homeowners also have the freedom to choose any contractor from the approved list to make the improvements, regardless of who is doing the audit, he said. And for those who fear that an auditor will recommend the solutions that will help their own business rather than those that best meet the homeowner’s energy needs, knowing that the program has a project application process can help you too relax. “When contractors submit applications, they are all examined by the clean energy program,” Reinert said. “Surely someone doing furnace installations will try to get you to build a new furnace,” he said. “But if you have a 30 year old stove, that might be for the best.”

For more program information, visit njcleanenergy.com or call (866) 657-6278.

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