Residence Power Audit Finds Potential Financial savings For Home-owner

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KPBS reporter Ed Joyce explores how home energy audits can help homeowners. But at what cost?

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A San Diego homeowner wanted to cut her soaring utility bills. After an energy audit at home, she was surprised at how much energy her house is losing and how much it would cost to change it.

Erin Cooley lives in a humble house near Del Cerro, but her gas and electricity bills have increased.

“With the types of invoices we receive from SDG&E, we want to save as much as possible,” said Cooley. “I know we did a few things – change lightbulbs, put in new windows, new roof. But I think we can do a few other things to cut the bills a bit.”

Your bill costs an average of $ 170 per month, but it can be higher depending on the time of year.

She decided to do a home energy audit with Christian Asdal of GGR Energy, a home services contractor in San Diego, to find out how much energy was being wasted in her 2,200-square-foot home.

Asdal begins the house energy assessment with an interview.

“We really want to make sure we understand their experiences at home, why they called us, whether it was a comfort issue, or whether it was a safety issue or an energy efficiency issue,” Asdal said. “We want to know how they are feeling, how home is working for them so we can better diagnose what we’re looking for and have some places to start.”

Asdal told Cooley she could save money by switching to a gas stove.

“And it will cost you less to run this device,” he said.

“And do you think that will be true in the future?” asked Cooley.

“I think so,” said Asdal.

When the interview is over, Asdal and his assistant begin the audit with an inspection of the outside and inside of the house.

From there, they run various tests with special tools to measure the energy loss from doors, windows and ventilation slots. The audit also assesses the efficiency of appliances, water heaters and other energy sources.

Asdal said Cooley’s gas-powered pool pump outside and her stove inside were energy suckers.

“A lot of these things are old,” said Asdal. “You can hear the pilot light running, which just means that it is constantly drawing energy, like the one outside, which will add to its thermal load.”

He said the tests create a baseline to show the homeowner how improvements would benefit the bottom line: energy savings and lower utility bills.

But the homeowner will have to spend money to make these changes and hope that the savings on monthly bills are worth the cost.

“We look at the payback, look at the ROI, and make sure they know about any energy savings discounts available,” Asdal said.

A few weeks later we returned to Cooley’s living room to review the comprehensive energy report.

However, when looking at the cost of the recommended changes and upgrades, Cooley decided that it was too much investment for too little savings.

“To us the numbers don’t seem spectacular,” said Cooley. “All the savings are good, but when you have to crack the numbers and figure out what you’re getting out of your pocket and what rate of return you’ll get, we were surprised. I think we expected more.”

For example, Cooley said if she paid for air sealing, new attic insulation, and duct replacement, her energy savings would be 21 percent.

“Now it just doesn’t seem like much to us, 21 percent, that’s $ 300 a year when the cost of doing it is around $ 5200 and includes a discount,” Cooley said.

Cooley said the cost of adding solar hasn’t come down either.

“This is only two people in a relatively large house. If it’s a family with a higher energy bill, some of that investment might make sense,” she said.

According to Cooley, the energy audit report shows that old appliances account for more than half of their monthly energy costs.

She said spending money at a time of economic uncertainty is something to think about.

However, she plans to upgrade some equipment and add loft insulation to give her a little bang – or slightly lower bills – for less.

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