The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: True Tales of Home Energy Audits

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Imagine this. You live in historic home built in 1916. At the end of your flagstaff walkway, pale grey banisters lead you up weathered stairs onto a wrap around porch. The front window is grand and welcomes early morning sunshine in as you drink your robust Columbian blend. However, your morning coffee isn’t agreeing with you. It’s not that the table cream has gone bad, it’s because you’re gazing at your $450 power bill. Sure your house has historic charm, but it’s modest. In fact, it’s barely 900 square feet. The copious amount of energy you’re using to light, heat and cool your quaint home could power a mansion that would swallow your house whole. This imaginary story is in fact true tale from a Home Energy Auditor, whom we’ll refer to as Blondie from here forward. Blondie explained the home was exchanging 220% of its air with the air outside, per hour. Even though that number is staggering, it’s seems a bit expected when you consider the house is nearly 100 years old. However, Blondie shared similar stories like this for homes built in nearly every decade since then, including our own 2000s.

Blondie shared average air change rate per hour (sorry for the mouthful) percentages by decade. They are as follows:

- 50s and 60s: 60% -80%

- 70s and 80s: 40% – 60%

- 90s: 35%

- 2000s: 20%-22%

The Good

After conducting over 1,000 home energy audits, Blondie has a logged a variety of success stories. For instance, after conducting a standard audit, he advised his client to take a trip to the hardware store for caulk and foam. Well, after a modest spend of $30 and a few squeezes of a caulk gun the client reduced his energy bill by a third. He also mentioned cases in which he as seen people reduced their air leakage by as much as 40% and they’ve seen a 40% decrease in their energy bill. His overall assessment…for every percent of air loss reduced in your home you reduce a percent from your energy bill.

The Bad

Home’s built by today’s energy efficient standards aren’t devoid of their own problems. A home built with the last year, and only 4 months old, had an outrageous temperature difference (6 degrees to be exact) between the baby’s room and the rest of the house. After conducting the audit, Blondie informed the family that there was no insulation in the interior walls, separating the room from the garage. To quote him, “Apparently the superintendent was on his lunch break when insulation was to be installed.”

The Ugly

Never let your pal with the insulation blower help “finish out the attic”. During an audit, Blondie struggled to open the attic hatch. No matter how hard he tried, it simply wouldn’t budge. He asked his client if she knew of anything that may be blocking it. She simply replied, “No. But, we did have a friend fill the attic with insulation last week.” After a few more attempts, Blondie was able to dislodge the attic cover. At which time, he was greeted with a shower of spray insulation. Not only did he find himself buried in 4 feet of foamy folly, he was also done for the day. 

Conclusion

Whether it’s a $30 trip to your local hardware store or adding soffit vents in your attic, you can benefit significantly from a home energy audit. Not only will you save money, but you’ll be more comfortable. As Blondie rode off into the sunset he summed it all up by simply saying, “People buy energy efficiency because they want to be comfortable.”

Article by Billy Draper, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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