by Don Ames, www.detectenergy.com
Now that the 5 year old has put down the foam dart gun and stopped crawling in and out of the blower door, it's time to make some energy saving recommendations to the homeowner. After completing an energy audit of the home, it is usually fairly easy to start the conversation with the owners on what they should consider doing to save energy, the conversation usually starts with me saying something like, "First you need to air seal and add insulation to the ceiling."
Most homeowners that decide to get a home energy audit are in possession of an outlandish power bill. The thing that prompted them to get the audit in the first place was the near heart attack after seeing last months power bill. After all, the pocket book and the blood pressure can only stand so much.
But, what can be done to a home that doesn't need ceiling insulation and the last power bill did not cause a trip to the ER. In this homes case, the February electrical usage was about 1,400 kWh ( $140 including heating with two 10 SEER heat pumps ) and the gas usage was 15 therms ( $40 from one free-standing gas stove ).
For those of you that are interested in additional data from the audit, let me add:
1. that the home has 3,800 sq. ft. of living space.
2. was constructed in the late 90's.
3. had a blower door leakage figure of 2,600 CFM.
4. the duct leakage was 242 CFM to the outside.
5. The hot water temperature is 127 degrees.
If you are reading this and want to know more what this means, please leave a comment at the end of the blog post.
The husband was not home, so I wrote down about 11 possible energy saving suggestions and asked them to talk it over and let me know what they would like to do.
1. Upgrade the both heat pumps to 14 SEER or better. ( this alone would cost more than $3,500 )
2. Seal the heating ducts. ( attempt to get the leakage reduced by 50% or more. With such a big house, this might be a difficult task. )
3. Install programmable thermostats. ( believe it or not, this home does not have programmable thermostats already )
4. Reset two back doors and repair weatherstripping. ( back door thresholds set too low, door sweep rubs on carpet which wears out the carpet and the door sweep )
5. Add insulation to the floor. ( There is R-25 in the floor already, but it sits on the supporting string attached to the bottom of 10 inch I-joists leaving a 4 inch air space between the insulation and the floor )
6. Clean heat exchangers and add air filters. ( the heat exchangers from the heat pumps in the air handlers are really dirty, seems the heating system has been running without furnace air filters for some time )
7. Air seal recessed lights in kitchen, dining room, and hallway and replace incandescent bulbs with CFL or LED. ( might need to replace the recessed light cans to accomplish this. I don't care how tight the home is, I can't stand recessed lights that act like chimney's to the attic )
8. Replace the washer and dryer. ( These two appliances were inherited from her father, or was it grandfather? The only good thing to say about them is they have run for a long, long time. Recommend a dryer with a moisture sensor )
9. Clean and repair the dryer duct. ( homeowner indicates she routinely runs the dryer through two cycles to get the clothes dry. I can see that the vinyl flex duct behind the dryer is crimped and the exterior exhaust hood is broken and plugged with lint )
10. Install timer switches on bathroom and utility room ceiling exhaust fans. ( This helps remind people to turn on the fans and ensures that the fans can run long enough to remove moisture from the room, but not be forgotten and run all night )
11. Install a hot water circulating pump. ( it takes forever to get hot water from the water heater in the basement to the two bathrooms upstairs. The pump will save both water and electricity. Install with timer on/off switch on the pump. Turnoff at night and when not at home. )
It would be nice to take all the money the nation spends on looking for more oil under miles of sea water and put it into home energy saving measures. It is true, the cheapest and best energy we have is the energy we don't need or use. It would be nice to retrofit this home to net-zero energy and then send British Petroleum the bill.
After a few days, I received an email from the homeowners that listed their thoughts on energy saving work for their home. I thought they did a pretty good job of addressing needed measures and spending their dollars wisely.
They choose to have one of the back doors replaced and the threshold raised. This is a door they use often. They would like to include a storm door with this work. There were signs that rain had gotten past the door and there may also be some moisture damage to the door casing. A good storm door adds weatherization and protects the door behind it. $1,200.00
It is recommended by the HVAC industry that heating equipment be cleaned and serviced yearly. I suspect this system has not been touched in 15 years. The heat exchangers will be cleaned and appropriate air filters added. I remain concerned about the life expectancy of the heat pumps. $600.00
It appears, as a result of the economy, a few family members maybe moving back home. The amount of laundry is about ready to double. New washer and dryer, $1,400
There is no use getting a new dryer with an automatic shut off connected to a moisture sensor, if the hot moist air can't get out the exhaust duct. No more flex duct - change to hard pipe. Clean the inside of the duct and install a new exhaust hood. $300.00
It would appear to me that these homeowners have done a pretty good job in addressing needed energy saving measures. Each item has a good record at decreasing energy use.
I will look forward to returning to this home someday, dodging a few more foam darts, and speaking to the homeowners about the results of their energy saving retrofits and repairs. My guess is the old power bill will be a little lower and the home a little more comfortable.
Thank you for stopping by Detect Energy, hope to see you again real soon, but I won't leave the light on for you...