Home Energy Audits

During hot Ukiah summers, those of us who can’t live without air conditioning receive eye-popping energy bills. One way to reduce those bills is to stop using so much air conditioning, but who wants to sit around and sweat? A far more comfortable way to reduce costs is to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Energy upgrades can save 5 to 30 percent on your bill.

One way to figure out where your home is leaking energy is to invest in an energy audit. Certified auditors typically check for air leaks, assess how much insulation you have, and whether your heating and air conditioning system is working at full capacity.

While some upgrades can be expensive, plenty are not. An energy auditor can help you figure out all the options, so you can tackle home improvements as your time and budget allow.

Auditors have a whole host of tools at their disposal, from infrared thermal cameras to draft gauges and moisture meters. Chances are, you’ll be astounded when you find out how much energy escapes from windows, doors, and the attic.

If you live in a 70-year-old house like mine with single-pane windows, you probably have air gaps all over the place. Think about how many times windows get opened and closed over the years. Combine that with the fact that wood frames shrink when exposed to moisture and fluctuating temperatures, and you can see why older windows aren’t as snug as they were when the house was built.

The same goes for doors. How many times have you opened and closed your front door? If teenagers have lived there, the door may have even been slammed a time or two. So, much like your windows, that door is not the same airtight door you once knew and loved.

When an energy auditor examines your home, it can be fun to watch the thermal imaging scan. The heat shows up in color: dark red is the hottest, moving through yellow into greens, blues, and purple as things cool. In summer, windows warmed by the sun show up as red or yellow, while air conditioning vents are blue. So, as the thermal camera records colors, not only can you see heat coming in through the glass panes of windows, but you can also see problem areas around windows, doors, light fixtures, electrical outlets, and elsewhere.

Energy auditors provide detailed reports with images, graphics, and recommendations. Be aware that in Ukiah, most folks who provide these audits are also selling a service. This doesn’t make their report invalid, but it is worth noting. People who sell windows, for example, might focus their attention on the gaps and broken seals around windows because it’s what they know. Similarly, people who install and repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems tend to focus on ducting.

Here are some of the common recommendations for improving energy efficiency.

Air Sealing

Initially, you can do the easy fixes like picking up $15 worth of weather stripping at Mendo Mill to prevent air from escaping around the doors. While you’re at the hardware store, you might as well pick up the foam pads that go on the back of outlet and light switch plates.

Assuring that ductwork is in good working order can also save you money. I once discovered that the ducting leading to the vent in my living room had become disconnected, so I had been cooling the crawl space under my home. I’m sure the critters who live under the house were thrilled; I was not. (And a great way to improve the efficiency and life of your HVAC system is to replace the filters regularly.)

If your audit shows significant air loss around windows, especially if you have old, single-pane windows, it may be time to install dual-pane windows.

Insulation & Attic Fans

Once you’ve sealed your home, install as much insulation as you can. Insulation keeps things cool in summer and warm in winter. In the attic, if you have exposed joists, cover those with insulation, too. While you’re in the attic, consider installing an attic fan. It’s a great way to reduce the overall temperature of your home and it can also extend the life of your roof.

Energy Efficient Appliances

One final way to improve your home’s energy efficiency is to install energy-efficient appliances. These are big-ticket items, so they may have to wait.

Whether it’s a hot Ukiah summer or a chilly Ukiah winter, making your home more energy efficient is a smart move—and some upgrades allow you to take advantage of tax savings. I highly recommend you visit www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-energy-audits, as it has far more detailed information.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.

Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *