Sunday, May 10, 2009

To hire an Energy Auditor Or Not...Great Conservation Article In The Times, Read the comments at the end_Green Earl

March 5, 2009, 9:00 am
Home Green Home: Auditors and Incentives
By Tom Zeller Jr.


atticTom Zeller Jr./The New York Times Our attic doesn’t have a lot of insulation. Do we need an auditor to tell us that’s a problem?

No, but I notice from the picture of your attic (click online
version in title above) what looks like a very well constructed home.
2 x 12 rafters are impressive while the actual rafters maybe not as
wide, it looks like under a foot of insulation (cellulose) basically
fire-retardant,impregnated, paper. The home appears to in a colder
climate, high pitch roof, with wood framed windows, maybe single-pane,
at least in the attic. I would guess it to be about 50 years old, maybe
60 yrs. I would add R-30-40 Rolled Pink Panther type insulation to the
already existing attic. There, just performed an energy audit, of
sorts, by looking at a picture over the internet, maybe a couple
of thousand miles away._Green Earl And I do advise you to try this
at home_Smile.


The following is one in a series of articles in which Green Inc.’s editor, Tom Zeller Jr., explores ways to improve the energy efficiency of his home. Green Inc. readers are encouraged to share their own thoughts and experiences in the comments section — or by emailing us at greeninc@nytimes.com

*
Home Green Home

An audit is not something that most people look forward to, but a somewhat less frightening sort is gaining prominence in the parlance of green living: the energy audit.

The term, it seems, means different things to different people, and some experts say a rudimentary home energy audit can be a do-it-yourself affair. After all, finding air leaks and other efficiency problems in your home is not exactly rocket science — as I pointed out in last week’s installment of Home Green Home.

But there are some sophisticated diagnostic tools out there that trained technicians can use to pinpoint problem areas more accurately, and to develop a more nuanced energy profile of a home. A handful of national certification programs are also helping to bring uniformity to such “professional” energy audits, which are often a requisite step in qualifying, when it comes time for improvements, for state or local rebate programs.

Of course, finding and sorting through all the options can be daunting, so I sought out some professional guidance from two experts: David E. Rodgers, the deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and Alexis Karolides, an architect and efficiency expert at the Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy and efficiency research organization in Colorado.

D.I.Y. vs. PROFESSIONAL AUDITS
For his part, Mr. Rodgers suggested that, on the “ladder of complexity,” even a self-administered “clipboard audit” is a worthwhile first step. That means going through your home with a checklist and taking note of “the really easy stuff,” he said — from leaky window frames and doors to thin or nonexistent insulation (a problem in our house, to be sure.)

“Maybe you’ve got an older home and there’s not a lot of insulation in the attic,” Mr. Rodgers said. “You don’t need an auditor to tell you that you might be losing energy and money.”

Look for cobwebs, too, Mr. Rodgers said. They’re a sure sign of air infiltration, because spiders prefer to weave where it’s breezy.
Blower doorKirk J. Condyles for The New York Times The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offers an overview of home energy efficiency tests — including the blower door test.

You might also try this trick: Turn off the furnace and crank up any exhaust fans you have — the ones in the bathroom ceiling, for instance, or above the stove. This has the effect of lightly depressurizing the house, accelerating the inward rush of air through holes and cracks. Carry a stick of burning incense around the house with you, Mr. Rodgers suggested, and the smoke will help identify air leaks.

Of course, that’s basically a low-budget version of a professional blower-door test, which uses a heavy-duty, calibrated fan mounted in an exterior door frame to generate a similar depressurizing effect — only stronger.

Indeed, both Mr. Rodgers and Ms. Karolides said consumers dealing with professional auditors should ensure that they provide two basic tools: the blower-door system and an infrared imaging test.

Ms. Karolides wrote in an e-mail message:

The blower door test depressurizes the house by putting a big fan in the door and sealing around the fan. As the fan sucks air from the house, the auditor walks through the house with a smoke device to find where replacement air is being pulled into the house through cracks around windows, doors, and all other construction joints (you can see the incoming air blow the plume of smoke).

An infrared image of the house can reveal places where wall insulation is lacking, as well as window and door seals not sealing. The color of the infrared image (red as opposed to blue) will indicate heat coming through a wall (either escaping from a house in a cold climate or coming into a house in a hot climate).

“A good auditor will also check the combustion appliances,” Ms. Karolides said, “to make sure they’re functioning properly and not venting CO into the house.”

CERTIFICATION AND INCENTIVES
O.K., that all sounds great, but how do you find these professionals, and how do you tap into rebates and other financial incentives that might be available?

Well, a good place to start is with your local utility or state energy department. Either of them is likely to provide lists of energy auditors operating in your area.
Thermal imagingKirk J. Condyles for The New York Times Look for an auditor who can do thermal imaging, experts say.

In my case, getenergysmart.org, a Web site operated by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or Nyserda, provided a clickable map with links to “home performance contractors,” certified by the Building Performance Institute — a global verification program monitoring “the knowledge, skills and competency” of individuals and companies involved in building performance and efficiency contracting.

The institute, CMC Energy Services and the Residential Energy Services Network (a k a Resnet), are the three main certification programs for structural energy auditing.

If you come across an auditor without the imprimatur of one of these, it might be best to move on. “There’s no shortage of fly-by-night companies that would claim to be an energy auditor,” Mr. Rodgers said.

Ms. Karolides, who favors the Resnet certification program, said most auditors do not perform to high enough standards. “In fact, most are probably poorly trained,” she said.

As for financial incentives designed to make improving your trouble spots less costly, a state or local energy agency or utility is, again, the best place to start.

Nyserda’s Web site, for example, provides detailed information on programs available for various categories of consumers in New York — including existing homeowners, potential buyers and low-income owners, among others.

As an alternative, Mr. Rodgers suggested, consumers can visit energysavers.gov, a Web site run by the federal energy department. There you’ll find links to information about a variety of incentive programs.

And for those who’d prefer not to surf another Web page, the energy efficiency department of the Department of Energy offers an old-fashioned hot line: 1-877-337-3463. Mr. Rodgers promised that an actual person would take your call, and provide as much information as you might want on efficiency, weatherization and incentive programs in your area. I’ll leave it to our Green Inc. readers to tell us whether that’s true.

In the meantime, we settled on an auditor for our house: Green Tree Energy of Yonkers, N.Y.

Next week: Green Tree pays us a visit.

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Architecture, Buildings, Commerce, Consumers, Conventional Energy, Efficiency, Energy Business, Energy Economics, blower-door test, Department of Energy, eere, energy audits, home green home, infrared imagery, nyserda, Rocky Mountain Institute, weatherization
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15 Comments

1.
1. March 5, 2009 9:56 am Link

I too am going through my own sustainability(?) changes to my home. (built in 1965).

The difficulty I have with home auditors is that they cost money that may have zero ROI, unless they discover something pretty big and wasteful. (My quote for the infrared audit was $500 for a 4000 square foot home.)

I believe I can find the big stuff on my own. So can they save me $500?

Additionally, my experience is these auditors can’t give you ROI. When they tell you your single pane windows are a problem, the question is “how much of a problem?” If I am comparing various ways to solve the problem, what do I use in the dollars column? How much energy will I save?

I did buy my own temperature reading “gun” for $100. It tells me where I am cold or not, but honestly, it all runs around four degrees difference with a 40 degree difference inside to outside. I did find one place I fixed and It did prompt me to seal many exterior wall outlets.

The air door pressure test is another problem. Your house leaks. The obvious ones are easy to find but If you seal everything up you need to buy a “fresh air” exchanger.

Now testing all the ducts seems worthwhile because I can’t easily find those problems myself. One big leak would have a pretty easy ROI.

Anyway, I blog here on my experiences… marksbottomline.blogspot.com

Good luck and keep in mind, at the end of your remodel you will have to justify the expenses via energy saved. When you can, its sweet.
— Mark - Dallas
2.
2. March 5, 2009 10:11 am Link

It is also worth noting that a home audit is not a home rating (HERS), and a rating is not an audit. Typically, a rating is more concerned with energy consumption. A good audit’s main focus is the health & safety of the occupants, followed by ensuring the building does not have any issues that would shorten the lifespan of the house (bad moisture details, etc.), then addressing comfort issues, and finally, energy consumption. Fortunately, if the first three are properly identified during the audit & addressed by technicians, the energy savings are often a good byproduct of adhering to building science principles.
— Dan
3.
3. March 5, 2009 10:35 am Link

Over the past year, my family and I have made a game of finding renewable energy projects around town. From solar panels to wind turbines, we’re becoming expert greenspotters! In our relatively small city of 80,000 people, Bend Oregon sports a great percentage of distributed generation projects. They are found on schools and traffic signals, businesses and historic homes. Greenspotting can keep you occupied for hours here.

Are you a Greenspotter - http://www.buildbabybuild.net/blog/are-you-a-greenspotter/
— Ken Smith
4.
4. March 5, 2009 11:02 am Link

We think you’re absolutely right, Tom, that self-auditing is the right way to get started now, though we also remain staunch advocates of the “whole house” professional audit which adds a level of quantification that you can’t get without pricey equipment. In our home, we would not have discovered the biggest of our air leaks–the classic soffit, kneewall flaw problem–on our own.

What we’ve discovered is that the “rocket science” begins after the audit, when it’s time to determine the optimal solutions. We’re now facing fundamental building physics choices to fix this problem. Do we seal off the soffits completely at the risk of a warm roof and ice dams? Do we fundamentally alter the current building envelope to make the kneewall cold? All big decisions, with real costs and myriad implications with each option.

We documented one of our issues–a persistent ice dam problem–in a video called The Interconnectedness of Energy in our Homes.” It’s here: http://www.energycircle.com/blog/2009/02/25/video-the-interconnectedness-of-energy-in-our-homes/

It’s the tale of trying to fix an ice dam, inadvertently creating a water leak issue, spending a fair amount of money addressing the moisture problem and realizing later that the original problem was caused by a compromised thermal barrier and heat from recessed lighting. Unfortunately, the hot halogen culprits slipped by a very competent builder, and we fixed the wrong thing.

EnergyCircle is all about getting started now but, in this instance, if we had done a whole house audit initially, we’d have saved ourselves a bundle of trouble (and money).

Very excited to follow how it goes on your house.
— Peter Troast
5.
5. March 5, 2009 11:46 am Link

Does anybody know anything about GroundedPower home monitors? They’re coming available in my area, and they look awesome. http://groundedpower.com/
— Mike Addler
6.
6. March 5, 2009 1:25 pm Link

Josh #11 - I have a TED (The Energy Detective). Looks like the same idea.

Its invaluable in “auditing” your energy use. I made a spreadsheet of all my significant energy draws including hours and days.

I learned a lot and easily got ROI for some easy changes. You just cant believe how much a coffee maker can use until you figure a few hours every day of the month.

I have a two tiered rate program. It doesn’t take long to quit drying clothes at the wrong time.

marksbottomline.blogspot.com
— Mark - Dallas
7.
7. March 5, 2009 1:26 pm Link

Sorry, that was for you Mike #5
— Mark - Dallas
8.
8. March 5, 2009 10:17 pm Link

Mark, The Energy Detective is an awesome device, but read my review of it and it should help readers with an update:

http://blog.mapawatt.com/2009/02/27/the-energy-detective/

Basically, the downfall of the current TED model is that it does not have internal memory. Therefore, the only way to record data is to have your computer on! The new model is going to fix that. I am a big fan of this company though as there level of support is wonderful.

I also agree with others that doing your own personal audit at first is the best way, and I’ve tried to write the blog to enable people to do that (conservation education).

If you have a newer home, the door blower test probably wouldnt be necessary, but is pretty helpful in older homes.

Knowing how and where you use energy is most of the battle!
— Chris
9.
9. March 16, 2009 3:23 pm Link

In the 70’s even before the “OPEC embargo,” in
a modest cape-style 1938 single home, we followed the guidelines of a govt. manual “In the Bank or Up the “Chimney,” which showed how to insulate or retrofit homes for increased efficiency. We had several inches of rockwool insulation blown in the attic and under the floor of the storage area behind walls of the second floor. We put up 3″ batts of fiberglass behind the vertical kneewalls. A window company put on triple track storms outside our double-hung wood windows and we replaced/tightened up the caulking. The total cost of professionals’ work and ours came to around $600. The savings resulted in an approx.
30% drop in BTU gas usage(heating and gas dryer). The decades passed and people forgot
about this, built bigger homes, drove bigger cars.
Now the wheel is around in the same place.
— mary kevorkian aziz
10.
10. March 19, 2009 1:26 am Link

I read most of the above posts. I also had a NYSERDA audit done on my home in the Bronx. We were spending about 900+ a month for utilities. Our audit team were not HERS raters. From what I know that certification is used for new construction. Here in the Bronx, thet were BPI and NYSERDA certified. They did a detailed inspection using all of the tools and implimented a holistic plan for the home. I spent about 13, 000.00 and saved about 40%.

Get the right guys and do this!
— Rahim
11.
11. March 24, 2009 11:03 pm Link

I have to tell my story. I grew up in a frugale family. After I was married we built a 2 family home and lived very comforatable financially. The 80’s turned into the 90’s, and in 2003 we built a McMansion. It had all of the space my family of 4 needed and more. We were thrilled until we got our first utility bill. I thought we built the house right since my father a seasoned builder helped with the construction. We balanced cost vs. amenities. We loved our home until our first heating season when our utility bill almost hit 2K. That’s $ 2,000.00 per month. I am a hard working executive and make a very good living, but my utilities were more than my mortgage. My realtor referred us to Green Tree Energy for an energy assessment and they started with the same audit you see in the clip. This was 2 years ago. We followed their plan. Air sealed and insulated light bulbs and boiler controls and are now saving an average of 35% a month. I was excited when I saw this blog. We are still in our home today partly because of what they did to help us.

I am proof this works.

They are great guys!

Gino
— Gino
12.
12. March 25, 2009 6:43 pm Link

A home energy study by the non-profit New Village Institute (www.NewVillageInstitute.org) in 2008 researched energy savings from a green-built home at Oshara Village, a New Urbanist town under construction in Santa Fe, NM. The energy-efficient home uses 58.7 percent less energy to heat, cool and light the home vs. a same size 2,000 sq. foot home with an identical floor plan. Insulation, solar orientation and energy efficient appliances all contribute to saving 26,000 pounds of CO2 per year. Study available at: http://www.OsharaVillage.com.
— Neshama Abraham
13.
13. March 30, 2009 2:54 pm Link

I’ve done a lot of work on building awareness for the Building Performance Institute (BPI, http://www.bpi.org) and have been mentored by one of the industry’s foremost experts for the last 8 years. I’ve been to two RESNET conferences and one Affordable Comfort conference.

This last year, I finally had the wherewithal to have the comprehensive audit done on my own home.

I was a bit sneaky. I didn’t tell the poor auditor my background, or that I had done the self-audit in advance. I was amazed. Not only did he find everything on my list, he was able to show me what was happening and why using the blower door and thermal imager, coupled with a real knack for explaining building science in layperson’s terms. He also found a whole pile of things I hadn’t found. The comprehensive whole-home assessment is the part that not just anyone can do. It really does take training, skill and knowledge to do it and do it right–and safely.

We’re just about done all our prescribed work and my house is more comfortable, quieter, I can regulate the humidity more easily, there’s less dust. The energy bills are way lower. I’m just thrilled with the change.

If you’re going to do it, do it right. Get the comprehensive audit done.
— Stephanie Inglis
14.
14. April 3, 2009 2:11 pm Link

Here’s a blog started by someone who secured an energy audit then began writes about his follow-up experience:
http://homenergyaudit.blogspot.com
— Old Home Guy
15.
15. April 6, 2009 10:52 am Link

Become your own energy auditor for far less than it will cost to hire one in most cases, especially if you have a large home or small to medium business as was the case with my situation.

Yes, you can do your own audit with the right tools, and more importantly, the software and support of major Energy Auditor Training company. Heck, you can make a home business out of it with all the information provided, and at far less than I was quoted by several companies I checked out.

Simply put, once you have the knowledge, and the solutions to your energy waste, anyone can become a professional energy auditor. Once you see your own results, then you will feel confident to offer same service to others you know, and you can earn a significant income if you apply your knowledge to small and medium businesses.

I changed out my lights to LED which is the most cost effective lighting available, just ask Las Vegas how much they saved when they converted lighting in the city of lights. Millions were saved every year, yet how many even know about LED for their homes or business yet.

Another product I installed was a power spike and surge management system, and I was amazed what this saved alone, almost 30% on my home electric bill, and I cannot wait to see what commercial unit will do for my business.

I was able to save more than the cost of Energy Auditor Turnkey Training and Software Support System in first two months based on what I was able to save. I expect the total ROI to be covered in less than year for the analyzed energy conservation solutions I installed.

Simply put, if you want to save money, do it yourself, and now you can with this Denby Energy Audit Home Business System. Check it out, much of the information provided for evaluation is free.

http://www.Nano-Electric.com
— Mike
16.
16. May 10, 2009 11:52 am Link

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Well. interesting work going on here and I love the comments.

My experience, now almost 30 years in the field of conservation. Self-taught, still do not have one certification, just hundreds of my own conservation and solar projects
Still producing Negawatts …since 1981. Like several cutting edge, pioneering projects, I guess I should have set up the certification (monopoly models) to insure my long term financial stability. But I never operated that way, why start now.

In the early 80’s I was amazed at times, at the amount of the utility bills on large ranch-style homes in our area, many with bills two and three times what the house payment was. I was also amazed at the results given these homeowners, once they decided to get real and do something about it. I choose to operate as a team with the customer, to discover, where, when and how, they used
their energy. I’m still amazed at how many folks have
no idea how much attic insulation they have, how many inches of it equal what R-value and what they need for their climates.

In general, the older the home, the less the cost of energy was when it was built and the greater their need, since the building codes did not address today’s energy cost, say in 1970.

It will always be more cost effective to create a negawatt than to finance the cost of generating a new watt or therm of energy.

I would love to have one of those fancy camera systems,
love to hold LEED Platnuim Certification…but I tell you…mostly it’s common sense. If you lack it, hire someone that has it_Green Earl, Founder

American Energy Conservation Group
Redding, CA Still Producing Negawatts….Since 1981
http://yeswecansolveit.blogspot.com
— Green Earl

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Tom Zeller Jr.
Editor

Tom Zeller Jr.After a year as an editor at large for National Geographic magazine, Tom returned to The New York Times in July 2008 to help expand the paper's coverage of sustainable energy development and green business. He has spent much of the last decade as a reporter and editor covering a variety of topics for The Times – from technology and cyberfraud to culture and politics.
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Kate Galbraith
Reporter

Kate GalbraithMs. Galbraith joined The New York Times in June 2008 to write about renewable energy. She spent the previous year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and before that she was the Southwest correspondent for The Economist based in Austin, Tex. She is an avid runner and hiker, having grown up camping most summers in the Sierra Nevada.
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James Kanter
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James Kanter Mr. Kanter has been a staff correspondent for The International Herald Tribune in Paris and Brussels since 2005, covering European business affairs and the business of green. His previous experience includes four years in Southeast Asia, where he was the editor in chief of The Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh and oversaw coverage of environmental issues like uncontrolled logging.
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3 comments:

Solar Power Installation said...

Thanks for this wonderful post...

American Energy Conservation Group said...

I am just tickled to death you liked it._Green Earl

Come again, God Willing I'll do some more like it. Smile

Can't get enough of Green Earl, I really doubt that, but if you want more Google American Energy Conservation Group

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