Meet a real-life Energy Advisor: Rex Princell has the dirt on attics and crawlspaces

Rex Princell has worked as an Energy Advisor since before the title existed. That means that he’s seen technology come a long way toward better efficiency. But he also knows that it’s still best to start with the basics.

How’d you become an Energy Advisor?
I was actually working with a heating contractor on a geothermal project, and we worked alongside a member services manager who offered me the job. That was 25 years ago, when they called it by a different name.

How’d you change your energy habits at home after you took this job?
The geothermal heating technology has really evolved, and so have heat pumps. Construction projects also use materials that have just gotten better and better. So I’ve tried to adapt anything I learn to what I’m doing.

For instance, we bought an old home a half mile from where we lived, and for five years I worked on it. I gutted it, took the roof off, and put up a second story. I went through and put in cellulose insulation and installed a geothermal heat pump.

What’s the last hobby you picked up?
I like to kayak and backpack, and I also like to canoe. I’ve done a couple long trips by kayak, including the entire length of Sugar Creek. That trip starts up in Boone County and finishes near Turkey Run, the park down there. My family’s always camped, but lately we started going with a men’s fellowship group that does father and son trips.

In a world without electricity, what would you miss most?
Probably the refrigerator and freezer. I like a cold drink.

What’s the best thing that happened to you yesterday?
I got good news about my son. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and he was experiencing blurred visions. He got a CT scan and a blood test, and everything came back fine.

What’s the number-one thing members want to know?
How to lower their bill. Sometimes they just want a magic bullet to make it go away, but sometimes they aren’t willing to do the work. The easiest places to start are the crawlspace and attic. They’ll usually have thin levels of insulation, or no insulation at all.

Typically you want to start at the top when you insulate a house, so that’s why you hear more about attics, but you really need to make sure your crawlspace is sealed and insulated too. The concrete down there is a very poor insulator, and a good conductor.

What’s the number-one thing you wish they knew?
I find a lot of times it comes down to knowing what kind of heating system they have and how to operate it efficiently. For instance, a lot of times people with heat pumps will turn the heat up and down depending on the time of day, but that defeats the purpose of that kind of equipment. So people just need to understand what they have.

If you weren’t an Energy Advisor, what would you be?
I came out of the heating and air conditioning field, and around the time I took the job with the REMC I was looking at buying my own company. If I weren’t an Energy Advisor, I’d probably be doing heating and air.