If you were losing money out of a hole in your pocket, you’d patch it up pretty fast. But because of energy inefficiencies, many of our members are losing more than a little spare change each month.
The good news is that we’re here to help. As a member, you get the benefit of a free home energy assessment from your Energy Advisor, a thorough evaluation that can tell you where your home is losing money.
To find out more about the process, we spoke to Jake Taylor, Energy Advisor at LaGrange County REMC.
POWER MOVES: How does a member set up a home energy assessment?
JAKE TAYLOR: They just need to call their cooperative office and ask. Sometimes we’ll have members call just for the audit, but it’s more common to have someone call with a concern about their high usage. In either case, we’ll want to send out an Energy Advisor to do a full assessment and get an idea of what’s going on.
Is there any kind of preparation a member should make? Should they turn anything off or unplug anything?
Not usually. We want to see how they use energy under normal daily conditions. If they’re having an issue with high usage, we want to see things exactly as they usually are, otherwise it changes the picture.
One exception would be if they use a wood burning stove or fireplace. In that case, some of the tests we do requires the fireplace or stove to be clean of ash, just to make sure the ash doesn’t get blown all over the house.
Can you walk us through the assessment process, from start to finish?
The assessment starts the second I pull in the driveway. The first thing I do is take a photograph of the home, which shows the conditions during that time of day and is the first step in my documentation. Then I look at the weather conditions—things like humidity, barometric pressure, and so on. Next I walk around the outside of the house, looking for drainage issues, cupped shingles, and basically look top to bottom to get an idea of how the house works as an entity.
Next we do a walkthrough of the home’s interior with an infrared camera. Assuming there’s a 15-degree temperature difference between the interior and exterior, that camera can help us find air leaks, moisture, and other potential problems. We also inspect all the mechanicals—the water heater, fridge settings, what kind of light bulbs they’re using. We want to see anything in the house that operates on electricity and fuel.
Finally, we prepare for the blower door test. The first step is testing any gas appliances—things like the furnace, water heater, and stove—to make sure they send combustion exhaust up their flues properly. This is important for efficiency, but also for the safety of our members.
Then we use a very large fan that gets mounted in an exterior doorway to pull the air out of the house, depressurizing it. While that fan is running, we can easily spot any places where air leakage is happening, which could cause rooms to be uncomfortable and heating and cooling costs to rise.
Once our rounds are done, our last step is to inspect the attic for adequate insulation and air sealing.
Sounds pretty thorough! How long does an assessment like that take?
Depending on the house, an audit can take one to three hours. We want to make sure we inspect the whole house and deliver as accurate a report as possible. We try to return those reports to the homeowner quickly, but it can depend on how much work the house needs. Sometimes members get reports back the next day, but if a house has a lot of problems, it may take longer.
After members get their assessments, what should they do to make their homes more energy efficient?
Assessments offer a lot of guidance as to what needs work, and it’s not uncommon for Energy Advisors to visit members and show them how to use expansion foam, window caulk, how high to fill the attic with insulation, you name it.
And once members take these steps, we’re always happy to come back to do another assessment and see the difference it makes. It’s great when you can show that what they’ve done has had a direct impact on how their home uses energy.
Ready to get an energy assessment of your own? Contact your Energy Advisor today.