John and Megan Flynn are happy to have an Energized home!
Letter written by John Flynn, Energize NY Volunteer & Energized Homeowner
My wife and I recently had our home professionally assessed for energy use, and this testing revealed that some basic home improvements will make it considerably more energy efficient. Best of all, these repairs will pay for themselves in lower utility bills.
We worked with Energize NY, a non-profit organization offering home energy assessments in Westchester. Energize NY helps homeowners make their homes more energy efficient through a New York State program called Home Performance with Energy Star. The first step in improving a home’s energy efficiency is to measure its heating and cooling efficiency. Energize NY provides free or reduced cost assessments of home energy efficiency through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
I think many readers could benefit from this program – regardless of the age or size of their home. Thus, I’m hoping you will keep reading this letter, which describes the assessment procedure and summarizes what I learned about our home’s heating and cooling efficiency.
TESTING FOR ENERGY EFFICIENCY
In a home energy assessment, a NY-certified, energy assessment technician performs a series of tests to figure out where a home is “leaking” energy. The assessment begins with the homeowner leading the technician through their building and identifying known problems, such as areas prone to drafts. In addition, the technician also sets up air monitoring equipment to measure air quality in the home, including the levels of particulate matter and hazardous gases.
A key part of the assessment lies in finding places where heated air (or cooled air, depending on the season) escapes from the building, causing energy to be wasted. This is done by installing a temporary fan in an open doorway. Operated with all the remaining doors, vents, and windows closed, the fan exhausts air from the house, while pulling in air from outside the building through gaps where it is insufficiently sealed. Under normal conditions, these openings are where heated (or cooled) air escapes from the building – cracks, crevices, and even small holes can result in significant energy losses. A thermal camera can show where these openings exist because the air pulled in by the fan will be significantly colder (or warmer) than the air inside the building. The camera also shows where poorly insulated walls or ceilings cause energy losses.
With the fan operating, the technician checks the entire building for heat/cooling loss using the thermal camera. The home performance company then writes a comprehensive report on the home’s energy efficiency as well as a plan − including cost estimates − for remedying any problems. In addition to measurements from the fan test, the homeowner’s records of annual energy use are used to develop the plan.
Through the energy assessment, we found the major sources of energy loss in our home to be:
· Air leaks in the attic due to missing insulation and gaps around the attic stairway, clothes dryer and plumbing vents, ceiling lighting fixtures, and the chimney.
· Air leaks in a bedroom over the attached garage due to missing insulation and gaps around plumbing in the bedroom floor.
· Air leaks at joints in A/C duct work.
The home performance company conducting the assessment estimated that correcting these problems would result in a 36 percent savings in heating and cooling costs. Moreover, NYSERDA offers a program to finance the improvement costs, with monthly loan payments roughly equal to the energy savings. Thus, reductions in energy use can actually pay for the home improvements.
I believe these improvements will not only save energy and reduce utility costs but also make our home more comfortable and healthy to live in. In addition to improving efficiency, replacing deteriorated insulation will improve the air quality throughout our home. Finally, the unit will receive an Energy Star rating from New York State, which will add to its value.
Energize NY also has a NY-certified energy coach on its staff available for free consultations with homeowners. Once the home performance company has assessed a home, the energy coach can help with a homeowner’s questions about the assessment report or in deciding which of the proposed improvements will most cut energy bills.
I urge your readers to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about how their homes work and ways to improve energy efficiency. More information about Energize NY is available at www.youtube.com/user/EnergizeNY.
John M. Flynn