• Why Conduct a Home Energy Audit

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    Why conduct a home energy audit

    By Richard J. Lorenzotti, P.E., C.E.M., LEED AP

    With current economic realities, everyone is looking for a place to save money.  A good place to identify cost savings is in your home’s energy-consuming systems.  But, before investing in any expensive system upgrades, consider having a home energy assessment.

    A home energy assessment or audit will determine how much energy your home consumes; which systems are operating efficiently and which systems should be addressed.

    An energy audit can identify problematic mechanical and electrical systems, heating and cooling systems, household appliances, and building envelope systems. An assessment may uncover ways to conserve resources such as water, gas, oil, electricity, and money while helping to reduce carbon footprint.

    An energy audit will also help you determine and prioritize which systems, when upgraded or replaced, can save significant resource dollars.

    A mechanical or energy engineer with experience in energy-efficient system design can best assess and present the results of the audit to the homeowner.    Together they can formulate a cost savings course of action to best meet the owner’s energy-saving goals.

    A comprehensive energy audit begins with an assessment of a home’s building envelope – the roof, the foundation, and the four exterior walls.  Home building materials used for roofing, flooring, insulation, windows, and doors should be evaluated for energy efficiency.

    The auditor will also conduct a performance analysis of the mechanical and electrical systems and identify any potential renewable energy sites in the home.

    Collectively, the envelope and major energy-consuming systems are known as the “whole house system.”  A thorough auditor will use the following criteria to pinpoint locations or systems that are losing energy: energy modeling, heat load calculations, efficient mechanical system designs, renewable energy feasibility studies, ENERGY STAR® benchmarking, and energy savings management and verification.

    Once the audit is complete, the results are presented to the homeowner with a list of recommended Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs).  After identifying ECMs that meet the client’s criteria for cost effectiveness, the auditor develops a performance specification for the homeowner.

    This includes identifying which electrical and mechanical systems need to be upgraded or replaced in order to meet the energy consumption limits that are set.  The homeowner sets a budget, and the auditor makes recommendations to upgrade or replace equipment along with corresponding financial analysis.

     

    The Cost of Upgrading vs. Replacing

    Armed with knowledge of their “whole house system”, homeowners can identify which area of energy consumption they want to tackle first.  The next step is to weigh the cost of upgrading a system versus replacing a system.  It may not be prudent to spend upwards of ten thousand dollars to install a central air conditioning system when the windows of the home are inefficient.

    Likewise, upgrading to a super-efficient, expensive furnace for heat and hot water may be under-valued and possibly oversized for a home that has not yet been properly insulated and air sealed first. 

    Incentives 

    Environmentally speaking, reducing energy consumption goes a long way toward reducing carbon footprint.  Homeowners may also benefit financially if they are diligent in researching the incentive programs that  are available through the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Energy,  at the state level, and through programs between public and private organizations nationwide that have partnered with the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection through the ENERGY STAR®  Program.

    Product-specific incentives are available to homeowners through the ENERGY STAR Program, which was established two decades ago as a cooperative endeavor between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to reduce energy costs and to protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

    The EPA and the DOE have strict energy efficient guidelines that must be met for a  product to qualify for the ENERGY STAR®.  An ENERGY STAR® central air conditioner is expected to save 24% in energy costs over a non-qualifying system, a furnace (gas) is expected to save 15%, and programmable thermostats will realize a 20% energy savings.

    If a home is fully equipped with ENERGY STAR® products, the homeowner can expect to operate on approximately 30% less energy than if it were equipped with standard products.

    Some ENERGY STAR® products carry a higher up-front cost than basic appliances, however, the initial investment can deliver cost savings over the long term.   Information on more than 18,000 products, representing over 1,200 manufacturers, is available to consumers on the ENERGY STAR® website.

    The environmental benefits that are realized by installing ENERGY STAR® systems and appliances are proven.  According to EPA data, “the typical home causes more greenhouse gas emissions than the typical vehicle.  With ENERGY STAR® products, consumers can lower these emissions by 30% while saving money as well.”

    Richard J. Lorenzotti, P.E., C.E.M., LEED AP, is the Energy Engineering Division Manager of Coastal Engineering Co., Inc.  He is a registered professional engineer with over 20 years of experience. He can be reached at rlorenzotti@coastalengineeringcompany.com

     

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    Available rebates and incentives may include:

    • 75% up to $2000 toward the installation of approved insulation improvements
    • No-cost targeted air sealing
    • Generous rebates on qualifying energy-efficient heating and hot water heating equipment
    • The opportunity to apply for 0% financing for eligible measures through the HEAT loan program

     

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    Cape Light Compact

    On Cape Cod, we have a partner in pursuing energy efficiency – Cape Light Compact (CLC), which was formed in 1997 to advance the interests of consumers in the newly restructured electricity industry.  CLC serves 200,000 consumers from all 21 towns on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. 

    Cape Light Compact administers a variety of energy efficient programs for Cape and Vineyard residents and businesses such as:

    • Enhanced incentives for income-eligible residents
    • Special programs for renters, landlords, multi-family homes and new construction
    • Rebates on energy efficient products
    • Innovative pilot programs that deliver energy savings
    • Zero/low-interest heat loan through Mass Save®

    Homeowners have resources available to help calculate energy costs, evaluate energy use, and determine if energy efficient products and/or renewable energy resources are appropriate for them.

    The DOE and the EPA offer tax credits and rebate programs for homeowners who  take steps to reduce energy consumption.  CLC conducts educational programs in the community and offers incentives to homeowners who commit to making their home energy efficient.  Energy-saving products, like those bearing the ENERGY STAR® label, are available nationwide and are becoming more affordable than in the past.

    Understanding your home’s energy consumption versus energy needs is critical.  A home energy audit can glean valuable data to help identify the systems and appliances that need attention and to devise an action plan to upgrade or replace certain systems to meet a homeowner’s energy-saving goals.

    Richard J. Lorenzotti, P.E., C.E.M., LEED AP, is the Energy Engineering Division Manager of Coastal Engineering Co., Inc.  He is a registered professional engineer with over 20 years of experience. He can be reached at rlorenzotti@coastalengineeringcompany.com

    January 02, 2015