The United States represents about 5% of the world’s population. Yet controls about 8% of the world’s energy resources and consumes 25% of the world’s energy supplies. Energy is a principal commodity of our society, amounting to about 9% of the U.S. Gross National Product (GNP). Today at least 70% of existing homes and 80% of new homes have air conditioners, televisions, stereos, computers, swimming pools, spas and all types of electrical gadgets that make American homes the most energy consumptive in the world!
Residential Energy Audit Program – “Wise Energy Use”
There are two major approaches to wise use of energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation. Although very similar, they aren’t exactly the same. Energy efficiency is the most popular approach and focuses on maximizing the economic benefits of wise energy use (i.e. results in energy savings, buying a new ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator to replace your inefficient old one).
The energy-conservation approach focuses more narrowly on reducing non-renewable energy use and its resulting environmental damage.
Energy efficiency and energy-conservation share the following benefits:
- Efficiency of Use: more efficient homes and appliances give more comfort, service, and value.
- Energy Security: Wasting less energy allows individuals, communities to become less dependent on energy and less vulnerable to price/supply changes.
- Environmental Restoration: wasting less energy creates less environmental damage (footprint).
- Sustainable Prosperity: wasting less energy preserves fossil fuels for future generations.
There are four (4) major reasons to conduct a home energy audit which are:
- Save Energy $$ by reducing heat loss and fuel consumption. 20% of U.S. consumed energy goes to residential/commercial space heat, 1/4 of that is wasted.
- Improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) by preventing mold/mildew/moisture, eliminate odors, and reduce respiratory ailments
- Promote Building Durability: the same conditions that lower IAQ can reduce building durability, longevity.
- Increase Comfort: eliminate drafts. No cold floors, no hot and/or cold rooms, no fogged windows.
What can you expect to be included in the audit, you ask?
- Identification of the type, size, condition, and rate of energy consumption for each major energy using device
- Recommended appropriate energy conservation, operation, and maintenance procedures
- Estimate labor and materials costs for energy retrofits
- Project savings expected from energy retrofits
- Note any current or potential health and safety problems and how they may be effected by proposed changes
- Explain behavioral changes that will reduce energy waste
- Provide a written record of decision which will answer these questions;
- Simple Payback: how long before I break even on money spent?
- Life Time Savings: what is my savings? The annual savings multiplied by the number of years the measure is expected to last
- Life Cycle Costing: what will it cost me to do nothing? Compares the cost of acting with that of not acting
- Annual Rate of Return: should I borrow money to make modifications, ARR calculates return on investment expressed as a percentage (%)
- Savings to Investment Ratio: Do I buy stock or insulate the Attic? SIR typically required by Federal Funded Programs as taxpayer justification. Strengths; Lenders accept it and some require it, will prioritize measures to be taken
Know facility points of weaknesses
Single-family homes points of weakness: A home’s energy weaknesses are usually concentrated around irregularities in its building shell. A building’s protrusions and indentations, with their increased seams and surface area, are particular problems at these known locations:
- Roof Overhangs
- Shafts containing chimneys and pipes
- Protruding or indented windows and/or doors
Crawl spaces and basements connecting the home to outdoors: Outdoor & indoor air can mingle in cavities of a building shell, this can seriously reduce the effectiveness of insulation. Areas to watch for are:
- Wall cavities partially or completely devoid of insulation
- Suspended ceilings between floors
- Attic and roof cavities
- Concentrations of plumbing near kitchen and bathrooms
- Concentrations of wiring near service panel box
- Building Cavities used as ducts
- Interconnecting spaces between floors, walls, and ceiling cavities
Mobile homes points of weakness: The below list details where air leaks and insulation flaws are most commonly found in mobile homes:
- Joints and holes in forced-air distribution systems
- Torn or missing belly paper/cloth
- Joints between halves of double-section homes; around perimeter of each section, floor, walls, and ceilings
- Plumbing penetrations in interior walls, exterior water heater closets, under bathtubs, behind washing machines, and under sinks
- Joints between the main structure and building additions
Multifamily homes points of weakness: Irregularities on exteriors of multifamily buildings are potential sources for infiltrating and exfiltrating air.
- Thermal bridging from steel and aluminum components
- Protruding or recessed balconies, eaves, windows, and canopies
- Roof protrusions and penetrations, such as rooftop elevator stacks and air handlers
- Air intake and exhaust vents
Multifamily building’s horizontal cavities and vertical shafts are conduits for air leakage and mixing of indoor air and unconditioned outdoor air. These include:
- Suspended ceilings
- Supply ducts in floor and ceiling cavities
- Building cavities utilized as heating/cooling return ducts
- Elevator shafts
- Plumbing shafts
The Energy Auditor
Inspects, tests and measures to decide what energy-efficient retrofits are practical and cost-effective.