As our country recovers from a deep recession, this is a good time for us to rethink how we use natural resources and look for ways to conserve energy and save money.
One of the best ways home-owners can do this is by having a home energy audit. It’s a way you can keep more money in your pocket every month and help the environment.
What is a home energy audit? It is a comprehensive review of your home’s systems, from furnaces and air conditioning units to light bulbs, water faucets and the insulation in your walls and attic.
When we perform a home energy audit, we look at the entire building envelop of the home, including exterior walls, rooflines and foundation.
Having an effective building envelop is the best way to cut the amount of heated or cooled air escaping from your home and save energy. In doing so, you also do your part to help cut air pollution and greenhouse gases generated by coal-fired electric plants.
With global climate change becoming a growing concern, people are more aware of how their actions affect the world around them. Many consumers are looking more closely at products and services that can save the “green” in their wallets and benefit the planet.
Inadequately insulated homes and buildings account for an estimated 75 percent of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. When those leaks are sealed and buildings are brought up to Department of Energy standards, it can reduce greenhouse gases tremendously, making for a healthier environment.
A comprehensive home energy audit typically costs between $250 and $350. The average cost of fully insulating a home is under $2,000. Now, thanks to an increase in the federal tax credit for energy-efficiency improvements, you can take up to $1,500 of those costs off your taxes. The amounts vary according to each homeowner’s finances, so you should consult your accountant or attorney for specific advice.
So let’s say that you spend $1,500 in energy-efficiency improvements. Not only can you take that amount off your taxes, but you could save 20 to 25 percent off your monthly power bill too.
Many homeowners today are choosing to use eco-friendly cellulose insulation in both new homes and energy-efficiency retrofits. Because it is made of 85 percent recycled newsprint, it helps keep trash out of landfills and trees growing in the forests. It is also more effective than similar products that require a huge amount of energy in manufacturing.
There are other benefits of energy-efficiency improvements, too. Some homeowners can get specially discounted mortgages for energy-efficient homes and improvements. We are working to develop relationships with real estate agents and firms to educate them on the benefits available to homeowners.
What should you look for in a home energy auditing firm? First, find a company that can help you obtain the ENERGY STAR® label for your home or business. All ENERGY STAR®-certified homes receive a rate discount from power companies and generally have additional resale value.
ENERGY STAR® is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that aims to save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. With the help of ENERGY STAR®, Americans saved enough energy in 2007 to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million cars and saved $16 billion on their utility bills in the process.
An energy audit firm with certified energy raters analyzes the efficiency of a home or building with the ENERGY STAR® Energy Performance Rating System to identify improvement opportunities. Professional energy auditors use the rating system to set efficiency goals for existing buildings. They are also trained to use the ENERGY STAR® New Building Design Guidance to achieve goals for buildings designed to earn the ENERGY STAR® rating.
Using these tools, qualified firms are able to justify projects financially, prioritize opportunities and establish plans to reach efficiency goals. The Energy Performance Rating System also enables them to document and communicate project successes and identify structures eligible for the ENERGY STAR® Label.
Homeowners considering an energy audit may also want to seek firms affiliated with Building Performance Institute. BPI is an industry leader in building science. BPI affiliates are authorized to train green collar workers in the science of building energy efficiency.
Thanks to science, tax credits and the new emphasis on green building, it’s a great time to save money and help the planet. As Americans, let’s all do our part for energy independence.
John Meeks is a home energy expert and analyst with more than 30 years’ construction experience. His company, Apple Blossom Insulators, is trained and recognized by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency as Service Partner Providers. Headquartered in Concord, NC, the company trains green collar workers as an affiliate of the Building Performance. For more information, email: mailto:John@abinsulators.com