ProudGreenHome: How do I reduce summer utility bills?
Well, summer is here and the nice spring weather that you had for cooling your homes with natural ventilation is gone. Now the HVAC system in your home is kicking in to keep it comfortable. Then you get your first electric bill, and you start wondering how energy-efficient your home really is.
As a home owner you have basically two approaches to save on your utility bills:
The do it yourself home energy audit —
To do this, you'd basically go around your house and do a visual assessment of the thermal barrier/building envelope. Check for air leaks, insulation, lighting and appliances, including the heating and cooling system. Here you are really guessing which weatherization project would give you most bang for your buck:
Air leaks. You can caulk and seal holes in exterior walls, as well as around door and window exterior trim. Add weather stripping to any door that accesses an unconditioned space, such a garage or attic. Mastic and duct tape any leaks on your forced air system duct.
Insulation. For insulation issues, you might want to enhance your insulation first in the attic, then the crawlspace, and, finally, the walls. Depending on the age of your home, you will find that it has been compromised or that you are not even meeting code.
Lighting. You can choose to replace all your lights with CFL, dimmers, and some sensors. And last, the high-ticket items are replacing appliances and heating and cooling equipment with Energy Star-qualified products.
Professional home energy audit —
To do this, you'd hire a certified HERS Rater or BPI building analyst to conduct an energy audit following some strict protocols. The end result is that you will get a report from your rater that has considered the as-is condition of your home, has done an energy model and has prioritized in order of relevance the most cost-effective weatherization projects for your home.
In my opinion, the latter approach is the most cost-effective on the long run. You might have to pay a bit more upfront for a professional audit, but the guessing work is gone. Today, many utility companies are providing rebates for both the audits and weatherization projects, making it even more affordable. So before you do anything, I encourage you to go online to your utility company's website and find out about their energy saving program.
Luis Imery, through his business the Imery Group, is a full service construction, home energy performance, green certification and real estate group specializing in infusing sustainability in every facet of the real estate cycle. Its construction division has become pioneers in the Athens, GA area in green building of speculative, custom and design-built construction. Just in 2011 they have over 110 units slated for green certification under the EarthCraft program.