EnergySmart Audit: a smart move

Barbara Lawlor

Nederland Town Trustee Annette Croughwell has been trying to convince people that an energy audit makes sense in our constant battle to save resources and to mitigate our impact on the planet.
Last week, she invited Populus, Sustainable Design Consulting experts, in to check out her recently remodeled home in Old Town Nederland. David Penzkover, an EnergySmart advisor, and Dan Werner, an energy auditor, showed up with bags of equipment they would need to measure heat loss. They expected to be in the house for several hours.
Croughwell bought the original cabin in 1992. The Boulder County Assessor’s office records show that it was originally built in 1917, kind of a typical Old Town sort of structure. She was curious to see how well the remodel efforts cured the leaky barn effect of heating the home.
Before the two energy experts went to work, they explained what their procedure would be. Checking the boiler in the crawl space, fireplaces, and any areas that have comfort issues would be one of their first attacks. They would also conduct a thermal scan, looking for places where cool air was prevalent. They showed Croughwell what her cat looked like when scanned. The unearthly image showed hot eyes, a cool nose and a few hot spots on the cat’s body. This thermal imaging would reveal the leaks around a window, around a light socket or a hole in the floor.
“This scan will help educate and prioritize for energy efficiency,” Werner explained. “By the time I leave, I should have a pretty good understanding of what needs to be done. This is not a pass/fail test.”
Penzkover said that EnergySmart’s goal is to get 10,000 homes audited, and the project is being funded by a portion of a $2.5 million grant, which Populus won the bid for. Boulder County has carbon reduction goals and the project is also expected to create jobs.
If a homeowner has never had an energy audit, the cost is $120, more than half of what a private audit would cost. This audit includes an assessment and free Quick Install measures: such as, 20 CFL light bulbs, four faucet aerators and a shower head, worth more than $60 of free energy saving devices.
If an audit has been completed within the last three years, the homeowner has access to country rebates. An advice-only audit costs $30 and is good for those getting new appliances.
The men moved down into the crawlspace where they checked out the water heater and copper pipes. They recommended wrapping the boiler pipes and the hot water storage tank, an inexpensive measure that helps with heating costs.
Penzkover replaced the light bulbs, 20 of them, saying that Annette would get more light for less cost. Croughwell said that when they remodeled they found all kinds of things stuffed in between the walls, including an apron, a letter jacket and a corset. Many newspapers were covered by flour paste.
In a tour of the upstairs rooms, Werner reported that air was blowing through the outlet. He said the one good thing about having fresh air move in and out is there were no concerns about carbon monoxide.
As Penzkover put new water aerators on the kitchen sink faucet, he said, “This small device will save about a gallon of water a minute, and it doesn’t feel different.”
Werner put a red blower door in the front door space to measure how many cubic feet of air flows out the door, which would also indicate how much air is coming in. The air flow is measured by the fan and the numbers are crunched later at the office.
The measuring of air flow, however, was not about to happen. Being January, and being Nederland, the wind was blowing too hard outside to get an accurate reading, but Werner promised to return on a calmer day.
“I’ve heard stories about how hard it is to do this test in the wind, and I know I can’t do this test today. This is the first time I haven’t been able to do the door blower test,” Werner said.
Their advice wasn’t just about numbers, though. Both men agreed that having a dog door inserted into the door was bound to be energy inefficient. “But don’t worry, if having a door for your dog brings value to you, that is a priority. You have to take lifestyles into consideration. But if you have a dog door that is no longer being used, you should seal it.”
Most people know where there major energy leaks are. Penzkover and Werner look for the non-obvious, unknown situations that usually are to be found. Windows don’t leak, but the caulking around them does. Croughwell said she is making window warmers, and Penzkover said they work great as long as they are fitted to press up against the glass.
Werner said the audit is really a good deal. He used to work for a private company that charged 10 cents a square food, with $300 being the average cost for an audit.
Croughwell said the audit was well worth the cost. “I wanted to see first-hand what it was like, and I like it a lot. I have been meaning to change out the light bulbs. This is a great opportunity, but I would advise to do it on a non-windy day.”
For more information, contact Dave.Penzkover or call 303-544-1000.

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