Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: Home Energy Tune Up

As a first-time homeowner of an older home I couldn't pass up the opportunity for an energy audit courtesy of the City of Fresno’s Home Energy Tune Up program. My parents and the majority of my coworkers, including Courtney, participated in the program and absolutely loved it! Essentially it is like a wellness visit to the doctor but for your house - a little poking and prodding to make sure all is as it should be – and that is why this post deserves a spot on Wellness Wednesday. Besides, there’s nothing better than a free educational opportunity that can potentially put money back in your pocket.

The Home Energy Tune Up program once tested the duct work within a home, but due to low program funds that has been eliminated from the inspection. (Readers, please note that a little birdie told me additional funding will be pumped into the program in the new year so you may want to wait to sign up for your audit until after January.) I was looking forward to that part, but the gentlemen ensured me for the age of the house and from the initial readings that the duct work was likely in tip top shape – phew! They did inspect our appliances, including the rooftop HVAC unit; took a peek in the attic and below the house; checked out the PG&E meter; performed a blower door test; and took thermography images using an infrared camera. The blower test and thermography both serve to figure out where there is heat loss and air leakage. We should receive the thorough results within 2-3 weeks.

My home is on the smaller side so I could sit with our kitties in their carriers* and watch as the men went to work. I spent a long time chatting with them (the workers not the cats) about where one begins when wanting to do energy efficiency projects on an older home like ours. Even though I already know most of the information it was good reinforcement to keep me on track instead of jumping on the bandwagon of purchasing the latest and greatest EE gadgets (repeat: must resist Nest for time being). Low and no cost solutions, such as weatherization and turning off/unplugging appliances when not in use, are the first steps in becoming more energy efficient. If you are a visual person, check out this video from Southern California Edison’s Carl and Eddy. Once these steps have been conquered you can move on to insulation, windows, appliances, and maybe even solar.

Unfortunately, these more expensive EE options are not always financially feasible at the moment you may need/want to buy. Case in point: our home did not come with a washer or dryer and while my mom’s folding skills are pretty incredible, I didn't think it was fair or fun to haul our dirty clothes to my parents’ house every weekend. It was totally against my original plan, but we bit the bullet and made our first (non energy efficient) appliance purchase. While I would have loved to purchase an Energy Star model, it was absolutely out of our budget! Yes, it would have been an investment and I would have reaped the rewards later; however, I could barely afford the pretty stands for the units let alone the actual washer and dryer! We opted for a pair that was rated high by customers and my wallet. The good news is we can still be energy efficient when doing our laundry by following a few simple tips from the EPA: utilize the cold setting on the washing machine; only wash and dry full loads (and not too full loads), remember to clean the lint trap after every load; and opt for air drying when possible.

Moral of the story?
‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ – John Lennon
Get to know the in’s and out’s of your home; educate and arm yourself with energy efficiency knowledge; and do what you can, when you can. Having a plan is great, but I am learning that having patience and flexibility is key!

Kitten Translation: this is BS.  
*If you have pets and can take them outside or elsewhere during your audit I would highly recommend it for your own sanity! Although Fig and Olive did okay for the most part and enjoyed the company of the two men, the blower test sent them over the edge – maybe due to noise or pressure changes. They are young and spry so the 45 minute disruption in their day wasn't too stressful in the end and they resumed their roles as Prince and Princess of the kingdom.

photo credit: Green Energy Futures via photopin cc

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