Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Getting an Audit of the Good Kind: Greening Up with a Home Energy Audit

This past Friday, Beth and I had an audit--but not one of the unpleasant IRS kind.  No, we'd taken advantage of the Virginia energy-efficiency rebate program to replace our furnace and a/c unit earlier in the year, and thanks to the weird way Virginia thought out (or failed to do so, I guess) the program, which included $250 toward an "energy audit," we had to complete everything before filing for the furnace--as once we've claimed part of the Virginia rebates, that's it: no claiming the furnace first, then the audit, and lastly any improvements made thanks to the audit.

As expected, the auditor came by with a blower door and nifty forward-looking infrared camera.  Basically, the blower door--a big fan in a frame which installs in the front door--establishes negative pressure inside the house, and spots of air leakage and other thermal issues thus become easily visible on the FLIR photos.

Heck, with the blower door in place, several of the air leaks were self-evident; simply placing my hand in front of them, I could feel the flow of air through cracks in the caulking around my office window or the light fixtures in the living room.

While we're still waiting for the full report from the energy auditor (at which time I'll finally be able to file for our Virginia rebates), I've already done a huge amount of work on remedying the basics.  Seven tubes of silicone caulk so far: I've applied caulk around the window frames--many of which were quite leaky, even though the windows themselves were not--and around several exterior air leaks, like the front door and the gap between the attic fascia boards and the brick, which let cold air straight into the attic beneath the layer of insulation.  And getting up into the attic gave me the chance to finally get around to wiring a light fixture in the library, and we've ambitions to install several more fixtures (a bedroom ceiling fan, a light fixture over the stairwell, and a couple of spotlights over the picture rail and bird art--all before we seal several air leaks along the tops of the walls and install another layer of fiberglass insulation.

Already, the house feels warmer with the reductions in drafts, and I'm sure our energy bills are going to be falling--and we'll be helping the environment as well.

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