Whether we’re talking food or fuel, our use of energy defines how we choose to live. Having read several books on home energy conservation, I had already lowered my electric bill with lighting upgrades, a tankless hot water heater, thermal curtains, and Energy Star appliances.
Low Electric Bills, But…
Despite replacing windows, weather stripping the doors, and adding insulation to the attic, the Little House on Pine could be chilly on winter days. Living on my own, I bundled up and kept my programmable thermostat at a cool 55°F. But with a new housemate, I was determined to make the house cozier.
The Home Energy Audit Begins
I visited my utility company’s website to learn about an incentive program for home energy audits: a $400 audit would only cost me $100 with a built-in rebate. I contacted a participating service provider and scheduled a consultation.
When the energy auditor showed up, he started with questions. What year was the house constructed? How many occupants? What rooms felt drafty? He took measurements of each room, peeked in the attic and crawl space. And then he hooked up the blower door test.
The Amazing Blower Door Test
A double fan set into front door pressurized the house, exaggerating air leaks. I was surprised to feel torrents of air gushing from every light switch and electric outlet (despite the foam insulation strips I had placed around each receptacle). Just as surprising, plumes of dust jetted from my kitchen cabinets, revealing air channels to the attic.
The auditor explained how each wall provided a clear cavity connecting the attic and crawl space. The trick to fixing it would be sealing the tops and bottom of walls with foam. He also pointed out that my crawl space could be improved with a wrapping of 2-inch rigid foam board.
Before leaving, the energy auditor asked to review my oil heating and electric bills for the past year. My oil bills were about average for most homes, but my electric bills were remarkably low. With no suggestions for reducing my electric, he sent me a report outlining suggestions for lowering my heating.
Insulation and Air Sealing
It turned out that his company could insulate the exterior walls of my crawl space and air seal the attic for less than what it would cost me to make the upgrades myself. One week later, a small team completed the job in one day. For the first winter, I enjoyed a warm house that cost little to heat. While I’m planning future energy efficiencies as part of larger remodeling efforts, the energy audit and recommended fixes resulted in a much cozier living space.