Published on September 5th, 2014 | by Scott Cooney
Starting with an Energy Audit
Like many people, I would like to leave a legacy in which I have made the world a better place during my lifetime. This takes many forms, but for me, the most important thing is to help make the world more sustainable and healthy by shifting our economy away from fossil fuels. It’s been the under-arching purpose for pretty much everything I’ve done, both personally as well as career-wise, for the last 20+ years.
In this vein, I decided to green a home I own in Colorado. I’d long considered solar but hadn’t pulled the trigger on it yet, since my electric bills were typically less than $60. But my heating bill in the winter for natural gas was pretty high, and I decided that something needed to be done in order to avoid giving so much money to an industry that invented fracking.
When I learned about energy audits, I immediately jumped on a local incentive offered by the city of Fort Collins. For $60, this subsidized audit came back with a whole slew of high and medium priority items that would help make my home more energy efficient, especially with regard to heating and cooling. Using infrared technology, the auditors determine where leaks in your energy infrastructure are causing money to literally pour out of your wallet and into the pockets of companies involved in fracking.
As you can see, the insulation I’d installed a few years before was not as effective as I’d hoped. I installed it myself and unfortunately left quite a few gaps. It probably was helping, but by no means was it a good “seal”, especially in the corners of my attic. This left a lot of leakage for heat during the winter, making my furnace work harder than it needed to, and increasing my utility bills substantially.
The energy audit report included explanations of improvements that could be made, as well as suggestions for how to go about them, including recommended professional contractors. I spent about two thousand improving the place through these upgrades, and the results were immediate. I saw a $60-70 drop in my winter heating bills, meaning that the improvements would pay for themselves in about 5-6 years. In addition, the tenants I had, who had often complained of how cold the house was in the winter (especially in certain rooms), became happier campers, and likely extended their lease much more happily than they might have otherwise.
The next step for my home? Going solar, of course! Check out my next post—comparing online solar calculators to reality, where I document how my experience with an online solar calculator actually played out when I got a real bid and real estimate from a qualified local contractor.