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Energy audits save home owners money

May 2, 2012

Thermal image showing temperature variation in a hot air balloon. (Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/)

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association

As energy prices rise and fall over the short term, their variations can distract us from seeing the long-term benefits of investing in energy efficiency.

Rockford is investing in energy efficiency. In 2009, the city was awarded a grant from the Department of Energy to implement an energy code program. Several of the designated projects have been completed; several more are under way.

Sodium lights in two parking structures have been replaced by high-induction lighting. A hydropower feasibility study for use of the Fordham Dam has been completed; however, implementing the project itself is cost prohibitive.

Retrofits of the Coronado Theatre and the BMO Harris Bank Center (MetroCentre) will be completed by June. A study focused on installing large wind generators on the northwest side of the city has been turned over to Freedom Field for intensive study. A baseline studies action plan is under way. Energy savings and jobs either saved or created have been estimated for all of the projects.

Since 41.6 percent of the country’s energy is consumed by residences and commercial buildings, it is reasonable that making homes more energy efficient would produce immediate, long-range energy savings for the society. Not only will more efficient buildings produce savings in energy, they would also save home owners money.

Graphic courtesy of energysavers.gov

Home energy audits can quickly point out problems in buildings that can be corrected to save energy and cash. Audits can identify ways in which a home could use less energy and that which it does use more efficiently.

According to the NEED project, “the four most important things a consumer can do to reduce heating and cooling” include maintenance, programmable thermostats, insulation, and caulking and weatherstripping. Forty-three percent of a home’s energy is used for heating and cooling.

Thermographic imaging and blower doors are the most commonly used techniques of testing.

Thermographic imaging uses cameras that form images of heat, rather than light. They are used to record heat losses from a building that then can be corrected by more insulation or other techniques. Thermographic cameras record differences in temperature best when there is a large difference (at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit) between indoor and outdoor temperatures.

Blower doors consist of a powerful fan mounted in the frame of an exterior door, which pulls air through the house. A calibrated blower door will reveal the amount of air infiltration into a house. A blower door and thermal imaging camera can be used together for an accurate picture of the house’s tightness

We were recently made aware of new programs offered to homeowners who have energy audits of their homes and follow up with weatherization. In this area, customers who have their gas delivered by Nicor and their electricity by ComEd are eligible. Of the $500,000 set aside to help families in need, only $2,000 has been used.

Typical weatherization costs between $2,500 and $5,000. Of this, approximately $2,000 can be recouped. When recommended action follows an audit, savings can be up to 30 percent of the cost. In addition, a cold house will become comfortably warm.

For more about the program, visit energyimpactillinois.com.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the May 2-8, 2012, issue

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