Energy Audit Observations
We are a week into the newly active City of Austin Energy Audit Ordinance and thought I would share a few observations.
First, everyone I talk to (buyers, sellers, Realtors, inspectors, neighbors) seems to be totally onboard with the foundational intent of the Ordinance: reducing our carbon footprint, encouraging use of the City energy rebate programs and making our homes more efficient. That on-board totality may not be what you have observed if you listen to talk radio (which I avoid as much as I avoid traffic tickets … one in the last 12 years) but I think I attract a fairly energy-conscious granola-inclined we-are-stewards-of-the-planet crowd.
So I recommend we all check out the efficiency factor of our own homes and do what we can to lower our utility bills, lower our own carbon footprint and, in some cases, cease cooling the air in our attics.
You do not need to do the full City audit to find these things out. An appropriately trained and licensed inspector will be able to do much of this testing on your home. I highly recommend the air duct test which measures the amount of your AC or heat output that is not blowing into the spaces you want cooled or heated. In fact, most of these inspectors could provide you probably a more useful report outside of the not-to-easy-to-read City report.
If you think you may sell your house in the next 10 years, then doing the actual audit would make sense vs. something that falls short of the Ordinance requirements. Go to Austin Energy to find specifics on the Ordinance and exemptions: http://www.austinenergy.com/About%20Us/Environmental%20Initiatives/ordinance/index.htm
For my own R&D, we did one at our house this week (business expense, education). Our duct deficiency? 18% and 25% Ouch. Here is the actual energy audit report from our home: http://images.kw.com/docs/0/0/1/001628/1244235965447_ECADAudit_8507_Appalacian_06_02_2009.pdf The audit worked … we are calling out Strand Brothers next week to redo the taping on our ductwork (and they use the duct blaster tool to watch the efficiency improve as they proceed through the process.
My main gripe with the Ordinance … it’s on the wrong side. It’s the seller’s responsibility and it really belongs on the buyer side. Why? The way it’s worded right now, the seller does not have to provide it until closing, well beyond a useful timeframe for the buyer to use the information in their inspection / negotiation period. The buyers want it done on day 1; sellers want it done just before closing. Buyers want improvements done; sellers do not have to do any improvements. The main complaint I hear from sellers is something along the lines of “why didn’t I do this years ago … I’ve been cooling my attic all these years.”
My auditor, Jason Marler of Energy Action, said he has done audits where the ductwork was 50% deficient. He has also done a couple brand new construction homes that were 30 and 40% deficient; don’t assume your new home is tight (homes under 10 years old are exempt). He said he did one home where he could not even get the meter to register because the duct was just flapping in the cool wind in the attic. He also has seen a couple new constructions where an entire knee wall had zero insulation (someone got lazy). How’s your energy bill?