BY JONATHAN REID
When environmental activist and actor Ed Begley Jr. was asked by some friends if they could conduct an energy audit of his home, he was certain it was already green clean to the extreme.
“I was confident that they wouldn’t find anything and told them, ‘Have at it,’” he said.
Since purchasing his home in 1988, Begley had been modifying it to be as environmentally friendly as possible, by installing energy panels, rainwater harvesting systems and sustainable materials; after the audit, he was certainly surprised by the grade he was given.
“After they were done, they presented me with a C+ rating on my home! C+ for Ed Begley!” he said.
Moral of the story: Even green-thumb Ed Begley Jr. found holes in his environmentalism by having an energy audit.
Why have an energy audit?
According to Elena Chrimat, a Phoenix energy auditor and owner of Ideal Energy, the evaluation inspects building and energy leakage, comfort issues such as dust and humidity, temperature differentials between rooms, insulation, appliances, windows and shading. If the homeowner decides to implement the auditor’s recommendations after the audit, they could qualify to receive utility rebates.
Although there are D.I.Y. methods for conducting a home energy audit, Chrimat says a professional inspection is more beneficial. “We have diagnostic tools to figure out exactly why certain rooms are not cooling down as much as a homeowner would like,” she said. “Overall, it is important to have the evaluation done by a professional who knows what they are doing when it comes to the energy efficiency and comfort of a home. Another benefit to employing a professional is that the homeowner gains access to the rebates from the utility company.”
Currently, APS offers customers a rebate of $250 per air conditioning duct system, $250 for insulation, $250 for air sealing and $1 per square foot (capped at $250) for shaded screens, according to Chrimat. SRP has similar prices, however offers $175 per duct system and 80 cents per square foot for shaded screens (capped at $250).
Every Ideal Energy customer also receives 10 CFL light bulbs, a low-flow showerhead, and three faucet aerators from APS and/or SRP that can be installed during the audit for free.
A typical audit averages $99 for an evaluation and can take 2-3 hours to complete. Although $99 may seem like a lot of money to have people inspect your home for energy flow, Begley can assure you that wasted energy is bad for both your home and your wallet.
“After this audit, I cut my electric bill in half!” Begley said. “They found holes in walls! And leaks! And one space that had been leaking air for years that a $10 piece of insulation could fix! I couldn’t believe it… a simple fix!”
According to Chrimat, when Ideal Energy evaluates a home, they begin by installing a calibrated blower door to the front door to measure leakage. While the blower door is running, they hook a duct blaster to the duct system to find the amount of leakage in the ductwork. Once complete, they move to the attic to examine the amount, type, and most importantly, the way the insulation was installed.
“Many homeowners think that simply blowing additional insulation in their attic will solve their problems, but this is far from the truth,” Chrimat said. “Improperly installed insulation does not do a home any good. It is important to have a professional look at this because for insulation to work at its full R-value it must be in continuous contact with another surface at all times.”
Qualifying energy audit companies
It is important to have detailed knowledge and solid references for any contractor you hire. Follow these tips when researching energy auditors:
Research contractors before hiring – start with the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) and the Arizona Registrar of Contractors list of qualified contractors.
Does the contractor have a license for the work you need done?
Does this contractor have an office address?
Does this contractor belong to any trade association?
Don’t do business with “cash-only” businesses.
Ask to see estimates and examples of previous work.
Saving energy today
The Arizona heat claims many air conditioners every year because people don’t inspect their systems before summer. Here are some tips to ensure you don’t end up sweating your utility bill.
1. Replace air filter. A dirty air filter slows down airflow and causes your system to work harder, wasting energy, and can lead to more expensive maintenance.
2. Remove dust from vent covers to ensure airflow is distributed evenly throughout your
3. Examine ducts for leaks. Leaky heating ducts increase energy bills and can contribute to
unhealthy indoor air quality.
4. Turning up the temperature even 5 degrees when the home is not occupied is an effective way to save money.
5. Schedule an annual system check-up.
In Arizona especially, it is important to know the energy flow of your home. Following the above tips could even make your home the envy of environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.’s soon-to-be-green-clean-to-the-extreme home!