Originally published in the Courier-Post by Jodi Streahle on April 20, 2015
Winter has come to an end. The days are getting longer, and the house is quiet without the hum of mechanical systems battling to keep your home comfortable against the elements.
That doesn’t mean it’s time to forget these critical home systems and the energy they consume.
Wouldn’t it be better to arm yourself before the battle begins this year?
A home energy assessment is the first step.
Such an assessment can help you:
- Find out where your conditioned air is escaping.
- Inspect the efficiency of your home heating system, air conditioner and water heater.
- Evaluate your home insulation.
- Inspect your living space, basement, garage and attic.
- Receive a comprehensive plan to make your home more energy efficient.
State and federal programs offer financial incentives to homeowners who make energy efficiency improvements in their homes, bringing these improvements closer to a reality for many homeowners.
Todd Maples of Egg Harbor Township is one of those homeowners. When faced with the purchase of a new water heater for his 20-year-old home, he went online to New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program to find out how to qualify for a rebate for his upcoming purchase.
He learned if he had a home performance assessment and could show a 25 percent energy savings, he could qualify for up to a $5,000 rebate on a bigger home improvement project.
Considering his air conditioner and heating system were also 20 years old, Maples realized he would be faced with replacing these systems in the near future. So, he decided to have a home energy assessment.
After reviewing information from three assessments, Maples turned to The Energy Team in Hammonton for the project. The Energy Team has completed 298 home performance projects since 2010, according to New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program website.
The assessment was completed in one day. The plan included air sealing and insulating with particular attention paid to the attic and the replacement of the water heater, furnace and air conditioner, which was all completed in a matter of days.
The cost of the project was about $12,500. Predicted energy savings was more than 25 percent, so Maples qualified for the full $5,000 rebate from the Home Performance with Energy Star program. He also qualified for a 10-year, 0 percent interest loan to cover the remaining balance, and he expects the savings will cover that payment.
“We’re not rich, so we can’t at the drop of the hat come up with $4,000 for a new furnace or new air conditioner if those things go. This was much more palatable. There is definitely that peace of mind, and plus where are you going to get 10 years at 0 percent interest?” Maples said.
“You’d be surprised, if you are in a builder’s grade home, you are losing all kinds of heat and cooling in all kinds of places throughout the house, especially in the attic,” continued Maples.
“As warm air rises and leaves the upper part of your house through your wire penetration, the pull down stairwell or recessed lights, it draws cold air in through the lower parts of the house. So, the biggest focus is to seal up the upper part of the house first,” said Kyle Haddock, director of The Energy Team.
Sealing up your home is a critical step in reaching energy efficiency.
Many times, homeowners will replace a furnace before sealing a home, and they purchase a system that is capable of heating a leaky house. Once they seal up the home, they wind up with a furnace that is too big for the home, Haddock said.
“All the cracks add up to having a window open year round. It is worse than having a window open year round because of stack effect,” said William Doyle, president of Allied Energy Efficiency Experts. This is when warm air rises and seeps out of the cracks, drawing air in the lower portions.
A lot of dust in your home is one sign that your home has a lot of leakage, said Doyle, but it’s also a job that requires professional attention. It can be dangerous if a home is sealed too tightly without having proper ventilation. Homeowners can wind up with moisture and health issues.
“Once you do the work, the indoor air quality increases dramatically,” Doyle said.
Allied has completed 2,359 home performance projects since 2010. They are a one-stop-shop that offers services for all necessary repairs.
A comprehensive home assessment looks at the house as a whole system working together to achieve comfort for the homeowner. The main goal is to save energy, which often, but not always, translates to saving dollars, said Stan Orzechowski, home performance manager at Laury Heating, Cooling and Plumbing in Vineland.
“The primary goal is less energy consumption so there is more energy that can be used among everybody,” continued Orzechowski.
Laury Heating, Cooling and Plumbing has completed 752 home performance projects since 2010, according to New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program website.
The mechanical systems are the “energy vampires” of your home, Orzechowski said. “They cost the most to install and operate.” Often they are all installed together and have a matching lifespan. So if you are faced with replacing one of these systems, consider a home performance assessment.
Some of the tests performed during the assessment include a blower door test and zonal pressure tests that show where your conditioned air is escaping. A duct blaster device reveals openings in your duct work, and mechanical performance tests tell the efficiency of your water heater, furnace and air conditioner.
“You’d be surprised how much energy is lost that leaves your furnace or air conditioner and leaks into the attic, basement or crawl space before it even gets to the room you intended it to go,” Haddock said.
Attics are usually the biggest energy thieves, and assessments often result in attic insulation and sealing, Orzechowski said.
“Stopping the air leakage comes first. The house will not work correctly as a system without sealing the air leaks,” said Al Sciubba, founder of Allied Energy Efficiency Experts.
Often, Allied also installs insulation, mechanical systems, windows, lighting and appliances. “The average home that we do saves at least 25 percent of their energy. So when we do six or seven jobs a day, we are taking 11/2 houses off the grid in terms of energy savings,” Doyle said.
These are major home improvements, and New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program is offering incentives, such as up to a $5,000 rebate and a 0 percent interest loan program for up to $10,000.
“There are more than 100 million homes built in America in ways that they are not building anymore. To go back and fix these homes and make them homes of today takes some doing,’’ Sciubba said.
“Some are much more difficult and complicated than others. However, no matter what type of job we do, the funding for the project is there and the repayment is done over time. So, by the time the people realize their first payment, they have already saved,” he continued.
“It’s a huge benefit to people. There is no better thing they can do for their home.”
If you go to:
New Jersey Clean Energy Program: For more information, visit www.njcleanenergy.com
Allied Energy Efficiency Experts: 100 Dobbs Lane, Suite 102, Cherry Hill. Call (856) 528-2822 or www.alliedenergyexperts.com
Laury Heating, Cooling and Plumbing: 511 E. Plum St., Vineland. Call (888) 697-3067 or www.lauryheating.com
The Energy Team: 74 Route 73, Hammonton. Call (800) 672-2117 or www.yourenergyteam.com