As mentioned in an earlier blog posting about how homes typically waste more energy than cars, I signed up with Recurve to have them conduct an energy audit of the condo my wife and I own. Though the homeowner association owns the structure and property, we are responsible for the inside as well as items like windows and heating systems. So although we can't tear down exterior walls without homeowner association approval, there are steps we can take to lower our energy bills and have a more sustainable home.
There are basically 8 short steps to the Recurve process.
- You tell Recurve what your goals are in terms of energy consumption.
- You provide Recurve with your gas and electricity bills for the past year.
- Recurve comes to your home and takes detailed measurements.
- Recurve prepares an energy audit report with recommendations based on the measurements and your goals.
- Recurve meets with you to discuss the report and recommendations. You can also schedule any work you would like performed.
- The work is performed.
- Recurve comes to your home and retakes the measurements to demonstrate the resulting improvement and files rebate paperwork with the electricity and gas companies.
- The gas and/or electric companies mail you your rebate.
For our particular situation:
Our master bedroom is a little bit colder than other parts of the house. We used to live in Arizona where our electricity bills were very high due to air conditioning. As northern California has a more moderate climate, our energy bills are a fraction of the Arizona cost. So our goals are to spend a modest amount of money to try to do the right thing for the environment rather than to save loads of money.
Using the web, I was able to download or create CSV files for our Alameda Power and PG&E bills. Recurve was able to use this data as a baseline to estimate how much money we could save with various improvements.
In addition to measuring room dimensions and other physical characteristics, Recurve conducted a fan test at our service entry door to measure how much air was leaking from our house.
Recurve was able to determine:
Although windows account for a substantial amount of the loss, replacing them cannot be accomplished at a modest price. Knowing our goals, Recurve did not recommend new windows.
We opted to have the following done.
- Get a Building Permit.
- Seal electrical and plumbing penetrations in the attic and crawlspace to reduce leakage by using materials such as foam board, expanding foam, caulk, and fire rated material.
- Insulate attic kneewalls where insulation is missing, install blown-in cellulose insulation R-30 throughout attic over top of fiberglass batts, and install insulation wind damns on eave vents to maintain installation quality and performance over time.
- Safely remove, dispose of, and replace sections of duct that have asbestos tape. Seal all duct connections with water-based, low VOC mastic. Install air flow dampers on all duct runs in the attic to meet design airflow specifications and to guide more air to the master bedroom.
- Seal existing return air pathway with sheet metal and duct mastic to prevent return air leakage to increase heating system efficiency because the system will not be bringing in cold air from outside.
- Conduct BPI safety compliance testing (required by PG&E in order to qualify for Energy Upgrade California rebates).
I will file another blog article when the work is done.
Going green is alive in the lab.