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Archive for Monday, July 4, 2011

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Recoup the costs of a home energy audit

July 4, 2011

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The good news was that for just $100, we could have a home energy audit. The bad news was that we live in a 1954 “ranchette.” It’s had plenty of time to settle — such a nice-sounding word. Spiders showed us where our house had become particularly relaxed. They build their webs where there’s food. Where a spider’s food can walk in, air can come in and go out as well. In theory I had always liked the idea of an energy audit. But then I envisioned having to replace our charming ranchette windows and tearing down walls to put in insulation, maybe foundation work. I imagined paying for efficiency for the rest of my life.

Then we talked with our friend Tom Harper. He had conquered his fear. “I knew I had an old house,” he said. “It’s just a given that it’s inefficient. That was my initial fear about an audit, too. Did I really want to know? Then I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t I want to know?’”

At an energy efficiency workshop for people with older homes, Harper connected with an energy auditor who told him about the Efficiency Kansas Program. “$100 seemed reasonable to me, but if it had been $500 — which you could normally expect to pay for an audit—that’s a big chunk of change,” he said.

Like many who have had an audit, Harper found out his home was full of holes. The person who installed his new furnace had left a 2 foot-by 2-foot hole into the attic, which the auditor said was the equivalent of leaving a door open all the time, summer and winter. He also had gaps around the water heater and can lights in the kitchen, which amounted to eight open holes in the ceiling. Since plugging these holes and adding insulation over the garage and a back room, Harper and his wife, Terri Erickson, have noticed their house has stayed much cooler this summer. Where they once ran two A/C units regularly, they now rely mainly on one. “In hindsight, with the significant benefit we’ve gotten from a $100 audit and $800 worth of pretty simple repairs, I would pay the $500 without batting an eye,” Harper said.

With his encouragement, we called an auditor. On the appointed day, we trapped the cats in the bedroom, and the auditor installed an exhaust fan in the front door. After a windy tour of all the rooms, he told us we had a leaky house. The good news: we could fix the problem simply by plugging some holes. No demolition required. Better yet, we could get a low-interest loan for the recommended repairs and pay them off through our monthly utility bill.

The $100 audit deal with Efficiency Kansas runs through the end of September, so there’s plenty of time to set up an appointment. Just select an auditor for the Northeast region listed on the “find an auditor” link at Efficiencykansas.com. You just need to provide them with two years of totals from your utility bills, and they’ll take care of the rest. The icing on the cake is that each home energy audit performed puts Lawrence even closer to beating Manhattan in the Take Charge Challenge. The winning city will receive a $100,000 grant for an energy-efficiency project.

— Kelly Barth can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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