Energy audit can shine light on savings

Of all the goals I have in life, one of the quirkiest ones is the list of friends I’d like to make. My personal skill set is pretty limited to simple DIY projects , so I thought it’d be pretty handy to have people around me who actually know what they’re doing. For example, it’d be fantastic if I had a plumber-friend to fix the leaky taps in my bathtub, or a computer-whiz to deal with my two broken laptops.

I now have an energy-auditor-friend who can help me be more efficient in my energy use. This month, I bring you the lighter side of energy savings – my interview with an energy auditor. Meet Jawn Lafratta, a graduate from Vancouver Island University’s Green Building and Renewable Energy Technology program. We’re talking about more than just switching off the lights when you leave a room. Read on for some practical information that is truly quite illuminating.

So tell me, what does the job of an energy auditor entail?

First, we will conduct an interview to find out the homeowner’s concerns and the reasons for wanting an audit. We will take external pictures and record the dimensions of the house in order to find externally exposed areas and heated volume. This information is then correlated with observations regarding insulation levels and type of construction of the windows, doors, walls, ceilings and floors. The type of heating/cooling systems and the water heating system is also recorded, as these are the major areas of energy consumption. An air leakage test is then done to measure the rate of air is leaving the building, and to find the source of air leaking inside. Ultimately, we give homeowners a report showing where their energy is being consumed and compare it to a situation where recommended upgrades are undertaken.

That report sounds handy. But then what?

It is then up to the homeowner to decide to take action based on the information provided. There are many grants available for various improvements. Once the upgrades are made, another audit must be done in comparison. The owner will then be provided up to $5,000 in ecoEnergy grant money, approved by the auditor (and potentially more depending on provincial and municipal grants available). Currently, in order to be eligible for the Federal ecoEnergy program grants, pre- and post-audits and renovations must be completed by March 31st, 2012.

I’ve always wondered, do those energy-saving, CF bulbs really work?

They sure do. They use about 1/5 the power and last six to ten times longer than a regular incandescent bulbs. That can save a lot of money in the long run. One major drawback is that they contain mercury, so they should be disposed of at an appropriate facility when their life is over.

What if a household wanted to step it up a notch? What is your #1 tip for saving the most amount of energy?

The most important and most cost effective method for saving energy is to insulate and air seal. I always advocate for conservation before production. There’s no sense in putting in a more efficient heating system if the heat it is producing is not being contained well within the building. There are grants available for this type of work and aside from exposed exterior walls, it’s generally easy to install insulation in the attic or exposed floors.

Okay, so now we’re all wondering: How much does an energy audit cost?

Audits cost $150 plus tax (varies by province).

$150! Even I can afford that! Hot diggity, energy audits for everyone!