Audited, Energetically

IMG_2189Last week we were audited and it was great! In fact, we initiated the audit. No, I’m not talking about inviting the IRS into my home. I’m talking about an Home Energy Review from Energy Trust of Oregon.  Signing up for a home review has been on my mental to-do list for months. I finally got around to it after seeing our very high August electric bill thanks to our heatwaves.

At no cost to us Energy Trust sent James to spend an hour at our home measuring temperatures, crawling in the attic, examining window seals and generally figuring out where we can improve our home’s energy efficiency. They scheduled it at a time convenient for us and, unlike the cable guy, gave us a tight one-hour window of James’ arrival to which he was perfectly prompt.

Here’s what we learned through the process:

1) Our 4-year old home is quite energy efficient.  We have great insulation, efficient appliances and insulating window shades that help keep our home cool in summer and warm in winter.

2) Our water heater temp was a tad high so James turned it down just a few degrees, from around 128 to closer to 124. So far we haven’t noticed a difference in the shower temp in the morning and he said even a few degrees difference can save a few dollars.

3) Our flat screen TV uses 25W even when turned off. This is equivalent to running 2 compact florescent lightbulbs all the time. That amounts to only about $2/ month but, during times when we’re gone for a week or two, it makes sense to unplug the TV.

4) Our laptop computers are the same, using about 25W of electricity when in sleep mode (the mode we generally leave them in when we’re not using them). Instead James recommended we shut them down at night or even if we’ll be away from them for an hour or two. That should amount to savings of a few dollars a month as well.

5) James switched out 10 regular lightbulbs to CFLs for us. For free. As I recall from the last time I bought CFLs, they cost around $5 each so that’s a good $50+ of free lightbulbs.

6) James also noticed we did not have low-flow water aerators in our sinks or showers. He offered us free water aerators but, since his didn’t match ours, we opted instead to head to Home Depot and pick up aerators for a few bucks ourselves that match our hardware. Again we should see savings of a few dollars on water and electric bills for reducing our hot water usage, without noticing a difference in performance.

7) Much to my chagrin I learned that unplugging the toaster and Kitchenaid mixer does not result in any energy savings. Zip. Zero. Nada.  How many seconds of my life have I wasted unplugging both appliances when not in use? Even worse, how much goodwill in my marriage have I eaten up nagging my husband to do the same?  He was delighted when James tested both our toaster and mixer to inform us that, when plugged in but not in use, they use 0W of energy.  Who knew.

James also found a few spots where the ducts could be sealed better and gave us names of contractors to follow up with. He introduced us to the tax credits available for solar power, something that might be worth investigating for anyone who knows they’ll be in their home for 10 or 15 years. There are a boatload of state and federal tax credits available that make expensive solar systems much more affordable.

While we didn’t find any major ways to knock down our energy bills, it was reassuring to learn we’ve already done most everything we can to be energy efficient. And those little things James pointed out to us will help us save a few dollars here, a few more dollars there, all which adds up both in our pockets and in caring for the planet.

Have you had an energy audit of your home? What changes did you make as a result? Did you end up saving money?

If you haven’t had a Home Energy Review, give it a try. If you’re in Oregon contact Energy Trust. Elsewhere check with your local utility companies to see if something similar is available in your area (or move to Oregon).

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