February 19, 2010

Home Energy Assessments

There could be money hidden in the corners of your home, and Home Energy Assessment can show you where.

With $700,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Naperville residents can now get a three hour home energy efficiency investigation.

One Naperville couple, Bruce and Christine Verhaaren, have always wanted an evaluation, but were concerned about the cost. That is, until Naperville’s application was accepted by the Federal Government.

“When I knew the city was trying to get money to do this, I was really excited to have the opportunity,” Christine said.

The Verhaaren’s had recently moved into a new home on the city’s east side and had energy bills close to $200 dollars a month.

“I expected to find out what things I could do to make the house more comfortable, and of course the financial aspect, to be able to have 50% of our expenses covered up to $1,500 was a huge motivation.”

A motivating factor because, when the Technicians evaluate the home, the findings are usually staggering, and sometimes an expensive repair, like a new furnace, is necessary.

Home Energy Technician, James Tente explained, “a home energy audit is the evaluation of the home’s building envelope for its resistance to heat flow and its air infiltration, as well as evaluations of the efficiencies of the heating and cooling equipment.”

As part of the investigation the Technicians use a tool called a Blower Door, which is a giant fan attached to the entrance of the home that is set to spin at 25 mph. After about five minutes, the pressure of the home is dropped to 50 pascals, which allows the cold air to rush in through the cracks and crevasses in the home more dramatically.

After the investigation in the Verhaaren’s home, Tente and his partner found out the following.

“We converted our infiltration numbers into an effective leakage area, so if we took all of the gaps, cracks, holes, and weaknesses in the thermal boundary in this home, and we put them into one spot the area was equivalent to a 300 sq inch hole in the house.”

Though the Verhaaren’s were surprised to hear the results, they were relieved to learn that the improvements are not actually ones that require a contractor, rather are just do-it-yourself projects.

“A lot of the improvements are not glamorous, they’re tedious and they take a lot of time. So, if you’re handy, these are all perfectly easy things to do.”

Things like, weather-stripping doors, caulking cracks, or even using minimally expanding foam to seal the gaps, Tente explained. He also cleared up an urban myth.

“People say it’s a bad window, when in fact, it’s just the installation that’s not really correct.”

The City is hoping to reach up to 350 residents, but currently have 240 signed up. And while the original stipulations for the evaluation required residents to be 55 and older and own a home built before 1980, starting March 1st, the assessment will be open to anyone interested, regardless of age.


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