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You are here: Home > Energy Efficiency Q & A

Green Building is energy efficient building.  With the price of energy hitting the roof, everyone wants to know what can be done to save energy.  Just spending the same amount this year would be an achievement.  What can you do first?


The first thing to do is have an energy audit done on your house.   Check out http://hes.lbl.gov/  This is a quick, on-line bunch of suggestions about your house put together by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.


Q: What’s an energy audit? 


A: It’s a bit like taking your house the doctor for a check-up.  Only these doctors make house calls!  (It’s sort of hard to move your house.)  An energy auditor should have the tools to do a thorough audit (if you have a choice ask for an in-depth or comprehensive audit).  They will walk around your house and note how much insulation you have in your attic, how tight the windows are, how much insulation is in the floor, the age and type of the appliances, etc.  They’ll ask a bunch of questions, and they should also use a blower door and an infrared camera.


Q: What’s a blower door? 


A: A blower door is a frame that the auditor will set up in the doorway to the outside with a large fan in it.  The auditor will set up your house to make sure that air is coming from the right places and that the fan won’t be sucking a bunch of soot out of your woodstove or fireplace.  The auditor will keep increasing the air flow out of your house until a standard negative pressure point (50 Pascals) is reached.  That will tell the auditor how leaky the house is and what the possibilities are for improvement.  The auditor should also be able to use a “smoke” pencil to determine where the leaks and holes are that need to be fixed.


Q: What’s an infrared camera? 


A: An infrared camera is better than putting your house through an X-ray machine.  The camera can easily see where there are cold or hot spots indicating places where the insulation isn’t working the way it should.  It can also be used to find water leaks if the temperatures are right.  The camera sees differences in temperature.  The greater the temperature difference the clearer the picture.


Q: Where can I get an energy audit? 


A: Many utilities will provide energy audits free of charge.  Look up “Free Energy Audits” on-line or talk to your local utility.  Our experience tells us that sometimes you get what you pay for.  The free audits may not provide all the information quickly enough.  Heyoka Solutions offers comprehensive energy audits in SE Massachusetts area.  Cost is based on the depth of information and size of the house.  You can find a variety of independent energy auditors on-line in other areas.


Q: I know my house is leaky, but why can’t I just get a solar electric system or a ground water heat-pump to solve the problem?


A: A house is a system.  You will get the most value for your investment if you make improvements in the right order.  For example, if you decide to change your central air conditioner before you improve your insulation, you might end up with an air conditioner that is oversized.  Besides being a waste of money, if the AC is oversized it won’t make you comfortable because it won’t run long enough to dry out the air.  Many utilities have rebates for solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) systems, but they won’t give them to you unless you get an energy audit first.  Getting an energy audit is like getting a road map.  You may not be able to afford or have the right roof for a full PV system, but it might be able to carry some of your load.


This is not a single “widget” solution problem.  A whole bunch of small solutions will make a big difference in your energy costs in the years to come.


Check out the Department of Energy’s consumer site http://www.doe.gov/forconsumers.htm for more information on all sorts of energy related subjects.