New York State offers a grant to have your home inspected by a contractor from the power company to do an energy audit. They visit your home, look around, and offer suggestions and services needed to make your home more energy efficient. I had been on a waiting list (well, two, actually) since February, and my turn for the first grant rolled around last week. The contractor was here much longer than I anticipated, but I think the audit was informative. The final result?
Our 1855 home is hopelessly inefficient and wastes a ton of energy.
This is what an energy audit entails, and this is how the house fared.
1. If your home in not insulated, the company will insulate it for you.
How I WISH I could do this! However, our home has bricks in between the studs (called “noggin”) and therefore the walls cannot be insulated. Also, we have the old knob-and-tube wiring, and it is illegal to insulate with this outdated kind of wiring (fire hazard). Insulating the walls would save us a lot of money toward our very high heating bills, but I cannot insulate until I gut the entire home. *sigh* Below is a photo I took of the living room walls, after I removed the plaster and lathe. The bricks are in the exterior walls all around the house, up to the top of the first floor. The second storey does not have these bricks. This may explain why the upstairs is absolutely FREEZING in the winter. And the lack of furnace registers may contribute, too. lol
2. If you have an old and inefficient furnace, hot water tank, and/or refrigerator, the company will purchase new ones for you.
Because of the flooding we had in 2006, we got a new furnace then. And our water tank is not terribly old (it’s been under a few floods but works well enough). And we bought a fridge about three years ago. So I missed out on the big-ticket replacements. If only they had offered to gut the house or re-wire!
3. The power company will replace all your incandescent light bulbs with the new compact florescent bulbs (we got six replacements, saving us $60 in bulb costs!) These bulbs generally last for up to ten years and reduce energy consumption. This makes me very happy. They are brighter than the bulbs we had, too.
4. The company will seal all air leaks (holes through which plumbing and electrical wires go, from the basement to the attic). Because of our plaster walls, bad plumbing which needs replacement, and 1920s wiring, this is not possible. The contractor did say he would insulate the rim joists in the basement (the wood sills which rest on the foundation walls). These have big gaping holes and I am thankful that they will do this for me.
5. The power company hands out brochures and information on how you can save energy and save money.
This we already do. We live extremely frugal. It’s the house itself that is wasteful. The house was built before electric wiring (even before gas lighting!), before indoor plumbing, before energy efficiency. They did not foresee needing to insulate the walls or making the walls thick enough for vent stacks, etc. Like the contractor said, “Those old guys didn’t make it easy, did they?”
Conclusion: I am doing everything I can to be as energy-efficient as possible, but the house is leaking energy like a sieve. It’s recommended that we renovate.
I repeat: duh!
I’m trying, I’m trying! lol We’ve got one room completely restored, and two rooms with completely new wiring. Two other rooms now have switched lights (see my post about that, here) but share one electrical receptacle. Like I’ve said before, it takes a TON of money to renovate a home these days.
Also: The contractor does check for natural gas leaks, and he found that we had THREE. Old pipe fittings (“old” as in 60 years, maybe) were crumbling. These were fixed in a day. These guys work fast- a sub-contractor came, shut off the gas, replaced the pipes, and was gone in two or three hours. It was amazing!
The energy audit was at no cost to me– it was part of a county-wide grant for eligible homeowners. They will assess your energy needs and help you out. They also give tips on saving energy (hang your clothes on a clothesline, shut off your “vampire” appliances like TVs and computers, etc).
If you are interested, contact your local HEAP office or Community Action group in your county. The second grant, which I hope to participate in soon, will inspect my windows, doors, etc. I am hoping they will replace my windows for me. These windows are 100-years old; some are cracked and many are moldy from age.