Energy audit helpful step in improving home's efficiency
By Joe Napsha
Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
When heating bills rise as the weather turns colder, the owner of a Murrysville-based home energy audit company expects to get busy.
“Home energy audits become real popular in the winter time. Once the December and January bills come in, we get busy in February, March and April,” said Michael J. Ashburn of Pittsburgh Energy Audit, which has conducted residential energy audits for five years in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
Such an audit helps a homeowner determine whether a house is losing energy and money — and ways to correct problems and boost energy efficiency, according to the Department of Energy.
A professional technician can check a house for leaks, examine insulation, inspect the furnace and ductwork, perform a furnace blower door test, and use an infrared camera to detect leaks.
The government operates the Energy Star program, which claims to have helped people save $18 billion on utility bills in 2010 through energy-efficient products and practices. With energy conservation work performed by trained contractors, the Energy Department says, homeowners could slash utility bills by 20 percent.
Proper weatherization of a home is crucial to conserving energy and cheaper than buying a furnace or air conditioning unit, Ashburn said. Sealing leaks and adding attic insulation are important, he said.
“One-half of the heating we lose is in the ceiling” through the attic, Ashburn said.
Heat loss also can occur through walls, which cover more square footage of a house than the ceiling, said Rhett Major, owner of Energy Doctor of North Huntingdon, who does energy audits for commercial and residential properties. He has been in the business 25 years.
Armed with a thermal imaging detector to determine heat loss, Major said he finds that heat doesn't just escape around windows or doors. “Hidden heat loss” can occur in the basement.
The potential to save money prompted about 450,000 West Penn Power residential customers to participate in at least one of the utility's energy conservation programs since January 2010, when Act 129 mandated statewide utility conservation programs, said Todd Meyers, a spokesman for West Penn Power in Greensburg.
About 48,000 customers took advantage of its energy-efficient appliance rebate program, Meyers said. Almost 9,000 customers retired old, inefficient refrigerators, freezers and air conditioning units for recycling, Meyers said. About 13,000 customers took advantage of the utility company's free home energy online audit.
Customers can get a walk-through energy audit for $50. The auditor might install energy-saving products worth up to $50, which can include compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy-saving surge protectors, water heater tank wraps and water heater pipe insulation.
A walk-through or energy survey that identifies problems and suggest cost-effective solutions can cost $225 for most homes. A home energy tune-up with a detailed report on energy efficient measures can cost $335.
Though people might hesitate to have a home energy audit because of the cost, following an inspector's advice could save a homeowner money, said Douglas Arrison, CEO of dasolar.com, a Washington-based firm that markets the services of energy auditors in Pittsburgh and other cities.
“One of the best ways to save is not to use the energy,” Arrison said.
Arrison recommends homeowners select an independent energy auditor.
“The good auditors are the ones who don't do the repair work,” Arrison said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Chocolate prices expected to soar as ingredients grow more expensive
- Pandora sued by record companies
- Mazda recalls 109,000 older SUVs
- Investment in Western Pa. startups reaches 5-year high
- Under the Hood: A chance to take top cars for a spin
- Chrysler’s Easter eggs fun for vehicle owners
- Heinz offers Pittsburgh workers a buyout if they are unhappy
- 2014 Beetle is celebration of 65th American anniversary
- Wages have soared in Pittsburgh, but economy appears to have stalled
- Squeezed by competition, Chobani to expand offerings
- Pa. unemployment rate falls to lowest since 2008; 12,000 more enter workforce