Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Saving Money Through Energy Efficiency

Saving money is hard but not as hard as you think. All buildings, old and new, have energy savings and energy production opportunities. Every building is unique and deserves a holistic view. Getting the right advice, the best product, and the good quality installation methods that are sustainable and not detrimental to the building must be the top priority of the building owner or steward.

“ I have done enough”, or “I just had an audit”, or “My building is fine”….there is more, always more. Technology is changing fast, but investing now is essential so you do not lose potential savings. There are ways to invest in technology and not be stuck with it through leasing and other options. The first step should be an energy audit or energy assessment through your energy supplier, a contracted professional, or even better, both. Some energy audits concentrate on only a few things to make a building better, since they are limited in scope and looking at the easy, low hanging fruit. Then there are the salespeople or contractors suggesting “the best product” when it is the only product they offer. The biggest problem is that each building AND each user are different, hence the holistic view.

A comprehensive audit should complete:
Building Survey
Age & general condition
Owner Interview
Review of use and conditions
Review energy costs
Base load and Seasonal Energy Efficiency
Air Flow and Control
Negative air test, or Blower Door Test
Vapor and Air Control Layers
Surveys various appliance and other penetrations, water control, etc.
Thermal Control and Layer Fenestrations
Surveys presence of insulation and thermal transfers of windows and doors.
Heating & Air Conditioning Performance
Analysis of the systems and distribution for efficiency.
Summary of Findings, Rebates and Incentives

Quick checklist or free audits look at the easy stuff, presenting a survey on utility bill analysis, building and equipment conditions, energy efficiency measures, and information about incentives available to fund energy savings measures. These audits can effectively look at the condition of heating and cooling systems, doors and windows, presence of insulation, lighting, and other easy building energy hog items, but miss a lot. They do not introduce certain technologies, neglect individual building dynamics and age, do not consider longevity and life cycles, nor look at returns of investments of various options. While I do think free audits are valuable, I do not think it is enough to be actionable. Anything free is good, but people, and buildings, need more. A comprehensive energy assessment looks at some of the more challenging items and issues.

There are rebates and tax incentives for upgrading, retrofitting and replacing older products with new, energy efficient models. There are also programs and incentives for renewable energy. These programs are available to homeowners and commercial building owners who pay taxes or use energy. Yet these rebates and incentives are a challenge to navigate and sometimes difficult to find, but start by calling your power supplier. They will offer a free audit, which you should get, but do not stop there. Why? Because there is more.

The “more” is consideration of the individual items. The next few columns will cover such items as the tax rebates and incentives, solar, wind, LED’s, and various forms of heating and cooling systems.

For instance, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) can save you 75% or more and last 10,000 hours, but light-emitting diodes (LED) can save 87% and last 30,000-50,000. CFL’s are better, but contain mercury and take a long time to warm up in the cold. Blown in insulation can effectively insulate a, but it does not air seal as well as spray foam insulation.

Like everything else, spray foam and LEDs have issues. A LED can cost three times as much as a CFL. Spray foam can cost four to five times as much. And LEDs and spray foam have to be selected carefully, since installing the wrong one in the wrong way means you have to live with it a lot longer. But, the return of investment over the lifetime of the product is much higher for spray foam and LEDs. The same goes for many products, appliances, and techniques where the pay back is better, but costs a bit more up front.

We should strive to get past this idea that responsibility goes for five years or less. Doing the best, buying the best, and considering impact are ways to save money, resources, and perhaps our future. Think about what cheaper now means to you.

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