A personal experience

Energy audit better defines cost-saving improvements

By Cindy Ladage

Jeff Lancaster of Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative performs a blower door test on the home of Cindy Ladage, a member of RECC and a resident of Virden.

February is the time of year when utility bills seem to be the highest and as you gaze at your energy consumption you begin to think, how can I reduce my bill? The light bulb goes on and the word “energy audit” comes to mind. While this is something I always say I am going to do, this year I decided to follow through and I called Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative, which is my energy provider. Dana Smith came to the rescue and hooked me up with my very own energy audit.

The first question to Dana before finalizing the home energy audit visit was, “What will this cost?” The wonderful answer was “nothing.”

Lucky me, I just happened to call at a quiet time of the year and my energy auditor, Jeff Lancaster, came out that very afternoon. Keep in mind that this is highly unusual. There is usually a wait, but on this day my timing was just right.

The first task that Jeff performed on my 1994 two-story was a blower door test. Pulling out equipment from a bag that reminded me of a Ghost Buster episode. He hooked up a plastic sheet at the entry to my garage and turned on a powerful fan that sounded like an airplane taking off. The fan that mounts to the frame of an exterior door is designed to show how much air loss our home was losing. It works by lowering the air pressure inside so the higher outside air pressure flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings and shows the leaks in the home. It was an eye-opening experience.

The next step was a walk around the house with an infrared camera to do thermographic measures throughout. The camera really caused a flashback to the day my son got a Ghost Buster backpack for Christmas and “blasted” the rest of the family. This camera didn’t blast anything, but used surface temperatures to find cold spots in the house. The camera literally “lit up” showing a blue/grey cast for cooler areas.

For years, my family had complained that upstairs was colder/hotter than downstairs and Jeff found the reason why – lack of insulation where our wraparound porch joins the house.

Jeff was brave enough to maneuver around our cluttered basement and check out the airducts, furnace and water heater downstairs. He traveled where no man should go! The end result showed that we need to caulk around our air ducts and should invest in a new energy efficient water heater and water softener. The good news is RECC offers a nice rebate for an electric hot water heater.

RECC did its part and I took the first step to reducing our energy use through a home energy audit. Armed with a list of ways to reduce our energy bill, and do my part to reduce our energy burden on the grid, the ball is in now in our park – we just have to take step number two!

You too can utilize energy-audit services offered by your rural electric cooperative. Keep in mind that references to rebates, costs and time frames for getting the audit vary according to the cooperative serving you.

Cindy Ladage of Virden is a freelance writer and member of RECC.