Tag Archives: energy audit

Stretch Your Budget the Furthest

By Brad Fletcher, Energy Analyst 

When a homeowner engages in energy efficiency upgrades on their home, the list of possibilities can sometimes feel exhausting. Unlike a kitchen upgrade or the addition of a bedroom, a whole house energy efficiency plan may be designed and executed over an extended period of time. An energy professional will help homeowners find the incentives and/or rebates available for the upgrades they recommend. Homeowners, with the help of an energy professional, typically develop a hierarchy of upgrades based on the cost effectiveness of each improvement for the home. Here are a few to start with:

Air sealing and insulating the home is an investment ranging from $50-$2000. Keeping the heat in and the cold out makes practical sense and is often the upgrade that stretches the homeowner’s dollar furthest.

Replacing the lighting with higher efficiency bulbs such as Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL) or Light Emitting Diodes (LED) can cost between $5-$50 per fixture and result in a short payback period making this investment a no brainer.

In a typical home, the heating and air conditioning system(s) consume the most energy and cost the most to operate. Upgrades to the HVAC system can result in considerable savings. Improving the mechanical system can include duct sealing, thermostat replacement, cleaning and tuning or in some cases, replacement with a more efficient system.  These improvements can range from $50-$3000 depending on the size of the home and extent of improvements.

Replacing water fixtures may seem like an unlikely way to save energy, but installing low-water usage or aerated fixtures in your kitchen and bathroom will reduce the amount of hot water needing to be generated by a home’s water heating system. Improving the efficiency of faucets and shower heads can range from $2-$200 and save both energy and water.

Older kitchen appliances can consume much more energy than newer, Energy Star rated appliances. Replacing old appliances that have become one of your home’s largest energy hogs will not only cut your total energy cost, but improve the look of your kitchen as well! A combination of dishwasher and refrigerator replacement range from $1500-$3000.

While there are abundant opportunities to improve the efficiency of an existing home, there are even more possibilities that exist in new home construction. This is due to both the technology that can be applied during the construction process as well as the ‘blank slate’ approach where builders can utilize more stringent standards and design features to improve the energy efficiency of your house. When constructing a new home, be sure to speak with your builder about how they can help reduce the cost of operating the home.

If you’re building a new home or doing energy upgrades to your current home, an energy professional can work with contractors and homeowners to calculate which upgrades provide the homeowner with the biggest bang for their buck. Beautiful light fixtures and stunning floor coverings are amenities you are able to see every day while energy efficiency is an amenity you can also feel and see on your monthly utility bills. With a wide range of upfront investment possibilities, energy efficiency is the only investment that will pay you back!

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Energy Audits and the Multifamily Property Owner

As an apartment property owner, you may have considered a building audit to identify sources of energy loss, allowing you to make impactful upgrades and save a considerable amount of money. If you are serious about saving money and would also like to be able to claim energy efficiency of your apartments as an incentive to prospective renters, be sure to consider an assessment that includes in-unit audits.

A recent report from CNT Energy and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy noted that energy-efficiency upgrades to the nation’s multifamily portfolio would result in an annual savings of over $3 billion.  Much of this savings would be realized by the property owners, however, tenants would also benefit.  According to a survey conducted by Strata Research, 89% of renters are willing to pay up to $50 more a month in rent in order to reap the benefits of energy efficiency.

“Auditing a sample set of units in an existing complex will usually provide all the necessary data to implement complex-wide updates”, says Steve Armstrong, Executive VP at ESG Energy and a leading proponent of green and energy-efficient multi-family housing. Cameron Bard, assistant project manager with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, notes “you just really want to get to the point where you’re able to recognize the patterns and common themes and opportunities among all the apartments”.

Practically speaking, the cost of conducting an audit that includes individual units can become too much of an investment for some owners. “If you just aren’t going to have the financing or capability of making building-wide retrofits, possibly, as units turn, you can perform those in-unit audits to see what can be done to improve energy use,” says Paula Cino, director of energy and environmental policy for the National Multi Housing Council.The degree to which in-unit audits play a role in the overall auditing picture varies from asset to asset. “It’s really goingto be driven by the design of those individual properties,” says Cino.

While some cities have legislated in-unit audits with whole-building assessments, energy efficiency regulations vary depending on location. To help address financial fears in the pursuit of energy efficiency through auditing, numerous associations, government agencies and utilities are offering incentives to attract building owners into performing energy audits. “Something we really try to emphasize for our building owners is that industry standards or assumptions are great to try and help get people off the couch and start making decisions to get those upgrades done,” Bard of NYSERDA says. “But not until you have an onsite, building-specific audit done or energy assessment performed are you going to be able to let the analysis drive the decisions.”