Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Home Energy Audit

Being on the second floor has its perks and one of them is that heat rises from the apartment below and warms my space. Due to this, my heating bills typically haven't been too bad - under $200/month for electricity and natural gas. I also have my programmable thermostat drop the temp way down during the day while I'm at work, I don't set it above 68 degrees, and my apartment is only 1250 square feet. That being said, my bill did go up by 50 dollars one month this winter, which is more than enough for this cheap skate to say Enough!

So with me being the green building professional that I am, it's fairly embarrassing that it's taken 3 1/2 years to deal with the energy consumption of the house. To be fair, it's taken a lot to get it into livable condition, and then rentable condition, so I could actually live here and stuff. 

But as my father is known to say, I don't want excuses, I want production! So here we are.

Fortunately in New York State, we have NYSERDA, which deals with energy efficiency in all forms, from industrial to residential. There has been a program for home energy audits for years, however, new in the past couple years is the ability to pay for energy upgrades through On-Bill financing. It is a low cost loan that is paid as part of your utilities bill. This removes the upfront costs associated with paying for energy upgrades, and lowers your monthly energy usage. It is also available to homeowners with less than perfect credit which might disqualify them from typical loan instruments. Another great thing is that payments are transferable if you sell your property, so you can take advantage of lower bills now without the fear of being saddled with a loan if you must leave your home!

Energy efficiency measures are specifically selected for your house as a result of the energy audit and payback is calculated with your energy bills. The most energy and cost efficient measures are selected and designed so that the new loan payment plus your newly lowered energy bills are less than what you were previously paying for utilities alone. Once your loan is paid off, you are left with your significantly lower bills. Win! 

It's also applicable to multi-family housing like my two family, which is great, because a lot of energy is wasted in landlord/tenant situations because while the landlord owns the things that use energy, the tenants pay for the energy. Thus the landlord has a disincentive to upgrade, and the tenant has limited power to lower their bills.  Something like this brings the two parties together. I benefit, my tenants benefit, there is much rejoicing.

So how does one go about getting one of these magical energy audits?  First stop, the NYSERDA website: NYSERDA Residential Energy Efficiency. Here you will find everything you need to get going. Me being me, I applied for an energy audit online and got my reservation number before contacting any of the BPI certified contractors on NYSERDA's list to do the audit. I also applied for the financing and got my pre-qualification letter before the audit happened, which apparently is kind of over achieving according to the guy who did my energy audit. (Shocking, Nerd Alert!) I fully support doing so though, because it was really useful to have the possible loan amount available when selecting what measures I wanted to pursue. I was pre-qualified for the highest amount - $25,000, which meant I can probably do everything I want.

After I got my applications in order, I called ZeroDraft to do my audit. I picked them because they could do the audit as well as the insulation and heating system work that I assumed I would need. So laziness out of the desire of not having to deal with multiple companies won out. There are a lot of companies out there that do this work that are approved by NYSERDA, I would suggest researching several of them to find one that fits your needs.

The audit itself is comprised of testing heating systems, checking insulation levels, and looking for sources of air infiltration via a blower door test. I didn't end up having the blower door test done because I have asbestos on my heating pipes in my basement and something about liability, blah blah blah. It's wrapped in plastic and in good shape, but I understand the company's stance. It's ok though, because in an old house like mine, it's finding the places *without* the air leaks that is the challenge. I told the guy upfront that I was an architect and very familiar with energy saving and this process so I didn't get his whole schpeel. If you aren't, you'll get a more in-depth description along the way.

First we went in the attic, where we concluded that more insulation and air sealing was needed. Duh. Then he toured the two apartments, noted my janky-ass windows, and headed to the basement so he could test the heating systems. Just because my boilers were 30+ years old and covered in rusty holes, he called them "scary". What a weenie! (He also pointed at the blue and white mottling on the walls and beams and asked if that was mold. Nope, just super awesome sponge painting. Because who doesn't sponge paint their unfinished, damp basement?)

From my first tour of the house. It's mildly less creepy down here now.

So then we went back up to my apartment to fill out paperwork and see how much all this was going to cost. We decided on a new combination boiler/on-demand water heater for each unit, basement rim joist spray foam insulation, and dense pack cellulose insulation for the attic. This came in at about $20,000. I need soffit venting as well, which should qualify as part of the "other measures" section of the loan, so they are looking into it for me. Hopefully these measures will save me enough money so that I can save up for the new storm windows the house so desperately needs.

I am now in the waiting phase as the last of the paperwork for the loan is being processed. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll have more information on the timeline for the next steps in this process. I'll keep you guys posted!

1 comment:

  1. I read your post and i appreciate your efforts. The information that you share in the above article is very nice and useful .All the things that you share with people, are very nice. Thanks for this article. solar panels