I give a ton of credit to Larry Koshire, Rory Lenton, and the staff at both Minnesota Energy and RPU for this program. In order to conserve energy you must first understand how much you use. To that end these organizations along with some other outside funds are offering two different tools.
1) Comparison – Many of us have received statements in the mail comparing your electrical usage to other similar sized and aged homes. My personal statement show that I am consistently in the top 10% and as high as #2 in terms of Energy use. For my fairly good sized home (~3400 sq. ft. finished) I typically use around 400 kWh per month. I have achieved significant savings relative to others without sacrificing quality of life at all. The biggest things that I have done are buy Energy Star appliances, install CFL and LED lights, turn off lights, and reduce vampire loads. I also pay a penalty because I now use a rechargable lawnmower instead of a gasoline model.
2) Heavily subsidized energy audit – for a lowly $125 I was able to get a full, intense energy audit that included a blower door test and infrared checking for heat / cooling loss. I have attached my report here. I am an energy nut, given my history in energy and electrical engineering but still got some tips that helped. I also have some of my suspicions verified. As a result of the energy audit I will be making the following changes, some of which were previous planned.
- Installing a clothesline. Long overdue and just common sense…
- Changing out my fireplace pilot light with an electronic ignition. This will eliminate about $2 of wasted gas per month.
- Better insulating my basement joists. I could actually feel the cold after the infrared detected it.
- Improving the insulation in my bonus room. As it turns out the building standards for these remain quite poor.
- Improve the seals around a couple of my exterior doors.
- Finish improved insulation at outlets.
- Add slatted solar shades on the large 2 story west facing windows at my property. The slats will block the summer sun, but allow the winter sun to come in. This was not a part of the audit, but I had an opportunity to discuss this with a skilled professional and he agreed with the wisdom.
One of the interesting things is I really got hit with the energy bug after I had built my home and if I were to do it again today there would be a few things I would change. Better insulation and geothermal heating and cooling would be no brainers. That said just building up to code and using a quality builder (Adam DeCook) left me with a home that was for the most part very efficient.
The auditor commented and I agreed that the benefit to my home is far less than for someone that has an older home, but I still got some benefit. I would strongly encourage almost everyone to go through this process.
The next step will be to implement PACE loans in Rochester so we give people of all income levels the resources to make the recommended improvements. I will write more about PACE loans some other time.