January 27, 2022
A worker installs weather stripping on a window

This winter homeowners are facing a difficult combination of rising energy prices and extreme weather conditions.

Unfortunately, many homeowners don't know that there is a direct link between the comfort of their home and the efficiency of its systems and components. For example, a home with drafty windows will be less comfortable and more expensive to heat and cool because the systems must work harder to maintain the indoor temperature.
An energy efficient home doesn't happen by chance; it requires a thoughtful and deliberate approach to determine where the air leaks and how to fix them. What systems are outdated or in need of repair? This is where a building analyst or certified energy auditor can be quite helpful. These people are professionally trained to find the air leaks and energy wasters in your home and recommend the best way to resolve them.
The primary things an energy auditor inspects include the heating/cooling systems, airtightness, insulation levels, and the types and quality of windows and doors. But it's important to look at the home as a complete system. 

A good energy auditor will go through the home from top to bottom with a comprehensive approach to evaluating the efficiency of the home. Heating and cooling systems are the single biggest users of energy in the home, followed closely by the water heater. Although we often think of older windows and doors as the worst offenders for energy waste, inadequate insulation and air leakage also cause significant heat loss, especially in the attic.
The age of the home will also have a direct bearing on how comfortable and energy efficient it is. Homes built in the mid-to-late 20th century had much less stringent building codes than most areas use now. Energy prices were lower and building science was less advanced, so it’s not surprising that older homes lose a lot of energy. Energy efficiency updates can make such homes much more affordable and comfortable to live in.
When improving your home’s energy use, a good rule of thumb is “first reduce, then produce.” Make your home as efficient as possible with air sealing, insulation, and window/door improvements, then consider a renewable energy system to meet your home’s energy needs. Many efficiency upgrade projects will pay for themselves in just a few short years. Some renewable energy systems, like solar panels, will typically pay for themselves in less than 10 years.
“Reducing the load” includes making sure you have air-sealed your home and have adequate, correctly installed insulation. Many rebates and other financial incentives are available for upgrading equipment. A good contractor will help find incentives that are right for you. Above all, make certain your contractor is licensed, bonded, insured, and certified by a professional credentialing organization such as BPI. Find a reputable contractor to start working on your projects here

Now is the right time to begin your efficiency upgrade projects. There are significant incentives available to help move toward zero carbon homes. Simple DIY upgrades, like LED light bulbs and smart-home technologies are just a couple things that are helping homeowners dramatically reduce their energy bills. You can check out the latest green building trends and technologies by visiting the BPI Facebook page here
Don't leave your home's efficiency and comfort to chance; develop a plan, consult with professionals and definitely do your research. Don't wait until the next heat wave or cold snap to start building a plan. Follow these steps and you will realize the triple win of increased comfort in your home, lower energy bills, and a reduced carbon footprint all at the same time. 


Author Curt Sommer, a white man in a dress shirt

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