Source: 2005 Building Energy Data Book, Table 4.2.1
The first step to taking a wholehouse energy efficiency approach is to find out which parts of your house use the most energy. A home energy audit will pinpoint those areas and suggest the most effective measures for cutting your energy costs. You can conduct a simple home energy audit yourself, you can contact your local utility, or you can call an independent energy auditor for a more comprehensive examination. For more information about home energy audits, including free tools and calculators, visit the Consumer's Guide or the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) consumer page. Energy Auditing Tips
Check the insulation levels in your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces. Visit the Consumer's Guide for instructions on checking your insulation levels.
Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air into or out of your home.
Check for open fireplace dampers.
Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained. Check your owner's manuals for the recommended maintenance.
Study your family's lighting needs and use patterns, paying special attention to high-use areas such as the living room, kitchen, and outside lighting. Look for ways to use lighting controls—like occupancy sensors, dimmers, or timers—to reduce lighting energy use, and replace standard (also called incandescent) light bulbs and fixtures with compact or standard fluorescent lamps.
Formulating Your Plan After you have identified where your home is losing energy, assign priorities by asking yourself a few important questions:
How much money do you spend on energy?
Where are your greatest energy losses?
How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
Do the energy saving measures provide additional benefits that are important to you (for example, increased comfort from installing double-paned, efficient windows)?
How long do you plan to own your current home?
Can you do the job yourself or will you need to hire a contractor?
What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair?
Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save the most money. Another option is to get the advice of a professional. Many utilities conduct energy audits for free or for a small charge. For a fee, a professional contractor will analyze how well your home's energy systems work together and compare the analysis to your utility bills. He or she will use a variety of equipment such as blower doors, infrared cameras, and surface thermometers to find leaks and drafts. After gathering information about your home, the contractor or auditor will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort and safety. A good contractor will also calculate the return on your investment in high-efficiency equipment compared with standard equipment.
Heat Loss from a House A picture is worth...in this case, lost heating dollars. This thermal photograph shows heat leaking from a house during those expensive winter heating months. The white, yellow, and red colors show heat escaping. The red represents the area of the greatest heat loss.
Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the "Stimulus Bill" (The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) that made significant changes to the energy efficiency tax credits. These changes apply to products " placed in service" in 2009. The highlights are: The tax credits that were previously effective for 2009, have been extended to 2010 as well. The tax credit has been raised from 10% to 30%. The tax credits that were for a specific dollar amount (ex $300 for a CAC), have been converted to 30% of the cost. The maximum credit has been raised from $500 to $1,500 total for the two year period (2009-2010). However, some improvements such as geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, and solar panels are not subject to the $1,500 maximum. The $200 cap on windows has been removed, but the requirements for windows (after June 1, 2009) has been increased significantly. Not all ENERGY STAR qualified windows will qualify after June 1, 2009. Installation costs ARE COVERED for: HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems, Biomass Stoves, Water Heaters (including solar), Solar Panels, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Wind Energy Systems, & Fuel Cells. The tax credit for HVAC, biomass stoves, and non-solar water heaters is 30% of the total cost (product + installation) up to $1,500. The law specifies installation costs include: "expenditures for labor costs properly allocable to the onsite preparation, assembly, or original installation of the property." The tax credit for solar water heaters, solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, wind energy systems, and fuel cells* is 30% of the total cost (product + installation), with no upper limit. The law specifies installation costs include: "labor costs properly allocable to the onsite preparation, assembly, or original installation of the property and for piping or wiring to interconnect such property to the home." Installation costs are NOT covered by the tax credit for: Windows, Doors, Insulation, & Roofs The tax credit for windows, doors, insulation and roofs is for 30% of the cost of materials only, up to $1,500. Read this FAQ on separating out the cost of installation for these products. Learn more at: energystar.gov/taxcredits.
Thank you and feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding this matter.