During the June GreenWheaton/Silver Spring Green Energy Workshop, we learned that saving energy and utility costs in Maryland has gotten a lot easier. During the workshop we learned about the EmPOWER Maryland Act, enacted in 2008, which sets a state goal of achieving a 15% reduction in per capita electricity consumption and 15% reduction in per capita peak demand by 2015, compared to 2007 levels. To meet those goals, utilities are providing incentives to homeowners and businesses to save energy. Informed homeowners can take advantage of these incentives to reduce their energy use. By participating, you will help the environment, and also support some local green businesses.
The first step in reducing your home energy use is to get a Home Energy Audit. The audit includes reviewing your utility bills, determining insulation levels, documenting your heating and cooling equipment, conducting combustion safety & efficiency tests on your heating systems, and evaluating the air tightness of your home. Our home audit was thorough, taking two to three hours to complete. The cost was modest. In addition to our home audit, our home audit included an evaluation to determine if our gas heating systems were operating safely. The gas heating systems safety inspection included “spillage tests” (tests that check that the safe discharge of flue gases is not affected by exhaust fans in the house ), exhaust flue draft tests, gas leak testing of pipes, and testing for excessive carbon monoxide (CO) emissions. A heating system that is not operating energy efficiently may not be operating safely. This information alone was well worth the cost of the Home Audit.
The home auditor found ways that we could save money at low or no cost. For example, we did not know that the top of our window in our laundry room was open by about ½”. The auditor also found several areas in the home where outdoor air was infiltrating into the house. Caulking and sealing these gaps cost little and will save us money and improve the comfort in our house. As part of the home audit, the auditor replaced our remaining incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, installed some low flow aerators and shower heads and insulated some of our hot water lines.
After our home energy audit was completed, our home energy audit report was prepared. Our report included an estimated break down of our energy costs by end use category (air conditioning, water heating, etc.), an energy efficiency comparison to other homes similar to yours, home air tightness (our home’s air leakage rate) compared to an optimal rate, and home improvement recommendations.
As a result of the audit, we will immediately save money on our utility bills, and I now have a written plan to reduce my energy use further and detailed instructions to seal up our home.
Two local home auditing firms are Eco Beco http://www.ecobeco.com/ and Elysian Energy http://www.elysianenergy.com/site/ Additional energy firms that serve our county can be found at www.mdhomeperformance.org.