Energy audits on Columbus homes ease burden on wallets

Energy audits on Columbus homes ease burden on wallets

Angie’s List members Jerre and Barb Martin suspected their 35-year-old condo could be more efficient and an energy efficiency audit proved them right.

The couple, who live in central Columbus, hired highly rated Greene Solutions of Northwest Columbus to perform an energy audit and install attic insulation for $700. The company also offered tips such as sealing gaps around basement pipes and provided and installed water-saving shower heads.

“It’s made all the difference,” Barb says. “We already think our electric bill has dropped.” Service providers, such as Greene Solutions, which participate in American Electric Power of Ohio’s program to boost energy efficiency, charge $50 for a four-hour audit for all-electric homes and $25 for a one-hour audit for other homes.

Thomas Greene, co-owner of Greene Solutions, uses a blower door test to gauge air leakage and an infrared camera to show where heat loss occurs. “We look at everything from appliances to heating and cooling and insulation,” Greene adds. “We put it together in a report and figure out the best way to provide comfort and reduce your bills. If you only have a couple of bucks to invest, we look at where’s the best thing to invest.”

Insulation is measured by its thermal resistance, also known as its R-value. Higher values provide better insulation. The Department of Energy recommends insulation with a value of R-49 for homes in the Columbus area, but the insulation in both old and new houses may be less than that, says James Green, owner of A-rated Ohio Exteriors of Southeast Columbus.

Cellulose insulation tends to settle over time, providing less thermal resistance than when originally installed. “In the wintertime, the thicker the insulation in the attic, the less the heat escapes,” Green says. “In the summertime, it will actually keep the air cooler.”

Both Columbia Gas of Ohio and AEP offer incentives for energy efficiency audits and rebates for resulting work. Contractors who work through AEP’s program hold certification, and also undergo random as well as quarterly quality assurance checks to ensure work is done correctly.

Worthington member Robert Schwartz took advantage of rebate programs from both utility companies, saving more than $1,000 to replace his nearly 50-year-old HVAC system, after he received an energy audit from Greene Solutions. “I was going to replace my air conditioning and furnace,” Schwartz says. “This was the way to get those rebates.”

7 ways to save on energy bills

  • Windows. Caulk annually to make airtight or replace with more efficient windows.
  • Air ducts. Seal gaps or holes in air ducts to prevent heated or conditioned air from escaping in non-living spaces.
  • Doors. Check sealing 
annually so cold air can’t enter.
  • Insulation. Measure your insulation 
to make sure it’s enough and distributed evenly throughout the attic.
  • Recessed lights. Cover or insulate them to prevent air leakage into the attic.
  • Fireplace. Cover or seal if not using to keep air from escaping.
  • Furnace. Service unit in spring and fall or replace with more efficient unit.

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The blower-door test allows energy auditors to measure how airtight a building is and pinpoint potential leaks. (Photo by Mike Penney)
The blower-door test allows energy auditors to measure how airtight a building is and pinpoint potential leaks. (Photo by Mike Penney)

Energy audits offer relief and lower electric bills for Chicago homes. Experts examine insulation, conservation and power use to help you come up with the best ways to save energy.

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