Home energy audits: Spend a little to save a lot

Home Energy Solutions is a program sponsored by Connecticut Light & Power designed to help homeowners improve their energy efficiency. For a cost of $75 (electric or natural gas heat) or $99 (oil or propane) technicians from a firm certified by CL&P will visit your home with the goal of helping you reduce energy consumption. This is achieved in a number of ways. One is by eliminating leaks and thus reducing the flow of cold air in the winter, or warm air in the summer, into your home. Another is to reduce electricity consumption by replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs). Also, the audit identifies other actions that can be taken, such as insulation, energy-efficient appliance upgrades and so on.

I had an audit performed on my 1970s house at the end of 2011 by a team of two technicians. One technician performed a blower door test — a special panel with a large fan was temporarily installed in my front door. The fan exhausted air from the house, reducing the pressure in the house. The technician was then able to identify and seal up leaks where air was rushing in from outside. At the same time the other technician went around my house replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs. A 60-watt incandescent bulb can be replaced with a 13-watt CFL, which lasts longer. In my case there weren’t many incandescent bulbs to replace since I had already replaced most of them. Now most of the bulbs in my house are LEDs. The same 13-watt CFL noted above can be replaced with a 3- or 4-watt LED, which lasts even longer than the CFL. At the end of the audit I had a much less leaky house.

This result alone would save me money in both electricity (summer cooling) and oil (winter heating). But the best was yet to come. I was presented with a detailed audit report suggesting other ways I could further reduce my energy consumption. The most significant thing was to improve the insulation. My house, like many of its age in Wilton, had old fiberglass insulation in the attic. The auditor estimated its R value (a measure of the effectiveness of the insulation) as less than 10. Blown-in cellulose insulation would cost $3,300 but would increase the R value to over 40. I had the insulation done early in 2012.

The cost of $3,300 was offset by a state rebate of $840 and a federal tax credit of $500, so my net cost was $1,960. I estimate that I have saved about 300 gallons of oil and 4,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year since, based on two years of history. These savings amount to over $1,900 per year, which means the insulation had about a one-year payback. In other words, I broke even in the first year and I am now spending $1,900 a year less than before to heat and cool my house.

If you are interested in achieving similar savings, there are some great resources to help you. Wilton Go Green (wiltongogreen.org) is a volunteer organization in Wilton with the mission of encouraging sustainable living. Energize Connecticut (energizect.com) was launched in 2012 to empower Connecticut residents and businesses to make smart energy choices. But perhaps the easiest resource of all is to go to the library this evening, Nov. 21, at 7, when Wilton Go Green and Wilton Library are sponsoring “A Dummy’s Guide to Home Energy Upgrades” with knowledgeable speakers about all things related to home energy efficiency.

Information: wiltonlibrary.org or 203-762-3950.