Glendale’s Carl Jordan purchased his 2,250-square-foot home in 1976 with wife Nancy, and they successfully raised two sons there.
In July 2014, he called his utility company, SRP, to request a Home Performance with Energy Star checkup to see if it was equally successful in energy savings.
He learned from the checkup what he already knew: The house was super inefficient.
“The house is masonry construction with only two inches of insulation in the walls, and the attic insulation is inadequate as well,” he said.
Also in the West Valley, Samantha Solis and her family have lived in their 3,783-square-foot Laveen home for four years. She requested an audit in May 2014 for her then nine-year-old home.
Solis’ sister had had her home audited and recommended that she do this, too.
“Her home is more than 50 years old and was found to have multiple problems, wasting a massive amount of energy,” she said.
A wary consumer, she was defensive from the start.
“I did so expecting that the company was only interested in upselling me on services I didn’t need,” she said. “However, the service I received was beyond my expectations.”
Since late 2011, SRP has offered the Home Performance with Energy Star checkups to help homeowners make money-savings performance-based energy decisions. Approximately 3,000-4,000 audits are now done annually.
After completing an initial interview to learn more about your energy behaviors and habits, the auditor performs a full home assessment, including a blower door test to check air leakage into the home and out, said Terry Rother, SRP senior analyst for Product Development.
These assessments are conducted by independent Building Performance Institute-certified contractors, who meet SRP program requirements.
The test also includes insulation effectiveness; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning performance; air-duct leakage and restrictions; construction integrity issues; ceilings; and other “hot-spot” areas.
“After completing an in-depth inspection, the contractor will provide upgrade recommendations and break down potential savings,” Rother said. “If improvements are selected, your contractor can perform the work and help you receive available and eligible rebates and financing offers to offset costs.”
The total for testing, with an SRP rebate, is $99: Compare this with home audits costing between $500-$700. As part of the program, homeowners receive five LED light bulbs, one water-saving, low-flow shower head and one water-savings toilet tank bank. You must be an SRP residential electric customer to qualify.
“The testing lets customers know how their home is performing, areas that can be addressed to improve the home’s performance,” Rother said.
Each customer receives a report in which the contractor has modeled the home in a computer simulation, providing a fairly accurate estimate of the potential savings.
The auditor will suggest low-cost/no-cost solutions to help you save money, such as setting a programmable thermostats to take advantage of various SRP time-of-day price plans.
In the first four years of the program, SRP and its certified auditors have seen many examples of improper installation of insulation, missing insulation, disconnected and constricted air ducts and improper air sealing.
“Most homeowners believe that as long as there is insulation in the attic, their house is insulated, but if the insulation isn’t in 100-percent contact with the surface (usually the drywall) and there are gaps or voids, the insulation will not perform as intended,” Rother said.
Savings vary by homeowner and which measures are selected to improve energy performance.
At Carl Jordan’s home, his contractor first provided a quote to complete the items that needed to be done to improve the home’s efficiency. The company then spent two weeks evaluating and improving areas suggested by the audit.
“Much of the work was spent in the 140-degree attic before they sprayed the attic with additional insulation,” he said. “They worked pretty much every work day for 7−8 hours.”
The skeptical Solis heard from her auditor that her house was well built and there was little that he would need to recommend.
“This was a pleasant surprise,” she said. “When a repair man shows up at your home, how often do they say ‘Everything looks pretty good, there’s very little for me to do here’?”
He did suggest sun screens for her windows and an AC system that would allow her to temperature control each of her rooms separately.
“While I have not made these upgrades yet,” she said, “they are something I am considering in the future.”
Those interested in an audit can go online to savewithsrp.com to complete a free online home energy audit, clicking under the DIY caption on the Home Energy Audit tab to see if an in-home checkup may be of help.