Home Energy Audit Called Key To Reducing Waste

OCEAN CITY – Maryland homeowners can be reimbursed through federal and state rebate programs to improve energy efficiency.

This week the Maryland Coastal Bays Citizens Advisory Committee hosted a presentation on reducing energy waste and rebate programs available to homeowners.

Allen Luzak of Total Home Performance has been performing energy audits for 25 years. He said that most homeowners are under the impression that their homes are energy efficient because the builder told them so, as well as the builder has to follow certain building codes.

Over time the infrastructure of a house changes and it is important to test your home in energy efficiency. For example, the insulation in your home is displaced, allowing conditioned air to be replaced by unconditioned air, resulting in additional energy expenses.

According to Luzak, the best way to make a home more energy efficient is to start with an energy audit, the least expensive method. It is a common belief that by installing renewable energy it is the best way to make a home “green”, but also the most expensive.

“That’s not where you start that’s where you end up, you start with fixing the problem that you live in,” Luzak said.

According to Luzak, the best way to make your home energy efficient is to “air seal and insulate”.

An energy audit is an affordable and practical way to increase a home’s efficiency and value. By using methods such as a door blower test or infrared scan, participating contractors can identify problem areas in your home as well as a solution.

A door blower test is a fan that mounts into the frame of an exterior door. The fan pulls air out of the house, causing outside air to flow through unsealed cracks and openings.

An infrared scan, or thermal imaging, allows the contractor to spot where the cold or hot air is entering the home, usually through attics or crawl spaces.

“Both the door blower test and the infrared scan are important tools,” Luzak said. “Both give you a lot of information, but one without the other only gives you a piece of the puzzle.”

Once the problem areas are identified, the contractor will go to those areas and seal the cracks and openings. They do this with different methods, such as adding cellulose blown insulation in the attic or crawl space, a crawl space encapsulation, or duct sealing.

Cellulose insulation takes on a liquid like property that lets it flow into cavities and around obstructions to completely fill walls and seals every crack and seam. The contractor could also use spray foam insulation, which has the same properties.

“In my opinion…they should outlaw fiberglass insulation,” Luzak said. “Spray foam, spray foam, spray foam everything.”

According to Total Home Improvement, 30 percent of floor air comes from the crawl space. A crawl space encapsulation results in a space that will contribute to the overall health and safety of a home.

Other areas conditioned air can escape is through attic hatches, basements, windows, doors, recessed lighting, plumbing stack vents, bathroom fan vents, electrical outlets, and dryer vents.

There are federal and state incentives that assist a homeowner in making their home more energy efficient.  Governor Martin O’Malley’s statewide EmPOWER Maryland is a goal to reduce Maryland’s energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015.

One incentive is through the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) Home Performance Rebate program, which offers homeowners rebates in home energy efficiency improvements.