Winter in the Pacific Northwest has officially arrived, with a familiar sting from the higher utility bills and extra maintenance to go with it. This year, instead of feeling trapped by winter’s demands, make some changes to improve the efficiency and longevity of your home. This begins with an energy audit.
Although not required, an energy audit is strongly recommended. For example, windows are commonly blamed as a cause of energy inefficiency. Even the best window is a relatively poor insulator. A little weather stripping and air sealing can make an old single-pane window perform almost as efficiently as a new storm window, but at a fraction of the cost. A competently performed energy audit can save a homeowner thousands and will provide a list of prioritized improvements ranging from relatively inexpensive, DIY projects to advanced efficiency upgrades.
Whom Should You Choose?
Arciform, an Energy Trust Trade Ally, provides home energy performance testing in period homes. Above an Arciform technician performs a blower door test to analyze how leaky this house is and where air sealing would be most effective. This service reaffirms Arciform’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Call today to schedule an audit of your home at 503-493-7344 or visit www.arciform.com
When selecting an energy auditor, look for the Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification. A BPI certification is recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as the mark of a trained professional who is able to competently perform and recommend retrofits to existing homes. Other complementary, but not necessary professional certifications to look for in the Pacific Northwest are Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, HERS rater, Sustainable Homes Professional (SHP), and Sustainable Building Advisor (SBA).
Additionally, beware of contractors stressing thermal imaging cameras as the key to discovering a home’s energy inefficiencies or heating/cooling leaks. While thermal imaging cameras have their place in the building tests, they play a very small role making energy improvement recommendations.
A basic energy audit should at minimum include a blower door test, a duct blast test, a basement/crawlspace and attic inspection, and a diagnostic testing on HVAC systems. In other words, if your energy auditor isn’t getting dirty, then it probably isn’t a very good audit.
If You’re Going to DIY, Do It Right
Before making any of the recommended improvements, homeowners should do their research and have a good grasp of the best practices for the upgrade work. Older lighting and electrical systems can pose some serious fire hazards. Knob and tube wiring requires cool air. Therefore, knob and tube wiring in an attic crawlspace cannot be blanketed with blown-in insulation. Please contact an electrician before beginning any work.
Channel Nature’s Wrath
The rain and snow from Pacific Northwest winters can take a toll on landscaping and a home’s exterior. Hardscapes such as driveways and walkways force stormwater into unnatural collection areas that can lead to flooding and even erosion. Homeowners dealing with this problem annually should look into how to mitigate the damage through proper drainage. If it’s time to replace a hardscape, homeowners should do so with permeable pavement products, ensuring a deeper gravel sub-layer to allow for rapid water pass-through.
Siding, decks, fences, and roofs are subject to the most severe weathering. The first rule of sustainability is to not tear down a perfectly good deck, fence, roof, or siding. Properly sealing wooden decks and fences will prolong their lives. Make this maintenance healthier by using low-VOC products. If a replacement is necessary, invest in durable, engineered wood products such as recycled plastic lumber for decking or fences, and fiber cement siding. These products, as well as the latest roofing materials, often carry warranties for 40 or more years.
Frozen pipes and irrigation lines can cause costly damage. Remembering to flush the water out of sources prone to freezing can save a homeowner thousands.
Lastly, please recycle any products being replaced. Asphalt shingles, driveway concrete, wood, and pavers can all be recycled. Depending on what is being recycled, the Internet is full of opportunities for buying, selling, and trading recycling building materials.
Andrew Norris is the Marketing Specialist at Earth Advantage Institute. Through writing and graphic design, he strives to simplify the message of sustainability. Norris can be contacted at 503-968-7160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.