Tonya BIna: When being green looks blue
Grand County, CO Colorado
My husband’s family cabin near Grand Lake has always been a thing of character.
Because so many great memories are entrenched in the home, we forgive its creeky floors, rusty faucet water and drafty single-pane windows.
Old mountain cabins are meant to be flawed, are they not?
Having only a ‘get-me-a-wool-blanket’ idea of the cabin’s energy waste, I thought it would be interesting to have Dave Clingman of Imagin3 Energy Solutions in Fraser do an energy audit.
Built around 1960, the structure remains sound, Clingman said. But its single-pane windows and spotty insulation are why bedrooms feel like Frigidaires and why a cold draft is sliding down the stairway.
This all became evident when Clingman set up a “blower door,” or a frame, tarp and big fan, serving to depressurize the home to just 50 pascals. One pascal, Clingman said, is roughly the amount of pressure felt by pad of sticky notes sitting on your hand.
When the cabin was depressurized, we walked around identifying problem areas with Clingman’s infrared camera.
Clingman called out culprits I hadn’t thought of, such as exterior wall outlets that let air escape, missing insulation in attic spaces, “cold spots” around baseboards and in wall corners.
Up in the attic, after Clingman had removed a baby’s discarded exersaucer piled on top of some misplaced fiberglass batt insulation – pink stuff he graciously put back up on the attic ceiling – he noticed a spider’s web in the corner.
Spider webs, he said, are big indicators of energy waste because spiders like to hang out in places where they have access to bugs, which can only be captured by way of an opening in the home. Eek.
Opposite the attic, Clingman examined the bowels of the home. Crawl spaces are common in Grand County, he said.
The furnace, a 50-year-old gasping Lennox – and duct work are located under the floor of the home and outside of its “thermal envelope.” The furnace is working harder than it should to push warm air in a very cold space, neither efficiently nor effectively. Besides a new furnace, the fix, he said, would be to “condition” the crawl space with a vapor barrier on the ground and insulated walls – its very own thermal envelope.
“It’s an effective way to create a more comfortable house,” he said.
Overall, the cabin’s heat escape can be summed up like this: It’s comparable to having a 4 square-foot hole in the house in mid-January.
We’re helping to heat the outside.
Cheap fixes could correct some energy wasters, such as foam gasket seals or childproof plugs in sockets and weather stripping doors and windows. Air sealing and caulking can help stop air movement. More expensive solutions would be to drywall attic spaces, encapsulating the insulation.
Other ways to save cabin energy are turning down the water heater – which was heating water up to an unnecessary 135 degrees F – changing out the furnace filter and replacing light bulbs. Unplugging appliances when the cabin is not in use is easy, as well as getting “smart strips” for TVs and other electronics.
All in all, the Imagin3 (imagin3group.com) audit is a 17-page customized prescription showing by priority how to stop energy bleeding.
The key will be implementation.
And, lucky for all homeowners in Grand County, there remains about $10 million in Colorado’s Governor’s Energy Office “Recharge Colorado” program, http://www.rechargecolorado.com. Residential rebates are still abundant for we rural folk, such as money off new appliances, $200 off new water heaters, $400 for gas boilers, $500 off furnaces, up to $150 off duct sealing and rebates ranging from $250 to $600 for insulation and air sealing remedies. There is also rebate money available for home energy audits. For more localized rebates, check out Xcel Energy, http://www.xcelenergy.com/residential. Or, visit http://www.dsireusa.org for a rebates map.
The Governor’s program has already generated as much as $60 million in consumer and development in the state, creating jobs – like Clingman’s.
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