Guest post by Regina:
With the Green Revolution hitting the States this year, I had visions of solar panels on our roof giving our home enough energy to get us “off the grid.”
We scheduled an energy audit, and like most people, we were surprised by the results. First, we learned quickly to look at energy efficiency before moving to the renewable energies of wind and solar.
Solar is sexy! Insulation and furnaces are not.
Guess what? Our moody and lovable old furnace (circa 1990) is about 50% efficient, and the new ones are 95% efficient.
Instead of installing shiny new panels on the roof that glisten in the sun, we’ll be caulking around wooden window frames, adding insulation in the attic, installing a programmable thermostat along with a new furnace, and plugging up the two gas fireplaces that we haven’t used for more than 10 years. (We can easily unplug them later if we change our minds.)
Our home will be squeaky tight, the kind of tight efficiency we all need to conserve energy. Maybe next year we’ll look into sexy solar.
I’ll keep you posted as the work gets done and we start smiling at our energy bills.
Meanwhile, here are some pictures from our energy audit done on a cold Colorado day. They’re highly revealing infra-red photos. Blue areas indicate where cold air is streaming into the house from outside (or, more accurately, warmth is streaming OUT of the house). The pictures show the common leaky areas of most American homes—
- power outlets on outside walls
- recessed light fixtures
- the outer edges of the wooden window frames (notice that the windows themselves are not the problem)!