Nevada Energy Star Partners President Annette Bubak recently invested in her own home. Bubak, who leads the coalition of builders, developers, utilities, consultants, manufacturers and companies that promote green products and services, hired Green Energy Services of Nevada, a member of Nevada Energy Star Partners, to evaluate the energy efficiency of her 19-year-old tract home. This was designed to not only illuminate just how much energy is typically lost through older, sub-standard construction, but to demonstrate just how easy and inexpensive it is to improve a home’s energy efficiency.
According to Robert Sprague of Green Energy Services, the energy audit of Bubak’s home revealed a number of problems. “The attic and several connecting exterior walls were not insulated properly or were missing insulation entirely,” he said. “Insulation should touch drywall to ensure optimal performance. Overhangs, porches and decks each need an air barrier with proper insulation to maintain heat in the winter and cool air in the summer.”
Red Rock Insulation, another member of Nevada Energy Star Partners, added new insulation and repaired existing insulation to improve the R-Value in Bubak’s attic. The company also air sealed several areas within the attic to prevent un-conditioned air from leaking into the home.
According to Rebecca Merrihew of Red Rock Insulation, the company also checks for double walls, pop-outs and patio areas to ensure they are properly insulated. Air sealing and weather strip attic accesses are also checked and additional insulation is added if needed.
Older air conditioning units are a frequent cause of energy inefficiency and high utility bills, according to Sierra Air Conditioning that participated in Bubak’s home energy makeover.
“Annette’s downstairs air-conditioning unit was not working property due to a poorly designed and built return air plenum that caused it to leak air,” Sprague said. “So we reconstructed it to ensure it would seal properly. Air-conditioning ducts and equipment within the un-conditioned attic were also enhanced to increase the air flow within the home and ensure better performance.”
The energy audit on Bubak’s home also revealed significant leakage around her patio slider door. New seals fixed the problem.
According to Sprague, older, two-story homes like Bubak’s are typical of many homes in the Las Vegas Valley. “They are generally not well insulated, they lack air barriers from the garage that create poor indoor air quality and pull hot air from the garage inside. And they often have sub-standard heating and air-conditioning units.”
With improvements, there is considerable savings on monthly utility bills, according to Sprague. He estimates the total cost of repairs to Bubak’s home at about $1,500. “She will easily make that back in less than a year in utility savings. And more importantly, she and her family will enjoy better indoor air quality and reduce consumption of natural resources. It takes so little to make a big difference.”
The ultimate test of a home’s energy makeover is its Home Energy Rating Systems score. A net zero home that generates as much power as it uses would score a 0, so the lower the score, the more energy efficient the home. Most resale homes today have scores between 120 and 140. Each 1-point decrease in the HERS Index corresponds to a 1 percent reduction in energy consumption.
“Before the energy audit and subsequent improvements, Annette’s home scored a 150. After completing minimal upgrades, it scored 118 — a 32 point drop which corresponds to a 32 percent improvement in energy consumption — not bad for a minimal investment.”
According to Bubak, there are many small changes homeowners can make to further reduce energy consumption.
“Using surge protectors, changing light bulbs to Energy Star-rated CFLs, unplugging appliances when not in use, making sure the lights are turned off when you’re not in the room and adjusting temperatures are among the simple things families can do to further lower their utility bills and reduce energy consumption. Collectively, these small changes can make a big difference,” she said.
For more information, visit thinkenergystar.com.