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A Diet Plan for My Bill

My Home Fitness Evaluation

Just like every other year, I have once again resolved to become more physically fit. While I’m at it, I think I’ll ramp up our home energy fitness too. I’ve already completed my home fitness monitor and uncovered some savings. To extend my education, I invited Andy Butler and Brannon Hall from Home Diagnostic Solutions (HDS) into my home to perform a Personal Home Fitness Evaluation.

Butler says there are three main areas to focus on when addressing efficiency and comfort: air leakage, insulation and the HVAC system. Air leakage can be a huge problem. Ideally, a home would have around 35 percent natural air leakage every hour. Mine is 29 percent, so we don’t need to spend much time replacing thresholds or sealing windows, and it sounds like my dad’s fear of me air conditioning the neighborhood has been averted.

“Most homes don’t do so well on the leakage test. We’ve tested a lot of houses that lose upward of 75 percent of their air every hour,” Butler said.

I may have passed the leakage test, but I failed insulation. They said that my floor insulation is upside-down and I don’t have enough of it on my ceilings. If the insulation isn’t thick enough or put in the right way, the heat will escape right through the walls, ceilings and floors. Stacking my Christmas decorations on top of my attic insulation compacted it and made it less effective.

Hall said adding insulation is one of the easiest ways to whip your bills into shape. He said to set a goal of reaching R-49 instead of the code minimum R-30. Mine was R-28. He said that code is “the least you can get away with, so insulating only up to R-30 is like driving the minimum speed limit on the interstate.”

They also tested how well our HVAC system performed. Measurements were taken at each vent to test that our system was pumping what it should, where it should. Turns out, it’s not, and I am partially to blame. I buy thick, expensive allergen-reducing filters so my family can have really clean air. In this case, that choice is choking down my system. My ducts weren’t designed to handle such a thick filter. Their tests also showed that my return ducts have a problem letting air flow through. Between the ductwork and the thick filter, my system is being overworked.

“For energy efficiency, you want your HVAC system to breathe easily,” said Will Moyers, operations manager with HDS. Picking the right filter is not as easy as it seems. He says, “without proper testing, putting a tight filter in can be risky. If the filter or ductwork is too restrictive it will add to the stress of the machinery much like a clogged artery stresses the heart. A good filter keeps debris out of the machinery while allowing plenty of air to flow through. An HVAC contractor can design the duct system to work with heavy duty filters.”

In the end, I don’t have too much work to do. If I fix the few things on my list, I qualify for some rebates and HDS will come back to help me verify that the work was done correctly. If I pass the verification test, Jackson EMC will pay up to $1,700 in rebates as long as the work done meets some basic requirements.

  1. Evaluate. Get a personal Home Fitness Evaluation and receive specific home improvement recommendations. Jackson EMC members qualify for a $200 rebate on the service.
  2. Improve. Choose the recommended improvements that are ranked high on the list and make the biggest energy savings to receive Jackson EMC rebates. These will be an “A” or “B” recommendation on your evaluation report. You must use a contractor in JEMC’s Participating Contractor Network.
  3. Verify. Once the Energy Fitness improvements are made, a follow-up evaluation is performed to verify the work is done and qualify you for current rebates.
  4. Save. Jackson EMC offers rebates up to $1,700 for the Personal Home Fitness Evaluation and certain improvements. If changes are made, you may also qualify for the lowest energy rate available, the Energy Advantage Rate. Either way, you’ll begin saving both money and energy immediately.

For more information about getting your home energy fit, go to www.jacksonemc.com/energyfit. To learn more, visit www.emcsecurity.com or call 770-963-0305.