At first, the deal seemed too good to be true. But soon it was apparent that home energy efficiency program improvements add up.
That was the view of La Crosse homeowner Allen M. who was suffering from cold drafts in his residence. “I could hear the furnace continuously switching on and running yet some rooms never really got warm.”
Allen was desperately seeking relief – relief from high energy costs and relief from the cold that was an uninvited guest throughout his home.
A noticeable lack of comfort
When Allen’s family moved into their 20-year-old home in 2015, they noticed that temperatures were not consistent. According to the Department of Energy, this is a common sign of poor insulation and lack of adequate air sealing.
After searching online for insulation, Allen found Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide home energy efficiency program which teams with Xcel Energy to help residents make smart energy decisions. At first, Allen was skeptical. He admits the offerings seemed too good to be true. But soon, he realized that home energy efficiency program improvements take on a cumulative effect, which increases effectiveness as insulation and air sealing elements are both added to the project.
First step: A whole-home energy savings assessment
Because Allen wasn’t exactly sure where to begin, he investigated the Home Performance Program from Focus on Energy. This home energy efficiency program option included a full-house energy audit, a customized report and recommended improvements.
“I was impressed,” Allen remarked. “They started with a blower door test, which is part of a whole-house air pressure evaluation designed to reveal air leaks. Next, they took an infrared gun to detect places on walls and ceilings where there was heat loss. This revealed spots in the house that had no insulation. I was quite surprised because these “cold spots” were not even up to the original building code, in a house which is only 20 years old!”
Like an open window
Surprising to many Wisconsin homeowners, The Department of Energy reports that a home’s insulation can settle over time, leaving some areas exposed. Enough small leaks and under-insulated spots throughout your home can be like leaving a window open all year long.
Home energy efficiency program details matter
After the initial blower test, a whole-house audit was performed. This included a report with a detailed list of insulation and air sealing recommendations and rebate opportunities.
“Insulating and sealing leaks were my priorities, from top to bottom,” Allen said. “We went with rigid foam in the basement, and cellulose insulation was blown into the attic. I believe there were 24 inches in total. Two contractors worked two days to unload a semi-truck trailer of insulation. Also, I sealed up leaks by removing the trim and using spray foam around windows and added insulated electric outlet covers where needed.”
It’s interesting to note that sealing doors, windows, and pipes, especially under sinks, not only keeps out drafts but also acts as a barrier against dust and pests.
The Outcome: Improved comfort with less energy use
“The most immediate change we noticed was that all the rooms were much more comfortable,” Allen said. ”It was good to know the home was operating more efficiently. Plus the money and energy savings inspired me to go 100 percent Windsource, the Xcel Energy program which allows residential customers to use wind-sourced electricity. I realize for renewables like wind power to be successful; it takes a genuine consumer effort. I know Windsource costs a bit more, but I feel it’s worth it.”
Other helpful home energy efficiency program savings tips:
• 10+ year-old heating and cooling systems are simply less efficient and more prone to
• New Energy Star-qualified heating and cooling systems can save you 10 percent in energy costs.
• A programmable or new smart thermostat can save you up to $180 a year in heating and cooling energy costs.
See if your home could benefit from some energy efficiency updates.
Xcel Energy customers who are Wisconsin residents can learn more about energy efficiency programs, savings opportunities and rebates at focusonenergy.com and xcelenergy.com