Energy Efficiency in New Hampshire Part 2: The Audit

Being constantly on the internet scouting for news to report to our readers on RenewableEnergyWorld.com, I end up discovering a lot of great programs and incentives for consumers that aren’t always that well-publicized. ::continue::

exterior of our home
Exterior of our home.

The best one that I found (for me) was one that I could actually use.  It turned out that my utility, Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) offers free (yes, free) energy audits to homeowners with electric heat in at least 30% of their home.  After the audit, PSNH pays for a large portion of the recommended upgrades to the home.  You can read about the program (and apply if you live in NH and PSNH is your utility) here.

We have electric heat in the bedrooms of our house and while we don’t always turn it on in our bedroom, we do use it to keep the kids bedrooms warm(ish) in the winter.  We also have electric heat the downstairs bathroom (presumably someone’s excellent idea of how to make sure that the pipes don’t freeze in the winter).

So last December, I signed up for the program.  About a month later I received a call from PSNH telling me that I qualified and a couple weeks after that, I received a call from Energy Efficiency Investments to schedule the audit.

He discovered a few things…::continue::

    First, there actually was an acceptable amount of insulation in the attic and under the eaves of the house, but Ed felt he could improve it.

    Second, he discovered that our basement had exposed pipes running to and from the water heater and exposed air ducts to and from the furnace.

    While he couldn’t do the blower-door test the first time around because his company had neglected to tell me that you couldn’t do the test with a wood stove burning (and it was February so our woodstove is always burning), he did come back to do the blower door test at a later date.

    He also couldn’t do an infrared scan of the house because, unfortunately, that wasn’t included in the PSNH audit. He suggested that we try to borrow one from a friend – maybe someone on the volunteer fire department.  While we did consider doing that, my husband thought that borrowing a very expensive piece of equipment from an acquaintance might not be the best idea.  So we passed.

    It turned out that it didn’t really matter because the blower door test said it all. (See image, left of Ed’s team performing our final blower door test.) Ed had difficulty establishing a reading at first and then finally came up with a number of 6600 CFM50.  “It was the highest I has ever seen,” he said.  While that wasn’t exactly surprising, it wasn’t very comforting either to learn that our house, in terms of efficiency, was the worst house he — a seasoned energy auditor — had ever encountered.

    I don’t completely understand what “6600 CFM50” means, but I asked Ed about it and he explained that it translates into air changes per hour (ACH), which refers to the number of times per hour that the interior air is completely changed.  Ed told me that 6600 CFM50 gives me an ACH of 1.43.  He also said that, “the government standard of an energy star home is no tighter than .35 ACH without introducing some type of mechanical ventilation into the home.”

    That means that my house has 4 times the air infiltration/exfiltration of an Energy Star home.

    Basically, I have a lot of work to do.

    About two weeks later, we received a list of his recommended improvements and our final cost.  He recommended aerators for the faucets, handheld showerheads, R30 cellulose for the attic, 5 programmable thermostats, 222 square feet of 2” Styrofoam for some of the walls, 20 linear feet of 5/8” wrapping for the pipes and a slew of CFLs. 

    PSNH funding amount: $2,381.

    Customer cost: $224.

    Next post:  The install

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    Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com

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