Wednesday, January 28, 2015

TONY & GILL, July 2009 completion - 114% projected to actual savings realization rate

My Mother and Stepfather's project

Mom and Tony live in a 3 bedroom 2.5 bath, 1800 square foot town home built in the early 1980's.  ​Their furnace and a/c were original and ​in summer of 2009 it seemed to them smart to consider replacement. The 25+ year old AC had died sometime during the previous summer, and the furnace was likely to follow any moment.

Their experience with "Home Performance" was not great. About a year before I got into the home performance business they had a company perform a "free" audit. This audit consisted of data gathering, a hastily prepared work scope, and a proposal for $14,000 worth of work. When Tony asked if there was any "cost/benefit" analysis for the recommended improvements, he was told that he would receive that if he signed the contract to have the work performed. 

Let me repeat, he was told he would get the cost benefit analysis, the decision making tool showing how and if to move forward, only AFTER making the decision to move forward.

This seemed a little bit out of order to Tony and my Mother, so they thanked the folks for coming and showed them the door.  As you can imagine, after that experience they were less than receptive to my suggestion of paying for an energy audit which included a comprehensive home assessment.

I explained that the report would show the improvement recommendations with the cost/benefit analysis Tony was looking for, and that if they elected to have work performed we would use the NYSERDA contractor incentive to pay for the audit - effectively crediting their audit fee towards the project, AND they would get a 10% consumer incentive from the program.  

Since they knew they needed a furnace and AC, and recognized that taking a closer look at this point might avoid missing opportunities or making mistakes, they agreed.

The audit results showed their current furnace was over-sized to their current and improved load. It also uncovered some weaknesses in their air barrier and insulation, all of which allowed us to paint a clearer picture of their options. Initially only interested in a new furnace, the process allowed them to see the wisdom of correcting obvious building deficiencies and then installing a matching system. 

They had their basement, attic and a hidden wall above the garage spray foamed, primarily for air sealing purposes, and installed a Carrier Infinity Hybrid Heat (modulating furnace and 2 stage heat pump) system with the critically important Infinity Communicating Controller. 

By reducing the homes leakage and improving the insulation we were able to install a smaller furnace.  This smaller furnace requires less airflow and is therefore much quieter and more comfortable even temperatures and better humidity control. The new equipment has 5 heating stages, so much of the season it can match the homes heat loss and run gently and continually.  It heats like a candle, which means big comfort and energy savings over the old on/off blowtorch they replaced. 


Tony: "I sleep through the night and don't get nose bleeds or chapped hands."
Gill: "The temperatures are much more even throughout the house, and that fantastic air filter means there is a LOT less dusting."
Our projected savings for the work performed was 349 kWh and 182 therms, which converted to $282 at the NYSERDA required pricing of $.1610 kWh and $1.42 therm

Below are before and after annual consumption numbers;

622 therms 5/10-4/11
422 therms 4/11-3/12

11201 kWh 5/10-4/11
10374 kWh 4/11-3/12

Savings calculate to 827 kWh and 200 therms. At current $.125 kWh and $1.10 therm energy costs the dollar savings are $323.38 per year, a 1.14 realization on projected dollar savings. 

Click HERE to see the project photo album. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

PETER & SHELLY, June 2009 completion, February 2010 (customer projection), "36% reduction"

Pete and Shelly have a home built in 1998.  They had some temperature control issues and rodent/insect issues that were frustrating them, but because of the home's age they initially had reservations that solutions were justifiable.   

Their master suite comprises the East side of the second floor, so it gets some pretty good solar load in the morning.  Keeping the master suite comfortable so Shelly could get ready for work without feeling like she was just back from a morning jog was a challenge.  Pete found himself programming the dining room thermostat to drop to 62 at around 5:30 am to make the master suite comfortable in the morning.

Eventually, exasperated, they hired us to perform a comprehensive home assessment.  We uncovered some significant but all to common deficiencies that were contributing dramatically to their comfort and control challenges.

From the assessment I was able to build a list of recommendations with varying degrees of comfort, control, and energy reward.  Working with Peter we developed a plan that fit their needs.  Before going into the plan, let me share an e-mail Peter sent me February 24th, 2010:

Just doing some crappy calculations going from actual to actual reads (July to January)...
08/09 energy costs $1435 vs 09/10 $910. I used the same pricing for each period. Last read was 1/25/10. Next actual will be around 3/25/10 for a full Winter picture.

KEN & KAREN, February 2009 completion. February 2010 Results, 40% gas reduction - warmer house

Ken & Karen don't like to be wasteful.  When Jimmy Carter said good Americans should conserve energy and set their thermostat's back, they took it to heart.  They keep their thermostat at 68 and wear sweaters around the house. 

Many of their neighbors have been replacing their furnaces with outdoor "packaged" or "rooftop" units.  Ken and Karen were looking into doing the same as they were tired of the noise of their 17 year old 84,000 BTU Miller furnace, which they knew should be replaced soon anyhow.

When I suggested there might be a more energy efficient approach, they were keenly interested.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LIZ, November 2008 completion, May 2009 review, 71% savings

Liz's house is in East Rochester's historic Comcrest neighborhood.  She had a really leaky attic and 20+ year old oil furnace, gas water heater so full of sediment she ran out of water before filling her tub, no bath fan, and an improperly vented dryer which caused high clothes drying time.  

The cost per unit of heat for Oil is significantly higher than the cost for heat in Natural Gas, so this situation represented a fairly rare grand slam:

  • Homeowner income qualification for 50/50 incentive; total outlay reduction.
  • Furnace was Oil; savings opportunity and easy SIR qualification for 50/50 (furnace, 98% efficient water heater, 3 windows, bath fan, and dryer vent improvements were all able to meet SIR and qualify for incentive).
  • RG&E incentive for converting from oil to gas; total outlay reduction.
  • Equipment was old and would need replacement anyhow; no accelerated depreciation necessary.
  • Equipment was over sized and inefficient; savings and comfort opportunity.
  • Natural gas billing charge already; billing convenience & economy to scale opportunity.
  • House needed a new roof; adding spray foam to roof job offered job scale savings opportunity. 

There were some challenges to performing the financial analysis.  Since Oil was the energy source and the oil company did not fill on a regular basis it was somewhat difficult to determine annual BTU usage.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why homeowners should be cautious of FREE AUDITS

(-or- Why homeowners should PAY for an AUDIT)
After November 15, 2010 New Yorkers can get audits paid for by the Green Jobs Green NY program.  This means the contractor gets paid to perform this work.  

Prior to this some companies offered "Free Audits."  These Free audits aren't free.  Your home is a long term investment for you, not the contractor.  A free audit puts pressure on selling product, not on good design.  


if you pay for it you can hold them accountable to deliver quality recommendations, not simply recommend work they want to perform.



Homeowners should hire someone to perform an audit because they can build a relationship and accountability into the equation.  They can expect thoughtful solutions instead of shotgunned products.  

Also, they can hold that contractor accountable for doing a thorough job. 

A little history might help paint this picture: