email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, July 18, 2014

Interesting Day, Part 1

Some days are better than others, and today was a nice day.  Both productively and weather-wise.  But I'm talking about a sales visit today.

I got a cold call on home improvements yesterday, and I "never" respond to those.  But this one I did.  They offerred a free "energy inspection" (my verbal reply was "oh sure").  But they claimed to be operating under a program sponsored by my electrical company, the initial inspection was free as in "really free", and IF I decided to go with a full "energy audit" with real equipment tests, the cost was only $100 (because the other $300 of their costs are paid by the utility in hopes of reducing energy usage.

OK, I scheduled the initial visit for today.  Some people have trouble getting out of paying slowly increasing costs once a company "gets their foot in the door".  I'm not one of those people.  I love free inspections.  If a problem is found, then I go find a really professional company to do it again and if necessary, I get 3 bids to fix the problem.

So an energy inspector came by today.  She spent an hour poking around the basement and attic, asked me questions about known drafts and warm/cold rooms throughout the house.  Then she explained that (surprise, surprise), there were enough possible improvements to recommend a "negative air pressure test" and the various ways they could fix the energy leaks (depending on where the $100 audit found leaks.  Fortunately, I have some former professional experience with heating and ventilation practices, and the $100 cost (for me) was very reasonable. 

So I have the air pressure test scheduled for next week.  The air pressure test is familiar to me.  They open the front door, seal it with a powerful fan pulling air out of the house, and have air pressure gauges inside and out to see how much air gets pulled from outside into the house through air leaks.

So, after she left, I did some internet research to check the company, the methods, and the likely savings outcomes.  Angieslist gave them a high customer rating, the methods seem to be "good industry practice", and if my electrical supplier is subsidizing the work that seems like a decent recommendation too. 

And the electrical supplier subsidy is substantial.  They pay $300 of the total $400 cost for the detailed energy audit.  More importantly, they pay 50% of the first $4,000 dollars of actual work later.  I wouldn't even have to request reimbursement, I just wouldn't pay their 50% to begin with. 

I should explain that my house is 100% electric, that I get routine charts with my electric bill showing that my energy usage is above average for my type of house locally (3x average in Winter), and that I have been considering having some "fixes" anyway for a year.  That increased Winter spike started when I had a new heat pump installed 3 years ago, and it has been bothering me a lot recently.

I (naturally) didn't mention to the energy inspector that I will bid any serious work to 2 other highly-rated companies once I get the fixed work quote.

Aside from all that, I had an interesting time discussing the potential future "fixes" with the inspector.  I was not surprised that some of the improvements involved additional insulation in the attic (who argue against more insulation?).  I was a bit surprised that they propose to remove all the rolled/batted attic insulation, caulk around all the attic joists/drywall, and replace it with "blown-in" insulation to "R-49" (R-16" is standard code around here).  I'll check about that tomorrow.

But what surprised me?  She didn't know how insulation actually works! I didn't pursue the question, but it was informative.

So anyway, after researching the "good industry practices" (and keeping in mind the my energy supplier is willing to pay 50% of the first $2,000), I'm willing to go to the $100 equipment test (which involves about 2 hours of 2 person's work.  The company is not making any money off that!  I'll know more about things when I see their fixed quote with detailed work described.

1 comment:

Megan said...


I hate having tradesmen in my home, so I tend to ignore all these kinds of offers. Our electricity usage is high - hot water, two computers running 16 hours a day, a full-size freezer as well as a standard fridge/freezer, ducted air conditioning. But, we don't use heaters at all in winter, so we feel quite virtuous about that!

It will be interesting to hear more about the results of the investigation at your place.

Sydney, Australia