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Vail Daily column: Put your home on a scale

Cassie Pence
Vail, CO Colorado

The New Year is ripe with good intentions, and most people’s resolutions revolve around tightening up – both their waistlines and their wallets.

So as you vow to eat less food and spend less money, here’s one more goal to throw under the “less is more” umbrella. In 2011, vow to tighten up your home and use less energy.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, residential and commercial buildings account for almost 39 percent of U.S. energy consumption and 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Nearly all of the greenhouse gas emission from the residential and commercial sectors can be attributed to energy use in buildings.



And you think your belly has fat to spare.

The good news is that, like your belly fat, making your home more energy efficient is simply a matter of tightening up. The best way to figure out how much energy your home consumes is to have a home energy assessment, also known as a home energy audit.



An assessment will pinpoint where your home is losing energy. The building envelope – which is how tightly the home is sealed from air – is where most homes either lose or save energy. Homes lose 30 to 50 percent of energy due to air infiltration through gaps around windows and doors, switch plates and missing seals around walls.

An energy assessment will also determine the efficiency of your home’s heating and cooling systems. And it will show you ways to conserve hot water and electricity. At the end of the assessment, the auditor will give you measures to take to improve the overall efficiency of your home. Applying these measures not only saves energy and reduces your carbon footprint, it saves you money, too.

A professional auditor uses a variety of techniques and equipment to determine the energy efficiency of a structure. An auditor will use blower doors to measure the extent of leaks in the building envelope and infrared cameras to reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation.



Eagle County is part of a tri-county Energy Smart program – funded by a federal grant – that will help homeowners in Eagle, Pitken and Gunnison counties simplify this energy efficiency process. The goal of the project is to reduce home energy consumption by 20 percent (or better), which also means a reduction in energy bills of 20 percent. Cha-ching. But in order to do that, 4,100 homes must tighten up.

For Eagle County residents, the “simplify” part happens at a new Energy Resource Center, also paid for by the grant money. Located in the Valley Home Store in Miller Ranch in Edwards, this center – which is still in its infancy – will be a one-stop-shop for all things energy efficient. Eventually manned by a real person, along with computer kiosks, this is where people can go to find answers to questions about energy audits, energy efficiency upgrades and how to get money to pay for these upgrades.

But it all starts with a home energy assessment – because it’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you are. Through this Energy Smart program, Eagle County homeowners can apply for a free audit. For the lucky dogs that are chosen, an energy rater will survey their home and immediately install low-cost efficiency improvements for free – energy reducers like wrapping a blanket around the water heater and changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

The next step is to determine which larger upgrades make the most sense in terms of energy reduction and payback, after all energy is money. Upgrades might include things like new windows, insulation or a new furnace. After financing is squared away, the county’s Energy Resource Center will hook the owner up with contractors who can do the work. Part of the Energy Smart goal is to retool the work force and put skilled contractors back to work.

So, Eagle County, it’s time to put your homes on a scale and trim the fat from your energy use. It’s only going to make your wallets that much heavier in 2011.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle. She and her husband, Captain Vacuum, own Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company. Contact her at cassie@organichousekeepers.com.


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