I don’t probably have to tell you, but it’s cold outside. Darn cold. I checked out the US weather map and almost the whole thing is looking purple to blue (those are the cold colors). Washington DC folks are buried up to their filibuster in snow. Which makes me think of energy efficiency, of course. While you’re cutting back on everything else, you’re probably still wasting thousands of dollars each year heating your home or business, money that can be easily saved. Being efficient doesn’t mean you have to shiver in the cold, but just spend less to be comfortable. The first step is getting an energy efficiency audit.
When the weather’s nice we tend not to worry about energy efficiency, but when the weather’s cold you’re burning up money if your home or business is leaky and inefficient. You might as well take a shovel and start shoving $20 bills into the furnace.
Energy audits find the problems and how to fix them, looking for opportunities for better lighting, heating, cooling, energy controls, solar power, weather sealing, appliances, and windows. It may not seem urgent and you might not be eager to spend money, but these projects often cost less than you think, particularly with billions of dollars worth of incentives from governments, utilities, and others through tax credits, rebates, loans, and grants. The return on energy investments often occurs in two years or less; with a return like this spending $1000 on efficiency now will payoff the $1000 and return another $4000 in ten years. How many other investments are you getting a 50% annual return on these days?
Businesses are using a variety of strategies to help people fight inefficiency.
Energy audits frequently utilize tools like the blower door test and thermographic analysis with infrared cameras to find problems with buildings where heat leaks out or cold leaks in. Recurve (previously called Sustainable Spaces) is an energy auditor and contractor in the San Francisco Bay Area that specializes in boosting the efficiency of homes. While contractors often focus on a single aspect of buildings, like solar power or efficient furnaces, Recurve looks at the whole building from roof to basement to find the solution that makes the most sense. The work often starts with cheap projects with a quick payback like fixing ducts, insulation, and changing light bulbs before moving up to bigger projects like buying solar panels or changing your furnace for a more efficient model.
Empowered Energy Solutions (EESI) in San Diego, CA is working to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings, starting with a diagnostic examination. With so many efficiency options available, all of them with their own cost, energy savings, and incentives to consider, finding the best solution can be complicated. EESI is developing innovative software that evolves toward the best energy solution in each case, taking into account all of the variables involved. An approach like this ensures that the answer is not just good for the environment, but the best solution for your bottom line as well.
Pro Energy Consultants around the US perform energy audits with their own business, often run out of their home. Pro Energy Consultants also provides an opportunity for entrepreneurial people to buy their own franchise and get started quickly with their own business doing energy audits. I also talk about the huge opportunity to deliver energy efficiency in my new book “Starting Green”.
Talking with people is a great way to find out what’s going in a building, finding problems like leaks, drafts, or uneven heating that indicate wasted energy. Green Irene provides the Green Home Makeover or Green Office Makeover for a personal approach, with their Eco Consultants talking one-on-one with people and looking over a home or business to find ways to save energy, as well as other green improvements.
You can even do an energy efficiency audit on-line to see what your options are. SEES, Inc. has an easy on-line energy audit you can get by clicking here and filling in a quick survey about your building. You’ll get a free report back detailing how you can improve your energy efficiency. Since the incentives for efficiency vary greatly depending on where you live, SEES also delivers a handy list of all of the incentives, rebates, and grants available in your zip code.
For all of the progress being made to improve energy efficiency, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what can be done. We have far to go, but the journey could be quite a rewarding one. Which reminds me of a poem, one about snow and taking a journey.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep,” wrote Robert Frost, in his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Frost probably wasn’t thinking of energy efficiency at the time, but I think the quote works.
Get audited today and take the first step toward energy efficiency.
Glenn Croston is the author of “75 Green Businesses” and “Starting Green”, and the founder of Starting Up Green.