What a Home Energy Assessment Did For Me

As a child, I had a fear of global warming. That’s right, my irrational belief was that “the polar ice caps would melt overnight, the water levels would rise overnight, and there would be water pouring through my windows, threatening me with the thought of drowning.” (My fear did not include waking up having wet my bed, but I am sure as I get older and I lose bladder control, I can add that to my list.)

So, in essence, it was a fear of drowning, or being overwhelmed. Now, as an adult, it is now with mild apathy that I think about climate change. But I do what I can.

“Hmm…we’re screwed.” (Proceeds to sit on chair, sign onto Halo 5 multiplayer, and get distracted.)

For me, the issue of climate change most likely gives me that feeling of hopelessness. Like a speck of sand under the night sky, I do not realize my full potential. But, the day Robert from Next Step Living left my parents house, I felt more empowered than anything. It was good.

I had a feeling of relief yesterday as an Energy Assessor from a green energy company left my parents house. I felt like I had made a small difference, that by having this done, I was contributing another #dropinanocean. This was a way for less energy to be used, to help my parents save money and “save the environment.” I had scheduled for a Home Energy Assessment (HEA) to take place in my parents house through a local non-profit environmental organization. The organization, Green Newton, based Newton, MA, gets donation every time an HEA is conducted in the city proper. The donation comes from Next Step Living, a company run by Geoff Chapin.(Green Newton plans on collecting these donations to fund a shelter for women and children, awesome, huh?)

An HEA looks into ways that a household could reduce its energy usage.

Lowering energy usage means lower electricity bills. Lower energy bills means less energy needed and produced. Less energy produced means less fossil fuel emissions. Less fossil fuel emissions means I have to write less about the topic. That benefits everybody, because I am much better at flatulence jokes…Ha.
To get back to the story, the Energy Assessor, Robert, first spoke with me and my parents about what would be looked at in the house.

Robert told us that he would be looking at the heating unit and the water boiler to check for carbon monoxide, indicating a clean burning unit and low risk of exposure to the dangerous chemical. A heating unit or water boiler with high carbon monoxide levels means that the unit is not burning correctly, and producing more damaging byproducts than just carbon dioxide.

Secondly, Bob would be checking all four sides of the house and the ceiling for drafts, or air leaks. The tools to look at it were an infrared camera that measured the heat radiating from the sides. Areas with yellow and red indicated warm spots, meaning that there was good insulation in the walls. Colors closer to blue and purple on the wall meant it was cold, and that it might be a place to have some insulation installed.

The ceiling and the attic was a important place for Robert to look at. Last winter was brutal because of ice dams. These dams are created by warm air rising to the roof, melting the bottom layer of snow that rests below the rest of the snow, the melted snow leaks down to the bottom of the roof, where it comes into contact with the cold air, and freezes. This process continues until the top layers of snow melt. The ice dams damage the roof as they expand, and water leaks into the house. Damn.

So the method to reducing the risk of ice dams is to insulate the ceiling of the top floor, creating a void in the attic where cold air can stay, and the insulation on the ceiling prevents warm air from moving into the attic. This reduces heating cost and lowers the risk of ice dams, it does not get rid of the risk altogether, but it helps.

Bob stated that any household with old electrical wiring (knob and tube, it is called) would have to be removed in order to get the extra insulation, it is a fire hazard. He then went to look at all the windows, which were fairly new and energy efficient.

The coolest thing, (or warmest?), was that once Bob was done looking at different ways that major work could be done to improve the energy efficiency, was that he looked at different ways to improve energy efficiency right away!

The HEA included an inspection of the light fixtures to look for those energy using incandescent light bulbs, the ones that do not look all fancy and new. The incandescent light bulbs were replaced with energy efficient LED light bulbs for no cost! The HEA also includes free “smart” power strips, which shut off power to electrical components that are used in concert with another electrical component. Say that your Roku and DVD player are connected to your TV, once your TV is turned on, so will the Roku and the DVD player..
Other things included in the HEA were efficient use showerheads and faucet components. But the best part of the HEA was the conclusion, which included a summary of possibilities to make the home more efficient, and the tools available to help finance it.

There are a multitude of different programs, including an energy loan, grant funding, and multiple tax rebates for a variety of different energy improving initiatives. There were a lot of good ways to help improve energy efficiency without spending a lot of money. (As a Massachusetts resident, it is important to note that you pay a certain amount of your utility bill to be able to fund these resources, so you might as well be using these resources.)

Once Bob left, I had a feeling of lifting a small burden off of my shoulders. It felt like I was able to do something to help. Something. It might not be a lot, but it was a start towards something better. We had replaced three light bulbs that were still incandescent (I believe it was three), so already the house was using less electricity and saving money.

Since the house was using less electricity, this was also helping to lower electricity costs for the community as whole. Less electricity would be needed. Think of when all of the neighbors do it, what kind of difference it could make cost-wise, climage change-wise, and community-wise. The benefits might not mean a huge change, but that is the idea of #dropsinanocean. A lot of small drops eventually create the Atlantic.
If you want to do something to battle climate change, and you live in Massachusetts, consider this HEA. You can find out more about it here: http://www.masssave.com/residential/home-energy-assessments
Or, if you have any questions and would like to contact me, please comment below!

Remember, you are not alone in this challenge, we can come together as a community and a group to make some serious improvements. Thanks!

The greatest thing about this was that I felt like I could still contribute to a better world. Newton is a special place, but we still use and waste a lot. If we can work on that, little by little, we can make greater changes that any of us we could. You have the power, all you might have to do is turn off that bright light you weren’t using.

Thanks!