Conversation with an Energy Auditor: Amanda Evans
Advanced Home Analysts
Santa Fe, New Mexico
What is the biggest overall misconception that homeowners have about energy efficiency?
The homeowner thinks that energy efficiency means that they will be uncomfortable because they will have to turn their heat down or use less of things. They often think that compact fluorescent lamps flicker and have an ugly color. They also think that the whole process will involve expensive changes, such as new windows.
Tell us a little about energy audits. Why are they important? What should homeowners expect?
A: Energy audits are important because they help a homeowner save money and usually make a house more comfortable and safe at relatively little expense. The process includes an interview with the homeowner, an evaluation of their utility bills, testing of their home, data collecting and analysis. Afterward, suggestions and prioritizations are offered. A homeowner can prepare for the audit by gathering their utility bills and thinking a little about where in their home there are hot and cold spots, issues with moisture or ventilation, etc.
In your experience, what are homeowners always the most surprised to learn from their energy audit results?
Homeowners are surprised that some of the fixes are so simple. So many things are easy to do, such as getting a programmable thermostat or a chimney balloon for missing dampers.
Are there any specific energy efficiency challenges that homeowners in your state or region face?
Many people think that Santa Fe does not have moisture issues in buildings because we have so little humidity here, but as houses get tighter, we do have to be aware of things like mold. Also, with our flat roofs, we cannot just go up to the attic and air seal and blow in insulation like people can in most other parts of the country. Leaky roof assemblies are much more expensive to deal with. And, at our high altitude, we find many ovens with very high carbon monoxide levels because the flames were not adjusted for the altitude when they were installed.
What advice would you give a homeowner who is hesitant to schedule an energy audit because they fear the recommended improvements will be too expensive?
There are so many small things that a homeowner can do that are inexpensive, yet can save considerable energy. There are also safety issues that all homeowners should know, such as whether their combustion appliances are safe.
In that same vein, what's one low-cost weekend project that homeowners can do to make their homes more energy efficient?
Change out your light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps and install a programmable thermostat. Check the compact fluorescent lamps by only buying one to make sure that you like the light quality and then do some experimenting.
Now it's time for some inspiration. Tell us about one of the best home success stories you've seen in your time in this field.
I was asked to do an audit on an old adobe home that had been recently remodeled, but was still very cold in the master bedroom in winter. Using a blower door and an infrared camera, I found a huge area in the ceiling of the master bedroom that had not been effectively sealed. At the same time, we found a faulty water heater and a major carbon monoxide problem in the gas oven. So, in addition to being able to offer some concrete suggestions for the homeowner's comfort, I could make them aware of safety issues that they could immediately remedy.