Remodel Your Home
Taking a Closer Look at Your Home's Health
By Wayne Apostolik
Most of us in the Puget Sound region live in older homes that were built to standards that are no longer desirable. Our homes leak heated air to the outdoors, allow cold air to seep through numerous cracks and openings in exterior walls (which are most likely inadequately insulated) and have questionable air rising up from crawl spaces and basements. We generally have old and highly inefficient furnaces and water heaters chugging away in a basement or back room, remnants of past thinking.
The last couple of years have seen the growth of an industry that will diagnose our homes from a viewpoint of health, safety and comfort. This process is called energy auditing which is an analysis of the amount of energy a home consumes on a regular basis, the safety of the appliances providing these functions and the condition of the walls, doors, windows and insulation. Energy is consumed when heating and cooling a home, heating water and lighting a home at night. Not surprisingly, with the age of the average Seattle home, nearly all do this fairly inefficiently. An audit tells us just how inefficiently. It identifies the problem areas and what can be done to rectify them and create a healthier home.
Why would someone want an energy audit? There are as many motivations for wanting one as there are homes that need one. Maybe a home is uncomfortable due to excessive heat, cold or draftiness. There may be a concern about the safety and efficiency of the combustion appliances used to heat or cool a home, heat water or cook food. Someone may have a deep concern about their carbon footprint or want to install a solar voltaic or water heating system. Sources of indoor air may be questionable because of unpleasant odors or chronic respiratory illnesses. And the list goes on.
Of the many motivations for wanting an audit, I do not include saving money. Those of us who have been in the industry for a while do not promote saving money as a motivation, because we feel it to be disingenuous. Using this approach does more harm than good to a fine cause. The truth? Energy is saved and energy does cost money. But depending on the extent and types of changes made, an investment in upgrading and repairing an underperforming home will generally be greater then the amount of money saved each month. This means your financial return on investment may be anywhere from five to as many as 30 years away.
No matter what your reason may be, how your home performs for you is what is important. Safety, comfort and health are the benefits homeowners should consider. An audit and retrofit can be a major benefit anyone, no matter the motivation.
Wayne Apostolik, CGR, GMB, CGP, CAPS, CBA, HERS, PTCS, is the president of Northwest Homecrafters in Seattle, Wash., and has been in the remodeling business for over 21 years. Apostolik is a contributing writer to Home Matters, a consumer publication of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.