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Column: Rebate review, Part 2
7/12/2012 9:59:00 PM
Last time, I wrote about the APS and Unisource rebates (our electricity and natural gas providers). I explained that you need to have an energy audit by an "approved" contractor to get these rebates, and these rebates are for making your home more energy efficient, which, of course, saves you money for as long as you own the home. The rebates can be more than $1,000, from each company! I said I had an energy audit scheduled on my own home.
Well, Charles from Advantage Home Performance came out last week and did the audit on my home. It was very impressive. He did a "blower door" test, where they seal the doors and windows with plastic and run a large "exhaust fan" at one door. I was amazed at what this revealed.
For example, there is a jalousie window in the laundry room (with glass "slats" - I don't see these often around here, and yes, I have an old house). As Charles predicted, there was so much air coming in around the jalousie windows that he had trouble keeping the plastic on it.
He also checked the furnace/air conditioner ducts. He did not find a lot of leaks, but he found an area where there was "turbulence" in a large duct that adversely affected the airflow, and therefore the efficiency of the furnace and air conditioner.
He also checked the ceiling with an infrared camera and found poor insulation in one area. (This I knew, because I also have an infrared camera.)
He did safety tests on the gas appliances and found that one of the furnace combustion air vents was obstructed (happened when the new roof was put on a couple years ago).
Overall it was educational, even for a "seasoned" home inspector. I do not have the written report yet, so I may have one more update on this next time.
The only thing I was disappointed in was the rebate for the shade screens. It's a maximum of $250, so I assumed I would be buying at least $251 worth of shade screens. However, the rebate is based on square footage, not how much you spend. (I'm kidding; I didn't expect a rebate to pay 99 percent of the costs.)
I have already started telling clients about this program, especially when I see an obvious (to an inspector) problem. For example, last week I found a furnace in an interior closet. The furnace was on a wood "box," and the box under the furnace served as the return air duct. When I removed the filter from the furnace and looked around the box, I found an opening into a wall. The gas line was routed through this wall, so it was open all the way to the attic. So every time the air conditioner comes on, it is pulling very hot air out of the attic into the supply air. Imagine how much harder that air conditioner has to work - instead of having just 75-degree air from the interior to cool it also has 125-degree air from the attic to cool. And, of course, in the winter the furnace has to heat very cold air from the attic.
In a different home last week I found old metal air conditioner supply ducts in a crawlspace. They were not insulated, nor were the connections taped, nor were the connections particularly well connected. This was fine for me, since I had the air conditioner on and appreciated the cool air coming out through all the poor connections. But I estimated that at least 30 percent of the cool air (and heated air in the winter) was blowing into the crawlspace.
Both of these improvements would be covered by the rebates. Both would be very cost-effective improvements to make. I will be telling more clients about these rebates. This makes me "look good" to the clients. And I like anything that doesn't cost me anything and makes me look good.
Seriously, one of the reasons I had the audit done on my home was to get the written report to show clients. (Note to the IRS: that's why it's a business expense.) I think this is valuable information, and the audit is a steal at $99 even if you don't have any major improvements done. And not just for new owners or old homes. If 15 percent of your air-conditioned or heated air was lost in your attic, would you not want to know this? Especially if the fix is a $2 piece of plywood (as in my first example).
In fact, I think this is such valuable information that we ("we" is the Arizona Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors) are having Charles speak at a class this month. Gavin Hastings from APS will also be speaking, as will Tom Donovan, a local contractor who has remodeled many older homes.
The class is at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 27, at the Wyndham Garden Hotel between Prescott and Prescott Valley. I think this class would be great for Realtors, investors, contractors, homeowners, anyone who has questions or wants to know more about the energy audits and rebates. The non-member fee is $175 for the day, which includes lunch. The morning class is for inspectors only (we're touring the MI window plant in Prescott Valley - look for a future column about that). I think I can talk the current AZASHI "administration" into offering the afternoon class for $50. (Especially after it's in the paper. One of my life rules is "forgiveness is often easier to get than permission.") That would include refreshments and snacks, and, of course, excellent company. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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