Photo by Corinne Nicholson
CONYERS -- Fixing a cold draft felt under a door or adjusting the temperature on a water heater could mean a big payback for homeowners in their electric bills.
The Home Plus energy audit offered by Snapping Shoals Electric Membership Corp. is a way for customers of the local utility to find savings at home. Brent Meredith, an energy audit technician with SSEMC, said the energy audit is offered free and is a great service to take advantage of as people try to find more ways to save money and be more environmentally friendly by reducing their carbon footprint.
"The basic premise of a home audit comes from a low-cost to no-cost standpoint for the customer," he said. "We want to show (our consumers) how they can do things for little or no money in order to become more energy efficient."
SSEMC's home energy audits usually last two to three hours, depending on the size of the home, and include a walk-through inspection of the home's insulation, air infiltration areas (windows and doors) and attic ventilation. Meredith explained there are 15 sections of an audit to go through with several items to cover under each section. Following the audit, SSEMC will mail the audit's results to the homeowner with suggestions on making the home more energy efficient.
Most are straightforward topics such as sealing around windows and doors, proper insulation in the attic and crawl space and lighting. Major household appliances are also looked at in the audit, along with the water heater.
"Having the temperature too high creates a potential for a hazardous situation where someone could get scalded and also the heater has to work harder to maintain the water temperature," Meredith said.
"The recommendation nowadays is about 120 to 125 F. There was a need at one point to have the water heater set higher to activate laundry detergent and other cleaners," he said. "Today, a lot of those cleaners are cold-water based and dish washers have heating elements built in to where you can get the water as hot as you need it."
Meredith said worn or damaged weather stripping around doors and windows is the most common upgrade he sees on home audits and is also one of the easiest to fix. The old stripping doesn't hold a good seal and pieces torn away by pets or just plain old wear and tear can allow cold air in and trip the heating system on more and cause it to operate for longer periods.
Proper use of ceiling fans can also help and can be fixed with a flip of a switch. Meredith explained ceiling fans should blow down in the summertime to have that breeze to feel cooler as air is circulated in a room. The fans should blow up in the winter time to push warmer air near the ceiling around a room.
Home energy audits are not new to SSEMC. The local utility cooperative has helped customers make their homes more energy efficient for over 20 years. However, Meredith said an SSEMC employee would have only gone to a home on the request of a customer and usually over an increase in their electric bill.
The Home Plus auditing program was started in 2009 to better address energy inefficiencies of customers' homes before they began seeing a change in their bills.
"A lot of the suggestions wouldn't cost much money to do and it's always been about helping people save money on their power bills," Meredith said. "If co-op members can to learn to use less energy, they can keep their power bills down."
For more information or to set up an appointment for a home energy audit, call SSEMC customer service at 770-786-3484.