Bad day for energy efficiency the other day. I have a new house (actually a new to me 55 year old house), and was all excited to have an energy auditor come out and energy audit me. After all, I write Cleantech Blog, and did an article not too long ago urging all homeowners to get an energy audit – see What You Should Do if You Really Believe in Cleantech. So after an admittedly limited job of looking around I went with Standard Renewable Energy.
Most of the big box home improvement retailers have a energy audit practice, as do tons of little companies, but I figured Sre3.com, owned by Gridpoint which is backed by investors like Altira who I know and like, would be a good “pure-play” choice for a cleantech blogger.
But perhaps I’m a naive chump who just expected too much.
I ordered a their $149 Essential Energy Audit (full details below) figuring if I liked the audit I could order a more expensive one complete with more toys and high powered analyses later. I’d get my audit done, get my plan, and then geek out for a bit thinking about all the marginally economic things I could do (windows have been done, insulation is coming).
“Which Home Energy Audit is Right for You?
An energy audit from SRE is an extensive home energy efficiency evaluation. It’s performed by an energy efficiency expert and shows you how your home uses energy and how it wastes it. The audit results in a customized plan that empowers you to make energy-saving choices that fit your budget and your lifestyle. And our energy efficiency experts can help make it easy for you to implement the recommendations you choose.
Essential Energy Audit ($149) – A great starting place to identify issues affecting your home’s energy efficiency. The Essential Energy Audit is a 41-point detailed visual inspection of every part of your home including: doors, windows, walls, attic space, insulation, air conditioning equipment, appliances, and lighting.
Complete Energy Audit ($499) – Builds on the Essential Energy Audit by incorporating diagnostic tests that can pinpoint specific energy efficiency issues and identify your best money-saving improvements:
- Duct blaster test to diagnose duct leakage
- Blower door test to identify leaks in your home’s envelope such as around doors and windows
- Thermographic infrared scanning to evaluate the flow of heat through your home and pinpoint problem spots due to leaks and missing insulation
Comprehensive Energy Audit ($849) – Combines the Essential and Complete Energy Audits with an analysis using energy modeling software that calculates your home’s HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index. We’ll use the software to provide a cost-benefit analysis of each of our energy-saving recommendations so you can see which have the greatest payback.
The Energy Efficiency Experts
As environmentalists with a passion for finding ways you can use less energy in your home, we’re committed to mastering home energy efficiency:
- We incorporate industry-leading building science knowledge to ensure a complete picture of how your home uses energy
- Our extensive technological and practical experience helps us make the best energy efficiency recommendations
- We use a total approach to evaluate your home’s individual performance and address all areas of your home’s energy use
- We provide custom solutions tailored for you and your home”
Frankly what I was looking for was the “41-point detailed visual inspection” plus the “customized plan”. I will quote again in bold italics just for the record:
“The Essential Energy Audit is a 41-point detailed visual inspection of every part of your home including: doors, windows, walls, attic space, insulation, air conditioning equipment, appliances, and lighting.”
“The audit results in a customized plan that empowers you to make energy-saving choices that fit your budget and your lifestyle.”
So here’s what happened.
I ordered the audit. It got scheduled quickly (though they were a little backed up so they came out a couple of days later). My wife and I both worked from home that day so we could be audited, watch what he did and take notes. As an environmental scientist she was almost as interested as I was.
On the appointed day our energy consultant showed up. We spend a few minutes chitchatting about why we want an energy audit, how we use the home, what we like in comfort, that sort of thing. At this time I do tell him that I’m a blogger in the sector and am excited to blog about my energy audit. He’s a very nice, and knowledgeable guy. He’s never heard of Cleantech Blog though. We show him our utility bills. He takes copious notes.
Then he says it won’t take him too long, he needs to go through the house, inside and out, and in the attic, and go through his checklist. Then we will sit down and review it. We say great. We follow him some trying to watch, but he tells us not to worry, he will take us through it all when he’s done.
. . .
30 minutes or so pass. He comes back, we gather in the dining room and sit down. Our auditor asks a few more questions. Gives us some good information. We discuss the advantages / disadvantages of insulation vs radiant attic barriers. He tell us our duct work isn’t sealed well, but is still tight enough that it’s not worth worrying about yet.
Karen my wife, starts to take more notes. Karen likes home constructor projects. He says don’t worry about notes he will send us his write-up afterward to make it easy for us.
We ask him what we should do. He tells us a solar attic fan. SRE3 sells them for an “excellent price”. $950. And radiant barrier or more insulation, price maybe a couple of thousand each. SRE sells that too. I say, but my utility bill in the heat of the summer in July was only $126, without insulation, and before the new double paned windows got put in. We ask him how much each of those items is likely to save, he mentions 10-20% each at most, without lifting his pencil. I’m thinking thousands out, and $10-$20 a month back? He agrees. Then discusses how important a solar attic fan is. I ask what about one of those cheap metal silver fans instead of a $950 solar attic fan. He says they never work. But the SRE3.com solar attic fan is warrantied and the price includes installation.
A few other things happen.
I say I’m not sure I’m interested in the solar attic fan (to save $20 bucks in June, July and August?), but we will need insulation and I’d like to know what a radiant barrier costs.
We end the conversation (on Friday) where he promises to send me a quote on Monday. I did note that my detailed inspection and customized plan, became a write-up of his notes and now a “quote” on insulation/radiant barriers.
I say nothing except I’m looking forward to getting the write-up.
I then ask, as he’s about to leave, what about weather stripping around the doors. He says, “Oh, I didn’t check that” – note to self to check, isn’t weather stripping like the standard everyone should do it home energy efficiency item? He now takes us around to the doors and discusses the weatherstripping. He gives us some good tips, but we notice he is no longer taking copious notes. Note to self, aren’t you also supposed to have your hot water heater wrapped in insulation? Ours isn’t.
Energy consultant leaves. Time allocation: 1/3rd chit chatting on what we want, 1/3rd walking around the house looking for expensive things they sell that we might buy, 1/3rd trying to get us to buy a $950 solar attic fan for an uninsulated house with a $126 July bill, interspersed with a few tidbits of useful info. Ok, that’s flippant, but it’s close.
Energy consultant comes back. Says he called the office and they asked him to get the $149 check. I pay it.
Day 25+, still waiting for my customized plan, checklist on the detailed 41 point visual inspection, write-up of the energy audit notes, or sales quote, or whatever he actually intended to send me. At least we know the Gridpoint sales management process is working. They don’t bother sending quotes to cheap homeowners people who aren’t going to buy a $950 solar attic fan – even those who thought they bought an energy audit. Maybe I’ll send this blog to their PR department and see how well that process is run. I already found out their A/R department is well run.
PS I still believe in energy audits, obviously just not a Standard Renewable Energy, a Gridpoint company, energy audit.
Neal Dikeman is a Partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC, chief blogger for Cleantechblog.com, the chair of Cleantech.org and a founder of cleantech ventures Carbonflow and Zenergy Power. He is a Texas Aggie.