home performance

Your Story: Homeowner navigates the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program

Your Story: Homeowner navigates the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program
Interested in lowering your home’s energy bill?  Take advantage of your utilities’ Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.  If you are new to this program, view our recent blog on the steps to apply. Read Julia Kalloz story below for an in-depth look at the program. 

 

The cover of your Energy Audit Report



Homeowner Julia Kalloz walked us through her experience with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.

Julia lives in a Pepco service territory so she began the process by finding a contractor from the PEPCO website of specially trained, Building Performance Institute-certified contractors.

“You are able to see what certifications and experience they have and that was important to me,” Kalloz said. “It allowed me to vet several auditors and even find out what other people experienced.”

The audit cost $100 (a saving of $300) and, Kalloz said, it is easy to schedule. It took about an hour, but appointments can take a little more or less time, depending on the size of the house (most last between 2- 4 hours).

During the visit, simple and free incentives to help homeowners start saving energy immediately are provided.  The incentives include LED bulbs, water heater pipe wraps, showerheads and showerhead adapters, as well as faucet aerators and power strips.

The contractor also looked at ways to reduce air leakage from Kalloz’s home by evaluating her large appliances, conducting a blower door test to evaluate air loss and a combustion test to see how efficiently the heating system was operating.

Ten days later, Kalloz received a Prioritized List of Measurements – or a PLOM (a report detailing the improvements needed to cut home energy usage and what the potential savings could be) – that had been generated from the audit. Some of the contractor’s recommendations might not be in a homeowner’s budget, but the potential for long-term savings as well as the up to $7,500 PEPCO offers in rebates offer important incentives.

 

Getting Home Improvement Rebates

Estimated Annual Energy Savings



Once you decide which solutions are the most feasible for your home and your budget, the contractor will have you sign a proposal for the improvements and the PLOM before reserving the rebates on your behalf. Once the rebate reservation is approved, homeowners have 60 days to complete whichever improvements they choose.

For Kalloz, improvements included air sealing and insulation in the attic and basement.

After the work was  done, part two of the audit – called a Test Out – is done to determine the final energy savings and rebate. When Kalloz’ auditor did hers, a post air sealing test was done which showed less air leakage from the home.

Next, the contractor submits the application to PEPCO within 30 days of the installation and the homeowner’s rebate check arrives six to eight weeks later.

“I recommend doing the things that are affordable first,” Kalloz, who was able to get about 50% of what she spent on improvements back via the rebates, said. “Do what makes financial sense for you. Even if they are not big dollar improvements, they still make a difference and they are important.”

Even after waiting a few months once her audit was done to begin the improvement process, she said the air sealing and installation installed made a drastic difference in the drafts – and her PEPCO bill went down, too.


Written by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges

From energy audit to energy savings

From energy audit to energy savings
Who doesn’t dread the day the energy bill arrives?

For homeowners, the arrival of the energy bill can send blood pressure through the roof, especially if they own an older home or are on a limited income.

Thankfully, the state’s EmPOWER Maryland program helps homeowners reduce electricity consumption and save money with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.

As a homeowner, it is quite easy to participate in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program:

Step 1: Call your utility supplier.

Contact Pepco, BGE or Potomac Edison, and schedule the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Audit. The cost is the same regardless of your utility at only $100 (a $400 value).  Some utilities may let  you choose your contractor.

 

Step 2: Go through the Home Energy Assessment

A certified contractor will visit your home and perform a Home Energy Assessment. They will walk through your home with diagnostic equipment to perform a comprehensive home energy audit and determine how improvements throughout your home can work together to maximize energy efficiency and savings. Some of these tests may include:
  • A blower door test that uses the combination of pressure and airflow measurements to determine your home’s air leakage, which contributes to higher energy costs.
  • Thermographic camera tests that use infrared images to assess the effectiveness of your home’s insulation, which directly affects your home’s comfort and energy efficiency performance.
  • Combustion and safety testing to detect carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks.
  • Verification of adequate ventilation, which is critical to reducing indoor air pollutants, moisture and odors in your home. Without proper ventilation, some household contaminants can cause health problems, while excess moisture can lead to mold growth and physical damage to your home.


 

Step 3: Receive recommended energy-savings improvements

After the audit, a home energy expert will provide you with a comprehensive report with a Prioritized List of Measures to help you determine the best improvements for your home.  It will also provide a list of available rebates.

The expert will help you identify energy efficiency improvements that may qualify you for 75 percent of the costs — or up to $7,500** — to cover energy-saving home improvements, including air sealing, duct sealing, insulation
 and HVAC equipment upgrades.

 

Step 4: Schedule the work with a participating contractor and start seeing energy and cost savings.

“I have recommended [the program] to many people because people don’t realize how much energy they are losing – especially in older homes,” Murray said. “[The contractors] walk you through what will make your home more efficient and how you can save in the long run.”

 

Seeing Results

For Kathleen Murray of Silver Spring, starting the process was mainly about making her drafty house more comfortable.

“All the houses in [my] community are mostly older and big and…we all say we are freezing to death,” she said. “So I decided to have the audit to see what changes I could make to better the heat situation in my home.”

Even after waiting a few months once her audit was done to begin the improvement process, she said the air sealing and installation installed made a drastic difference in the drafts – and her PEPCO bill went down, too.

“I have recommended [the program] to many people because people don’t realize how much energy they are losing – especially in older homes,” Murray said. “[The contractors] walk you through what will make your home more efficient and how you can save in the long run.”

  For a more detailed story on a resident’s experience with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, read this blog.


Sections of this article written by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges

There’s a way to make your home more energy efficient…for free!

There’s a way to make your home more energy efficient…for free!
Did you know that there’s an organization in Montgomery County that offers safe and healthy home repairs at no cost to the recipient? There is and the organization is called Rebuilding Together Montgomery County (RTMC).

RTMC works in partnership with state and local governments, community volunteers, nonprofit service providers, and corporate partners to provide free critical home repairs, energy efficiency upgrades, and accessibility modifications to our County’s most vulnerable residents.  They make repairs to homes, ranging from a small plumbing repair to a major system replacement and include weatherization and energy efficiency measures as well!

Currently, they are looking for homeowners who qualify for the Energy Efficiency Program. That includes homeowners with an income that is 50% of area median income. To find out if this is you, check out the 2017 rent and income limits chart.

 



The Energy Efficiency Program

The Energy Efficiency Program is designed to help those who have no other means to complete needed repairs. RTMC is working to improve the safety, warmth and security of the homes as well as to provide accessibility modifications. Repairs can include
  • minor plumbing and electrical work;
  • roofing, floor, wall, and ceiling repairs;
  • energy efficiency and weatherization;
  • some (limited) interior and exterior painting, installation of grab bars and building of ramps; or
  • trash removal and yard work.


Repairs are made through RTMC’s National Rebuilding Day Program, Volunteer Handyman Program, Energy Efficiency Program, and/or Critical Needs Program. This repair work is done year-round.

Weatherization and Energy Efficiency

What does it mean to have weatherization and/or energy efficiency upgrades? There are lots of different areas that they focus on and here are some examples of what to expect if you qualify:

 

A certified contractor will use diagnostic equipment to perform a comprehensive home energy audit and determine how improvements throughout your home can work together to maximize energy efficiency and savings. Some of these tests may include:
  • A blower door test that uses the combination of pressure and airflow measurements to determine your home’s air leakage, which contributes to higher energy costs.
  • Thermographic camera tests that use infrared images to assess the effectiveness of your home’s insulation, which directly affects your home’s comfort and energy efficiency performance.
  • Combustion and safety testing to detect carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks.
  • Verification of adequate ventilation, which is critical to reducing indoor air pollutants, moisture and odors in your home. Without proper ventilation, some household contaminants can cause health problems, while excess moisture can lead to mold growth and physical damage to your home.


Weatherization reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of the homes while ensuring the resident’s health and safety. Some of the areas that they will address in your home may include:
  • Adding insulation in the attic/crawlspace – Insulation does two important things.
    • First, it provides thermal resistance. Remember that heat always tries to move to colder places unless something (like insulation) gets in the way. Insulation stops the warmth created by your furnace from escaping through your walls to the outside.
    • Second, insulation makes the surfaces on both sides of a wall similar temperatures. This prevents condensation and mold from growing on the colder surface of the wall where the moisture condenses. To prevent mold, the most important thing you can do is stop condensation. Insulation does this in both winter and summer.
  • Caulking of windows – Caulking windows, weather-stripping doors, and closing your chimney flue when it’s not being used are just a start. Most houses have substantial numbers of outdoor air leaks in the attic and basement. Other leaks are hidden behind walls or under siding. These leaks allow polluted air into the house, and allow heated or cooled air out of the house.
  • Installation of energy efficient light bulbs – Switching out your lower-efficiency bulbs to higher-efficiency bulbs, like LEDs, mean that you will be consuming 80% less energy compared to incandescent light bulbs.
  • Installation of energy efficient appliances – Every appliance comes with two price tags: the purchase price and the cost of operating the product. ENERGY STAR certified appliances help consumers save money on operating costs by reducing energy use without sacrificing performance.
  • Installation of high efficiency shower-heads and faucet aerators – These upgrades will save not only water but electricity, as demands on water heaters will also go down, thereby saving energy. High-efficiency faucet aerators reduce the amount of water flowing through the tap, thus using less energy.
  • Maintenance or replacement of heating/cooling systems – When you are not using hot water, your tank loses as much as 2-4 degrees of heat. One way to maintain the heat is by insulating the water heater and its pipes with insulation and pipe sleeves. Additionally making sure you are checking air filters every three months, or 90 days, will help keep your systems in good shape.
 

Interested in Participating?

Single family homes or townhouses with high electricity bills and old heating/cooling systems would be ideal candidates for the program. Here are some additional qualifications, they are looking for:
  • Homeowner(s) who own and live in the home that will be repaired. No exceptions.
  • Homeowner(s) who are current on their mortgage payments.
  • Total household income must not exceed the amounts listed in this chart. Income from ALL residents in the home must be included in the total.
  • Also, note that homeowners should remain in their home for at least five years following the completed repairs.


If you are still interested in applying for the program, applications can be found here. And for more information, visit rebuildingtogethermc.org.