UMD for Clean Energy did something a little different than usual, holding an educational event to close out the semester by doing a walk through of an energy audit of a house in College Park. Once we have the numbers from the audit on how much money could be saved by certain measures, they’ll be released. Here is the article in the Diamondback covering the event, and I’m also posting it below.
A green house effect
In an effort to bolster support for their Green for College Park campaign, UMD for Clean Energy held an energy audit to prove their Energy Loan Fund plan would be a success.
About 14 members of the group crowded into a local home Sunday to observe greeNEWit, a company that performs residential and commercial energy audits to demonstrate how energy-efficient upgrades can save homeowners money.
Group members hoped that the live energy audit would encourage support for an Energy Loan Fund, the main part of their Green for College Park platform, which has faced recent legal challenges. The loan fund would be a pool of money lent out to College Park homeowners to make energy-efficient upgrades in their homes, which the College Park City Council would collect back by levying property taxes on the loan recipients. But due to a state law, the council does not have the authority to raise taxes on specific households. Council members plan to lobby the state legislature to change the provision.
GreeNEWit founder Josh Notes and auditor Brad Eisenberg, both university alumni, performed tests and used infrared cameras to do an audit of the home’s energy usage.
“We knew Josh from GreeNEWit, and we’ve been trying to do this since the beginning of the semester, but we’ve had some problems finding a residential house instead of a rental property and that wouldn’t find a group of students to be a liability,” said campaign coordinator Matt Dernoga, a senior government and politics major and Diamondback columnist. “Josh mentioned that he had a friend with a house in College Park that would be a good place to do this at.”
Group members watched as Eisenberg walked around the exterior and interior of the house, pointing out areas that could use improvement and examining appliances, heating and water systems and air leakage, which resident Anastasia Stephnova said was a big problem.
“If [the improvements] are going to make the house warmer and are cheaper, that would be amazing because it’s so cold,” Stephnova said. “I think everyone should get an audit. Some things just make more sense that I never would’ve thought of myself, like not leaving the garage open.”
The auditors found a number of problems: The empty freezer was using up more energy than it was full, the residents had several electronics plugged in while they were turned off and there was not enough insulation in the attic, which was contributing to the cold temperatures indoors.
Notes and Eisenberg also took readings of the temperatures along the top edges of the walls with an infrared camera and then used a reverse fan fitted into the door to depressurize the house and show where the air leakages were.
“We’re essentially exaggerating what’s already happening in the house to find the problem areas,” Eisenberg said.
Energy-efficient solutions, such as sealing the perimeter of the house to better retain heat, may cost between $1,000 and $2,000, but the electric bills for the house are already $600 or $700 a month, Notes said, suggesting the owners of the house could make back the money in as little as a year.
“We are trying to start a loan fund in College Park, and we did this so people can have an incentive to make energy efficient upgrades and so people can see how much money they can save, and so the city can see that it’s a good idea,” said Katherine Beisler, a UMD for Clean Energy member.