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Start Saving Money with a Home Energy Audit: An Interview with Susan Meredith of Go Green Squads

By Susan Meredith

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Go Green Squads has a mission to reduce unnecessary energy use, one job at a time. We are the General Contractors of Energy Efficiency providing full service audits and upgrades, which includes insulation, duct sealing, weatherizing, solar shading, heating and air conditioning and more.

We started Go Green Squads as an energy audit company in 2008. I gave talks related to my book "Beyond Light Bulbs: Lighting the Way to Smarter Energy Management" and people would ask my husband, who has a construction background, what they could do for their homes. We realized there was a need for educating people specifically about energy efficiency in homes. But then we realized that if we were serious about reducing energy use, we needed to help them actually make the changes. We started implementing the weatherization upgrades and then added heating and air Conditioning because it is such a fundamental part of the energy use in a home. Now we provide virtually any energy efficiency service needed.

Can you briefly explain what a home energy audit or an energy assessment is?

The purpose of an energy audit is to determine how to make your home or office more energy efficient so you reduce energy bills and increase comfort. There are a variety of audits. The most basic is a free visual inspection which involves looking in your attic, at your doors and windows, and visually checking throughout your house for the most common measures to be performed.

The ECAD (Energy Conservation Audit & Disclosure) required by the City of Austin includes a duct leakage test and the collection of detailed data for submission to Austin Energy. If you have two HVAC systems it includes a duct test on each system. ECADs are required for any home being sold that is over ten years old.

The most comprehensive audit includes the above items, plus more extensive testing. Homeowners might want to include a blower door test to see how leaky the building envelope is and a system performance test to determine whether the air flow in their duct systems are properly balanced.

What are the basic steps for a home energy audits and how long does one usually take?

There is no preparation required on the part of the homeowner. Just call to schedule and be available for the audit. The audit can be set up within a matter of days and take around an hour, plus time for any of the testing.

What are the main benefits for homeowners and residents who have a professional energy audit/assessment done?

The direct benefit to the homeowner is knowing how to reduce energy bills and increase comfort. Sometimes you have no idea what's possible. For instance, when we started doing this type of work, we of course did the testing on our own home. At the time we lived in an older home in Travis Heights. It was summer, and when we tested the ducts, we found that we were air conditioning the attic - it was cool up there! The tests showed that we had 65% duct leakage.

The audit itself provides information on what needs to be done like repairing or replacing leaky duct systems, decreasing air infiltration, adding insulation, etc. Another common problem is insulation that is virtually nonexistent in parts of the attic, so it's like having a window open, letting the conditioned air ? whether cooled or heated ? escape. Sometimes the whole attic needs insulation added.

The real benefit comes from actually making the upgrades. As soon as we sealed up the ductwork, there was a tangible difference in the amount of air coming out.

For Austinites, another benefit to reducing your own energy demands is that it aids Austin Energy in meeting their goal to reduce electricity demand by 700 MWatts so Austinites don't have to pay for another power plant. And of course the corresponding reduction in emissions is good for everyone's air quality.

Who is qualified to perform an energy audit and how much does it typically cost in Texas?

A BPI or RESNET certification indicates that the person has been trained by those organizations. Probably the easiest way to find someone is to check the Austin Energy website for those that are registered.

Audits can range anywhere from free for the visual inspection to audits of $200 to $700 depending on the size of the home and tests that are to be performed.

What are the top two or three things that people in Texas can do now to save energy in their homes and start saving money?

We think in terms of Habits and Households. The top three Habits, or things to do yourself, are to use CFL or LED light bulbs, program your thermostat, and change your air filters. Sometimes people balk at the simplicity of these things. Light bulbs are the best example though. Your energy use is measured by Watts.

If you change a standard incandescent light bulb that uses 60 Watts with a CFL that uses 15 Watts, that's 75% less. If you replace that 60 Watt bulb with an LED that uses 5 Watts, that's 92% less. Those little amounts can really add up. If everyone changed their light bulbs in Austin, there would be 20% less electrical demand for lighting. Which would greatly contribute to meeting Austin's goal to reduce our electricity demand.

The top three household related items are related to ductwork, insulation and your heating/AC unit. And the first step for all three of those are to have an audit.

What's the best way for people to reach you and your company?

Give us a call, put in a request on our website, or email us. That's 512-326-9300, www.gogreensquads.com and office@gogreensquads.com. To a Greener Tomorrow!

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About The Author

Susan Meredith is CEO and co-founder of Go Green Squads.

Phone: 512-326-9300

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