Making the most of home upgrades

By Joseph Woodard, CEMC Energy Programs Inspector

Extreme climates = extreme energy use
After enduring another scorching Tennessee summer, you may have noticed that keeping your home comfortable has been difficult in the extreme temperatures. Maybe that heat pump seems to run constantly or your home just never seems quite comfortable. If you’ve noticed this along with your energy costs rising annually in the heating or cooling seasons, it may be that your home is no longer performing to its full potential and is consuming more energy in the process. 

Energy answers ... outside the home?
I’m sure that like many homeowners, you avoid entering your crawlspace or attic as much as possible. That’s understandable as these areas are dark and extremely hot or cold. However, a short visit could lead to the discovery of major issues that could affect your home’s energy consumption. 

Keeping out the cold
For any Tennessee residents who are enthralled by a certain cable television series involving dragons, knights and metal thrones, the phrase, “Winter is coming,” is not lost. As we prepare for the chill in the air, it is important to recognize that your home’s best chance of keeping warm is to stop the cold air from entering. Sealing the home’s thermal envelope is the most effective way to combat thermal loss as it is common to find areas like Figure 1 (below) that allow the inside air to freely escape to the outside.  

Getting the heat to the inside
OK, so you’ve stopped the cold from entering the home. What about the heat you’re trying to keep in? The majority of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in Middle Tennessee are forced-air systems, utilizing ductwork to move conditioned air into homes.  Unfortunately, most duct systems are leaky, and poorly insulated, even when they’re brand-new. Just as a leak in plumbing allows water to escape, a leaking duct system like in Figure 2 (above) allows that conditioned air to enter your crawlspace or attic, losing any efficiency your HVAC system can create.

Proper install gives expected savings
Maybe you’ve made some upgrades already; your effort is applauded! However, any upgrade to your home is only as valuable as the quality of the installation. If you’ve upgraded that water heater to an efficient model but the plumbing to that appliance leaks, the result is energy-saving features not utilized because the unit must compensate for shortcuts made during installation.

Energy Resource Center
If you’re not ready to jump into your crawlspace, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation offers some tools to help diagnose common deficiencies in your home. Visit www.cemc.org to view our Energy Resource Center, which includes our energy adviser-led self audit. By entering your home’s data, you’ll receive a comprehensive report of how your energy dollars are spent now and suggested areas to upgrade to help you plan for the future.  

eScore Residential Efficiency Program
If you’ve decided it’s time to start upgrading your home to lower your operating costs, CEMC is excited to offer homeowners an easy way to make your home as energy-efficient as possible. The eScore Program uses a clear evaluation of your home to discover which upgrades can yield the quickest improvement in your specific home. Learn your home’s eScore, get expert advice, install efficiency upgrades and receive rebates and financing for the work you’ve had done.
Bonus: Visit www.2escore.com to complete the self-audit for your home, and you’ll receive a free Home Energy Savings Kit including a $10 Home Depot gift card!

Saving energy dollars one step at a time
While upgrading an existing home can be a long-term series of projects, the eScore program allows you, as the homeowner, to complete these goals on your own schedule and revisit the program at any time. If you are upgrading your HVAC system and adding attic insulation this year but plan to replace windows the next, you can easily re-engage at that time to receive the rebates you have earned for your efficiency investments. 

Affordable financing available
Did you know that CEMC offers low-interest financing for upgrades to your home? By optioning for eScore financing, the cost of upgrades can be spread into equal payments added to your monthly electric billing. Upgrades such as heat pumps, duct systems, attic insulation and air sealing can be financed to help you achieve the savings at a budget-friendly cost. For more details or to apply, visit www.cemc.org/services.

Rebates for quality installs
On top of energy savings gained over the life of the home, rebates are awarded for having the energy-saving measures installed using the Quality Contractor Network (QCN). As the quality of installation maximizes the full benefit of the energy savings you are wishing to achieve, utilizing a QCN contractor ensures that the install is performed to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s standards; a third-party inspection verifies that your investment is worry-free.

How to get started
Simply visit www.2eScore.com or call 1-855-2eScore (1-855-237-2673) to begin. After registering, choose a QCN member to receive free estimates and get started with the upgrades you’ve planned. Once the install is complete, you will receive a FREE eScore evaluation of the home and a quality-assurance inspection of the work. A certified energy adviser will visit and evaluate the home to provide a customized list of suggested future upgrades and install instant-savings measures (compact fluorescent lightbulbs and low-flow showerheads).

If you’re unsure of where to start your upgrades, you can have an eScore evaluation performed on your home before making upgrades for a nonrefundable fee of $75. Sign up for an eScore evaluation by visiting www.2eScore.com or calling 1-855-2eScore (1-855-237-2673).