Knowledge is less power wasted; Austin Utilities offers energy savings class and home audit

When it’s all done, you will have a to-do list specifically designed to save you money, and someone will try to suck all the air out of your house.

Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement; not all the air.

If at the end of attending the free workshop “Saving Energy 101,” you choose to take advantage of Austin Utilities’ comprehensive home energy audit, you will experience the blower door test. It’s a big part of the audit.

What happens is a contraption is put on your front door, all the windows and  other doors are closed and it tries to blow the air out of your house and measure the pressure. The lower the pressure, the more of an energy use problem you have.

“That tells you how much air leakage you have in your home,” said Kelly Lady,  Austin Utilities manager of marketing and energy services.

The house audit is a $300 value, she said. Going through Austin Utilities, customers can have it done for $50. But for people who attend Saving Energy 101, the price is $25.

The workshop is next scheduled for 1-2 p.m. or 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, at Austin Utilities, 1908 14th St. NE. It is free and you can register calling 460-1706 or going on the utility’s website.

Stacy Boots Camp, an outreach coordinator at the Center for Energy and the Environment, leads the workshop and will present practical, innovative, energy solutions for homeowners, businesses, nonprofits, and government.

The workshop is offered only a few times a year.

“The class kind of supports the audit,” Lady said. “The class is going to be a lot of behavioral things you can do and its going to give you a big oversight picture of how you use energy at home.”

The audit will look at everything in your home from appliances to the building shell.

They are not aiming to recommend big, expensive projects, Lady said.

“Some people might think, ‘I have to replace all my windows and my energy bill will go down,’” she said. “That’s very expensive to do, and the reality is, your windows would have to be in pretty bad shape before we would recommend making an investment like that. This audit might tell you another action that would be a lesser cost that would give you more value.”

In the workshop, Camp will also introduce the concept of phantom energy use.

She talks about how when you turn the lights off in a room, you likely have not killed all the power, Lady said. The phantom power load remains.

“She shows this dark slide with all these little  red lights all over and it looks like  scary things,” Lady said. “When she flips the light on you realize  it’s the TV and  all these things still operating in the background.”

The class and the audit help you understand where your energy drains come from.

“Generally, when you think about energy savings at home, where do you start?” Lady said. “(You say), ‘Well I’m turning my lights off, but I’m not seeing an impact. Maybe that’s not your problem.”

The workshop will look into a variety of areas and solutions, such as LED lighting  or improving heating and cooling efficiency by making certain  your furnace fan filter is changed on a regular basis.

“That will arm them with a checklist of action items and help them learn where to invest their money to get the best bang for the buck,” Lady said.

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