Improvements to Energy Costs, Air Quality, and Comfort for Energy Efficiency Day

Improvements to Energy Costs, Air Quality, and Comfort for Energy Efficiency Day

Author: Andrew Grigsby, Viridiant Energy Services Director

Caption: Disconnected ductwork in a crawlspace

It’s national energy efficiency day! And when home energy pros get together, we often swap stories about some of the red flags and problem areas we see out in the field. Ultimately, we’re talking about opportunity. We see so many places where folks can make big improvements to energy costs, air quality, and comfort – often at pretty low prices. We’re proud to find these things because we like helping people. When we find problems, we’ve delivered. We’ve alerted our clients to an opportunity to live better.

It kind of feels like having the cure for the common cold. We have something great we want to share. Homes can be fixed! Costs can be reduced! And this work is proof that addressing a key cause of climate change isn’t a sacrifice, it’s an improvement.

Caption: Sometimes ineffective attic insulation is made visible by uneven snow melt patterns

As home energy auditors, we bring years of training and expertise from looking at many hundreds of homes. But we have to meet residents where they are. Every family has particular needs and conditions, goals for their home, and beliefs about what solutions work. We bring humility and science, a listening ear and a willingness to inspect from peak to foundation. To achieve results, it’s not enough just to point out an opportunity. We want to empower folks and inspire action. Our hope is that the information we provide motivates our clients to take on the drivers of waste, discomfort, and dirt air waste: do those no-cost improvements now, set aside a weekend for the $40 projects, and think about a long-term route to net-zero energy.

Studies have long shown that the cheapest way for the US to meet its energy needs is to make our existing buildings (and new buildings) more efficient. The cheapest KWH is the one we don’t use.


Those data points are a few years old, so the next table shows more recent data on generation (showing how solar and wind are now the cheapest resources). Note that a $30 MWH is the same as a 3 cent KWH.


In other words, it’s cheaper to save energy than to make new energy. No source of generation  is less than 2 cents per KWH. Plus, that efficiency gain has so many other benefits: 24/7 service, reduced line losses from transmission/distribution, and resiliency. Of course we need generation too, but we are a long long way from utilizing all available efficiency opportunities. .

Energy efficiency really is something to celebrate, to learn more about, to invest in. Every home can benefit.

We often get asked about the best new technologies for boosting the efficiency of homes. Some of the smart home innovations allow for remote and timed operation of equipment, but generally I find that only the most highly-engaged user will see meaningful energy savings from those.

Really the best new products are the latest versions of familiar products:

  • Today’s heat pumps are far and away the best HVAC solution for our climate (and points far to the north). No question. Give us a call if you’re updating equipment and need advice.
  • An ENERGY STAR-rated ceiling fan can vary from 47 cfm/watt 444 cfm/watt. That’s a 10-fold difference – but both fans have the same ENERGY STAR label. This principle applies to all appliances: washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. Shop carefully! Read the fine print!
  • I’ll make a plug for electric cars here too. They convert BTUs of energy into rolling your wheels 3 to 5 times more efficiently than gasoline-powered vehicles.

Another old technology that is always improving is design – the home and rooms of course, but also mechanical systems like ductwork and hot water. Could you design away that long, wasteful wait for hot water in your bathroom? And finally there’s the process of construction or installation. In the end it’s the level of care and expertise shown by the craftsperson that always becomes the most important factor.

If you want learn more about how the best energy efficiency practices and tools can help your home (and your wallet), get a professional home energy audit. We offer this service in the Richmond region for as little as $45. If you’re out of our range, there are qualified building scientists across Virginia whom we’re happy to direct you to. And many homes qualify for free upgrades from local weatherization providers via federal, state, and utility-managed programs. It’s always a good time to start saving money and be more comfortable.

Thanks for reading. And happy energy efficiency day!

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