A Greener Austin One House at a Time

Is your Attic Ready for the Texas Heat?

Texas summer heat will be here soon.  There are many inexpensive measures you can take in your home to prepare for the heat and get a payback with lower utility bills.

Preparing your home for summer should start in your attic.  If you do not have a metal roof which reflects the sun away from your home, you can add radiant barrier to the decking, ridges and gable ends inside your attic.  There are a variety of radiant barrier products including rolled out foil applications or spray on products such as HEATBLOC-75 radiant attic barrier.  Applying a thin even coat to these surfaces with HEATBLOC-75 creates an effective radiant barrier that will stop 75% of the potential radiant energy transfer into the attic.  Reducing the radiant energy into your home is an obvious first step toward reducing your utility bills.  As a bonus, if you are an Austin Energy customer, there are currently rebates available on radiant barrier.   You may choose from a list of companies registered with Austin Energy to do the radiant barrier application and they can file the rebates on your behalf.

You also need to address the heat that does get transferred into the attic. Proper Insulation will then slow the transfer of the heat from your attic into your home.  Properly insulating your attic is another inexpensive way to reduce your utility bills. A home energy audit can reveal if your attic is properly insulated.  Insulation is measured in R-value and different areas of the country have an R-value recommendation for the U.S. Department of Energy.  For the Austin area the recommended R-value is R-38 which is equivalent to about 10-14 inches of insulation. Unless your home was built in the last 3 to 5 years and has not had the insulation updated, it is highly likely that you do not have enough insulation in your attic.  Insulation now comes in environmentally friendly varieties such as recycled newsprint.  Green Fiber insulation for example consists of 85% recycled content.  Insulation of a typical 1500 square foot ranch style home, for example, will recycle as much news print as an individual will consume in 40 years.  Therefore, by using a product like Green Fiber, you can reduce your energy bill and use an environmentally friendly product at the same time.  Again, Austin Energy customers can benefit from rebates on updating insulation when they choose from a list of providers on the Home Performance with Energy Star Program .There is also a 30% Federal tax credit in 2009 up to $1,500 that applies to  insulation upgrades. 

Before upgrading your insulation it is imperative that you have your duct work evaluated.  Your duct work will also be evaluated in a home energy audit.   In homes with central heating and cooling, ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout the house.  According to ENERGY STAR, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts.  The result is higher utility bills and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.  Signs that you may need to have your duct work evaluated include high summer and winter utility bills, comfort issues in a particular area of the house, stuffy rooms and visible tangle of kinked flexible ducts in your system.

By addressing the radiant barrier, insulation and duct work in your attic you could possibly see around a 30% reduction in your utility bills.

duct leak visible with infrared camera inspection during home energy audit

duct leak visible with infrared camera inspection during home energy audit


5 Reasons Austin Home Owners Should Get a Home Energy Audit Today

5 Reasons Austin Home Owners Should Get a Home Energy Audit Today

If you are concerned about rising utility bills, your impact on the environment or care about the value of your home, a home energy audit can help.    We have our cars inspected and serviced regularly to insure proper performance.  What about our homes? For most of us, the majority of our time is spent in our home and the majority of our carbon footprint stems from our home.  There are several reasons that now, more than ever, Austin residents should look into having a home energy audit.

1)      Lower your utility bill.   In these tough economic times, one thing that we can control is our spending.  A reduction in your utility bills can be controlled by making some simple lifestyle changes as well as making weatherization improvements to your home. 

2)      Reduce your carbon footprint.  We all need to do our part to protect the environment and reduce the amount of energy we use in our home.  If everyone does a small part to reduce energy consumption, we can have a huge impact on the environment.  Locally, we can work toward making Austin the greenest city in the country.

3)      If you are an Austin Energy customer, there are amazing rebates and zero to low interest loans available on many weatherization improvements for your home thru the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program.    Choose from a list of participating companies such as Green Footprint Solutions to perform the audit, make the improvements and file the rebates on your behalf.

4)      Take advantage of Federal Tax Credits in 2009- There are Federal Tax credits available in 2009 and 2010  for energy efficiency improvements  available at 30% of the cost, up to $1500 ( for existing homes only)  for  windows and doors, insulation, roofs ( metal and asphalt), HVAC, Water Heaters ( non-solar) and Biomass Stoves

5)      Make your home more saleable – In this ever increasingly competitive real estate market, it is important to make sure your home is saleable, even if you are not looking to place your house on the market right now.  The energy efficiency of a home is something that buyers will likely take into consideration when purchasing a home.   The City of Austin is encouraging homeowners to participate in energy efficiency programs thru Austin Energy.    In fact, effective June 1, 2009, the Austin Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure Ordinance, also known as the City of Austin Ordinance  No.  20081106-047 will require that the owner of a home ( non-exempt) must, before the time of sale have an energy audit. The owner of the home must provide a copy of the energy audit to the purchaser or prospective purchaser of the home before the time of sale and the person performing the audit must provide a copy of the energy audit to the city not later than 30 days after the audit is complete.  If you are proactive, and have an energy audit done prior to putting your home on the market, you may be able to identify and improve potential areas in need improvement.  If you make enough improvements thru Austin Energy’s Home Performance with Energy Star rebate programs, you may be exempt from the mandatory audit when your home is sold.  Additionally, you may disclose the improvements to potential buyers making your home more appealing, much like staging.

Even if you are not an Austin Energy customer and the rebates and ordinance do not apply to you, you may still benefit from the Federal Tax Credits, lower utility bills, and a reduction in your carbon footprint.   Get a Green Footprint Plan today and put it into action.  Remember that a home energy audit is a great first step toward reducing your carbon footprint, but the real key is to take action and  make the recommended improvements to save energy.

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March 25, 2009, 8:08 pm
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