Making our homes energy efficient is a little like cooking with kale: we know it’s good for us, but that doesn’t mean we’re actually going to throw it in the soup.
Until now, that is. By this spring, most of the municipalities on the Kansas side of the metropolitan area will have adopted the 2012 International Building Code. The code, which sets standards on both new home construction and renovations to existing homes, stipulates stricter requirements for home energy efficiency, addressing everything from the insulation on your hot water pipes to how much leakage is allowed in your air ducts. In addition, the federal government’s new furnace standards kick in on May 1st of this year, upping the previous minimum fuel efficiency rating. With new mandates from the local level to the federal, energy efficiency is no longer optional.
Why This is a Good Thing
It’s important to keep in mind is that energy conservation saves not only energy, but money, too. A high-efficiency HVAC unit may cost more up-front, but the savings in reduced energy bills makes up for that difference over time. As a bonus, you may qualify for one of the many incentive programs created to ease the burden of the higher initial costs. The Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency extends a tax credit of 30% of the cost of geo-thermal heat pumps and solar energy systems, with no upper limit on the credit amount. KCP&L offers an instant rebate to its Missouri customers on new high-efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps. And before you buy any new appliance, check out the rebate locator on the Energy Star website (www.energystar.gov).
Where Do I Start?
A good place to begin tightening your energy belt is with a professional home energy audit. The auditor will examine each room of the house, and may do a blower door test or thermographic scan to determine how airtight the structure is. Have past utility bills ready; they are an important clue to the auditor in what to look for during the home examination.
Make a Change
Once you’ve determined the trouble spots, take steps to make your house more efficient. Some of these you may be able to do yourself, like caulking around a loose window frame or applying weather stripping. Other jobs may require the work of a professional, such as installing a new HVAC system. Visit some of the following sites for more ideas and resources on making your home as energy-efficient as possible:
Beyond the Bulb, an information website focusing on energy efficiency improvements in the greater Kansas City area. www.beyondthebulb.org
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy resource, www.eere.energy.gov
KCP&L’s Efficient Energy webpage at www.kcpl.com/residential/hee.html