Seattle’s 5000-home energy audit pilot program is underway!

Seattle’s 5000-home energy audit pilot program is underway!
November 30, 2009 Scott Case
Uninsulated attic

Seattle City Light auditor setting up a blower door test.

Well, a pilot of the pilot is underway.  EnergySavvy.com writer Matt Dressler was able to do an informal “ride along” with audit number 3 of 5000, to see how the program is shaping up.

The City of Seattle and Seattle City Light are just starting a project to do 5000 in-home energy audits at a subsidized rate of $95, funded by Seattle’s EECBG grant from the federal stimulus bill.  The project, announced in April of 2009, is scheduled to get into full swing in early 2010, but the city’s energy auditors are getting started on the first few homes this month.

Audit number 3 of 5000 was a recently purchased an 820 square foot house in North Seattle.  By the assessment of the homeowners, the house has seen very minimal upgrades or improvements since it was constructed in 1942.  It is characterized by single pane windows, uninsulated walls and floors, a low efficiency oil furnace, 1950’s-era kitchen appliances and 1970’s-era laundry machines.  In other words, there’s some room for improvement.

The homeowners were interested in having an energy audit of their house to address the obvious deficiencies: lack of insulation in the floors and walls, the windows, the old and inefficient oil furnace, and heating ducts that had never been sealed.  With so many places they could spend money to improve the house’s efficiency, they wanted a professional who could provide them with a prioritized list of recommended improvements based on the cost and benefit associated with each.  That way they could figure out what they could afford to do, and in what order they should do it.


They found out about Seattle’s subsidized energy audit program from a friend, signed up online and got a call to schedule the audit several months later.

The audit lasted two hours and included a depressurization test (known as a blower door test) to assess the amount of air leakage in the house, a visual inspection of the attic and basement, and a check of the hot water heater and furnace settings.  The auditor brought along a box of complimentary compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs to replace existing incandescent ones.

The auditor pointed out several easy ways to save energy (for example, he reduced the hot water heater from 140 to 120 degrees) and gathered additional energy use information from the homeowner through a series of questions and discussion.  The auditor explained that the data from the audit would be analyzed by a company in Oregon, the Earth Advantage Institute, and that the homeowners would receive a report in several weeks.  The report would include a Energy Performance Score (EPS) for their house that reflects the overall energy consumption and carbon emissions: the equivelent of an MPG (miles per gallon) sticker for their house.

Stay tuned for future posts as we follow the experience of these homeowners as they receive their audit report and decide what improvements they make!