“High Tech Solutions for Low Temperatures”
The Boston Bulletin
February 4, 2010
by Zack Huffman
The bite of the New England cold can be bad enough for Bostonians, but how does one cope with the added sting of high heating bills during the winter?
In order to combat the assault of high-cost energy, Ray Porfilio and Rickie Harvey of West Roxbury Saves Energy (WRSE) presented an energy audit demonstration to a home on Maple Street to show how the audit works, as well as how one can get a sense of the amount of energy their home may be wasting.
“The energy audit or energy assessment, takes a look at your house to see where there are leaks, inefficient windows, heating systems and the like. You get a list of recommendations so that as a home owner you can choose whether they’re worth it to you to fix them,” said Porfilio. “The principle of the energy audit is you need to know where you lose energy in your house, before you decide where best to put your money in order to improve it.”
Although the event was hosted by WRSE, the actual audit was conducted by members of Green Guild, a company that provides home energy audit and weatherization services. The audit involved sealing up the front door and attaching a fan to it, to suck all of the warm air out and de-pressurizing the home. In doing so, cold air from the outside, is pulled through the points of the house where there are leaks in the insulation. By following this “cold trail” of energy with a special computer, auditors can find where a home needs extra protection from the weather.
A thermal imaging camera was also used to detect cold and warm spots in the house, which helps determine where the home needs the most temperature protection.
“The usual estimates are that you lose anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of your energy when it just goes out of your house,” said Porfilio. “If you do the basic improvements, you’ll reduce your bill by 10 to 20 percent. That’s caulking, weather stripping and sealing around openings. That’s not replacing your boiler.”
Porfilio and Harvey founded WRSE about a year and a half ago with the expressed intent of helping to educate the community in ways to save both energy and money, through lower utility bills.
“We’ve held some winterizing workshops. We’ve had speakers come and give presentations and we’ve done other activities around other energy use,” said Porfilio. “We have about 150 members and we’re always looking for different ways to engage the community.”
For those who may not be able to afford a full energy audit, WRSE had some do-it-yourself tips for homeowners.
“The simplest and best thing to do is check weather stripping. You want to make sure your doors and windows close firmly and that you’re not getting a draft,” said Porfilio. “You want to do things like close your chimney, you want to make sure your storm windows are closed. Then there’s the level where you want to be efficient with the energy you use. It’s worth changing filters.”
Leaks and drafts can also be detected by lighting a candle and holding it up to windows and doors to see if there is enough draft to make the flame flicker. If people are not comfortable using open flames, especially near window drapes, they can also use a lit incense-stick to see if there is any extra air-flow that makes the smoke move.
“There are non-scientific tests,” said Porfilio. “We had a lot of wind this past weekend. When your windows are rattling, that’s a pretty good sign there’s a leak.”