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Park Rapids homeowner will save money over time

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Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
(218) 732-8757 customer support
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Park Rapids resident Wally Vokes is looking at a 13-year payback on energy improvements he made to his home.

"I first heard about the energy audits" through Green Park Rapids," he said.

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Vokes' home was located in the pilot neighborhood near downtown. He had an energy audit done by Bo Ernst, with GA Ernst & Associates, Inc.

A home energy audit is the first step to assess how much energy a home consumes and to evaluate what measures homeowners can take to make their home more energy efficient.

The energy audits included a blower door test, which depressurized the house to measure air leakage. The tool shows how leaky the house is and aids in looking for holes.

Air typically enters a home in the basement and is released through the attic. The first area to work on is closing up the attic holes. Heat rises and if it can't escape, the house won't lose as much heat.

An infrared camera is used to see where air is coming into and leaving the house. It measures radiant heat and shows cold spots. They are often completed in the winter.

An audit shows the homeowner problems that may, when corrected, save significant amounts of money over time. Audits also determine the efficiency of a home's heating and cooling systems. An audit may also show ways to conserve hot water and electricity.

The audit Vokes had done at his home revealed he had heat leaking through the roof, which were causing ice dams to form on his home.

"It was surprising in some ways but it made sense because of the ice dams," Vokes said.

Recommendations for energy improvements to his home included adding insulation, sealing up the rim joints where the house meets the ground and creating a seal around the chimney.

Vokes added insulation and sealing in the summer of 2009.

Specifically, the improvements included:

n Adding six to eight roof and soffit vents and two whirly-bird vents

n Having 4 inches of cellulose insulation blown into his attic.

n Sealing the top and bottom edges of the rim joists.

n Sealing up the chimney pipe.

Beyond energy savings, installing attic ventilation will protect roof integrity, extend the life of the roof and reduce ice dam formation, Ernst said. The specific dollar amount on these savings can't be calculated but do result in a savings, he said.

"One could argue the return on investment analysis should only include air sealing and insulation costs, not the incremental cost of additional attic ventilation," Ernst said.

After Vokes made the improvements to his house, he noticed a big difference this winter, he said.

"There weren't ice dams anymore, that was the big part," he said.

A calculation of normalized annual savings using a two-year average from 2007-8 and 2008-09 showed an annual savings for the winter of 2009-10 of 146 therms, or about $150 per year.

A calculation by Ernst shows an 18 percent reduction.

The payback period is calculated at about 13 years. The improvements also likely increase the value of his home, though.

"I might see the payback," Vokes said. "I'll especially notice the savings in the cold winters."

Also, the comfort is worth something, he said. His home is more comfortable to live in because it isn't leaking air during the cold Minnesota winters.

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Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561
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