August, 2009

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Energy Savings: An Opportunity and a Responsibility


I wonder how many of you have seen the new electrified truck parking spaces (ETPS) at your local truck stop? Better yet, how many of you give a hoot about them? I think they are important to home inspectors like us because ETPS are evidence of a growing concern for energy savings.

Several states are requiring ETPS to save energy, and there is a new article in the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) specific to these. According to these statistics from the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI):

“U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation) hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, revised in August 2005, require long-haul drivers to rest a minimum of 10 hours after driving 11 hours. The approximately 1.4 million heavy-duty long-haul trucks on the road typically idle 10–12 hours per night, 300 nights per year.

“Trucks emit over 0.3 tons of nitrogen oxides and 21 tons of carbon dioxide each year while burning 1 to 1.3 gallons of fuel for each hour of idling. Idling trucks collectively burn 3.7 billion gallons of diesel fuel annually at a cost of more than one trillion dollars to the industry. That number increases as the cost of fuel increases. Other areas of concern are engine wear and tear and noise.”

This is a huge waste of limited resources. When you look at what these ETPS can save you, start thinking of how much energy and resources can be saved by applying some conservation to our homes.

From truck stops to homes: Energy use is an issue

An article in a recent issue of IAEI Magazine addresses the effect voltage drop has on energy and costs. If builders were to increase the size of wiring to select circuits, homeowners could save energy and money. It might not be much for one home, but added up it would be significant. We all have heard about changing to compact fluorescent bulbs and putting motion detectors on lighting in rooms — these small steps can save energy and dollars over time. A bigger step is to replace older appliances; many waste energy big-time. I replaced our old side-by-side refrigerator and saw a $30 monthly drop in my electric bill. (This old refrigerator had strip heaters for the defrost cycle.) The new appliances are built with energy savings in the design. You can pay back the cost of the new appliance in a year or so and pocket the savings after that. That could pay for your ASHI membership!

Government taking action

I raise this issue as the federal government is attempting to pass some laws regarding energy conservation and our existing housing stock. There may be an opportunity for us as home inspectors to add to our customer services with some type of energy inspection/audit. It may be as simple as listing items in the home that could be updated or modified to save energy. It may be as complicated as a blower door test and use of an infrared camera. These last methods would require a substantial investment that I hope could be paid back soon with increased inspection fees. It still is too early to know what, if anything, the new laws would require for inspection or audit. I know ASHI is following closely energy law and service activities, and will keep you informed as opportunities arise.

Getting a jump on helping

In the meantime, if we were to advise our clients of energy-saving tips and techniques, for an extra fee, we could be getting a jump on helping offset the energy crunch. Energy not used means fuel not used and pollution not generated at the power plants. When I had an electrical company, we would do an audit on commercial buildings and draft up a savings plan. We would share the cost of retrofitting ballasts, lamp dimmers and motion detectors for a share in the energy savings. These savings more than paid for the cost, usually within one-two years. We were using old technology. I have heard and read that the savings with the new technology are even greater.

Architects and engineers are starting to redesign buildings with energy savings in mind. The housing market is still behind in this approach. Hopefully, this will change soon. The article in the IAEI magazine says that buildings in the U.S. represent 72 percent of energy consumption. Imagine what would happen if we could cut that back even a few percent?

I look at my one-year-old-son Travis and wonder what his energy future looks like if we don’t do something. We don’t have to wait for new laws and opportunities. I will do now all I can to save money and help conserve energy by educating myself and my clients. I hope all of you will do the same.