High Heat Bills, Drafts: Where to Turn First?

January 24, 2012

By Paul Lambert and Dan Mellinger,

We run an insurance agency out of a small house that we bought and had converted into offices. Every winter, the staff is uncomfortable because the building is drafty. Plus, the heat bills are astronomical. Something has to be done, but I don’t know the answer. A new furnace? More insulation? Better windows? How do I find out? – KG, DH, Orange County


Paul:
In a building like yours, your best first step is an energy audit. An audit will give you a whole-building view, looking at numerous factors that have an impact on your energy use and comfort. A qualified auditor will assess the air leakage in your building, check the insulation, look at the efficiency of your equipment (heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, etc) and make recommendations for improvements. This comprehensive view of a building yields higher energy savings than a piecemeal approach to efficiency upgrades.

Dan:
I agree. I recommend bringing in a contractor who is certified by the Building Performance Institute. BPI-certified contractors are trained to understand the ways that a building and its systems interact to affect energy use, air movement, and air quality, as well as health and safety issues. After conducting the audit, the contractor can help you determine cost-effective ways to control your energy expenses and to improve your comfort in your building.

Paul:
Depending on the type of property, Efficiency Vermont offers up to $7,500 to small-business owners who have energy audits and insulation upgrades completed by BPI contractors. View the full eligibility requirements and a list of participating BPI contractors.

Dan:
If you find that equipment upgrades are warranted, be aware that Efficiency Vermont also offers rebates for a range of energy-saving equipment, such as efficient furnaces, boilers, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and refrigeration. Additional rebates may be available, so contact Efficiency Vermont if you don’t see certain equipment listed.

Paul:
Best of luck making your office a less costly and more comfortable place. Thanks for writing in.