Sunday, January 28, 2001

Cinergy sleuths find ways to save

Free service helps homeowners

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Jim Snodgrass is poking around in the basement of a 105-year-old house, examining joints on the duct work leading from one of three furnaces.

        Mr. Snodgrass is one of eight energy auditors in Ohio and Kentucky and four in Indiana who inspect 5,000 Tristate homes each year for Cinergy Corp. customers. A free, 90-minute, basement-to-attic inspection will find clues to faulty heating and cooling systems and house construction that could save homeowners money.

        Itšs exactly the kind of work in huge demand these days, given record-setting heating bills this winter.

        Even before a homeowner invites him in, an auditor knows the householdšs history on gas and electric use. Then the questions begin: Whatšs the thermostat setting for summer and winter? Is every room in use? How many showers and baths are taken each week? Is anyone home during work hours?

        “We ask people all of these questions not because we want to get into their business, but because their answers may help uncover some simple ways to reduce their household energy consumption,” says Mr. Snodgrass of Honeywell DMC Services, which does the audits for Cinergy.

        On a typical visit, Mr. Snodgrass will examine the outside of a house to determine the homešs size. Hešll go inside to figure wall area and size up doors and windows. Hešll assess the condition of the roof and probe the basementšs dark corners.

        “A lot of people donšt realize it, but up to 60 percent of heat loss occurs at the top, the attic, and the bottom, the basement, of their homes,” Mr. Snodgrass says. “Insulating these areas is much more important than your walls.”

   Call 831-1781 or (800) 231-9652 to schedule an appointment for an energy auditor to analyze your home.
        Mr. Snodgrass probes for indoor air leaks such as gaps along the baseboard or flooring edge. He looks at junctures of the walls and ceiling. He checks to see if air can flow through electrical outlets, switch plates, fireplace dampers, attic hatches, wall- and window-mounted air conditioners ‹ even mail slots.

        Rattling doors or windows could mean possible air leaks. Daylight around door and window frames is a good indicator of unwanted air flow, too.

        “Spiders can also tell you a lot,” Mr. Snodgrass says. “They like to make webs where they find air movement, because they figure somethingšs going to come along that they can eat.”

        Mr. Snodgrassš bottom line: Most homeowners could benefit by making small, inexpensive improvements. These include sealing seams along ductwork and turning down thermostats.

        For every 1 percent the ducts are tightened, the heat portion of the energy bill decreases 1 percent, Mr. Snodgrass says. For every degree the temperature is lowered, the bill declines 3 percent.

        After completing his walk-through of a home, Mr. Snodgrass keys the information hešs gathered into a portable laptop computer.

        Within 10 minutes, the computer analyzes the data and spits out a seven-page report for homeowners.

        “The audit told me some things that I already knew about my house and a lot of things I didnšt know,” says Brian Hess of Mason. “It was a real eye-opener.”

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