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Posts Tagged: home energy audit

What They Never Told New Homeowners

Posted On: Filed Under: Uncategorized, Heating, Cooling, Home energy audit, Insulation, How to, Home improvement No Comments on What They Never Told New Homeowners


What the Inspector Didn’t See

The majority of home buyers are obtaining home inspections prior to purchase and making the sale contingent upon the outcome. So how could basic home issues have been missed? The most common problems reported are ones that are typically not part of a standard inspection, or are not apparent on a sunny day. These include plumbing leaks, exterior leak issues, leaky skylights, mold and pest control, and insulation and HVAC system condition. Homeowners also told us they found “unheated rooms, wiring problems, basements that flooded, and foul smells”. We’re not throwing house inspectors under the bus. It simply requires a deeper type of inspection, with specialized training and equipment, to identify these problems.


Basic Systems before Beauty  

Before you start the fun of decorating your new home, we recommend getting those basic systems inspected.  Ben Franklin’s old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies here.  You may not need or want all 4 of these, but for about $500-$750, you can rest assured your home investment is in great shape.

  • Plumbing inspection – from a licensed plumber who can examine pipes, drains, crawlspaces and look for unseen leaks. While home inspectors check for obvious leaks and clogs, they do not have the equipment or training to do a plumbing endoscopy – looking at your sewer line with a video camera. Issues with main drain and side sewer are most likely to result in expensive repairs if not caught early.
  • Comprehensive Home Energy Audit – from a certified auditor who will provide an in depth look at energy use, insulation, air leakage, and exterior issues, along with a safety examination of HVAC equipment. Audits are a popular starting point for making energy saving upgrades, and could be a great benefit to home owners buying an older home.
  • Heating and cooling system inspection – heating, AC, water heaters and gas fireplaces can be inspected by a licensed HVAC professional in a diagnostic service. If the owner has had a recent maintenance service, request a record of that service and see if any issues were found.
  • Electrical inspection – while old wiring is common in Seattle, and is often disclosed by sellers, a licensed electrician can review the safety of this wiring, and suggest modifications to protect your home.

If you’re headed to the Seattle Home Show this month, add basic systems inspection to your research list.  Stop by the Washington Energy Services booth to learn more.  Washington Energy Services provides plumbing inspections, HVAC diagnostic services and home energy audits with their licensed and highly skilled technicians. Contact us for more information.

* 2015 NW Energy Survey, conducted among 1065 Western Washington adult homeowners.


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Three tips for saving money as the weather changes

Posted On: Filed Under: Windows, Heating, Ductless heat pump, Tank water heaters, Furnace, Home energy audit, Tankless water heaters, Gas fireplace, Insulation No Comments on Three tips for saving money as the weather changes

As the weather cools down, your thermostat slowly begins to creep up. Your home may start to feel a bit drafty and your hot showers get a bit longer. There is hope — here are three ways to combat higher energy bills.

Time your heat.

It’s tempting to crank that heat every time you feel a chill. But what happens when you forget to un-crank it? You get stuck in an incredibly warm home and high heating bills. A programmable thermostat allows you to “set it and forget it” and plan ahead to reap the benefits in your wallet.

Find drafts.

You might be surprised how much warm air escapes your home. Luckily, you can save as much as 10 percent on your total energy bills each year by properly sealing and insulating your home.

Here’s where to look:

  • Window seals
  • Door seals
  • Attic openings
  • Furnace flues or ducts
  • Plumbing vents
  • Recessed lights
  • Wiring holes (cable TV, electrical outlets, phone lines)

Typically a visual inspection will be enough to find an air leak. As an extra step, light a candle and hold it near the area. Does it flicker? This could be a sign of an energy-draining draft. Locating a few leaks can save you big this fall and winter.

If you’d like a more thorough review of your home, you can contact Washington Energy Services for a home energy audit — a complete inspection and report of where and how your home is losing energy and efficiency.

Think tankless.

Who doesn’t love a hot shower on a cold fall or winter morning? Unfortunately, if you’re not the first person to the bathroom, you could be in for a shower as cold as the weather outside. A tankless water heater solves this issue and can prevent costly energy bills. Tankless water heaters from Washington Energy Services are 82 – 94% energy efficient and EnergyStar qualified.

Just because the season is changing, doesn’t mean your bills need to increase. So remember to schedule your thermostat, repair drafts, and consider going tankless. But most importantly remember to savor the season with friends and family.

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Seven common home energy wasters

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According to a Demand Institute study, 71 percent of U.S. homeowners say energy efficiency is very important to them but only 35 percent felt their homes were energy efficient. The study revealed that energy efficiency was the No. 1 unmet housing concern.

The median age of a home in the U.S. is 35 years, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s American Housing Survey. In the last four decades, substantial improvements in energy-saving technology and home design have been made, so owners of older homes can potentially save huge amounts of money with even the easiest upgrades to their homes.

Seattle energy efficiency experts can identify a variety of energy inefficiencies in your home and recommend steps to mitigate these issues. Some of the most common energy efficiency issues in American homes include:

  • Improperly sealed homes – Small cracks in doors and windows can let hot air in during the summer and cold air in during the winter, driving up energy bills. These cracks can be tough for even experienced home DIYers to detect. Energy audit specialists can find them and suggest remedies for the problem.
  • Windows – Older windows allow greater heat loss in the winter months, driving up energy bills. An energy audit can evaluate your windows and determine whether you’d be well-served by installing newer windows with greater UV protection and other benefits.
  • Older HVAC units – Much like home appliances, HVAC units have improved considerably in recent decades. Heating and cooling is a major contributor to your home energy bill, so reducing those costs with an upgrade to a newer model HVAC unit such as a heat pump can drastically reduce power bills.
  • Insulation – Insufficient or older insulation can be causing your energy bills to be higher than necessary. Home energy auditors can determine your home’s insulation needs.
  • “Dumb” thermostats – Older thermostats aren’t as programmable and adaptable as newer models. An energy audit can help you find the thermostat that works best for your home and your lifestyle. New models can be controlled from your smartphone.
  • Lighting – Older lighting fixtures and lamps can waste significant amounts of money. Newer lamps such as compact fluorescent lamps often use up to 75 percent less energy than older incandescent light bulbs.
  • Appliances – Older appliances are often much less energy efficient than modern appliances. An energy audit can tell you how much energy you’re losing by hanging on to your old fridge and how much a new EnergyStar appliance can save you.

Washington Energy Services is a family-owned business providing home energy efficiency solutions to Seattle area clients.  Founded in 1957, Washington Energy Services has generations of experience in providing heating and cooling and other energy-related services, including sales, installation, and service. A member of the Puget Sound Energy Contractor Alliance Network, Washington Energy Services has an excellent local business reputation.

Contact us today to address your home’s energy efficiency short comings.

Schedule a home energy audit

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Improving your home’s performance

Posted On: Filed Under: Heating, Furnace, Home energy audit No Comments on Improving your home’s performance


Undertaking a home energy audit creates a baseline for your home’s performance. Our Home Performance Specialists will seek out drafts or leaking ductwork. Once found, Washington Energy Services is able to seal your home so that you aren’t wasting expensive heating or cooling energy. By insulating and air sealing first, you will make your home more comfortable and reduce your utility bills for years to come. Plus, you’ll be able to install a smaller furnace or air conditioner when it’s time to replace that equipment, saving you even more. A comprehensive home energy audit will scientifically determine how much air leakage exists in your home and the current insulation levels and quality of installation–and how you can improve.

Duct sealing & replacement

Duct work repair seattle washington energy services

Our certified technicians are experts in sealing your home’s ducts to optimize air flow. Duct work must be well sealed, insulated, and balanced to ensure your home’s heating and cooling systems work as efficiently as possible. Most homes have leaky duct work and insufficient air flow, which results in an uncomfortable living environment — regardless of the thermostat setting. A duct system that is properly sealed can make your home more comfortable, energy efficient, and deliver cleaner air.

Indoor air quality (IAQ)

Poor ventilation increases pollutant levels. Sources that emit gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of IAQ problems in homes. Poor ventilation can increase levels of these pollutant levels by not directing them outside and by not bringing in enough “fresh” outdoor air to dilute indoor pollutants. High temperature and humidity can also play a role. Indoor air pollutants can cause a variety of health problems including irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, asthma, and even eventually respiratory disease, cancer, and heart disease. Our Home Energy Specialists have been trained to diagnose the indoor air quality of your home and properly treat it.

If you are concerned about your home’s performance, give us a call at 800-398-4663 or contact us online to get started with a home energy audit.

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What is a home energy audit?

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Enter Will Martinez – Home Performance Extraordinaire!

Will begins his Home Performance Audit

The audit begins with a test for leaks throughout the home including at the meter.

gas leaks test

A lot of energy loss can be attributed to under-code insulation in the attic.

Attic Inspection Inspecting insulation levels

The great part for the homeowner is that you can explore your attic and crawlspace along with the auditor – without ever suiting up or leaving your seat. This live GoPro video feed allows the customer to ask their own questions about what’s going on in these areas of the home.

Watch the inspection on a tablet

In addition to the outside meter, the water tank and the combustion system is checked for wasteful and potentially harmful gas leaks.

checking combustion system for gas leaks

An area where homes lose efficiency (and homeowners lose a lot of money) is via leaky ductwork. Here, Will finds many opportunities for improvement. A well-sealed duct will not only prevent your conditioned air from escaping into unused spaces, but it will keep your system from working harder than it needs to.

Checking ducts in the crawlspace

Our infrared camera will find hot or cool spots in your home – opportunities to seal or insulate better. Combined with our blower door test (below) you can see in real time heat or cold air (depending on the season) escaping your home where you don’t want it to.

Using the IR camera

A blower door is a powerful fan that mounts into the frame of an exterior door. The fan pulls air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside. The higher outside air pressure then flows in through all unsealed cracks and openings.

Blower door test Blower door test

Will and the homeowner are able to see the air coming in using a smoke pencil and by using an infrared camera.

Air leaks seen via IR Camera

Once Will collects all of the data he needs, he’ll head back to the home office and create a detailed 16-page report. The report provides the data collected during the audit and adds professional recommendations to make your home more efficient.

If you’re ready to assess your home’s performance and create a game plan for saving energy (and money) – contact us using our free estimate form or give us a call at 800-398-4663.

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To DIY or not to DIY

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Are there safety concerns?

It’s simple—nothing is more important that your safety. Plus, damaging your home costs money, causes frustration, and can result in substantial time loss. Many types of projects present safety and home damage concerns and are best left to the pros, such as:

  • Electrical or plumbing work
  • Second-story ladder work
  • Roof work
  • Lead paint removal
  • Asbestos removal
  • Large tree trimming and removal
  • Gas appliance repairs

Will I save money by doing it myself?

DIY is heralded as the golden method for saving money. And oftentimes, it is. But before you tackle a project, take the time to consider the often-overlooked costs of DIY. Equipment and supplies can quickly diminish potential savings. More importantly, the price to hire a professional to fix the damage of a botched DIY project can be catastrophic.

If possible, first get an estimate from a professional, even if you think you will do the project yourself. This gives you a baseline from which to compare the DIY costs.

What is my time worth?

Time is money. Just because doing a project yourself seems cheaper, doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your time. This is particularly true for high wage earners and those without a large amount of extra time.

For example, if it would take you 10 hours to complete a task that a professional would do for $300, you’re valuing your time at $30 an hour. Consider your salary, time constraints, and other responsibilities, and then make the determination on the true value of your time. Of course, if the project is fun, will teach you a new skill, or you simply just want to do it, go for it!

Maybe you have several projects on your list, but you’re not quite sure where to start. If those projects relate to energy efficiency or home performance, consider having a Home Energy Audit conducted by Washington Energy Services. Not only will you gain a thorough understanding of your home’s performance, but we can also provide our expertise to help you create a plan of attack for your DIY projects.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re debating between DIY and hiring a pro. Ultimately, just make sure you carefully evaluate cost, time, and your skill set before you make a decision.

Going with a pro? That’s great. DIY? Fight on, weekend warrior.

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5 ways to get the most out of your tax refund

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The best home improvements for your tax refund buck

Take care of the essentials

Home appliances that use water, such as water heaters, dishwashers and laundry machines have a lifespan of 8-15 years. If they fail while in use, (and like toast falling butter side down they will), the flooding can cause a significant loss, insurance claims and aggravation. Proactively replacing old equipment can save money in the long run, and $3000 will provide for lots of options. You can upgrade your water heater to a tankless water heater and enjoy never ending hot water, or stay with a standard tank and have funds left over for other appliance upgrades.

Get a home energy audit

A home energy audit is a smart way to identify how to spend the least to get the most in energy savings. Using technology to analyze energy use, air leakage and other problems with the home, the auditor can project your return on investment for upgrade projects and help you to prioritize. Energystar.gov recommends hiring a professional auditor when you want to get specific recommendations for improving the efficiency of your home. The cost of a full audit is about $300.How do you know you’ll really get the energy savings modeled by the home energy audit?  Ask the auditor for a retest of the house after upgrades are completed. He or she can see if the new upgrades will provide the energy savings projected. In the Western Washington area, Washington Energy Services is among the companies that offer this service.

Stretch the refund with a rebate

Focusing on home energy upgrades that qualify for utility rebates can stretch that tax refund. In the Puget Sound area, utility rebates range from $10 to $1800. There are rebates for water conserving toilets and shower heads, laundry equipment, as well as heating equipment, windows, and insulation. All of the Washington State electric and gas utilities offer rebates, although many require use of their registered contractors to install the products. This is actually a good thing, since those contractors are well qualified, trained and vetted by the utility. You can expect utility registered contractors to guarantee their work and to do a great job.

Up that curb appeal

When realtors report on the home improvement upgrades that add to house value, top of the list for return on investment is replacing the entry doors. The cost to have a beautiful new front door professionally installed starts at around $1800-2200, but doing so can provide 100% return on investment or more. The doors themselves can often be purchased for less at a DIY store, however fitting them with matching jambs and creating a problem free, tight installation can be challenging, even for a handy homeowner.

Make your fun space a comfy space

A hobby room, workout space, garage or basement will give you more joy if you are comfortable using it. The furniture, colors, light and even air flow in your workspace can make a difference. Adding a single window for natural light is uplifting and typically less than $1000. If you find that you are too hot or too cold and it’s turning you away from using the space, a ductless heat pump can increase year round comfort. Ductless heat pumps provide energy efficient heating and cooling, and they run on electricity. Perfect for bonus rooms, basements and other rooms where duct work wasn’t run when the house was built.

Big or small, there are plenty of home upgrade ideas to suit every tax refund level. For more information on these and other energy saving ideas, contact us today.

Get your free estimate

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11 ways you might not have thought of to save energy

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1. Biking to work year-round

People who bike to work in sleet or shine may seem crazy, especially if their bike commute lasts more than 30 minutes. But the decision to bike daily and leave the car at home can save you as much as $1,000 a year. Plus, the reduction in car use will significantly shrink your carbon footprint, and you can enjoy the good health and fitness that comes with the exercise.

2. Updating appliances every few years

Maybe you’ve heard your grandmother say: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” It’s a good motto for many things, but when it comes to appliances, that may not be so true.

Every few years the EPA comes out with a new set of standards for Energy Star-rated appliances because as the technology continues to progress, appliances become ever more energy-efficient by the year. People who buy new appliances as they improve will continue to save, especially if they’re smart and sell the used appliance to help pay for the new one.

3. Covering windows with plastic

Have you ever visited someone’s house and noticed there’s plastic over their windows? It may not look very lovely, but it’s a pretty smart way to save energy, at least as a temporary fix.

Outside air can leak into your home through old window caulking, so you have to run your heat and air conditioning more constantly. The plastic helps to keep air outside where it belongs.

That being said, it should be treated only as a temporary solution. If there’s air coming in through your windows, you probably need new insulation, windows, caulking, or all three.

4. Requesting an energy audit

The word audit never sounds like good news, so if a friend tells you he’s having an energy audit done, you might think he’s crazy. Actually, an energy audit is a very smart move.

An energy auditor will examine your home to understand and diagnose your comfort, energy use and health issues. Things like rooms that are too cold or stale air and high utility costs. They perform testing of your house, insulation, structure, ventilation, air leakage, utility bills and more, seeing how your house uses and loses energy. Then they provide prioritized list of what you can do to change that.

5. Replacing all windows and doors

Windows and doors have a single purpose in the home, and they last forever, right? Wrong. Old windows and doors can let in so much air that they cause your energy use to skyrocket.

New windows and doors are among the best changes you can make to your home if you wish to improve its overall value. You’ll also see a nice investment return at an average of $300 per year on utilities for window replacements alone.

6. Moving lamps away from the thermostat

Has a friend ever suggested that you should move your television and lamps away from your room air conditioning unit or thermostat? Heat sources such as lamps, if placed near your thermostat (for central air) or AC unit. , can significantly increase the demand for air conditioning, which raises your energy waste. In the winter it can create the opposite effect, telling the thermostat that your house is already warmed up, when you are still freezing.

7. Setting air conditioning at 78 degrees

It may feel a touch on the warm side at your friend’s home, but it may be worth the relative discomfort. If you set your air conditioning at 78 degrees instead of 72, you can enjoy an average savings of 10 percent on your utility bill.

There other affordable ways to keep it cool, such as running a ceiling fan or drinking ice water. You can save money and stay cool at the same time if you use your imagination.

8. Microwaving meals

It might be true that baked potatoes don’t taste quite as good when they’re cooked in the microwave as opposed to in a regular oven, but your lower utility bill may add to the taste.

Turning on the oven, especially during the summer not only costs you more in energy to power the oven, but also in your cooling bills, since the oven heats up the house. A microwave consumes far less energy and can save you hundreds when it’s hot outside.

9. Unplugging devices after each use

The cost of leaving a computer on can cost you $75 per year alone in utility charges. This doesn’t count the other appliances and electronics you leave plugged in all day long. It may feel like a hassle to have to unplug every electrical outlet in your home repeatedly, but you won’t regret it when the bills come rolling in.

10. Buying LED bulbs in bulk

Did your friend just put a giant box of LED light bulbs in her Costco cart? If you want to enjoy energy and cost savings on your lighting, just follow her lead.

Incandescent light bulbs are one of the biggest energy wasters on the planet. They use only 15 percent of the energy they consume, and the rest converts to heat, which is useless for you.

LED light bulbs not only direct most of their energy to lighting instead of heating, but they also have a much longer life span than incandescent bulbs, which means you can save on both your purchases and your utility bill.

11. Planting trees

Trees aren’t just meant outdoor decoration. They can also lower your heating and cooling costs.

A tree planted strategically to shade your window without blocking the view can help to reduce your utility bills, because it will reduce the amount of sunshine and wind that permeates the window. A well-placed tree can also help raise your property value.

Though some of these ideas may sound strange, they can save you big. And they aren’t the only moves that can help increase your energy efficiency. For more information on how you can save on your heating and cooling bill, contact us today.


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Home performance – what is it and why does it matter?

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When we say home performance, we are talking about looking at the home as a system of interconnected airflows, structures and equipment that make up a whole. This sounds more complicated than it is. So to explain it in an easier way than we ever could on paper, we’ve got a short video series for you. We did a whole home remodel in Edmonds, WA this fall, using home performance as the basis for the decisions. In this brief 5 part series you will see the basics of home performance and see a home energy audit in action. (Don’t worry, it’s entertaining and not overly technical). After Video 1, look for Videos 2-5 to see the audit and how the house turned out!

As you saw in the video, the way to learn about your home’s performance is through a home energy audit. A home energy audit, as distinguished from a visual inspection, uses technology, such as a blower door pressure test and infra-red camera, to test the home. Your home is then compared to regional and national standards for air leakage, air quality, safety, energy efficiency and utility costs, and we model the home’s relative “performance”. The auditor provides a detailed report with a prioritized list of ways you can save energy and make your home more comfy. Washington Energy is proud to provide comprehensive home energy audits. Our BPI certified auditors have the best training in the industry and are ready to do an audit at your home. Contact us at 800-398-4663 to set up your home energy audit today. Special pricing is available now of $199 (regular $399).

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5 easy ways to make Earth Day count

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There are many small ways to bring Earth Day into the home:

  1. Plant a tree or even a bush, on your property. It helps to reduce greenhouse gases, clean the air and keeps biodiversity strong. Some perennials like rosemary grow well in our climate, and provide you with delicious herbs too.
  1. Make a birdhouse or feeder to help out local birds. Get binoculars and a bird guide and have a good look at them. You don’t have to go to an exotic location to see multiple bird species and enjoy their different plumage and habits.
  1. Consider how you use energy at home and make a plan to conserve. This doesn’t mean an austerity plan. Most homeowners can save energy by sealing, unplugging and tuning up. That is, adding insulation or weather stripping, unplugging appliances when not in use, and having maintenance performed on your heating and cooling equipment so it burns fuel efficiently. For a full energy picture of your home, consider a home energy audit. You’ll get a full report on how your house uses and loses energy, and prioritized recommendations to remedy that.
  1. Make an event out of surfing the web for the environment. Consciously educate yourself and your family by reading online resources or having a family discussion about conservation.
  1. Recycle around the house. Spring cleaning is green too. Don’t forget that your furnace filter has worked hard all winter. It’s a good time to change it, so it can continue to get particulates out of the air (especially during allergy season). And it’s recyclable too.

This year Earth Day falls on Monday, April 22. Most celebrations are taking place April 20th.  We have an Earth Day $199 home energy audit special (that’s 50% off). Mention the ENewsletter when you call to sign up. For more information on home energy saving or energy audits, call us at 800 398-4663 or visit washingtonenergy.com.

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