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Get an energy audit

Samantha Mazzotta King Features Syndicate

Q: I read with interest the article about the homeowner with high electric usage. He is using 300 kilowatt-hours more than his neighbor. But what about his total usage? A total energy audit of his home may provide some answers.

The audit should focus particularly on electrical loads — appliances, motor load, etc. As an energy auditor, state-certified in Maine, I always had a sit-down session with the customer and logged the number of occupants in the house, their age and gender. You would be surprised how much more energy-intensive girls are compared with boys.

If you are going to model the energy use, it must be related to the family’s living habits and comfort levels (air temperature) maintained in the structure. Even in a well-insulated home, cranking the thermostat to 75 degrees in winter or 72 degrees in summer will be reflected in the energy use.

In short, there’s nothing wrong with comparing your energy use with your neighbor’s, but it is not the best approach. Neither is paying an electrician to detect a possible electrical leak (at least, not at this time). Do the energy audit first; then, if you have a problem measuring the audit figures against the amount actually consumed, consider other avenues.

I commend the customer for monitoring his energy use; however, a qualified utility representative should be willing to methodically address the issue. Such occurrences were always a challenge for me as a utility employee for 30 years. I hope the customer’s local utility will respond with the same enthusiasm as my company did in resolving the questions of this concerned customer. — Roger P., Leesburg, Fla.

A: Thank you, Roger! This is great advice. These days, many utility companies offer do-it-yourself energy audit kits for free. However, most can schedule a representative to come and perform an audit. Even if homeowners don’t notice a big discrepancy in their power bills from one year to the next, a home energy audit can result in big savings.

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