Energy Fixer: Online Evaluation

Follow along this year as we track the energy makeover of a 1960s house

How do you make an older house more energy efficient? This year, we’re following Sarah, a PGE employee, as she updates a 55-year-old, 1,500 square-foot, all-electric house, which she purchased in November 2014.

This month: Taking stock

A pre-purchase inspection of Sarah’s new house identified a number of energy issues for her to consider, including limited insulation, ceiling heat and old aluminum windows. “I was surprised at how much energy we used the first month — it was double what I had estimated,” Sarah said.

Free energy evaluation

Sarah investigated resources that could help her prioritize energy upgrades and work within a budget. First step: Completing Energy Trust of Oregon’s free, online home energy review.

The results

After answering a few questions about her house she received:

  • A snapshot of her home’s current energy use.
  • Customized steps to reduce energy costs.
  • A link to qualified contractors who can connect her with Energy Trust cash incentives.

Four lessons from the home energy review

Here’s what Sarah took away from her energy review results:

1. Potential to cut energy use nearly in half: Recommended energy-saving home improvements could trim her energy use by up to 47 percent and save $2,750 over three years.*

2. Heating tops list: A new heating system, to replace the ceiling heat, was cited as the biggest potential energy saver.

3. Plenty of other ways to save: The custom action plan also recommended that she:

  • Upgrade attic insulation to modern standards.
  • Seal air leaks.
  • Upgrade to efficient lighting.
  • Upgrade or get rid of second refrigerator.
  • Upgrade water heating.

4. Reprioritizing in order: Sarah assumed the old aluminum windows would need to be replaced right away. But they weren’t mentioned in the recommendations, so she’s going to wait. “I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, in my case, sealing air leaks and adding insulation would save more than new windows — and probably cost less too,” she said.

Weighing other factors

When prioritizing energy-related projects for her new home, Sarah gives energy savings high importance, but considers other factors too.

“I’ll probably buy cellular shades for the windows before doing some other improvements,” Sarah said. “Since I won’t replace the windows for a while, the shades will block drafts and give us more privacy.”

Evaluating your own home

When looking at your own house for ways to save energy, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You can evaluate your home’s current energy use in less than 10 minutes with Energy Trust of Oregon’s free, online Home Energy Review.
  • Heating/cooling systems are often the biggest energy user in most homes.*
  • Water heating is generally the second biggest home-energy expense.
  • Insulation helps save on heating/cooling, and an estimated 80 percent of pre-1980 homes are under-insulated.*
  • Energy improvements can be more affordable thanks to Energy Trust cash incentives, tax credits and special manufacturer rebates.

Visit our Energy Savings section for more ways to save.