CN continues free home energy audits for citizens
Cherokee Nation home energy auditors use infrared cameras to find missing or defective insulation and sources of heating and cooling losses in citizens’ homes. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Since 2010, the Cherokee Nation’s Environmental Programs has provided free home energy audits to tribal citizens. The audits help keep energy bills from rising in the winters and summers and are used to scan homes for air leaks that cause excessive energy use to warm or cool homes.
According to the Department of Energy, an average home can lose up to $450 per year in energy costs from air leakage and insulation defects. Taking small measures such as weatherization can save an average of $350 per year.
After receiving a DOE grant, Environmental Programs officials looked for ways to save citizens on energy costs, and providing audits was one way.
Now funded through the Housing and Urban Development, the audits are provided to citizens who participate in Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act-funded programs such as iSave, Mortgage Assistance Program, Housing Rehabilitation and Financial Assistance. Participants must also live within the tribe’s jurisdiction.
“We focus our audit on the air seal of the home,” Terrel Mitchell, CN environmental specialist, said. “That is, in most cases, the easiest issue to address. It’s the least expensive. So there’s a really good return on your time and investment when you work on your air seal.”
The audits focus on finding air leaks in homes using diagnostic tools and equipment such as a blower door and infrared cameras to monitor and measure leaks. A blower door is a large calibrated fan that measures houses for leakage and locates each leak via high-resolution thermal images from an infrared camera.
Audits are also used to calculate air exchange rates. Mitchell said homes with ratings of 10 to 15 tend to leak two to three times more than they should. An ideal rating is 4 to 6.
“What we find is you don’t want an airtight home because indoor air quality goes down pretty fast. But what you do want is a house in a range where you’re going to get some energy efficiency and good indoor air quality,” Mitchell said.
After homes are measured on the AER scale, basic weatherization is used to fix air leakage problems. Weatherization means caulking or sealing cracks and replacing weather strips around doors. Citizens are provided with free weatherization kits that include caulk, a caulk gun, backer rod, expandable foam, weather strips, electrical outlets and switch gaskets, safety plugs and duct tape.
Mitchell said many people think they need to replace windows or doors but usually they don’t.
“Everyone thinks they need new doors and windows. We don’t recommend new doors and windows very often. It’s a pretty rare occasion. What we do is tell them the seal is bad or it was a bad installation. In order to get this door or window to perform in the way it should, we need to seal up the gaps that were caused by the installation,” he said.
Other contributors of air leakage found in homes aside from windows and doors can include electrical outlets, holes or cracks in the dry wall, baseboards, non-working back valve flows in exhaust fans, gaps around drain pipes and heat and air closets located inside living spaces.
For more information, call 918-453-5099 or email firstname.lastname@example.org