While home-energy audits are focused on saving energy, they also touch on safety issues, something that was on Stephan Edel’s mind when he had an audit done in 2013 on a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Queens that he and his wife were renting.
They were about to have a child, and they knew that the home, built in 1926, wasn’t ideal: Radiators in the master bedroom and the one small bathroom were the same size, so “our bedroom was always cold and the bathroom was just boiling,” said Mr. Edel, the director of the New York Working Families Project. The attic also wasn’t well insulated, he said, and “when the heat was on you could just feel wind going up the stairs.”
The estimate to fix everything, which included sealing up gaps and cracks around windows and doors, insulating walls and pipes, replacing the old boiler and refrigerator, and venting and replacing the stove, was $24,000.
The owner of the home balked at making such extensive repairs, but Mr. Edel decided to take some of the recommendations himself. He added weatherstripping on windows and doors, caulked cracks, put plastic sheets over some windows, switched to LED and CFL bulbs and closed up the gap in a basement door. After the boiler and hot-water heater finally died, the owner replaced them with Energy Star units, and Mr. Edel replaced some of the pipe insulation himself.
When he and his family moved to Holyoke, Mass., in September (he telecommutes now), they bought a four-square bungalow built in 1924 and had a home-energy audit done through the local utility company.
“I knew the boiler needed at least servicing, so I went ahead and scheduled it right away,” Mr. Edel said. The audit showed that not only did the boiler need to be replaced, but so did the heating and air-conditioning system. He hopes to make those changes in the future; for now, he is working with a contractor on air-sealing and weatherizing the home — many of the same things he did in Queens, which are relatively easy and inexpensive.
“I’m not a great handyperson, so none of it was perfect or permanent,” he said. “But they’re the kind of simple things that anybody who can follow basic instructions can do to reduce their heating bill.”