What is Weatherization? Our Energy Team Provides Insight and Tips on How to Get Started

Energy auditor puts insulation around pipes in basement

Our energy-efficiency programs are targeted to help low-income households get out of energy poverty (defined as spending more than 6% of household income on energy utilities), but anyone can benefit from our energy-saving programs. Our BPI-certified Home Analyst, Tristen Eberling, is a strong advocate for local and equitable energy. He has been conducting energy audits for Ecolibrium3 for four years. So what can you expect during your HEA or weatherization? Tristen has broken the process down for you so you know what to expect when signing up and undergoing an energy audit or weatherization services: 

How does someone receive weatherization services from Ecolibrium3?

Anyone with either a Minnesota Power or Comfort Systems account is eligible for a free walk-through audit or an advanced home energy audit. The advanced home energy audit costs $325, but there are rebates available that can bring the cost down to $75. We also offer the Advanced Home Energy Audit for free to any income-qualified households in Duluth city limits.  You can request an energy audit here.

What happens during an energy audit? A weatherization visit?

The walk-through audit is the free option provided by Comfort Systems and Minnesota Power. This is just a walk through your home to look at things like insulation, windows, doors, heating and water heating, etc. Then we provide a report that shows your energy use and recommendations for a number of different energy improvements, including the estimated costs and savings for each improvement. Also included with the audit are some free direct installs like LED bulbs, low flow aerators, and a few other devices. This audit takes about two hours to complete.

The Advanced Home Energy Audit is similar to the walk-through, but also includes a blower door test and infrared imaging. The blower door test shows how leaky or tight your home is, and can help to determine whether you need to do any air sealing. Or, if your home is too tight, then ventilation is something that would be needed to control air quality in the home. The infrared camera is also used with the blower door test to walk around the home and find any major air infiltration to the home as well as any uninsulated spots, and is also included in the report with images and a brief description. This audit takes about four hours to complete. This audit does cost $325, but rebates from MN Power of $100 and Comfort Systems of $150 bring the cost down to $75.

Giving Comfort at Home weatherization is where Ecolibrium3 staff and volunteers focus on air sealing and insulation opportunities identified during the Advanced Home Energy Audit. This is more of a minor weatherization where we focus on things like window kits, insulating rim joists, door weather-stripping, and other sources of air infiltration into the home. We also replace most light bulbs in the home with LED bulbs. 

What improvement that we provide results in the most savings?

Air sealing is one of the most cost effective improvements we make when weatherizing homes.

What three tasks would you suggest to someone who wants to decrease their energy costs themselves?

Identify where you are losing the most energy by getting an energy audit, every home has different solutions to different problems.

Replace all incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. But don’t forget you get free LEDs with the energy audits.

Don’t leave your A/C in the window over winter; take it out. Don’t put it back in until it’s absolutely necessary. It’s chilly in Duluth: open a window at night to allow the cool air to come in and close the window in the morning.

Favorite weatherization stories?

A homeowner gave me a bag of burnt peanuts to snack on while we were weatherizing their home. It was pretty awesome; I’d never had burnt peanuts before.

Working with the different volunteers that come to help out is fun. Whether they’re the AmeriCorps members or students from UMD, it’s always nice to have someone else wanting to help someone they don’t know, and most homeowners are very appreciative of what help we can provide. 

Crawling under a mobile home to install some insulation that a plumber had forgotten to put back over some water lines. Without the insulation the water lines most likely would have frozen at some point.

Want to get involved?

Sign up for an audit here or become a weatherization volunteer here!