Energy audit can save homeowners money | Home & Garden

After four months of high electric bills from Puget Sound Energy last winter, I decided it was time for a home energy audit. When our highest bill reached $442 in December 2016, I knew we needed help.

So I called PSE’s Home Energy Assessment team to come out and take a look around. The service is something that PSE offers customers at no cost, as a method of helping homeowners with their bills, and as a way to conserve and reduce energy use.

A week later, Kyle Brighton and Sean Gorton were at my door, iPad in hand ready to go to work. Gorton is program coordinator for the energy efficiency services for PSE, and Brighton is a member of the team of professionals who make assessments at residences.

As I explained to them, our house is a log home, pan abode style with 30-foot ceilings. Because of that, there is no insulation in the walls or ceiling, but an inspection in the crawl space showed that the underneath of our house was well-insulated.

The official report stated: “Crawlspace was well insulated and ducts were sealed and insulated well.”

Brighton next checked out the furnace that we have, which is more than 10 years old. While is it working and is an 80 percent efficiency rated furnace, PSE’s suggestion was that we think about a heat pump, or a ductless heat pump as a replacement for the older furnace.

“Ductless heat pumps are high efficient electrical zonal systems that don’t require ducting,” I was told, and because our home has many open spaces, and the upstairs does not have vented duct work, but just one wall heater, our best bet would be to try the ductless zonal heat pump.

“That way, you can turn on and off the zones where you are,” Brighton said. “That will save you heating spaces that don’t need to be heated.”

Some heat pumps can be installed for as little as $1,500, but most will cost in the neighborhood of $2,500. And PSE has already done the leg work on finding licensed reputable firms to do the work. Just check out the Contractor Alliance Network at

In the meantime, Brighton suggested that we have our furnace checked and tuned up and install a new filter every six to 12 months. Most tune-ups run about $300 to $400.

Next, the team checked out our appliances. The electric stove passed, but we were reminded that gas stoves are more efficient. We need to invest in a new Energy Star energy-efficient refrigerator. That could save us up to 10 percent more energy. There are programs through PSE that offer rebates on new refrigerators, and PSE has a program where they will recycle your old appliance. To find out more call 1-877-341-2314.

Our washer and dryer passed because they are energy efficient and are only a few years old. But we were told that if we buy new ones in the future, check out the rebates offered on the PSE website.

As a part of the assessment, PSE also checked the light bulbs used in the house, replacing them with LED bulbs at no cost, and the shower heads which needed to be upgraded to low pressure head, which they left for us to do without any charge. They also left us aerators for the bathroom sinks.

Just those items alone were estimated to save us $111 in annual energy savings. That also means we would reduce our consumption by 929 kilowatt hours.

Gorton said once the weather turns colder, homeowners begin to think about saving on their energy bills.

“That means they call us,” he said. “And sign up for an energy audit.”

But he said, the biggest factor in the cost of energy in the winter is the weather and the outside temperature.

“And the weather is something that we can’t control,” he said.

Keeping the heat set at 70 degree or less can pay off. For every four degrees lower that the thermostat is dropped, energy savings can be $3 a day, he said. If we have another cold winter like last year, keeping the thermostat turned down is a must.

“And use a timer,” he said. “If no one is at home during the day, make sure to set the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees lower and then set it to warm up then house an hour before you’ll arrive home from work.”

Also, set the temperature lower when you go to bed, and “put another blanket on the bed,” he said.

One other option is a free-standing wood or pellet stove. But he said for some people in smaller homes, the house heats up too much too fast and isn’t comfortable. And you have to factor in the costs of the wood or pellets, unless you have trees on your property that can be cut.

PSE performs close to 10,000 energy audits each year, with the goal in mind of conserving energy.

PSE wants to educate its customers about energy savings and “about how to save dollars every month,” Gorton said.

The audits are paid for through the energy conservation program, which is funded through a line item on customer’s bills.

“If everyone reduces their consumption, it means we’ll be able to operate with fewer plants and less infrastructure,” he said. “And all of that will keep consumer’s costs lower.”

To schedule an assessment, go to the PSE website, email, or call 855-973-1575.