Home audit finds energy drains and carbon monoxide leak

Robert Coffman, with AirTight Energy Audits, talks to homeowner Tony Schmidt about his home's energy loss and ways to fix the problem. The audit, which was done March 3, is one way Lawrence residents can participate in the Take Charge Challenge.

Robert Coffman, with AirTight Energy Audits, talks to homeowner Tony Schmidt about his home's energy loss and ways to fix the problem. The audit, which was done March 3, is one way Lawrence residents can participate in the Take Charge Challenge. by Mike Yoder

When Tony Schmidt signed up for an energy audit on his home, he had a few good ideas of where the energy leaks might be.

But he had no clue that his heater was pumping poisonous gas into the house. Lawrence energy auditor Robert Coffman revealed that the upstairs heater exchange was cracked, causing small amounts of carbon monoxide to leak into the upper floor of the home.

“That was huge,” Schmidt said of the discovery. “It was way more than I expected.

Schmidt, like dozens of other folks around Lawrence, took advantage of the Kansas Energy Office’s program that offers energy audits for $100, which is hundreds of dollars less than what they are worth. Those audits will be available until Oct. 1.

The energy audits are also another way Lawrence residents can participate in the Take Charge Challenge, a competition that pits Lawrence against Manhattan to see who can save the most energy.

In March, we documented the energy audit on Schmidt’s 20-year-old home in West Lawrence. Here’s a video from our visit.

Two months later, we checked in with Schmidt to see what the audit turned up, what changes were made afterward and how much they cost.

Here’s what Schmidt told us.

  • The most expensive fix was replacing the 15-year-old heater, which was nearing the end of its life anyway. Schmidt purchased a $4,000 Lennox heater that has a 90 percent energy efficiency rating, quite a jump up from what he had been using.

  • Coffman also found that the fireplace between Schmidt’s kitchen and living room was rigged to stay open, pulling warm air out of the home. An easy solution was to change the fireplace so it could close.

  • Another trouble spot was an attic fan. An attic fan can be great at circulating air in the fall and spring when the weather isn’t too hot or cold and the windows are open. However, that rarely happens in Schmidt’s house because of allergy concerns. So, Coffman advised building a box over the fan that could seal off the air. If Schmidt ever wants to use the attic fan, he can just remove the box.

  • Contractors also fixed a gap in the skylight, put high temperature caulking around another chimney that was never used and put tighter seals around the attic door. Coffman also found air ducts that weren’t completely sealed and rain drains that needed to be cleaned.

  • In all, Schmidt spent around $5,000 to make energy-efficiency improvements to his home. Most of that went toward purchasing the new heater, but about $1,000 was paid to a contractor who made minor improvements around the home.

Schmidt also took advantage of Efficiency Kansas’s loan program, where Westar customers can take out zero percent interest loans for efficiency upgrades and then pay them off over 15 years through increases to their monthly electric bill.

With the changes, Schmidt estimates he will save about $40 a month on his energy bill. Within 10 years, Schmidt expects to recover the cost of all the improvements.

“I highly recommend it,” Schmidt said. “I love the idea of saving energy and we don’t have to build more power plants.”

More from Christine Metz

Comments

LogicMan 3 years, 9 months ago

"carbon monoxide to leak into the upper floor of the home"

With all due respect, hasn't the homeowner been listening? Having carbon monoxide detectors installed near bedrooms, and replacing them about every five years, has been the strong advice for more than a decade.

Glad they are OK.

That box over the attic fan is a fire hazard, unless there's a power cut-off switch to the fan motor incorporated into the cover. The fan motor, if operated with the cover in place, could overheat and melt down.

Bill Griffith 3 years, 9 months ago

I am looking forward to my home's audit this coming Friday. I think it is important to understand how one's house moves air (or other gases) and possible places to save some money as well.

Tonytiger69 3 years, 9 months ago

Logicman is being to logical. No where in the article or the video does it state that they didn't have a CO detector. No where does it state that the CO was at a hazardous level or a level that would trigger a CO alarm. There is a leak, if the house were tightened up through the EKS program perhaps those levels would be reached. That is why they do a CO test in the audit. RE: a box over the attic fan, again didn't mention what kind of box. I am sure the auditor mentioned several options that take into consideration all the safety issues. I have seen several that have a light weight lid that hinges away when the air pressure of the fan pushes it up and then reseals when the fan is turned off. The article in no way was a technical quide on how to, It only pointed out that you may find out more than just where you home leaks energy.

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