Are the Utility Companies Duping the Public?

[Ever since we had our home energy audit done back in November, we’ve gotten several more solicitations from companies offering to do one for us, and only charge us $75. Luckily, since we are Wallingford residents our energy audit cost us nothing, as the cost was covered by the town. As we’ve said before, energy audits are a great service that can pinpoint the places in your home that can rob you of precious heat and allow you to have them fixed.

But, are the audits done through the utility companies all they’re cracked up to be? After a conversation with our good friend and home inspector extraordinaire Jim Quarello, we’re not so sure. Jim was kind enough to provide us with a professional’s viewpoint and has allowed us to publish it here.]

Are the Utility Companies Duping the Public?

by James Quarello, ASHI Certified CT Home Inspector

As everyone is well aware, the cost of energy has gone significantly higher in the last couple of years. This has spurred an interest in energy conservation. A little late in my opinion, kind of like closing the door after the dog gets out, but I digress.

Because higher energy costs hit everyone where it hurts, their wallet, the utility companies have been forced through public outcry to offer some kind of relief. Now I do not know what is being done or proposed in other states across the nation, I will only be focusing on where I live and work, Connecticut.

clip_image002What has been instituted in Connecticut through the two major electric utilities, Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and United Illuminating (UI) is a program titled Home Energy Solutions (HES). This is touted by the utilities as; “A Comprehensive Service to Help Lower Your Energy Bills”.

The HES program is funded through the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF). The CEEF is financially supported by all CL&P and UI customers through the conservation charge on their electric bills and paid for by customers of Connecticut Natural Gas, Southern Connecticut Gas and Yankee Gas. In other words, the customers are paying for this service. In essence, it’s a give back.

clip_image004The service, however, is not free; there is a charge of $75 for most customers, with the only exception that I’m aware of being for Wallingford Electric Division (WED) customers. This program is free for those lucky enough to have WED as their electric provider.

The cost of the program is a bargain and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this service with one caveat: do not expect to save much money on your utility bills after the job has been completed.

The focus of the program is repairs to the home. Not specific repairs identified for each individual home, but more a blanket approach. The web page explaining what the program encompasses states:

The service may include, followed by a list of energy repairs and upgrades.

The most significant and impressive of these is the blower door assisted air sealing. Unfortunately, the job is focused on finding big leaks in order to drop the reading a few hundred points. The job performed is in no way complete or comprehensive.

The purpose of this dissection of the HES program is to provide understanding to homeowners in Connecticut who are seeking relief on their energy costs. The utility companies are selling the perception that this program will provide a significant and comprehensive solution to homeowner’s high energy costs. This, in fact,, is not the case.

As a home energy auditor/inspector, I have performed many audits on homes after the HES program was completed. The homeowners contacted my company because:

  1. Their energy bills were still high and they were dissatisfied, and
  2. They were seeking advice from a knowledgeable, independent energy professional

My company conducts a service called the Home Energy Tune-uP, a comprehensive energy efficiency improvement analysis specific to the individual home. No repairs are performed; instead,, the energy wasting culprits are first identified and then a report is assembled in which each available cost effective energy saving measure is charted. What in effect is presented to the customer is a pin point plan of how and where they can save money on energy in their home.

clip_image006The other, and most important, aspect of the Tune-uP service is the fact it is performed by Connecticut licensed home inspectors, not contractors (who are not licensed). Home inspectors analyze homes almost every day. In order to perform their jobs, home inspectors must be knowledgeable on the plethora of components and systems found in a home. As a licensed profession this requires initially obtaining formal training and doing an in field apprenticeship followed by continuing education in order to maintain the license.

So, are the utility companies duping the public? Maybe a little, but it’s always been caveat emptor, buyer beware. The utility customer should research the program to understand the scope and focus of the service. It is certainly worthwhile for every utility customer to take advantage of the program. If the homeowner is seeking solutions and expert advice, a Home Energy Tune-uP should be the first step to resolving their high energy costs. In fact, having a Tune-uP done before the HES program would provide the homeowner education on precisely what their home needs to be more energy efficient.

[Thanks to Jim for this article. If anyone is interested in availing themselves of his services, Jim can be reached at (203) 697-1147 or through his web site at JRV Home Inspections.]

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Comments

  1. Post
    Author
    The Harriman Team

    Well, not really. The process itself was painless enough, but after they were through the overall improvement in our home’s energy loss was not that great. They did seal up a lot of places, but it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference. And since talking to our inspector friend, we see there’s a lot more to an energy audit that just a blower door test and sealing some holes. It’s a good thing it was free or I might have been inclined to ask for a refund! All in all, I think this kind of audit is a good starting point for homeowners to see where they’re losing energy, but in order to get the biggest bang for your buck, a full audit by a licensed inspector trained to do energy audits seems like a prudent course of action.

  2. Pingback: Detecting Air Leaks - The Blower Door Test |

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