Remodeler Jeff Geller, owner of Built Right Renovations, in Amityville, N.Y., uses the checklist below as a customer service tool that helps to distinguish his remodeling business in a competitive market.
The checklist audits the condition of common areas where homes waste energy and water. Geller couples it with a free “Green Home Conversion Kit” — tubes of sealant and cans of spray foam insulation, among other items, for spot DIY energy-efficiency improvements — brought as a leave-behind on a first visit to a prospect.
“The offer of the free kit helps get me in the door,” Geller says. “I ask if I can conduct the audit when I’m there,” a tactic that often leads to a redefinition or expansion of job scope. It usually reveals improvements that cost less and have a better return on investment than the cosmetic remodels Geller is called to estimate and, he says, “it positions me as an expert,” creating trust that “goes beyond the price of the job.” Geller prices the items he identifies for improvement depending on existing circumstances.
—Rich Binsacca is a freelance writer in Boise, Idaho.
A. Seal Up
Air leaks through the exterior envelope are most obvious at mechanical service penetrations, such as where lines for natural gas, water, and electricity enter the house. In fact, all penetrations into the envelope should be sealed with caulk or expanding foam insulation.
B. Strip It
“Few doors have perimeter weatherstripping,” says Jeff Geller; that, or it has worn away or shows gaps that render it ineffective. His “Conversion Kit” includes a roll of weatherstripping, but usually not enough to cover the extent of what the audit uncovers.
C. Low-Cost Option
Owners with old windows often balk at the cost to replace them for energy efficiency, so Geller offers to apply a thin layer of clear plastic over the inside panes that shrinks to the window as a thermal barrier.
D. Cause for Catastrophe
Common in the Northeast, ice dams form when snowmelt freezes and dams up at uninsulated or unvented eaves. As the ice melts, water can wick under the shingles and down the sidewalls, leading to extensive (and expensive) rot. Soffit to ridge venting and adequate attic insulation help to mitigate the problem.
E. Heat Loss
Up to 65% of a home’s heat loss is through the attic. Sealing and/or insulating penetrations into the attic floor and roof can eliminate most of that thermal transfer and reduce heating energy use in conditioned spaces.
F. Energy & Water
Insulated hot-water pipes not only mitigate heat loss through the pipes but also help reduce the time it takes hot water to reach a tap or showerhead (“lag time”), which saves water, too.