Image via EcoFactor
EcoFactor is an energy management software start-up that recently won a Cleantech Open award. It aggregates data abut your home's energy use and gives a grade for each zone of the house. The grade reflects how sealed a building is and its energy efficiency levels. While the grade is based on the home, it of course reflects on the owner and we know there are some people who just have to be straight A students. Luckily, EcoFactor also likes straight A students. So when one efficiency-minded customer called in from Dallas saying that his grade was a D and that EcoFactor absolutely had to be wrong because "I don't get D's," the company was quick to get to the root of the issue. And it turns out there were skeletons in his attic he'd never known about.
EcoFactor was pretty confident that the program works, so they sent out an HVAC technician to evaluate and give feedback. As Scott Hublou, founder of EcoFactor told us, it was clear that either the math around EcoFactor's grading system was wrong, which the team was quite certain it wasn't, or something is wrong with the house, which the customer, Wade Hyde, was quite certain there wasn't.
Hyde is highly conscious about the efficiency of his home and had even had a radient barrier installed in his roof. So when his 30-year-old upstairs thermostat received a B from EcoFactor and his 3-year-old new-tech downstairs thermostat received a D, he was convinced that EcoFactor must have a flaw in their grading system.
EcoFactor sent out a qualified HVAC technician to take a look and what he saw revealed why systems like EcoFactor are such a necessity for even the most savvy of homeowners.
When the contractors installed the new radiant barrier installed in the roof, they weren't exactly the most careful of teams. They crushed one of the air vents, knocked an air return completely out of place and knocked the dryer vent out of place so that it was venting straight into air exchanger where the cool air is created for the home. So every time Hyde had been using the air conditioner, he was sucking in air from his attic and dryer, and then the system was working extra hard to push that air through crushed vents.
Hyde said that he rarely ever went into his attic -- maybe once every 5 years -- so it could have been years before he discovered the damage done by the construction company had it not been for EcoFactor.
The moral of the story is three-fold.
First, even the most energy efficient of homeowners could be held back by some external factor. Even if you think you've checked off everything on the weatherization to-do list, turn out all your CFL lights when not in use and so on, you home may have secret issues that keep your home from being more efficient. That means home energy audits are important for discovering those little slip-ups that are certainly not your fault.
Second, paying attention to your energy efficiency is an on-going process. You never know what might happen in the home that can put a dent in your efforts to save energy. Having a service like EcoFactor is a perfect way to watch and ensure that your home stays as efficient as possible.
Third, after you have new construction and improvements done to boost the efficiency of your home, get them double-checked.
"Our house was built in the 80's, so I know it's not the best envelope for energy efficiency. However, in the downstairs unit of our home we installed an energy star unit, energy efficient windows, and a new radiant barrier. We also added extra installations. We thought we were doing a great job. You never think to check after someone has installed that kind of new equipment," states Hyde.
Right now, EcoFactor is launching pilot projects in Texas to test out their systems. So far they're showing a 4 to 1 return on investment when someone uses their grading and monitoring system. It'll be awhile before we see the company launch nation-wide, but it looks like already they're proving their mettle.
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