A “Warm” Home for the First Time
Posted December 16, 2011 | Leave a Comment
Daimian Lix and Maia Segura bought their home six years ago when the market was at its peak. At under 1,000 square feet, it was a bit smaller than they were hoping for, but it was clear that the house had “good bones.” It also had the advantages of having new windows and a small footprint. “Our assumption was that we would have low energy bills and low carbon output since it wouldn’t take much to heat it,” said Segura. “We could not have been more wrong.”
During a recent Community Power Works home energy audit, Segura and Lix were shocked to learn that while their overall energy consumption was lower than most Seattleites, the relative amount that they spent on heat and the resulting carbon output was well above average. “Even more maddening was knowing that the number of ‘upgrades’ that we made to our heating situation over the years had done little if anything to help,” said Segura.
Typical in a region where temperatures are relatively moderate and older homes are not particularly well-sealed, the Segura-Lixs cobbled heat sources together. Over the years they replaced the “old school” baseboard electric heaters in all of the rooms. In the living room they installed modern hydronic baseboard heaters, and went through a series of radiant heaters in the bedrooms, bath, and kitchen. When they found that the new radiators couldn’t warm the space on colder days, they installed a pellet stove in the living room.
“The pellet stove was nice. It really blasts out the heat, it’s great ambience, and the pellets are pretty inexpensive,” Segura said. “But it’s miserable to come home to a cold house when the pellets run out, and then regularly have trouble getting the stove started.” But more than that, the combination of heating efforts did little to reduce energy costs, let alone ease the pocketbook from the multiple waves of hardware. “Until we heard about the CPW program, we were just willing to live with it,” she said.
Following the audit with Habitat Home Energy Specialist, the Segura-Lixs learned that installing a heat pump would be a slam-dunk for reducing both energy costs and carbon output. Surprisingly, it was one of the least expensive projects proposed as a result of the audit, and yet it had the highest potential to reduce costs.
The Segura-Lixs looked into the CPW loan to get the job done within the timeframe required to qualify for a special $500 incentive, but were then met with another happy surprise. “Once we got our estimate from Sound Home Performance with all of the rebates and incentives applied to the bottom line, we realized that we actually had the resources on hand to pay for the job outright,” Segura said.
The end result? “We are one warm and happy family.” The single heat pump unit now keeps nearly the entire house comfortable. Other than the heat pump, the family has shut down all other heat sources except for the space heater in the kitchen. And as an added benefit, the unit will continue to keep the temperature in the house constant even as the mercury climbs in the summer. “Our installer told us that we could just set it and throw the remote under the bed,” Lix said. “Because cooling kicks in when it gets too warm in the house, we will still be comfortable inside even on the hottest days.”
Read the complete profile for the Segura-Lix home here:
Name: Maia Segura & Daimian Lix
Neighborhood: Rainier Beach
Year House Built: 1918
Auditor: Charlie Rogers – Habitat Home Energy Experts
Contractor: Sound Home Performance
Energy Upgrade Project Status: Finished
How did you finance the work? Self. We looked into the CPW loan, but it turned out that after all of the rebates & incentives we could afford to pay cash for the job.
How did you hear about Community Power Works? A friend who is active in the community.
What motivated you to explore an energy upgrade for your home? The audit. We wanted to know more about our home & the audit provides a huge amount of detail about things that we can’t see. We also wanted a to-do list to help us prioritize projects.
What were any specific problems or issues with your home that are addressed through your home energy upgrade? We have been through a series of heating “solutions” for our tiny home – from replacing old baseboard heaters with hydronic baseboards, to a pellet stove, to radiant space heaters for various rooms. Even with all of this effort, we spent most of our winters too hot or too cold from room to room.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about your house through the energy audit? Here were a couple of things that really stood out: Even though our energy usage was well below the city average, our carbon output was well above the average. It was also remarkable that by just installing a heat pump we could bring our carbon output back down below the average and cut our heating bill in half or more.
What specific work did you have done? We had a Daikin ductless heat pump installed. We also turned down the temp on our water heater at Charlie’s suggestion (we had no idea that we could even do that).
How do you feel about having your home upgraded? Amazing! Within 2 minutes of Craig Lyons firing up the heater, our home felt like it was actually warm without having to run the pellet stove and fill the house with people. And we are also excited to work our way down the list of other projects.
What would you like to share with others who are considering joining the Community Power Works program? Do it! You may be surprised as we were that the project that offers the biggest impact is far from being the most expensive. Also, we appreciated the service that we received from Charlie’s thoroughness, as well as other touches like Lyons replanting the hedges that had to be moved as a result of placing the outdoor unit.