10 Tips to Avoid Energy-Efficiency Scams
by Rosie Romero - Apr. 4, 2011 05:02 PM
We're all trying to save money on bills these days. Plenty of people who sell energy-saving products are willing to take unfair advantage of you in your quest to save a buck.
You won't save any money or energy if you buy products from people who make false claims. When it comes to purchasing air-conditioners, insulation, roofing and even AC services, we homeowners have to do our homework before we start writing checks.
Don't let a salesperson mislead you into spending too much - or buying an ineffective product - because you don't have the facts.
1. They sell you more than you need. As we gear up for another scorching Arizona summer, I'm seeing ads for companies that want to over-insulate your attic to a level of R-60, which won't save you any more money on air-conditioning bills than the recommended R-38.
In fact, there's a good chance you don't need new insulation at all. Most homes have plenty of insulation, but it's poorly installed or has been knocked out of place.
2. They say you need more than you do. I could scream when I see ads that offer unnecessarily thick insulation, plus ventilation, plus a spray-on radiant barrier for the attic. They promise to drop the attic temperature, reduce the heat gain from the roof by up to 50 percent and slash your air-conditioning bill accordingly.
Yet no more than 15 percent of your AC bill has anything to do with the heat coming from your attic. This is overkill.
With so much insulating equipment in the attic, it could be 200 degrees up there and have no impact on your house - and they charge as much as $6 a square foot for it (that's $15,600 for a 2,600-square-foot house). Your attic is never going to be 200 degrees.
You don't need this.
All you need is properly engineered ventilation and an adequate level of insulation. Period.
3. They are vague about R-value. R-value is a measure of how effectively insulation res heat flow. Generally, the higher the R-value, the greater the product's insulating power - up to an appropriate level, which for our climate is R-38. Some product sales reps will claim their insulation has a high R-value, but they don't tell you how thick you have to layer it to achieve that measure. Ask this question: How many inches of insulation will I need to achieve R-38 - and how much does this product cost per inch?
4. They mislead you about R-value. The Federal Trade Commission has ruled against manufacturers who claim their radiant barriers or insulation will insulate your attic to a high R-value, when in fact, a product can't achieve that on its own.
In most cases, the FTC found that the high R-value can be achieved only through a combination of insulation, radiant barriers and common building products like gypsum board and siding, which have some insulating properties. Before you buy, be sure the R-value claim pertains to the product on its own - and that you don't have to buy additional products.
5. They convince you that high-tech is better than common sense. The least-expensive way to slash your energy bills is to reach for the "low-hanging fruit" in your house - small, low-cost improvements. Instead of getting hooked into buying an expensive package of multiple new systems, start your energy campaign by sealing your air-conditioner's ducts, caulking windows and doors and checking weather stripping. Have an energy audit to determine if your attic is properly and passively ventilated and that your insulation is well-installed. That will help you more than investing thousands of dollars in optional equipment.
6. They can't prove the claims. It's illegal to say a product will slash energy bills, insulate your attic or reduce heat gain without tests to back up the claim. Ask for the research. If the product has passed these tests, you can be sure the manufacturer will have that information all over its website. Can't find it? Don't buy it.
7. They insist bigger is better. This is a common claim when it comes to buying an air-conditioner. It used to be that bigger homes needed larger AC units. Newer homes are so tight, however, that they need far less powerful systems than older homes with lots of air leaks. Find an AC rep who will get a lot of information about your house, the weather and your family's lifestyle - and use a computer to calculate the size of your new air-conditioner. If that's not happening, find a different contractor.
8. They misrepresent the energy savings. Before you buy, it's important to know how long it would take to pay a product off with the money you save on energy bills. If you pay $15,000 to seal your attic up as tight as Fort Knox and it saves you $400 a year on AC bills, you won't see an actual return on your investment for 37 years. Go with a plan that will pay for itself within three to five years. After that, the lower energy bill will put money in your pocket.
9. They trip you up with jargon. Steer clear of products touting an "equivalent R-value" and those that refer to the potential savings in terms like "nominal" or "approximately" instead of hard numbers.
10. They sell you something new instead of repairing what you already have. Example: You don't have to replace your air-conditioner just because its ducts are leaking. Instead, have the ducts sealed.
Don't fall for this "marketing approach" to energy savings. Trust the building scientists - and know what they say. You shouldn't pay more for energy-saving equipment than it will ever save you in energy bills.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/style/hfe/decor/articles/2011/04/04/20110404avoid-energy-efficiency-scams.html#ixzz1IwbE5qDb