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On the Job

On the hunt for ways to save energy

William Hadley works for Conservation Services Group, which conducts energy audits.Mark Lorenz for The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

A home energy checkup — also called a home energy audit — can be the first step toward lowering utility bills. William Hadley, an energy inspector for Conservation Services Group, which conducts home assessments for NStar and other utilities, helps homeowners improve energy efficiency by inspecting the furnace and ductwork, checking for leaks, examining insulation, and other tests.

“Simple steps can improve energy efficiency while also saving money and improving a home’s comfort, durability, air quality, and even safety and comfort,” said Hadley.

How are New England homes unique in construction, and how does that affect energy efficiency?

There are a lot of historic and older homes around the Boston area. Many of these homes lack wall and attic insulation, which dramatically changes the way a house heats and cools. Some of these homes struggle to keep the heat at 60 degrees during cold winter nights.

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What’s some of the equipment used for energy audits?

We use infrared cameras that help identify insulation gaps, and blower door systems that help identify where air might be leaking out of a building. Moisture meters help to read the humidity inside a house – too much humidity, and mold can grow. Carbon monoxide and gas leak detectors are important for safety.

Borescopes allow you to look inside wall cavities, duct work, and sealed spaces. What have you seen when you drill these holes?

There’s a little screen that allows viewing of material and insulation. Around Boston, you never know what was used for insulation. I’ve seen walls filled with seaweed, as well as newspaper and horsehair.

What fallacies about energy conservation and homes have you run into?

The number one misconception is that people think replacing the windows will solve all the problems. In fact, that money is better off spent by air sealing and insulating the house. For example, air leaking out of ducts, attics, basements, even recessed lighting can cause uneven room temperatures, increasing your energy bill.

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A thorough assessment requires entering residential basements, attics, and crawl spaces — is this often a tight squeeze?

I did hit my limit the other day. I wish I had my tape measure out, but it was probably 12 by 12. I got through by easing in, first putting one arm, one shoulder, then my head, and diving in.

What’s your pet peeve when it comes to wasting energy?

It really bugs me when a house is at 70 degrees and no one is home. A lot of people don’t put any thought into simply resetting the thermostat when asleep or away from home.


Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com