Improve your home’s energy efficiency

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

Come on, don’t you like a little rocket fuel in your drinking water? What, that doesn’t sound tasty? Well, get used to it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declined to set a standard restricting the amount of perchlorate in drinking water. This chemical found in fireworks and rocket fuel has been detected in the breast milk of nursing mothers and linked to thyroid dysfunction in kids. Perchlorate has polluted soil in 35 states and contaminated more than 150 public water systems according to The Washington Post, including the groundwater at Aerojet’s site in Rancho Cordova. The EPA’s failure must please the Department of Defense, one of the biggest perchlorate polluters in our country (restrictions would lead to more expensive cleanups for the agency).

With word getting around about the importance of stemming climate change, homeowners are investing in green remodeling projects to help the planet and save on utility bills. Midtown-based company GreenBuilt Construction and Consulting specializes in eco-friendly projects and offers a home-testing service as part of its comprehensive green building services. These tests identify what a home does well and how it can improve. Your Auntie Ruth recently tagged along on a home testing in Auburn. After carpooling with GreenBuilt employees Lisa Pickert and Katy Nicholls, Ruth learned that a home’s insulation, ventilation and mechanical systems work together to influence overall energy efficiency. For example, a home properly ventilated will have less trouble with mold but will leak energy; the goal is to balance efficiency, health and comfort.

Pickert and Nicholls performed several tests that afternoon: an infrared camera test to check for insulation gaps, air-pressure tests to sniff out leaks in air vents, an inspection around the outside of the home to look for drainage seeping into the foundation and a look around the attic. Nicholls said for starters, the homeowners would benefit greatly from better insulation around the attic and plugging up some of the gaps around the outlets. She said her firm works within their clients’ budgets so they get the most eco-bang for their buck. But in most cases, even a small investment in home efficiency pays off well in the end.