The Home Detective – Expert Tips for a High Performance, Energy Efficient Home
Marla Esser Cloos (aka The Green Home Coach) is the founder and co-host of Green Gab, a weekly podcast where she and co-host Tony Pratte of The Sound Room, talk all things green. Marla is NAHB Master Certified Green Professional and LEED AP, She works with individual consumers, homeowners, builders, remodelers, realtors and is a frequent writer and speaker on the topic of sustainability. Her online shop, Everyday Green Home, offers a curated set of products for a safer, healthier, and greener life.
What you’ll learn
Gabbing with Kellye Markowski with Energy Smart Homes. Kellye is a residential and commercial energy audit provider and project management. She works independently and does not promote any products.
Her goal is to help homeowners/residents reduce their energy and costs and know the best course of action for their house. She works with the true end user – the home or business owner to get the best outcome. She says she feels passionate about whole process, yet her passion and enthusiasm is undeniable. People take a stab at doing the right thing for their home or property, yet they typically do the wrong thing or do the steps out of order.
For instance, she was in a home with a remodeled 2nd floor and it was very uncomfortable, typically 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the home and the AC never shut off. There were some issues with the thermal envelope but they were not addressed by the traditional contractor who did not have expertise in building science. The contractor did know what to look for or how to fix it.
Building a building is about getting a structure up that shields and protects its residents from the elements. It may not necessarily be optimized to be comfortable. An energy professional can do exactly that. Optimize the building for comfort. Comfort is driving a lot of this, even more so than saving money. Although not getting it right may make you miserable twice in terms of money and comfort. Energy efficiency in a home – new or existing – improves the experience in a home by improving the comfort and saving money in operating your home for all of the years you live in that home.
Getting your home to the best performance you can is an investment that pays you back. The additional investment up front pays back in operational costs for years.
Sexy pretty things in a house usually get more attention – the granite countertops, the color of the walls or the lighting. We assume houses, especially now, have built to a certain standard, just like we assume the products we use are safe and healthy. However, that’s not the case. And often a homeowner does not know enough about the specifics of a home to know if a home is truly built or remodeled to perform well. Mistakes, cutting corners or just not understanding building science may be at the root of a home not performing as well as it could.
Kellye has a teaching background yet right out of school she worked as a construction estimator and large loss handler with an insurance company. She then transitioned to teaching for 18 years where she taught art. She has always had a passion for conserving and energy efficiency. She put the pieces together from her background – the background and tools from the insurance experience, the ability to teach and problem solve and the creativity from art. She filled the missing piece of understanding energy efficient construction when she went into business for herself.
Kellye is a shell envelope specialist with expertise in top to bottom, inside and out of structure, not only for construction but also homeowner habits. She comprehensively covers everything about how a building performs and how the people behave in the home or building. As one of the few independent energy auditors, she helps homeowners understand the right choices to make for their house. Kellye has been in over 1500 homes and has seen it all. She’s seen a lot of structures and a lot of problems.
Just a few of the “home detective” cases Kellye has helped.
- A new home in St. Louis suburbs – Kellye inspected the attic and found an entire bedroom with no insulation over it.
- Another home, the owner complained of a hot spot in summer and cold spot in winter. Kellye pushed away the insulation in attic and found a 3-foot square hole that went all the way down through the wall to the basement and did not cap the hole. It was a simple fix to block the hole.
- Electric furnace and put the ducts in the attic. Had Kellye been in on the front end, would have advised ducts handled differently.
Kellye recommends fixes that homeowners or their contractors can implement. She works with contractors and remodelers to bring her in to address issues in a home during the remodeling process. It’s best to have energy assessment prior to doing the work. It results in far less aggravation and helps to set the plan and priorities and then work the plan. Homeowners that have remodeled without an energy audit often end up redoing work to address the issues that were left unresolved. And often issues that are found can be addressed relatively inexpensively.
Many people avoid finding out what the issues are – head in the sand syndrome. It is so much easier to discover and fix the issues up front, although it can be done after work and just backtrack. There are almost always several different resolutions to an issue and Kellye works with homeowners to compare different options with the pros and cons of the options.
When Kellye does a full energy audit, she is there all day. It’s an investigation into the house – the home detective.
Many problems in a home stem from energy efficiency and comfort. The promise of your house is delivered by a safe, healthy structure. An energy audit is a whole house approach just like holistic health addresses all of a person’s health. For instance, moisture issues can cause microbial growth which can lead to health issues. Kellye asks questions about the health of residents in the home and looks for issues that may be contributing to any known health issues.
Kellye has found many people like working with her because of the different approach she brings to her practice as a woman. She prides herself on conversing with homeowners and educating them on what she finds and approaches.
There is a vast sea of resources available to people to improve their homes. Homes have to not just look good, but perform on their promise of being comfortable, providing protection, etc. Often homeowners don’t get the whole house scope that comes from an energy audit and the benefits it brings to their lives.
The #1 reason people call Kellye is high utility bills and lack of comfort. When people see Kellye do an audit, they see the benefit of the audit before she even reviews the audit report with them. The report gives the actions that can be taken to address the issues found. And it is the actions that make the difference. The great reactions and ad hoc testimonials she receives attribute to her passion for her work and helping homeowners live better in their homes.
Knows how to use her tools and talents to discover the “smoking gun” and gets a charge out of being able to find the culprit and get it fixed. You can reach Kellye at Kellye@EnergySmartHomes.us.
Resources on today’s Home Detective for Home Performance
Energy Smart Homes, Kellye Markowski’s company
BPI, Building Performance Institute, for Homeowners
If you want to learn more about why green matters to you, your family, and the planet, subscribe to The Green Gab Podcast. Marla and her guests share tips and trends in sustainable building.
Find additional insights in Marla's book Living Green Effortlessly: Simple Choices to a Better Home on Amazon.
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