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Energy Economics and Where to Start

Today is Energy Efficiency Day! The Chicago Bungalow Association is one of hundreds of local governments, organizations, corporations, and utilities across the country that are participating in #EEDay2020. We wanted to take the time to share with our members some energy efficiency programs, ways to assess your home's energy efficiency, and more!

Energy Economics

One of the perks of having a more energy efficient home is that it can also keep your living situation more affordable, in addition to environmentally friendly and healthy. Here are some reasons why it is especially important for Chicagoans to find ways to keep our homes more efficient:

  • We have hot summers and cold winters in Illinois, which means we have higher bills during these months than more temperate climates.

  • The typical Illinois household spends $2,000/year on energy.

  • Lower-income families in Chicago, on average, spend 15-20% of their income on energy costs. (A household is considered energy burdened when energy costs exceed 6% of household income.)

  • Natural gas prices will continue to rise, and many of our homes are largely dependent on natural gas as a primary energy source. Electricity, on the other hand, can be generated on-site using solar panels, and that generated electricity can be tied into our local utilities (i.e. the “smart grid”) and save you a bundle. Check out Illinois Solar for All to see how you might qualify for free solar panels!

Diagnosing Your Home: Where to Start

An energy audit consists of a professional examination of your home's existing construction, appliances, mechanical systems, and air infiltration for energy saving opportunities, as well as basic home safety issues. The auditor may also ask to examine your existing gas and electric bills to help assess how your home is performing relative to a “model” that meets current energy codes. 

A blower door test is one part of a home energy audit.  A “blower door” is nothing more than a variable speed fan connected to a series of pressure gauges and used to help identify sources of air leakage into your house.

Often times, your utility company will provide FREE energy audits, so be sure to check in with them before paying for one. For members of the Chicago Bungalow Association, a free energy assessment comes with our free home weatherization program. Visit to view eligibility requirements, what the program covers, and submit an application.

DIY Tips

Having a professional energy audit is always the best way to get an accurate diagnosis, but here are a couple DIY ways you can test your home's air leaks and drafts:

  • Perform a paper test: Close the window on a piece of paper. If it easily moves back and forth this means your window could be tighter. This can be accomplished by adding thicker weather stripping.

  • Light an incense stick and hold it next to the seams or sash of the window. Watch the smoke to see if the smoke is pushed in a particular direction. If you see the smoke pushed one way or another, you most likely have a leak.

For maintenance purposes, you should also do a walkabout of your home, looking for areas where you need to re-caulk, repoint your masonry, or repair/divert your gutters and downspouts. You should also look for damage to shingles and make a note of how many layers there are on your roof. For more detailed information on these topics, check out our Bungalow Maintenance 101 booklet and our How-To Home video series. The information is relevant to most vintage homes, not only bungalows!

If you have questions about your Chicago vintage home's energy efficiency, or programs mentioned in this blog, contact us here.

Happy Energy Efficiency Day!

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