Amping Up Our Community: Professor Lynne Gratz’s Environmental Thermodynamics Energy Audits

Colorado College recently announced that the college is officially carbon neutral! A logical next step is to improve the energy efficiency of the surrounding community. During Block 2, Professor Lynne Gratz’s Environmental Thermodynamics course worked with a home from the Colorado Springs community, and technicians from the Energy Resource Center, conducting a preliminary audit of the house and carrying out a retrofit of the home. I spoke with Mataan Peer ’21, a junior from Los Gatos, California, who informed me about what exactly the energy audit entailed. “The preliminary audit was an audit of the homes energy efficiency. Just checking where we could improve the house’s efficiency. I went into the attic and measured the depth of the insulation as well as checking the efficiency of the insulation. Our house had an odd ceiling configuration that forced us to blow a lot more insulation than expected. We also went into the basement and did some square footage measurements to see how much batt insulation we needed for the foundation walls.”

Along with making sure the house was well insulated, the class was also responsible for measuring the current energy output of the house itself. ”Another team put energy meters on the appliances to measure their energy usage. Then as a group we used a blower door test to find infiltration points. The blower door creates a pressure differential between the inside (negative pressure) and the outside (normal pressure). With the differential we could physically feel the places where air was leaking into the house,” remarked Peer .

By implementing these simple and cost-effective methods, students were able to apply the knowledge they gained in the course toward community benefit increasing the energy efficiency of homes in the surrounding community. This sustained partnership with the ERC began years ago, and is a great way for students to develop more knowledge surrounding the environment. For Peer, who is not an environmental major, felt that the hands-on community element of the class added a lot of value to the course. “It taught me a lot about how we can apply physics and chemistry concepts to environmental concerns like energy production and energy efficiency” explained Peer. For any interested in not only developing knowledge on energy efficiency, but also aiding in their community this course will be offered again in Block 7.

If you want to watch a video from last year, click here!

By Ben Greenly, CCE Storyteller

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