Ted Natt: Low-Cost Energy Audits Could Help Small Businesses
Mark Bashista is a general contractor who earned a living restoring historic properties until the recession put him out of business.
Today, Bashista conducts energy audits and does weatherization projects for residential and commercial customers in central North Carolina. He has always loved the challenge of remaining true to the historic nature of a building while providing the modern conveniences expected today.
"The potential to save money is huge because most of the older buildings that I have audited so far have had very little work done on them," he says. "The attics and crawl spaces were untouched. There is usually old insulation, old ducts and no air sealing, among other issues."
Small businesses and nonprofits in Moore County may qualify for low-cost energy efficiency evaluations and improvements now that the North Carolina Green Business Fund has allowed Bashista to expand the scope of a $118,365 grant his company - Home Performance NC in Pittsboro - secured earlier this year.
"The grant was originally limited to Chatham and Lee counties," he says. "We learned last week that it has now been expanded to Alamance, Harnett, Moore and Randolph counties. We're thrilled because the audits need to be done by the end of the year, and the weatherization projects should be wrapped up by the end of February."
The grant provides energy audits to small businesses and nonprofits operating out of commercial space that was originally constructed as a residence. The cost is $50, or about one-tenth of the current market rate.
"I spend about four hours on the property and issue a 10-page report," Bashista says. "I do a lot of testing. It's very thorough. It's not just a walk-through."
If he discovers that energy improvements can be made to increase the building's tightness by 25 percent, then the business or nonprofit can opt to receive a weatherization for 50 percent off the total cost, up to a maximum subsidy of $4,000.
"Usually, the business can write off the other half," Bashista says. "But there's no obligation to do a weatherization. There's no strong sales pitch at the end of the audit."
If the building is found to need work beyond the scope of the grant, such as roof repairs or structural concerns, the business or nonprofit must correct those ssues before any weatherization can take place.
Building improvements can include air sealing, duct sealing, insulation, asbestos duct replacement, and knob-and-tube wiring replacement in the attic.
Benefits include lower heating and cooling bills, improving the life of the building, helping occupants to feel more comfortable and improving air quality.
"Thanks to the grant subsidy and the write-off, the return on investment typically drops from four years to about two," Bashista says.
To qualify for the project, a small business or nonprofit must:
n Be housed in a former residential building constructed before 1990.
n Have fewer than 50 employees.
n Provide energy bills for a year before the audit takes place, and a year after.
To schedule an audit or learn more about the project, call Bashista at (919) 360-1570 or email him at email@example.com.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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