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Leaking home could cost you big bucks

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RICHMOND, Va. -- Over the past few months, numerous Dominion Virginia Power customers contacted the CBS 6 newsroom about their power bills.  The customers complained their bills were higher than typical, sometimes by hundreds of dollars.

Officials with Dominion said record cold temperatures this winter led to record high energy usage in our area; and thus, higher than average bills.

Kia McKensey, who lives in north Richmond, said her electric bill went up by hundreds of dollars this November and continued throughout the winter.  Her kilowatt usage spiked as well.

She allowed our crews, Dominion representatives, and experts at Bradley Mechanical to examine her home and calculate its energy efficiency.

After depressurizing the house's envelope, or exterior structure, crews used infrared camera and specialized air duct "infiltrometers" to examine how much air her home is leaking.

Crews determined the house is loosing 50% of its air conditioning capacity and 47% of its heat pump capacity through air ducts.  Other tests determined the envelope is leaking at a rate almost three times higher than recommended.

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Darryl McCauley with Bradley Mechanical said McKensey's home is leaking more than most, but added that many older model homes experience major leakage.

"When you fix these holes, it helps on all seasons.  You don't want capacity loss whether it's winter or summer," said McCauley.  "Once you bring it to their attention, most [homeowners] are in awe."

Sealing air ducts requires a professional's hand, but sealing doors, windows, and other exterior leaks can be done by the homeowner.  Using caulk, weather strips, and other materials, homeowners can greatly increase the energy efficiency of their home.

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Dominion said these products are very inexpensive and can save customers big bucks on their monthly bill.

"I would like to see what it looks like when everything is fixed," said McKensey, who's landlord is in the process of fixing some of the more minor problems that were found.

McKensey added she is going to wait until the summer to examine her bill and see if any of the fixes helped out.

Officials at Dominion suggest customers interested getting their home checked do so before the summer months begin.  For more information on Dominion's "Home Energy Check Up" program, click here.