The Top 5 Reasons to Get a Home Energy Audit

 

If you are not sure about where to start when trying to lower your energy bills, or doing some home improvement projects, then it is time to get an energy audit. An energy audit or assessment (same thing) will identify for you the biggest opportunities to make your home more comfortable, healthier, and more energy efficient. It should also connect you to a long list of rebates and incentives that will actually pay you to get this work done. And even better, in many places energy audits are actually free, so now is the time to get one!

You’ll find out where the biggest opportunities are to save money and increase your home’s energy efficiency. Many homeowners know of many ways they could cut their utility bills, but does it make more sense to replace those leaky windows, get better basement insulation, upgrade the attic insulation, or install a programmable thermostat? A qualified energy auditor can help you prioritize an action plan so that you get things done in the right order!

You’ll find out how to make your home more comfortable when it’s hot or cold outside. It’s not just about saving money – for many homeowners the most important thing is that there are areas in their home which are unpleasant to spend time in because of cold drafts or stifling heat. Figure out how to make your home livable and comfortable all the time, without breaking the bank.

In many locations you can get a big rebate on an energy audit – or even get one for free – and an audit is often the entry point for additional generous rebates from your utility for energy saving measures.

There are health and safety issues when you make a home more energy efficient: your auditor can make sure everything you do makes your home more healthy and safe for you and your family. Key challenges are to make sure that any harmful gasses produced by stoves, boilers and furnaces are effectively vented and that there is no excessive moisture buildup inside your home.

If you have just moved into a home or are planning home improvements, learn how to optimize energy efficiency as you execute your plans. Whenever you do work on your home, you want to also make your home more energy efficient if possible; for instance, if you have to remove and replace some siding, that’s a great opportunity to add insulation at a relatively low cost. Every step you take to improve your home’s energy efficiency increases the resale value of your home. The energy audit starts you down the road not just to cutting your monthly utility bills, but also to adding value to your home!

 

Which Type of Home Energy Assessment is Right For You?

There’s a wide spectrum!

1. Free Manufacturer Audits

The cheaper the audit, the more likely it is that the auditor has fewer qualifications, and that he or she is really doing the audit to get a foot in the door in order to sell you on a particular product or service.

For instance, some window manufacturers offer “audits” to tell you “how much money you could save” by installing a lot of new windows; sometimes their “auditors” use thermal cameras to show you cold air moving in an around your existing windows. However, this is a sales pitch, not an energy audit!

 

2. Subsidized Utility Audits: free or low cost if you follow up on recommendations

Be sure to see what’s available through your local utilities: many offer free or reduced rates, and these are often of reasonable quality, and may also qualify you to access generous rebates for energy saving measures. Contact us to find out what is available in your neighborhood. However, be aware that some utility auditors are not allowed to discuss all the issues that should be part of a comprehensive audit; in particular many utility subsidized audits do not cover your options for switching heating fuels – which is frequently a very important issue!

 

3. Comprehensive Home Performance Audits: $400 - $750

For a comprehensive audit, reach out to a local qualified home performance contractor – contact us to request a local recommendation – who will come to your home for 2 to 4 hours and develop a complete evaluation covering:

–The leakiness of your building

–The quality of your insulation and windows

–The safety of all your heating, cooling and cooking equipment

–The efficiency of your heating and cooling equipment and opportunities for improvements

–Electricity consumption patterns and opportunities for savings

The auditor we recommend will use a combination of tools to scientifically measure the performance of your home and diagnose issues:

–The blower door test: identifies how leaky your home is and can help to isolate where the leaks are

–The thermal camera: when there is a sufficient temperature differential between inside and outside, this camera can literally look into walls and windows and identify where hot or cold air is escaping or infiltrating

–The combustion analyzer: makes sure that any gas-fueled appliances or heating equipment is running safely

However, the most important step is the time the auditor spends with you understanding what your particular concerns and constraints are – and then explaining the findings and recommendations.You should expect a menu of steps – large and small – which you can take over time to achieve substantial savings, with a ranking according from quickest to slowest payback.

 

4. Professional Home Energy Modeling: $1000 to $2000

At the more sophisticated end of audits are detailed examinations by specialists trained in the “Home Energy Rating System” (HERS). These specialists develop a detailed model of your home’s energy performance starting with the construction and insulation characteristics of every element of your home’s construction. With this platform, HERS raters will advise on the most cost effective steps to improve the energy efficiency of your home and can model the efficiency improvements. Not recommended for the average homeowner, this level of detail will be attractive if you are committed to pursuing a deep energy retrofit for your home.

 

5.What Should You Expect During Your Energy Audit?

A typical Home Performance Contractor assessment will likely include most of the following:

Home introduction and walk through
Safety inspection and testing
Examination and analysis of key building elements: insulation, windows, doors, fireplaces
Blower door test
Air infiltration diagnosis to identify the source of leaks
Examination and analysis of heating and ventilation systems
Inspection of home exterior
Review of findings and discussion with homeowner

You should expect an auditor who welcomes your engagement in many stages of the audit and readily answers questions and provides commentary on your home as the audit progresses. You should equip yourself with a pad and paper to be able to take notes, because sometimes not all the auditor’s insights will make it into the final report.
How Should You Prepare for Your Energy Audit?

To get the most from your audit, be prepared with the key insights your auditor needs to know before they start the test:
-How much you spend on utility bills month by month through a typical year
-What are your key objectives: e.g. reduce gas heating bills or improve the livability of certain areas of home in hot or cold weather without investing in additional AC or radiators
-How long you expect to live in the home

In addition, review the resources to the right so that you know what the options are that interest you the most. For instance, if you are enthusiastic about renewable energy options, be ready to ask your auditor specific questions about why your location may or may not be suitable for solar or geothermal energy.

If your auditor is going to be conducting a blower door test, you can help by preparing your home in advance: shut and lock tight all the windows and close any storm windows or storm doors. Remove any window AC units. If there are fireplaces, vacuum up any ashes and close the dampers. If there is soot or grit in your chimneys the test may dislodge it onto the floor in front of the hearth: so if this is a concern, please take care to protect these areas.
What Happens at the End of the Energy Audit?

Now comes the most important part.

Expect the auditor to take time to sit down with you to:

Discuss findings and explore issues like your building’s air exchange rate, insulation levels and other key issues
Explain how your home compares to other similar homes in your area
Point out any building safety issues
Answer any questions you may have
Identify a preliminary set of actions to improve your building

Within one week you should also receive an audit report with full details and recommendations. With this information and a little further thought and data collection, you can develop an action plan to significantly reduce the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your building.
Ready to Get Started?

Fill out the form on the contacts page and we’ll help you connect with a local energy auditor for free.