What if you could know exactly where you’re wasting energy and which improvements would boost energy efficiency the most? Well, that’s exactly what a home energy audit can do.
Getting an energy audit is good for your home, your wallet, and the environment. It doesn’t take much time to do, but the effects can be felt for years. Let’s take a look at how an energy audit is conducted and how you can use it to improve the efficiency of your home.
What to Expect During an Energy Audit
An energy audit covers the entire house inside and out. From start to finish it should take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours to complete based on the size of the home and the tests that are used. Exactly what happens during the energy audit depends on the auditor, but there are standard steps most auditors will take to assess a home. The auditor will:
- List all of the pertinent home features
- Note the size and configuration of the home
- Go over the exterior from the roof to the foundation
- Examine all windows and doors looking for air leaks
- Do a room-by-room examination
- Look for and measure insulation in the attic spaces
- Do thermographic scanning with an infrared camera to locate air leaks and inadequate insulation
- Examine outlets and electrical lines to see if they’re properly sealed
- Test the furnace or water heater
- Examine the ductwork for possible leaks
- Conduct a blower door test to look for air leaks
- Inspect the lighting
Some auditors will also request to see recent utility bills and ask you to provide information about how energy is used in the home. This will help the auditor make a more meaningful and informed suggestion in their report.
DIY Energy Audits
They aren’t official, but DIY energy audits can still be beneficial when you’re investing in energy efficiency. The Department of Energy has created a DIY energy audit guide that can help you through the process. It’s a step-by-step walkthrough of what to examine and the signs of energy waste.
Audits From the Local Utility
You may be able to get a free energy audit from your local utility. Typically, it’s a basic visual audit that may not be as in-depth as professional energy auditing. If the service isn’t offered by the utility provider they may be able to recommend government agencies, non-profits, and professionals that offer affordable audits.
Interpreting and Utilizing Energy Audit Results
Your home energy audit is complete! Now what?
The auditor will create a report based on their findings. The report will note basic information about the auditor, property and the overall energy consumption. It should then go into detail about the tests that were performed, the calculations that were used and the findings. The findings should note any irregularities or inefficiencies that were discovered along with pictures where appropriate.
What homeowners are most interested in is the suggested improvements that can be made. These are sometimes referred to as energy efficiency measures (EEMs). The energy audit should include an estimate of what each improvement is expected to save in terms of energy usage along with any non-financial benefits. It may also include an estimate of the cost to make each improvement and target goals for energy usage after the improvement is made.
The suggestions aim to do at least one of three things:
- Make the home more comfortable
- Save energy and lower bills
- Improve air quality and/or health
The improvements may be listed in order of the net effect on energy conservation so it’s easy to focus on the biggest fixes. The auditor could also list improvements room-by-room.
The information on the report should be clearly stated and well written so that it’s easy to interpret and implement. But if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask the auditor for clarification.
The Alliance to Save Energy has estimated that a professional energy audit can help a homeowner improve efficiency by as much as 30 percent. The savings could easily pay for the cost of the audit in less than a year.
Who Should Consider an Energy Audit
Most homeowners can benefit from an energy audit, but there are some cases that warrant it more than others.
Your Home is Older
The older your home is the more you can benefit from an energy audit, generally speaking. It’s usually recommended for homes that are 10 years or older. Many homes that were built more than a decade ago began to be less energy efficient even if they were built using tight construction. After 10 years, key energy efficiency elements like water heaters may need to be replaced or serviced.
You Plan on Selling Your Home Soon
If you’re planning on selling your home an energy audit could be a good investment. Getting a great rating or making energy efficiency improvements based on the audit could make your home more marketable and desirable. A National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey found that buyers prefer “green” homes and many are willing to pay up to $10,000 more for an energy efficient home. In some areas like Austin, TX an energy audit is required before a sell can happen.
Your Utility Bills Seem High
Is your utility bill unusually high? Is it significantly more than the same time last year? Take a look at your bill to see how much energy was used. If there’s a notable uptick in the kWh usage and there haven’t been any big changes (like more people living in the home) there could be a fixable issue. An energy audit can catch a problem such as a hole in the ductwork or major air leak that’s wasting energy.
Keep reading the Verde Energy blog for more tips on how to improve energy efficiency at home!