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Whole house audit

What to Expect from a Home Energy Audit

Daren Wang
/
February 6, 2024

Those drafty windows and those exorbitant power bills finally got to you. You’ve decided to invest in your home, your comfort, and the future. You’re going to turn your home into a lean, green, energy-efficiency machine.

So, what’s your first step? If you’re really interested in efficiency, then learning what the most inefficient parts of your home are and fixing those first is your best strategy. And that means a hiring a home energy auditor to create a complete energy report on your home.

A professional energy auditor performs a range of inspections, tests, and calculations to create a comprehensive picture of your home’s energy use and the sources of any waste. This assessment identifies specific issues within a home that, when addressed, can significantly enhance overall energy efficiency. A home energy audit plays a pivotal role in optimizing energy usage. There is also a $150 tax credit available to go towards this expense.

Not all energy audits are created equal. Your local utility might even offer a free audit. While those reports can offer some guidance, they are seldom comprehensive, and lack the depth of a paid evaluation. Finding the right home energy auditor is key to obtaining a thorough assessment.

Choose an auditor who conducts a complete assessment, including insulation inspection, blower door test, thermographic imaging and HVAC and ductwork evaluation. A fully qualified auditor should hold a license as an energy or building analyst, demonstrating their expertise in the field.

To find and choose the right home energy auditor, follow these guidelines:

  • Contact your state or local government energy office for recommendations or use resources like the Residential Energy Services Network.
  • Look up reviews, qualifications, and references for the auditors on your list. Inquire about the specifics of their energy assessment process, as a more comprehensive evaluation generally leads to better results.
  • Inquire about which tests each inspector uses. Do they use a blower door test? How do they evaluate duct work? How do they check for adequacy of insulation? Do they use a infrared camera for thermographic scans?
  • Make sure they are licensed as an energy or building analyst.

By following these steps, homeowners can be sure that their final report is accurate, comprehensive and actionable, paving the way for improved energy efficiency and reduced utility costs.

Be Prepared for the Big Day

A home energy assessment process can be thought of in three phases: evaluation, testing, and efficiency recommendations. For an average-sized home, testing and evaluation will require as much as three hours.

Evaluation often begins with an analysis of a home’s historical energy use (i.e., utility bills) to establish a baseline for energy performance. Make sure you have at least a year’s worth of bills to help establish consumption trends.

Next, the auditor will conduct an inspection of the home’s interior and exterior to assess sources of energy loss and potential health and safety issues, such as mold or poor ventilation. They’ll typically examine a home’s heating and cooling systems, insulation levels, doors and windows, lighting fixtures, and other structural components that make up the building envelope.

During an in-depth assessment, an auditor will also run tests to measure airtightness in the building. A common method is a blower door test, which involves installing a fan in an exterior doorway to pull air out of the house, lowering the air pressure inside to help detect air leakage. Your auditor should also run a thermographic scan with an infrared camera to home in on heat loss and leaks in the home.

Next comes the report. A good report should include more than just what needs improvement. It should also outline the estimated cost and expected annual savings for each recommended upgrade, such as adding insulation or switching from a traditional HVAC system to a modern heat pump based system.

It's also reasonable to expect a home energy auditor to know what incentives are available for any upgrades. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act created a series of tax credits to make it easier for homeowners to improve their house’s efficiency. In addition, many state and local governments have incentives in place, and even some utilities.

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A standard home energy audit report will include a thorough evaluation of a property's energy utilization and effectiveness broken down into basic components, including:

  • Energy Consumption Analysis --An examination of the property's historical energy consumption, typically sourced from utility bills. This aids in recognizing patterns, seasonal fluctuations, and areas with heightened energy usage.
  • Building Envelope Evaluation --A look at the state and efficiency of the building envelope, encompassing insulation, windows, doors, and sealing.
  • HVAC Systems Analysis –an evaluation of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, considering their age, efficiency ratings, maintenance history, and performance. The report should include recommendations for system upgrades or maintenance.
  • Lighting Assessment –An inventory of the property's lighting fixtures and bulbs, including opportunities for energy-efficient lighting enhancements, such as substituting incandescent bulbs with LED lights or installing occupancy sensors.
  • Appliance and Equipment Evaluation –An assessment of the energy efficiency of major appliances and equipment, including refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, and electronics and a cost analysis of energy-efficient upgrades.
  • Renewable Energy Potential –A look at the property's suitability for renewable energy sources like solar panels or wind turbines.
  • Water Usage Assessment --An evaluation of water consumption, highlighting inefficiencies or opportunities for water-saving measures, highlighting any leaks and recommending low-flow options where appropriate.
  • Energy Efficiency Recommendations —A summary of key findings and a prioritized list of recommendations for enhancing energy efficiency. This section should include estimated cost savings, payback periods, and available rebates or incentives.

With a comprehensive energy audit of your home in hand, you’ll understand which improvements will save you money, make you more comfortable in your home, and make your home more energy efficient. It will help you prioritize your spending, ensuring your journey to peak efficiency is good for your wallet, too.

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