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Energy Audits

What are Energy Audits? / What is checked in an Energy Audit?
During an in-home energy audit, a trained expert assesses how much energy your home uses and then suggests measures to improve the energy efficiency and safety of your home. Generally, the auditor will analyze your utility bills, use diagnostic equipment to check your home for efficiency, safety, and performance, discuss your specific concerns, and offer practical solutions to help you save energy and money. An auditor usually examines systems in homes such as the furnace/boiler, HVAC system, insulation, air leaks, water heater, refrigerator/freezer/range, etc. Other tests could include a blower door test (A blower door test determines a home’s overall airtightness) or infrared (IR) scans (thermography or infrared scanning to detect thermal defects and air leakage in building envelopes) – but these are not standard and normally need to be asked for and will be an additional cost.

What is the difference between an Energy Rating and an Energy Audit?
Essentially, the difference between an energy rating and energy audits is that an energy rating measures a home’s energy performance as compared to other similar homes, while energy audits show homeowners where and how their homes are losing energy. An energy rating will result in the home receiving a HERS Index (Home Energy Rating System) Score, which has been likened to a MPG (miles-per-gallon) sticker for homes. It gives homeowners, and prospective buyers, a good idea of what that home costs to run and how energy efficient it is. Energy audits identify a home’s energy problems and provide the homeowner with cost-effective solutions to those problems.

Are there different kinds of Energy Audits?
Most contractors offer two types of inspections: Home Energy Surveys and General Energy Audits.

Home Energy Survey
A home energy survey is a visual inspection that doesn’t include the use of diagnostic testing equipment. Its purpose is to assess the general energy performance of an existing home including:

  • Building envelope features (windows, doors, insulation, ducts) and ages.
  • Heating, cooling and ventilation equipment types, characteristics and ages.
  • Appliance and lighting characteristics.
  • Comfort complaints.
  • Visible moisture issues.
  • Visible health and safety issues.

General Energy Audit
A general energy audit is also known as an energy assessment, standard energy audit or detailed energy audit. It expands on the home energy survey by collecting more detailed information regarding the home’s energy usage, as well as a more thorough financial analysis of its energy costs.The general energy audit also includes diagnostic testing using specialized equipment such as a blower door test, duct leakage tester, combustion analyzer and infrared camera. These tests are done to determine:

  • The location and number of air leaks in the building envelope.
  • How much leakage is occurring from HVAC distribution ducts.
  • How effective is the insulation inside walls and ceilings.
  • Any existing or potential combustion safety issues.

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How much does an energy audit cost?
The average cost in 2017 was reported to be within a range of $230-$600, but can be as low as $100 and as high as $1,300. Many times if you do a home energy audit and make the adjustments proposed by the auditor, you can get rebates from your local power company. Check with them as well as your contractor about these rebates because they can save you money on your audit.

What are the benefits of an energy audit?
Many houses suffer from a number of problems that homeowners don’t realize are actually energy related. Energy audits help homeowners discover where and how their homes are using energy inefficiently, and what can be done to rectify the situation. Some home energy benefits include:

  • Improved home comfort
  • Save money on energy bills
  • Uncover hidden problems such as improper ventilation (which encourages growth of mold/mildew)
  • Produce consistent indoor temperatures
  • Increase home resale value: by having an energy audit and making necessary adjustments, your home’s value will improve and you’ll have better marketability when you are ready to sell
  • Monetary return on investment
  • Lower environmental impact

What questions should I be asking my Energy Auditor? 

  • What certifications/training does the auditor have?
  • What level of audit am I getting?
    • Visual inspection
    • Is testing included?
    • Some auditors have different levels of audits they offer to fit budgets. Some also do work and may do an initial audit as a free quote – there’s nothing wrong with this, but the homeowner should make sure testing is performed if the contractor ends up doing any air sealing or duct sealing work (test-in and test-out)