Do you need an energy audit? If your electricity and gas bills are higher than they should be, or if you have an older home, you probably do. You already know about insulation, radiant barrier, efficient windows, and Energy Star appliances.
The problem, of course, is that these are many areas to address but you dont have pockets deep enough to do it all at once. Things need to be prioritized here. And thats where the energy auditor comes to the rescue. After his inspection, hell provide you with a report that tells you:
Where you stand with your current cooling and heating system.
Your homes efficiency overview. This details where your home is bleeding hot and cold air.
The most efficient use of your dollars to save you money by saving energy.
Bigger outlays of cash that will begin paying for themselves right away.
The current energy efficiency of your water heating and plumbing.
The inspection results of any other specialty services he offers.
How Much Will the Audit Cost?
Typically, between $250 - $400 in the US, depending on the size and complexity of your home. The good news is that you may be able to score a rebate from your local utility companies. Some auditors offer specialized services and these are billed at an add-on rate.
Checking the Heating System and the Hot Water Heater
The home heating system is a huge energy sink, especially for folks that live in colder regions. The first thing the auditor is concerned with here is the combustion efficiency.
He gets a reading by drilling a small hole in the flue into which he inserts the wand of an electrical gas analyzer.
In addition to the combustion efficiency, this test also yields data on the draft pressure (if its too high, gases could leak back into the home) and a carbon monoxide concentration.
If your home has a gas-burning hot water heater, the auditor should conduct a backdraft test. This test is conducted by holding an open flame by the flue on top of the heater. If its operating properly, the flame should be drawn up into the flue.
The auditor should also do a visual inspection of the plumbing to verify whether or not hot water is actually being wasted. For example, one way to save is to use low-flow shower heads. Dont be surprised if you get a recommendation to install a gas or electric Tankless Water Heater.
The Air Infiltration Rate Test
The rate at which your home leaks air has a huge impact on your energy bills. It doesnt matter how efficient your heater and air conditioner are if your home has the Swiss cheese syndrome. Most auditors call this test a blower door test because thats what it involves.
The auditor first closes your windows and doors except for one door. At this doorway he places a fan and seals the entryway with sheet plastic. Once he turns the fan on, air flows out of the home, reducing the internal air pressure.
If your home is newer, its probably tighter than the average since this is what the green building trends have been shooting for. But on older homes, you can expect to save as much as twenty percent on your energy bills. Who wouldnt go for some of that?
But how does he find those leaks?
The fan is calibrated so that the auditor can note the speed of the fan needed to maintain an even pressure difference between indoors and out. He then looks for suspect areas that need to be sealed better.
The auditor then employs thermography using an infrared scanner. This is really very revealing
technology. I first saw it in action when I worked for a Marriott hotel. There, we brought in an analyst
during the energy audit.
He would take infrared photos of electrical components to determine which ones were likely to fail.
The redder the picture showed up, the hotter it was and closer to failure. Greens, yellows,
and blues are cooler.
During a home audit, the auditor looks for these color differences to determine where the home is letting
outside air in. Very clever.
Your Report Card Provides Opportunities for Saving Money
With the final report in hand, its easy for you to prioritize the DIY projects that will help you keep more of your money. It should indicate the good/bad areas and how much you will save on each repair.
Keep in mind that many green energy-savings home improvements qualify for an energy tax credit. The report may recommend things such as:
If you need to insulate ductwork, your attic, or your water heater.
Where you can employ motion sensors to turn off lights.
If your shower heads or toilets should be replaced (think low-flow).
Where you should seal around windows and doors to ensure a tighter envelope.
Which appliances should be upgraded to Energy Star rated ones.