Professional Home Energy Audit Overview
A home energy audit is a comprehensive review of the exterior and interior of a home to determine its level of energy use and whether there is potential for energy efficiency improvements and energy savings. A home energy audit can be conducted by you - the homeowner - or it can be performed by a certified professional energy auditor who will spend around three to four hours inspecting your home, all the way from the basement to the attic. A professional energy auditor will collect detailed information on your homes’ energy profile and provide this to you in a comprehensive report that will also include recommendations about home improvements so you can start saving energy. There are a number of advantages to having and energy audit performed on your home:
- Learn where your home has problems and receive professional recommendations on how to fix;
- Potential to drastically decrease your energy bills with the ability to pay themselves back within years; and
- Most states have rebates and financial incentives to help you install energy efficient equipment in your home.
The following is a basic overview of the home energy audit process conducted by a professional so that you can be properly prepared and know what to expect:
(1) Pick a Home Energy Auditor
When picking a home energy auditor, it is important to pick the correct professional and one who will perform work on your home with care and accuracy. Unfortunately, most people don't know how to pick an auditor and they will usually go to the phone book. A better idea is to ask around to people you know who are real estate brokers, contractors or others who have had a home energy audit and get a referral from them. Your other choice is to use matching service which can take much of the guess work out of selecting a solar installer. There are several free matching services that can connect you with pre-selected and highly reputable energy auditor in your area. The process is simple: you provide basic information on your location and project type and within minutes or up to 1-2 business days the qualified energy auditors will contact you to bid on your project. These services have saved homeowners time and the headache of dealing with poor quality auditors.
Once you make the hire, your professional energy auditor will first want to interview you and get a sense of your past energy usage and learn more about how you use energy in your home. So, to help the auditor, have copies or a summary of your home's yearly energy bills. Also, be prepared to answer some of the following questions to help the auditor in their work:
- Is anyone home during working hours?
- What is the average thermostat setting for summer and winter?
- How many people live here?
- Is every room in use?
- Planning on expanding or remodeling your home?
- Any issues/problems with the house?
(3) The Inspection Process
After the auditor understands more about your home and your prior energy usage, he will then conduct a thorough inspection of your home. Typically, an energy auditor will begin on the outside of your home examining your home's orientation and vegetation to determine windbreak and shade. The auditor will check all areas outside your home where air leakage and heat loss may occur including heating/air-conditioning units, siding, attic, chimneys, roofing, skylights, windows and doors. After the exterior inspection is completed, the auditor will move inside and check every floor of your home. For example, on the first floor, the auditor will inspect all weather stripping, thermostats and locking mechanisms of doors and windows. On any upper floors, the auditor will check the attic for insulation and sealing around any fans, ventilation ducts, lighting fixtures, and hatches. And if you have a basement, the auditor will inspect your appliances including the furnace, water heater, dryer with all connecting hoses, washer and every air duct to determine if they should be upgraded to more energy efficient models and to determine whether you are losing heat due to lack of insulation and sealing.
(4) Special Equipment Used
This isn’t so much as a step but just a part of the inspection process. Home energy auditors very specialized equipment to determine the energy efficiency of your home:
- Blower Doors – auditors will use a special door that is fitted with a powerful fan in order to suck air from your home, causing it to depressurize. Special monitors will then track the amount of air that comes into the house through drafts, seams, cracks and other holes within your home. This process will also measure the quality of indoor air as well as any condensation or moisture issues.
- Thermal Imaging – auditors will also use an infrared camera which is an extremely effective tool that takes a thermal image of your home isolating those areas that need to be sealed or require more insulation.
- Furnace Efficiency Meters and Surface Thermometers – auditors will also use furnace efficiency meters and thermometers to determine if your home heating and cooling systems are working properly and are effectively insulated.
(5) The Energy Audit Report
Sometime after the energy auditor has completed his interview and inspection of your home, he will detail all of his findings in a comprehensive report that will include which areas in your home should be sealed, insulated or repaired in order to increase the energy efficiency of your home. The energy audit report will also include additional energy efficiency recommendations such as major repairs as well as potential replacement of any heating and cooling appliances.
Once you have all the facts relating to the energy efficiency of your home, you need to decide how you want to act and how extensively you want to improve your home in the name of energy efficiency. In those instances where a home repair may require a contractor, the energy auditor will usually offer follow up advice how to proceed or can recommend a contractor.