What is a Home Energy Audit?

You probably go to your doctor for a physical every year. Your kids get “well child” check-ups. Even the family pet is subjected to a much-dreaded visit to the vet on an annual basis. So why hasn’t your home had a check-up lately?

We put a great deal of effort into ensuring that our bodies stay healthy. Your body is a delicately balanced system and keeping it running at peak efficiency can require a little maintenance. Your home is also a complex organism with many systems operating simultaneously. Most of them require energy and the costs can add up quickly. A home energy audit will show you how you can prevent waste and improve your home’s overall energy efficiency.

DIY

You can do at least a basic audit yourself but a professional audit will be much more thorough and detailed. There are certain tools and methods the average homeowner is unlikely to have on-hand. A DIY assessment is a good starting point.

Go on a walk-through inspection of your home looking for obvious points of energy loss like drafts, leaks, and damaged weather stripping. Check out your insulation and see if there is a vapor barrier underneath it. Check your vents for gaps and clear the area around your heating and cooling units. Unplug and store rarely used small appliances and replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient options like CFLs or LEDs. There are plenty of little steps a homeowner can take to reduce his own energy consumption and cost.

Professional

A professional can identify energy losses in far more detail and perform services that a homeowner can’t. A pro might conduct a carbon monoxide test, a blower door test or a thermographic scan and a thorough inspection/assessment of your home. He can evaluate the efficiency of your hot water heater and your HVAC system, addition to your home’s overall comfort level. Here are a few things you should expect your auditor to test.

  • Overall safety & health measures: carbon monoxide, air quality, and moisture. Mold and mildew may also be tested but that could be an additional cost.
  • Insulation: proper R-value and depth.
  • HVAC system efficiency: overall performance.
  • Hot water heater efficiency.
  • Comfort: hot spots, cold drafts, musty smells, dampness.

Before your home energy auditor arrives, prepare some baseline information to aid him in his assessment of your home. Here are a few things you can do.

  • Gather at least a few months of energy bills, if not a full year. This will give your auditor an idea of your energy usage across the seasons.
  • Draw up a daily schedule of when people are away from the home and at home.
  • Show him which rooms are in regular use and which (if any) are not, like guest rooms or storage areas.
  • Mark out any drafts/hot spots or trouble zones you found on your DIY audit.

After an audit, your professional auditor will make suggestions about improving your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. He might suggest improvements like home air purifiers, a programmable thermostat, or additional insulation. Be sure that your auditor is a trusted professional and not a salesperson. Ask for recommendations from your local power company, state or local government agencies or check out the Energy.gov website for more information on choosing an auditor.