Why You Need An Energy Audit

October 19, 2012

Energy Audit -- The Home As a System

U.S. Department Of Energy

You need to have an energy audit performed on your home so it functions more with LEED efficiency.

As a green home consultant, there are preciously few definitive pieces of advice that I can give all-comers.

It seems that I am always qualifying any advice on home upgrades–telling the homeowner that the right choice depends on the location of the home, local codes, whether the primary energy load is cooling or if it is heating, the type of heating fuel used, whether the summers in the area are humid or dry…There is always some qualifier.

The advice to seek out a professional energy audit is an easy one. I can say that an energy audit is appropriate for every homeowner and every home, even a brand-new one.

The Need For Energy Audits
Some estimates suggest that forty-six million homes in the United States are grossly under-insulated for the climate in which they are built.

Many more of our homes suffer from poor air sealing of plumbing bypasses, top plate electrical penetrations, and poorly sealed windows and doors.

A blower door is used to depressurize a home.

An energy audit can help a homeowner determine the energy-wasting deficiencies in their homes and can show exactly how to address those problems. Even more useful, an energy audit will tell a homeowner how much money and energy they can save each year by fixing their homes.

The Energy Audit Process
An energy audit and home energy rating will consist of a thorough evaluation of your home’s energy consumption and energy flow profile.

The audit will evaluate your local climate setting, solar orientation of your building lot, roof overhangs, window size, quality of your windows and their orientation, insulation levels, air sealing, ventilation, mechanical system operation and efficiency, lighting, carbon monoxide levels, and appliance efficiency.

An Energy Audit Is An Evaluation of Your Home Using Instrumentation
An energy auditor will likely use a blower door system to depressurize your home. Depressurization reveals air leaks where your expensive conditioned (heated or cooled) air is being released to the great outdoors.

A thermal imaging camera reveals cold spots in a garage door.

The auditor may also use a similar device that will hook to your forced air duct system to show areas where the system is leaking into unconditioned spaces.

Some advanced audits will include a scan of your home with an infrared thermal imager, which will give additional information about shortcomings in your air sealing and insulation.

Your Energy Audit Report
Your energy auditor will give you a detailed report of findings as well as a set of upgrade recommendations explaining how to make the most of your energy retrofit efforts and dollars.

You will receive information on which upgrades will save you the most money through lower energy bills, how long it will take an upgrade to pay you back through energy savings, and what upgrades will improve the health of your home environment.

Beware the Energy Auditor Impostor!
Not everyone who claims to offer energy audits is a legitimate energy auditor. Some self-proclaimed energy experts are actually salespeople for building contractors or even multi-level marketing entrepreneurs who will try to sell you their “special” lightbulbs or questionable energy gadgets.

There are two national energy auditor training and certification programs. Look for an energy auditor who is certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) or by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

A handful of regional and state administered energy auditing certifications are also legitimate.

Ask questions about any auditor’s qualifications and be wary of any auditor who is selling services door-to-door.

Strive to find an independent energy auditor who will not be bidding on any work associated with your energy upgrade. It’s funny how an auditor who works for a window replacement company almost always discovers that you need new windows above all other possible energy upgrades.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YolBP0-vkBU]

About the Author:
David Arthur is a LEED-AP, Certified Energy Auditor, and green building consultant. He is the editor of GreenHomesConsultant.com.