Reducing Residential Energy Consumption through Home Energy Audits

August 22, 2013

With the growing trend towards becoming green and the emergence of energy audits and energy scores, people are left wondering, “What does it all mean and why should I care?”  The short answer to the question is; if you care about your financial status and environmental health then you care about your energy score.

Energy Audits Defined

A home energy audit gives a home an energy score, which paints a great picture of where your home currently stands and how to reach its full energy savings potential.  But what exactly is an energy score? Unlike a blood pressure reading, it doesn’t give you a definitive measurable number.  Instead, an energy score is more like measuring how physically fit you are.  It takes into consideration a multitude of factors that are weighted on importance and produces a number used to compare your current situation with an ideal one.  The most widely used tool for this method of determining energy scores is the Energy Performance Score (EPS).  This is used to compare a home’s current score with it’s own potential as well as local and national benchmarks.

(above) Section of a home energy audit that shows where the home measures on an energy & carbon comparison.

The Residential Home Energy Audit

A physical home inspection is necessary to get an accurate score.  Below are a few major areas the inspector will look at during an audit and how they impact energy efficiency:

Home Insulation:  By ensuring the right type and amount of insulation in a home, and most importantly the attic, a significant improvement to the energy retention of a home be seen. This is an example of a recommendation you may see:

(above) Example of a home insulation section of an energy audit

Leakiness of the House: Two main areas within a house that leak air are the spaces around doors and windows and the air duct system. The less a house breathes the more efficient it is since air isn’t lost that was previously warmed or cooled.

HVAC system:  The number 1 energy consumption device in a home is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) device.  Older traditional furnaces were 80% efficient.  Meaning, 80% of the heat associated with running the furnace went into the home and 20% was lost to the heating process.  Now, all furnaces are 95% efficient and above.  Simply switching out older furnace to a new model can positively impact efficiency.

Light Bulbs:  A quick look at the light bulbs used within the house will illuminate energy efficiency.  Older incandescent bulbs consume over 25% more energy than LED bulbs.  By replacing older bulbs with LED lights there will be significant energy savings over the average 17-year lifespan of an LED.

The inspector will then compile all the information from his audit and produce a report analyzing where a home currently stands and compares it to the future potential.

(above) A comparison of current home performance rates to the potential home performance rates. This report shows a possible savings of $437 per month, or $5,244 annually. It also outlines a reduction in energy use by more than 30%.

Why Should You Care About a Home Energy Score?

The process of lowering home energy consumption has major impacts on health and the annual energy bill. In addition, it’s easy to follow the recommendations to reduce the energy inefficiency in a home and see benefits immediately.   Air leaking in and out of ducts is not only energy inefficient but can be harmful to your health.  The most common area air ducts leak are in the crawl space area, which can hold all sorts of harmful things like mold spores and dirt.   So when the air from that area gets into the vents it can lead to poor air quality throughout the house.  Sealing these ducts will ensure higher air quality and reduce energy usage.

Annual Energy Bill Reduction

Following the recommendations during a residential energy audit not only improves the air quality within a home but also reduces the overall energy bill in two ways.

  • Decreasing the amount of energy used.  An audit can lead to an overall cost savings on your annual energy bill due to the energy amount needed to power your home decreasing.
  • Decreased energy demand on local power companies.  If every home in a city took steps to decease their energy footprint it would drastically lower the energy demand on power companies.  A decreasing current demand for energy allows power companies to meet future demand of growing communities without having to invest in new energy producing infrastructure.  This infrastructure is prohibitively expensive and has a major environmental impact.  By avoiding this expense, energy companies can continue to offer affordable energy without passing on the costs of infrastructure through higher energy costs.

The Future of Residential Energy Consumption

Home energy audits are the way of the future because they allow us to start moving towards meeting the demands of an ever-growing world.  A study in the Appraisal Journal found that for every $1 annual decrease in energy costs the market value of a home increased by $20.  Who knows, maybe in the near future homes will be graded on their energy efficiency like cars are currently. What if your home had a MPG (miles per gallon) measurement, that grade will would impact home value and mainstream appeal.  It’s not so far-fetched or far off.

Craig Williamson is the owner of MM Comfort Systems, a leading Puget Sound Region provider of heating / cooling system installation, retrofit and services for residential and light commercial markets. Currently Vice Chairman of Washington Policy Center – one of the nation’s premier State think tanks which conducts research, publishes studies, and educates citizens on public policy issues facing our region. Previous president & CEO of Abacus Engineered Systems, an engineering and construction company specializing in institutional facility performance. Prior to Abacus, Craig was President North America for AEI a company with global revenues of over $120 million.

Author: Craig Williamson

This post was sponsored by MM Comfort Systems