Every hole, crack, electric outlet, window, door, and insulation (or lack of), contributes to air leaking from your home. Knowing exactly where and how much energy is leaving your home can be extremely beneficial in deciding where to improve first and a home energy audit can do just this. So we asked the expert Craig V. Olson, Home Performance Manager and auditor, to fill us in on the ins and outs of home energy audits.
Craig, what exactly is a home energy audit?
“A home energy audit is a comprehensive assessment that looks at your house as system. The home has many variables that affect its performance: number of occupants in the home, the heating system, the thermal boundary and many other factors that affect the comfort, safety and efficiency of the home. By looking at all of these factors at once, an audit can determine why a home isn’t using energy optimally (aka home performance) and an auditor will prescribe the most economical and beneficial recommendations for the home.”
What type of symptoms would a home have that may indicate that they should get an energy audit?
“There are many. Hot or cold rooms, occupants suffering from allergies, headaches, asthma or frequent colds, high utility bills, condensation on windows, drafty rooms, uncomfortable living conditions. If you having any comfort, efficiency or health concerns with your home you should get an energy audit.”
Are all energy audits done the same?
“One of the most important aspects that are often missed is the test out. If you are willing to invest in your home’s comfort and efficiency you deserve to know the work was done correctly. We come in after the work is done and retest the home to ensure that everything that was agreed upon to improve the home was done to BPI standards, the independent governing body of home performance.”
How has the technology changed over the years?
“Technology is what is making this new home performance industry possible. For example, in the past when someone had a room that wouldn’t warm up, the only solution contractors provided was to put more hot air into the room by over sizing heating equipment or adding more heating runs. Auditors now use very complex and expensive testing equipment in order to properly assess the home. One of the favorites is the thermal image camera that looks at heat signatures to find missing insulation or air sealing opportunities.”
How long do they take?
“An audit approximately takes 2 hours depending on the size and complexity of the home. It is important to have the homeowner present for the audit so the advisor can properly diagnose the problems the homeowner is facing.”
Are energy audits worth the money?
“That depends on the audit! An audit done correctly is an amazing asset for a homeowner. A proper home energy audit starts with an in-depth homeowner interview to identify their main concerns and experience in the home. Then a thorough walkthrough of the home both inside and out will give the auditor a good layout idea of the home and efficiency concerns. A good audit will then test the safety and efficiency of the homes combustion appliances as well as check the attic and/or crawlspace for insulation levels and air sealing opportunities. Finally a good audit will conduct a blower door test to measure your current air leakage levels. The auditor then schedules a time to revisit the home to deliver the report and recommendations. The final important piece of a good energy audit is a “test-out” after recommended work is completed. A test-out means that we retest the home to ensure installed measure where done correctly and safely.”
Why not simply skip the energy audit and go right into improvements?
“It’s similar to a doctor looking at your body as a system when you go in for a physical. They check vitals, but also look at family genetics, personal habits and other quantitative and qualitative tests to determine your health and if there are any needed treatments to keep your body as healthy as possible. You wouldn’t jump into surgeries before getting an accurate assessment first. When homeowners do know which improvements to make, the audit can prioritize which ones will provide the most comfort improvement for the buck.”
How much are home energy audits?
“At Washington Energy Services a home energy audit costs $399. However during the fall and winter season we are running a special for $199 for a comprehensive home energy audit. Also, if the customer implements the auditor’s recommendations, WESCO will reimburse the price of the audit off the recommended install.”
Overall, getting a home energy audit is the first step in making your home perform better. The better you know what’s going on, the smarter decision you can make.