Home energy audits can spur major savings
Home energy audits can save hundreds, and possibly thousands, of dollars a year.
But pinpointing waste and devising plans to make a residence more efficient isn’t something only a professional can do. Homeowners can identify performance-enhancements on their own as well.
A home energy audit or assessment examines the amount of energy a home consumes. Audits identify where energy is being wasted and offers suggestions to fix problems.
The U.S. Department of Energy advises that the average U.S. household consumes around 90 million BTUs a year, with about half of that used for heating and cooling. Water heating, appliances, electronics, and lighting account for the remaining consumption.
Experts estimate that energy audits can result in energy savings of between 5 and 30 percent on home energy bills.
Professional audits, which can run upward of $500, involve an auditor meticulously going from room-to-room to assess energy use. Their testing generally includes thermographic scans and the use of infrared cameras to determine air leakage and insulation; a blower door test, which depressurizes the home and simulates the effect of a 20 mph wind to find air leaks; and watt meter measurements to test energy usage by various devices throughout the house.
Experts recommend that before an auditor visits, homeowners should put together a list of potential problems or concerns:
- HVAC systems
- Lighting fixtures
Auditors not only will review the list, but also interview the homeowner about the structure’s functionality and review recent energy bills to identify expenses that might be out of whack or that expose obvious issues.
Of course, there is the do-it-yourself option when it comes to audits. Professional audits, though, are considered best.
In place of such examinations, homeowners who opt for the lower-cost option should focus on locating and sealing air leaks, addressing inadequate ventilation, checking that insulation levels and vapor barriers are at recommended levels and inspecting HVAC systems.
If a heating/cooling unit is more than 15 years old, the DOE suggests having it replaced with a newer, energy-efficient unit. Also consider upgrading appliances, replacing light bulbs, sealing drafts, improving insulation and plugging moisture and water leaks.