Walking Through a Home Energy Audit
See how much you could save by making a few energy changes. Photo Credit: Total Care Inspections
A home energy audit is step number one toward a comprehensive upgrade in a home’s energy efficiency. An energy audit will identify everything that’s wrong with the home’s energy efficiency, in the end providing a list of necessary or recommended upgrades.
Professional home energy audits are detailed excursions, and should include some fairly technical tests. But, considering it’s your home, the process will naturally begin with you. According to the Department of Energy, there is certain information that the homeowner should have at the ready prior to the auditor’s first knock on the door:
- A list of any known efficiency problems, such as condensation, drafts, etc.
- Summary of the home’s yearly energy bills.
- Behavioral information: i.e. is anyone home during the day, average thermostat settings during winter and summer, number of residents, etc.
The energy audit will begin on the exterior of the house and include tallies of windows, home size, wall area, window size, and others. This information will be combined with the above information to reveal some simple ways (often small lifestyle adjustments) by which energy costs and usage can be reduced.
For the interior of the house, the energy audit should include a number of tests, including:
Blower Door Test
These tests determine the air tightness of the home. A blower door is a fan that mounts to the frame of an exterior door. All other windows and doors are shut. The powerful fan draws inside air out of the house, subsequently lowering the air pressure within. This naturally draws the higher-pressure outside air in through any leaks or cracks in the home’s facade, resulting in a quantifiable number - that’s the infiltration rate of the building. It’s also important to make sure that the energy auditor is using a calibrated blower door.
A thermographic scan uses infrared energy to detect thermal air leaks in the building. Infrared video measures the surface temperatures of exterior walls. Generally, thermographic scans may be performed in or outside - the auditor will decide based on weather conditions.
Images on the screen record temperature variations and help the auditor detect whether more insulation is needed or if existing installation was installed correctly. Commonly, a thermographic scan is performed at the same time as the blower door test because the latter helps to magnify differences in temperature.
Take a Walk
Be sure to walk through the entire energy audit with the auditor. Ask your own questions and be there to answer his or hers as best you can. Energy audits are usually not too expensive (approx. $300), when considering the ultimate value of the information provided. Home energy audits are often subsidized by local and regional utility companies, and may soon be by the federal government as well.
Energy audits can also be performed as a DIY project, although the sophisticated testing that a professional brings to the table holds significant benefits. Hiring an energy auditor is much like hiring a remodeling contractor. Call them, ask for references and contact the Better Business Bureau to ensure there have been no complaints against the company.
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