The Green Home

Energy audits reveal issues, but be prepared for costs

Posted February 21, 2013

As utility costs continue to rise, more and more homeowners are opting to have energy audits performed on their homes in hopes of finding ways to make their homes more efficient and save money.

These services come in a variety of forms, anywhere from free basic checks to paid, comprehensive energy modeling. Once the results are in and improvements are suggested, homeowners then face the decision of whether or not to invest in the recommended improvements.

When a homeowner requests an energy audit, it is usually because they are having comfort or energy consumption issues that are a persistent problem. In many cases the least expensive improvements like insulation and air sealing, are identified as the highest priority, so you would think the homeowner would be quick to make the investment, especially if it specifically addresses their problem. However, this is often not the case and the homeowner shies away from spending on energy improvements.

Thinking clearly about this situation requires a change in perspective. Efficiency upgrades to your home do come with an upfront cost, but not making them will cost much more over time.

Rather than asking, “Should I spend the money or not?” ask yourself “How much more will I spend on utility costs?”

There are several factors to keep in mind when making this decision:

  1. Improvements made to your home are permanent and will increase your home’s energy efficiency and make you more comfortable from day one.
  2. Efficiency improvements will bring added savings and comfort in both the peak heating and cooling seasons. Here in North Carolina, peak heating and cooling seasons can sometimes stretch for much of the year.
  3. Financing options are often available to assist homeowners if necessary.
  4. If you aren’t sure how long you will live in your home, energy efficiency improvements will still benefit you. Efficiency is becoming increasingly more important in the real estate market; highly efficient homes are often more attractive to potential buyers.
  5. Utility costs will continue to go up. Not making energy efficiency improvements will cost you more and more over time.

Here’s a simple example to help get you thinking in the right direction. Say your winter utility bills (gas and electric) average around $500 monthly or $1500 for the three month peak heating season. As in most cases, the issues in your home are pretty simple. Your house needs duct sealing, air sealing and some added insulation, at a total proposed cost of $1000.

Conservatively, these improvements would lower your utility bills by 20 percent or $300 for the peak heating period. This creates a payback period of three and a half winters. It is also important to remember that these improvements aren’t just saving money in the winter, but will also provide saving on cooling your home in the summer, further shrinking the payback time. Once payback is reached, all savings from that point forward are extra money in your pocket.

The main reason for bringing in an energy auditor is to get an expert opinion on what your home’s specific problems are and the most effective way to correct those issues. But in the end, the choice to take action or not take action always belongs to you, the homeowner. Just remember to ask yourself, “Can I really afford not to make my home more efficient?”

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About this Blog:

Bobby Ferrel, founder of Green Horizon oversees The Green Home blog. Ferrel is co-founder of Green Horizon, with offices in the Triangle and Charlotte, offering home owners and builders a one-stop shop for energy efficiency and green building. Services include home performance assessments, weatherization, closed crawl spaces, all types of insulation, HVAC and geothermal installation and maintenance. Reach Bobby directly at bferrel@greenhorizon.com or visit him online at www.greenhorizon.com