The Green Home

Why get an energy audit?

Posted June 11, 2009
Updated July 21, 2009

TV, radio, and “weekly shopper” ads for replacement windows and doors, HVAC systems, and insulation are on the rise since the announcement of the recent energy efficient tax credits. All these things may be great ideas for your home too, but how do you know? If you call a window company, they’ll probably try to convince you that you NEED new windows. If you call an HVAC company, they’ll probably try to convince you that you need a new HVAC system. If you call an insulation company…..guess what? So how do we know what our home can best benefit from? What will give us the best return on our investment? Get an energy audit!

Hiring a professional energy auditor to provide you with a clear path to getting your home more efficient can save you from wasting money up front, increase your return on investment down the road, and solve those comfort issues you have been living with since you moved in. They work for you. They may do some of the work they recommend, but they are not tied to one certain service. I have encountered countless examples of people spending large amounts of money on high efficiency HVAC systems only to see their utility bills remain about the same. They installed a very efficient system on a very inefficient home. Similarly, just adding insulation to your attic does very little if there are air pathways that allow house air to find its’ way out. An energy auditor finds all these characteristics and tailors a plan for you to follow to make sure that the money you spend on energy efficiency is not wasted.

An energy audit is an in-depth, unobtrusive (no pulling down drywall), survey of your home. It is very thorough and looks at all the components of the home. The auditor looks at all the parts of the home, but really looks at how they all work together. The house as a system. If you change one thing in the home i.e. windows, it may have an effect on the other parts of the home unintentionally. Similarly, if you change something else in the home i.e. HVAC system, it may not impact the home very much at all until other issues are corrected. A good energy auditor knows this and understand the impact of all his recommendations on the home.

A typical energy audit includes an initial interview to determine the homeowner’s motivation, goals, and budget. It will include a blower door test to measure how much air leakage is coming into the home and where it is coming from. It includes an infrared scan to identify anomalies in the building shell or insulation of the home. It should address any comfort issues the homeowner is having. Comfort issues are directly related to efficiency issues. It should also, attempt to solve any moisture issues that are present. Moisture issues can make air conditioners work harder in the summer and sometimes signal a hidden mold issue. It should address and Indoor Air Quality issues or potential carbon monoxide threats. The audit should result in a report that not only addresses the aforementioned tests and issues, but also gives a chronological list of steps to take that will make our home the efficient, healthy building you want it to be.
The auditor should be a certified HERS Rater by the Residential Energy Services Network and/or a Building Analyst certified by The Building Performance Institute. They should have professional references and be able to produce samples of their reports. Do your homework, before you hire one. The decision to hire an auditor makes sense, saves money, and assures you that you are not wasting time, money or effort as you attempt to improve your home.

About the author of this blog post:

Bill Klotz is a Master Certified Contractor; Klotz is also a Certified Home Energy Rater, and a Level I Thermographer. He was on the committee that formed the NC Green Builder Task Force and is the credited co-editor of "Principles of Building Science". Bill currently runs the training, quality control and energy audit programs for Sustainable Building Solutions. Prior to SBS, Bill worked for Advanced Energy before starting his own Energy Audit business.

Content courtesy of Sustainable Building Solutions.

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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