Many homeowners have heard about home energy audits and wonder what they are all about, what they will learn from one and whether or not they are really worth it? Well, the is it worth it question is at the core and it also begs the question, what does it cost?
First and foremost, a home energy audit will determine how your home is working in the way of energy use and energy efficiency. Those are different things. You could have a super efficient air conditioner in a well insulated small home and if you also have 8 people watching 3 plasma screen televisions, even though your AC is efficient, you’ll be using a lot of energy and tied to that, spending a lot of money.
A really good energy audit will not only look at how the home works, but how the people in the home live. I mean, the home itself isn’t really using any energy. We set thermostats and take long hot showers and keep our pools filtered and watch our programs we saved on Tivo. Those activities are what use energy, so at the root the interaction of the people and the building is what needs to be understood. Getting a energy audit from a newbie energy auditor may not be the best idea, because there is a lot to keep track of when you’re in a home and trying to figure out thermodynamics, answer the endless questions that children ask about big yellow fans, make sure you don’t let the cat out (literally) and also understanding how people are living in the house.
There are a lot of companies that offer free energy audits, and some of them aren’t bad, but I’d be skeptical if you truly want unbiased information. Somebody is paying them and at some point, money is changing hands. My advice would be to seek a trained and independent energy auditor or general contractor, that you actually pay to give you information on your home. Market price for an energy audit is somewhere around $250-$350 bucks. There are some rebate programs around that help subsidize audits, but that is because it is profitable for the utility company to do this. I set my business up to serve homeowners as my customer. This was the only way I could give the customer not only what they want, but an honest and unbiased recommendation on what will meet those needs.
With a paid energy audit, you should get a full energy model of your home. You should get some face time with someone who is trained to interpret and explain that report, I would recommend a BPI certified Building Analyst. Along with that you should also get a list of recommendations and likely a proposal for a scope of work that not only is appropriate to addressing the energy use of the building, but also the desires and lifestyle of the homeowner. Thermal camera scans are also a nice addition. In all honesty, they are a sales tool. I also use them, but sometimes looking at a spreadsheet of numbers doesn’t fully grab the attention of a homeowner the way that showing how a large section of their living room ceiling is 97 degrees and repairing that will obviously save more energy and increase the comfort of the home.
Most homes can save somewhere around 20-30% on their energy use in a home without going too crazy and without going solar. We always recommend lowering energy use before trying to produce your own energy. It’s more affordable and offers a better payback for our customers, and as I’ve learned in business, if I focus half on making money and half on making sure my customers actually get the results they are paying for, things will work out well for all parties and I’ll feel good about what we are doing in our work lives.
This is one of the first posts on my company’s site. I’m a real person and would appreciate some feedback. Give me some ideas of questions you have about energy efficiency, local economics, healthy homes, solar panels…. Let me know and I’ll put some information together for you. Social media links from sites like facebook and twitter help other people find this information, so if you found it educational or valuable, please “like us” or “tweet” us.