Should You Get a Home Energy Audit? Understanding the Benefits
Many homeowners shrug off the importance of home energy audits because they believe the common myth that the process is unnecessary or ineffective. However, that could not be further from the truth.
Energy audits are a great first step to increasing your home’s energy efficiency, saving you money and increasing the value of your property. And, a lesser-known fact is that home energy audits also uncover health and safety hazards that may be affecting you and your family.
What is a home energy audit?
A home energy audit can be a DIY project, or you can work with a certified professional. Regardless of who performs your energy audit, the idea is to use a series of tests to find and fix inefficiencies or hazards in your home, including:
- Areas in your home where energy is being wasted or lost
- Systems in your house that are operating improperly
- Safety hazards such as high levels of carbon monoxide or improper electrical wiring
Home Energy Audit Checklist
A complete home energy audit will look carefully at the following areas of your home:
Windows and Doors
A home energy audit should look at your windows and doors for condensation and air leaks that may indicate poor sealing. Though you can visually see condensation, air leaks can be more difficult to detect. The most accurate way to find if air is escaping is by using a blower door, which is a piece of professional-grade equipment. Poor sealing translates into lost heating and cooling throughout the year. It’s also common to look at window coverings during a home energy audit. Did you know if your window coverings block UV rays, you can decrease cooling costs at your home?
Outlets are a common source of undetected air leaks. Visually inspect for gaps between the outlets and wall. Also, put your hand near the outlet and feel for air coming through. You can also use a specialized tool like a blower door for a more accurate assessment. Did you know that poorly installed or insulated outlets can increase your heating costs by letting air escape through your walls?
During a home energy audit, you should take a look at the setting of your thermostat. Do you need to recalibrate to a more energy-efficient temperature? What is your equipment’s functionality? Can you program your system to turn on or off automatically? If you don’t have one already, smart thermostats are a great way to cut energy costs.
Wall Insulation and Framing
Well-insulated homes reduce the exchange of heat, which means less warm air escapes during the winter, and less cool air escapes during the summer. You can know how well your home is insulated by looking for a number of signs. Does the temperature in your home fluctuate drastically? Does the drywall in your home feel cool or damp? Do you have a problem with mice or bugs in your home? If you answered yes to these questions, you might have a poorly insulated home. By adding more insulation in your home, you can improve its efficiency, save money on your energy bills, and ward off unwanted house pests.
Fireplace and Chimney
When is the last time you examined your fireplace and chimney? Home energy audits look for air leakage, soot, scaling, and cracks and crevices that disrupt indoor temperatures. By keeping your chimney clean, and decreasing air leaks around your fireplace, your fire will burn more efficiently, reducing your energy consumption.
Water Heater and Furnace
A home energy audit will examine the insulation, piping, furnace blower, filters and draft hood of your appliances to detect inefficiencies or fuel leaks that could be plaguing your water heaters and furnaces.
Energy Star estimates about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poor connections, which is inefficient. During a home energy audit, professional auditors can conduct an air leak test, so you know if there is damage or inefficiencies in your system.
Home Energy Audits Include Safety
Many homeowners don’t realize that a home energy audit also looks for health and safety issues that can pose a risk to you and your family:
- Lead paint: Do you know what type of paint is inside your home? A home energy audit helps determine if your home has toxicity levels that may be harming your family.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Testing the detectors in your home will ensure they are functioning properly and you and your family are protected.
- Chimney: Dirty chimneys are a leading cause of home fires in the U.S. By inspecting your chimney for soot or scaling, not only are you promoting energy efficiency, but you’re also encouraging safety.
- Wiring: A thorough home energy audit will also take note of your electrical wiring to observe any safety issues that could endanger your family.
Tools Used in a Home Energy Audit
Though it is possible to conduct a home energy audit on your own, a professional inspector may have access to several tools that you don’t, such as:
- Infrared camera: Finds air leaks and insulation gaps
- Combustion analyzer: Tests the efficiency of heating and hot water systems
- Blower door: Detects air leaks and insulation gaps
- Manometer: Works alongside the blower door to analyze air leakage
- Watt meter: Measures the electrical energy used by various devices throughout the home
- Draft gauge: Tests for chimney drafts
- Moisture meter: Measures the moisture level in wood and other materials
Other tools used by professional home energy auditors include telescope ladders, industrial-grade tool kits, and specialty mirrors to gain visibility in hard to see areas. Each of these tools makes your home energy audit more accurate, thorough and reliable.
If you don’t have access to these tools, consider hiring a professional to perform a thorough energy audit and save you money.
The Benefits of a Home Energy Audit
There are several reasons why you want to take the time to audit your home regularly.
- Lower energy bills: The most obvious benefit of a home energy audit will arrive in your mailbox every month. When you see how increased efficiency lowers your energy bill, you’ll be glad you took the steps outlined above. Even if your home requires updates for efficiency, most improvements pay for themselves quickly.
- Improved comfort: Air leakages in your home mean chilly drafts and inconsistent temperatures. After identifying where these leakages are taking place, sealing them creates a more comfortable home.
- Better health and safety: Home energy audits often detect poor indoor air quality, which can worsen allergies and lead to long-term health problems. In addition to improving ventilation, energy audits can identify potentially dangerous situations such as the presence of lead-based paint, radon, or carbon monoxide in your home.
- Environmental impact: Home energy audits are environmentally-friendly. When your home consumes less energy, you are reducing your carbon footprint and helping to decrease unnecessary waste and pollution.
- Reduce ongoing maintenance bills: By routinely checking up on your home’s systems and features, you are prolonging the life expectancy of your appliances. You’re also fending off future issues by proactively identifying system flaws that could turn into more significant problems.
- Increase your home’s value: Not only will your home be better taken care of with routine home energy audits, but you can also promote your estimated monthly energy costs as a selling point to potential buyers. By recognizing your home uses less energy, and comes with a lower energy bill, potential buyers may be more inclined to purchase your home over other, less energy-efficient options.
Who Should Consider a Home Energy Audit
According to the Energy Department, the average American spends roughly $2,060 per year on energy costs. Though it varies from home to home, on average, Santa Energy’s customers see an annual savings are $500 or more after a professional home audit.
If you’re a homeowner who is looking to save money, improve the value of their home, and improve the quality of life, you’re likely the right candidate for a home energy audit.