Home energy audits
An energy auditor will inspect the interior and exterior of your home, including the attic. During the audit, go through your house with the auditor and ask lots of questions.
Photo by Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation
Q: I keep hearing about home energy audits. How do they work? Will they save me money?
A: A home energy audit is a detailed assessment of your home that can give you a road map for future energy-related investments. Spending a few hundred dollars on an audit can save you thousands of dollars over time and improve the comfort of your home.
An energy audit can point you toward efficiency investments to help reduce your energy bills or fix areas of your home that are too hot or too cold. If you’re considering a large investment like a new furnace, air conditioner or rooftop solar system, an audit can help determine the right size and offer tips to ensure it works most efficiently for you. An energy audit can also document your home’s efficiency to help improve its resale value.
You can find audit tools online to give you a basic understanding of how your home compares to similar ones. However, a qualified, professional home energy auditor has the experience and high-tech tools to provide a thorough report of your home’s unique needs. A professional energy audit may be a quick, visual walk-through, which can reveal such things as inadequate attic insulation or aging appliances that have lost efficiency. A more comprehensive, informative and expensive audit will use diagnostic equipment to assess the home.
Energy audits require an examination of the building envelope (attic, floor and exterior walls) and the energy systems in the home, such as the water heater, air conditioner and furnace. The auditor may analyze your recent energy bills to determine how your energy is used and if use has changed. He’ll ask about the energy-use behaviors of those who live in the home—for example, is someone home all day, or does everyone leave for work and school?
“The residents’ habits can make a big impact on the energy bill and can also be the hardest to change,” says Ford Tupper, an energy auditor with The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. “If you go from being a household with two working adults to one with a new baby and an adult home most of the day, your energy use is going to go up.”
Plan to be home during your audit. Follow the auditor, and ask questions so you’ll understand what the problems are, which ones you can address yourself and where you may need a professional.
An audit may include some or all of these tests:
Blower-door test: Windows are often suspected as causes for air leaks in the home, but often there are larger and less obvious sources. A blower-door test measures how airtight your home is and identifies where the air leaks are.
Duct blaster: Ducts move heated and cooled air around your home. Duct testing can measure whether your ducts are leaking.
Health and safety testing: Energy auditors are trained to spot safety problems, such as missing smoke detectors, possible carbon-monoxide concerns or moisture in the crawl space—a big issue in South Carolina, especially in the Lowcountry. Some can also test for radon.
After your assessment, the auditor will analyze the information and make recommendations on ways to reduce energy use and improve comfort. Actions based on your auditor’s recommendations could lower your energy bill 5 to 30 percent. Learn more about home energy audits from the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) at resnet.us.
Send questions to Energy Q&A, South Carolina Living, 808 Knox Abbott Drive, Cayce, SC 29033, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (803) 739-3041.