Energy Efficiency Audits: What They Are and Why Your Home Needs One

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Like many other prices these days, the costs of energy and utilities are on the rise. If your energy bills, water bills and other utilities seem to get higher and higher each month, you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean these price increases are bearable for your budget.

Fortunately, there’s a way to figure out how you could start to save more on utility costs. Energy efficiency audits help identify ways that energy is being wasted throughout a home, whether that’s through your appliances or due to your home’s construction. You can have an audit performed on your home to reduce your utility bills and help the environment at the same time. Here’s what you need to know to get started. 

What Are Energy Efficiency Audits?

Energy efficiency audits are organized assessments, usually of a home or commercial building, that measure how energy is used within the building. Do outdated appliances require an excessive amount of electricity to operate? Are poor window seals causing your heater to work harder to warm up your home? These are the kinds of inefficiencies that an energy efficiency audit can identify so you can find a path forward in correcting them.

You can perform your own energy efficiency audit or hire an energy efficiency professional to complete a formal audit for you. Many utility companies offer energy efficiency audits to their customers at a free or reduced cost. 

The Goals and Benefits of Energy Efficiency Audits

An energy efficiency audit benefits both you and the environment. Whether you power your home using electricity, natural gas, solar energy or some other means, you pay a utility bill based on the amount of energy it takes to power your home each day.

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When you audit and improve your home’s energy efficiency, you find environmentally friendly ways to complete your daily activities using less power. This reduces your carbon footprint and the amount of greenhouse gas it takes to support your lifestyle. You might also notice lower utility bills as you take steps to make your home more energy efficient. 

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What Happens During an Energy Efficiency Audit?

An audit starts with a thorough inspection inside and outside your home. The energy professional looks for signs that air or water is either leaking out of your home or getting into your home in places where it shouldn’t. For example, if several windows are wet, this condensation may reveal that the windows aren’t sealed properly. A home with leaky windows needs more electricity to heat or cool because the air constantly escapes from indoors. 

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Energy audit professionals inspect the insulation in your home. They may recommend adding insulation, especially in areas like attics and basements, which are particularly difficult to heat or cool. Sometimes, an auditor may suggest replacing existing insulation with newer products with a higher R-value. 

The auditor can also assess light fixtures and appliances. LED light bulbs are highly energy efficient. Appliances with the Energy Star label are equally energy efficient. Whether an appliance is considered energy efficient or not, the energy audit determines if any of your appliances have problems that make them efficient than they would be in proper working order. There are also tests to identify if any gas-powered appliances present a fire hazard.

The heating and cooling processes are some of the biggest uses of energy in a home, so your heating and air conditioning system is a big part of your energy efficiency audit. Auditors also check the water heater to ensure it’s in working order. They can make sure that neither system is leaking water.

Many energy efficiency audits also include a blower door test. This involves turning off all fans and ventilation in your home. Then, the auditor props an exterior door open and attaches a fan and a seal to the door. The fan sucks all air out of your home. Then, the auditor can use either a smoke wand or infrared technology to identify any areas where outside air is seeping into the home. Areas that often contain leaks include windows, light fixtures, outlets, doors, ducts and fireplaces. 

A similar process happens with your home’s ductwork through the duct blaster test. This identifies any areas where air can leak out of the duct system, and the energy assessor may be able to seal them up for you. 

What Happens After the Audit?

At the end of an energy efficiency audit, the auditor shares the audit results with you. Some professionals can fix simple problems they identify during the audit, such as caulking a leaky window sill or patching ductwork. Rather than simply explaining which parts of your home aren’t energy efficient, the auditor can give you a list of repairs, replacements and best practices to make your home more energy efficient. 

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If you would like a professional energy efficiency audit conducted in your home, your local power company may be a great resource. Outside of utility companies, there are also certified energy assessors who are trained to conduct the audits. 

How to Do a DIY Energy Efficiency Audit

Although certified energy assessors have more technology and expertise with which to help you, you can certainly conduct an energy efficiency audit on your own home. You don’t have to be an expert to spot an air leak. Air leaks can happen anywhere, but they’re most common around baseboards, corners, outlets and areas where two different types of building materials are joined together. Sometimes, you can spot an air leak by noticing a big gap, and you can also feel an air leak by noticing a draft in a certain area. 

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Backdraft is an energy deficiency and a serious fire hazard. If you have gas-powered appliances in your home, inspect the areas behind them for any evidence of fire. Make sure there’s enough space between the appliance and the wall for proper ventilation. If you have an attic, measure the amount of insulation against local standards. Make sure your attic has a vapor barrier. Look at the light bulbs around your home. Replace any non-LED bulbs with LED ones. Inspect your water heater and air conditioner for signs of leaks.

Remember to keep safety in mind as you inspect your home. When inspecting appliances, beware of the potential for electric shock and shut them off at the breaker if needed. If you need to use a ladder, wear proper shoes and make sure you have a spotter nearby. Taking steps to make your home more energy efficient benefits you and the environment, but it’s important to be careful in doing so.

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