When homeowners look for ways to conserve energy, they’re often motivated by two very important factors: reducing their home energy costs, making their day-to-day lives more comfortable, and gaining peace of mind from a reduced environmental footprint.
These are all excellent reasons to conserve energy. But identifying effective ways of conserving energy at home can be a little harder to pinpoint.
Replacing older appliances with more modern high-efficiency versions, checking for insulation gaps, and changing behaviors, like putting on a sweater instead of turning up the thermostat are all common energy conservation techniques.
But, when the goal is to make a significant reduction in home energy bills and maximize efficiency, a home energy audit is the first place to start.
What Is An Energy Audit?
Energy audits are home assessments that look for potential inefficiencies and other issues that interfere with optimal energy use.
A professionally performed home energy assessment can remove a lot of the guesswork when identifying ways to conserve energy. It will also define concrete steps that can be taken, large and small, to correct specific issues.
During the energy assessment, an auditor will examine the home, including the exterior and interior. Walls, windows, roofing, vents, and entryways, along with outdoor fixtures like external outlets and lighting will be assessed.
The home’s insulation, furnace, water heater, exterior-to-interior electric lines and HVAC equipment will be inspected. In addition to the main living spaces, basements and attics will usually be included in a home energy audit, including all ductwork.
Home energy auditors use a series of tools when inspecting these elements, mainly to look for leaks, faults, and other problems that amount to energy waste. These tools include voltage detectors, infrared cameras, blower doors, digital pressure gauges, combustion analyzers, borescopes, moisture meters, and others.
Although they perform different functions they’re all used to identify sources of energy loss and inefficiencies that might easily be missed or otherwise be undetectable. Through their use, the auditor will pinpoint problems and provide recommendations in a detailed report.
The energy audit process itself will typically take between 30 minutes and several hours depending on the size of the property and its features. Those factors also determine the cost of home energy assessments, which, at the national average, can range from about $100 on the low end to upwards of $2000.
Are Energy Audits Worth It?
Depending on the scope of the energy audit, they do offer the potential to deliver a return on investment within a relatively short period of time, provided significant causes of energy waste are revealed and corrected.
Home energy audits can also uncover safety issues and problems that can quickly create hazards, such as areas with excess moisture, problems with ventilation, or heating and cooling systems with operational issues.
Even with this in mind, homeowners can be hesitant to spend a few hundred dollars or more when a home energy assessment only shows some minor issues—which, when corrected, may only save them a fraction of the cost of their energy bill.
If the upfront expense is a concern, then performing a DIY home energy audit can be a good start. Although they’re not as comprehensive as a professional assessment, homeowners can still spot indicators of energy loss and opportunities to deploy energy conservation techniques.
This can be as simple as looking for leaks and gaps between windows and doors, around outlets and ducts, and junctures between walls and ceilings. Ensuring attics and exterior-facing walls are properly insulated by checking for drafts or significant temperature differences is another effective measure.
Checking light bulbs, household appliances, and built-in electronics for mechanical issues or general inefficiencies, such as giving off too much heat, can be a good way to identify opportunities for energy-saving updates.
Spotting these problems can also be a good indicator that others are likely present and a full home energy assessment will be a worthy investment.