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Why Every Homeowner Should Do an Energy Audit

In our 3-part series, Greening Your Home, you’ll learn ways to make your home more energy-efficient while also saving you money in the long run. In this first article, we explain why energy audits can help you solve some of your home’s energy dilemmas. Caring about the environment and being “green” can be easier than you think as a homeowner. You can start today!

A home energy audit may sound like an unnecessary cost, but it really can save you money on energy bills, and even point out any hazards such as small gas leaks.

Having your home audited could be a good idea if you’ve ever had thoughts such as these:

– Why is one particular bedroom always either too hot or too cold compared to other rooms in my house?
– Are new windows worth the money or not?
– How can I find more ways to make my home “green” and more energy efficient?

If you’ve never considered an energy audit before, then we’ll show you why it’s a good way to solve such energy issues in your home.

What is an Energy Audit?

Getting an energy audit or energy assessment of your home is the first step to see what’s really going on within your home when it comes to energy use (or misuse). The audit will find out what parts of your home use the most energy.

You’ll need to hire a professional certified company that offers such services, and we can help you find a reputable one in the DC metro area.

Once the assessment is completed, you can decide what your next step will be in terms of improving or fixing issues within your home. You’ll now have more thorough information to make the right, cost-effective improvements to your home energy-wise.

Don’t forget about possible discounts from your utility company!  You may be eligible for a discounted home energy audit (and any subsequent work) through your state or local utility company through a rebate or discount program.

What to Expect

During a professional energy audit, a technician will come to your home and spend a few hours going from room-to-room, from top to bottom, both inside and out to detect sources of energy loss.

And we’re talking about inspecting everything energy related — electrical, gas, lighting, heating and cooling!

They’ll use special tools and technology that will help them identify areas of your home where there are any energy leaks or waste. You’ll get a cool thermal image of the outside of your home showing where all the air is leaking out!

The technician also will ask you about your family’s energy use, such as if anyone works from home, how many people live there, how each room is used, and what temperature you set your thermostat in the winter and summer.

Get Ready

Before your audit, gather at least one to two years’ worth of utility (gas and electric) bills. The technician needs to analyze these to get a sense of your baseline energy use.

You also should prepare a list of any problems you’ve detected on your own, such as drafty rooms, poor heat or cooling distribution between rooms, not enough hot water in the shower, or condensation on a room’s wall.

You know these, right?? But write them down so you don’t forget to tell the technician!

Inspection Musts

Here’s a general breakdown of what will be done during an energy audit of your entire home.

  • Check for major air leakages – Look for drafts from chimneys, bypasses, recessed lighting, outlets, HVAC ducts. Conduct a blower door test to help determine your overall home’s airtightness. Use a thermographic scan to detect thermal defects and air leakage from windows, walls, doors, and entire home.
  • Check heating and cooling — Inspect insulation; test for fuel leaks in furnace and its blower; examine duct system, filters and even dryer venting. Check thermostat setting and insulation on water heater tank. Inspect your fireplace and chimney. See what type of thermostat you use and its usual setting.
  • Assess your electrical systems – Check your appliance energy use; examine light fixtures and wiring; use a watt meter to measure energy use of other devices in your home; look for electrical hazards.
  • Check for moisture and water vapor in your bathrooms and kitchen – Note any water leakage; inspect your vent fans; look for condensation on walls.
  • Examine gas appliances and gas heating/cooling systems – Measure temperature, leaks and any carbon dioxide in its exhaust.

What’s Next?

After the technician’s visit, you’ll get a comprehensive energy report that will show:

  • how you use energy,
  • where it’s being wasted, and
  • what you can do to improve your home’s energy efficiency.

The report may suggest some small energy fixes such as new CFL or LED light bulbs; caulking or weatherstripping windows; improving your lighting needs with sensors, dimmers or timers; or upgrading to a more energy-saving dishwasher.

It also could suggest more expensive fixes such as buying an energy-efficient water heater or replacing your old windows with new energy-saving ones. It’s up to you how much you want to take on or fix at this point.

Save Energy = Save Money

If you’re concerned about your budget and hiring professionals, remember that the upfront costs could worth it in the end in two ways:

  1. Rebate programs from local utility companies. Many utility companies will provide rebates for both the audit and for any work you get done after the audit. You could receive 50% or up to $2,000 for any weatherization work. In order to get the rebate, the energy audit company will send out a technician after any weatherization or upgrades are done to do a “test out” to see if the work was effective.  The utility company then will send you a rebate check once this is done.
  2. Saving money on your home’s energy bills. You can save 5% to 30% on your energy bill once you make any of the audit’s suggested changes to your home. Even the little things will make a dent in your lighting, cooling or heating costs.

Let us know if you have any questions about a home energy audit. We have worked with companies who have a proven track record.

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