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Why Every Homeowner Should Do an Energy Audit

illustration courtesy of EPA

A home energy audit may sound frivolous or unnecessary, but it really can solve a lot of your home’s quirks, save you money on energy bills, and even point out any hazards such as small gas leaks.  Read on to learn why every homeowner should have an energy audit.

Is one bedroom in your house always too hot or too cold and you’re just not sure why? Have you debated if it’s worth the money to get new windows or not? What about just wanting to be more “green” and find ways to make your home 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 vexing energy issues in your home. Plus, with an audit you’ll learn how to cut your energy bills and even reap the benefits of utility rebates!

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). You can find out what parts of your home use the most energy by hiring a professional certified company that offers such services. We can help you find one in the DC area.

After this assessment, you’ll be able to decide what your next step will be in terms of improving or fixing issues within your home. That’s the whole purpose of having an audit is that you’ll have the right information to make the right, cost-effective improvements to your home energy-wise.

And guess what?! You may be eligible for a discounted home energy audit (and any subsequent work) through your state or local utility. The company you hire can work with your local utility company so that you can get a rebate or discount on the cost of the audit and any work completed. It’s a win-win for everyone!

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 warm air is leaking out!

Be Ready

Be prepared before your audit by gathering 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. The technician will also 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.

You should also have 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 Next?

After the technician’s visit, you’ll get a data analysis in a comprehensive energy report. This report will show how you use energy, where it’s being wasted, and highlight what you can do to improve the energy efficiency in your home.

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 could also suggest more expensive fixes such as buying an energy-efficient water heater or replacing your old windows with those 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 not sure your budget can handle any professional work, remember that many utility companies will provide rebates for any work you get done after the audit. (Remember you’ll get a rebate for the audit too!).

Sometimes you can receive 50% or up to $2,000 for any weatherization work. 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 will send you a rebate check once this is done. So this could be worth the upfront cost.

Plus, there’s more good news when it comes to money! 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 great companies who have a proven track record.

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