Home Energy Audit Basics

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Perhaps you’ve noticed an insert in your energy bill or received a flyer from your utility company offering discounts or rebates for a home energy audit. It’s easy to see the benefit in upgrading to a newer, more efficient water heater or furnace. But why would anyone want to pay to get audited? Once you’ve read this introduction to energy audit basics, home energy will never remind you of the IRS again.

What Is a Home Energy Audit?

When you get audited by the IRS, they are looking for things you’ve done wrong, and any mistakes they find are bound to cost you money. A home energy audit will help you find the most effective ways to do better, and any improvements they find will probably save you money. Also known as a home energy assessment, home energy audits present a comprehensive view of your home’s energy use. A thorough audit will include a blower door test and thermographic scan. Every room of the house will be examined, and past utility bills will be reviewed. Audits will provide a home energy score on a scale of one to ten, but will also give detailed analysis to help you understand how where all that energy is going.

using infrared scanning of house exterior

Thermography — or infrared scanning — detects building air leakage. Photo: Adobe Stock

Why Get a Home Energy Audit?

Everyone knows that insulation, double-pane windows, and a good furnace contribute to a home’s overall energy efficiency. An audit will maximize your return on investment by telling you which of those things will have the most impact on your specific house. Knowing where your own energy use is most inefficient will help you prioritize home improvements. Depending on the age and size of your home, as well as the types of heating and cooling you use, you could save between 5 percent and 30 percent on your energy bill by following the recommendations in your home energy audit.

Home energy audit infographic

Image: Energy.gov

How Do I Get a Home Energy Audit?

Start with your utility provider. Many utility companies offer customers free or discounted audits, or at least provide a list of recommended providers. Your utility company may also offer rebates or low-cost financing for implementing many of the efficiency improvements your auditor recommends. Even if they don’t offer incentives directly, they should be able to refer you to a state program. 

If your utility company doesn’t provide audits or referrals, you can find a professional auditor from the  Building Performance Institute or the Residential Energy Services Network.

Even with rebates, a home energy audit can cost hundreds of dollars. If that’s not in your budget, you can perform your own DIY audit. You may not have access to blower door tests or thermographic scanning, but you can identify some efficiencies yourself. Without the upfront cost of the audit, you might have the funds to make some of the improvements right away.

 

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Gemma Alexander

Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment, the arts and family. See more of her writing here.

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