What’s a Home Energy Audit, and Do I Need One?

Today’s homeowners are more concerned than ever about lowering energy usage. PNAS (the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences journal) reports that about 20% of the United State’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the heating, cooling, and powering of households. For those who are concerned about caring for the environment, lowering household energy usage is a great place to start.

According to the Energy Sage Marketplace, in 2022, the average American home spent $2190 on electricity. This number does not account for money spent on other sources of energy, such as natural gas heat. With energy costs constantly rising, it makes good financial sense to see if there are ways you can lower the energy your house requires to keep you comfortable. One way to accomplish both of these goals–reducing your carbon footprint and saving yourself money–is by having a home energy audit done on your house.

What is an Energy Audit?

There are two basic types of home energy audits. In a level one audit, a home energy professional will walk around your house, inside and out, visually inspecting it for potential energy leaks. He will discuss your energy usage with you and may also look through your past energy bills. He will ask questions such as:

  • How many people live in the home?
  • Is anyone home during working hours?
  • What is the thermostat generally set to?
  • Are you planning to replace any appliances soon?

A level two audit will include this visual inspection and walk-through. The technician will also test various systems like your HVAC and water heater and may perform a blower-door test (a test where a fan is set up in a doorway and sealed in, and as the fan runs, it pulls air through any openings or leaks in the house, allowing a technician to identify them). He may also use surface thermometers and smoke-generating devices (safe devices that produce a small amount of smoke to help detect drafts and air movement), and more.

The home energy professional is looking for problems: areas where there is air leakage, poor insulation, appliances that are using too much energy, drafty windows and doors, leaky vents and ductwork, and other issues that are causing your home to use excess energy. 

What Happens Next?

After assessing your home, the energy professional will make recommendations. Based on his findings, he may point you to small changes that will make a big difference in your carbon footprint and energy bills. He may recommend that you

  • change out all lightbulbs to LEDs.
  • seal around drafty windows and doors with weather stripping.
  • change your HVAC filter regularly.
  • lower the temperature on your water heater.

Depending on how much energy your home is losing, the changes might be more major, requiring you to hire a professional to update your home. These may include

  • changing out appliances to ENERGY STAR-rated new ones.
  • adding insulation to your attic, basement, and/or walls.
  • or doing a whole-house seal to eliminate air leaks.
  • replacing windows.
  • sealing up leaky ductwork and vents, especially in unconditioned spaces like basements and attics.
  • upgrading to a more efficient HVAC system like a heat pump, which performs both heating and cooling functions.

While some of these repairs and upgrades can be costly, most will pay themselves off in saved energy costs. According to the US Department of Energy, making energy-efficient upgrades in your home can save you between five- and thirty percent on your energy bills.

Is it the Right Time for an Energy Audit?

If your energy bills are climbing, it might be the right time to get an energy audit. Knowledge is power; you will know what problems your home has, and be able to make a plan to deal with them. Even small changes like caulking around leaky windows can make a noticeable difference in your home.

If you’ve noticed problems like drafts, cold air getting in around your attic entrance, condensation on the insides of your windows, or warm areas on floors or walls with ductwork under them (where heat is escaping into the subfloor or walls instead of coming through the vents), you may need to go ahead and schedule an audit. 

Are you planning a home remodel soon? Now might be the very best time to schedule a home energy audit. Some issues can more easily be resolved when you’re already doing work on your home. For example, you can upgrade to energy-efficient appliances while renovating your kitchen, or add great house wrap when doing an addition. You can sometimes more easily replace windows and add insulation to the walls while they are open and being worked on. Talk to us about adding energy-saving systems and upgrades to your DC, Virginia, or Maryland home remodel.

Can I DIY a Home Energy Audit?

You can absolutely do a basic home energy audit and make some changes on your own. Walk around your home and look for potential problems. Pay particular attention to

  • drafty doors and windows, drafts around electrical outlets, and in corners. Seal them up with weatherstripping or caulk.
  • your attic insulation, and consider adding more.
  • your HVAC. Look for leaks, consider its age, and make sure to replace the filter regularly.
  • lighting. Switch out regular bulbs to LEDs, CFLs, or energy-saving incandescent bulbs.
  • your water heater, making sure it’s well-insulated and lowering the maximum temperature of the water.

How to Get Help

A DIY home energy audit is a great place to start and will make a difference in your energy bills and to the environment. But if you’re ready to get a full audit, you can find a reputable home energy audit professional in several ways.

  • Check with your utility company. Some do home energy audits for free, while others have a list of reputable professionals you can hire.
  • Some nonprofits and government agencies also conduct home energy audits for free. 
  • You can also check the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Score program to look for home energy auditors near you. 

If you need to make major changes, remodel a room, or add an addition, we are here to help. Contact us and let’s discuss making your home an energy-efficient sanctuary for you and your family.