Home Energy Audit – Should You Have One?
Home energy audits help you understand how much energy your home uses and identify ways to improve its efficiency. There are many things you can do on your own such as caulk and weather strip around doors and windows or wrap exposed water pipes. But many homes are so inefficient that even after completing the more obvious improvements, there are still many ways to further reduce your home’s energy consumption and increase comfort.
A professional audit can cost upwards of $400 or more but when used wisely can pay for itself in a short amount of time. If this is out of your budget, there are do-it-yourself alternatives. For starters, there are easy online surveys such as Energy Star’s Home Energy Yardstick. The survey compares your home’s efficiency to similar homes in your area. Another, more comprehensive self-study is the Home Energy Saver. Snohomish County PUD also offers a free online energy audit called the Home EnergyAdvisor.
While an online audit can be a good starting point, it is no substitute for a home inspection by a professional energy auditor. A Home Energy Audit is an investment to help you determine the best steps to increase your homes efficiency.
The many benefits to a Home Energy Audit and related improvements include:
- Improved comfort & safety
- Enhanced appearance
- Increased salability
- Reduced environmental impact
- Assists in tenant retention of investment properties
Many home improvements such as adding insulation or replacing the furnace are not inexpensive. Having an audit conducted before making these improvements will help prioritize the best approach for long term value. It doesn’t do much good to install a new heating system if the air leaks have not been addressed. Planning a remodel? Having an audit completed before starting a remodel will help you plan and incorporate energy saving upgrades into your project.
The following are questions to consider when determining if your home is operating as efficiently as it could.
- Is your home comfortable during hot and cold seasons?
- Are your energy bills excessive?
- Does your heating/cooling system run constantly to maintain a comfortable temperature?
- Are there drafty rooms or variable temperatures throughout the house?
- Do you have cold floors in the winter?
- Is moisture on the windows?
- Do you have excessive dust?
A thorough inspection will determine what components are negatively affecting the comfort and efficiency of your home. Based on the inspection results, you should have a good understanding of recommended repairs and improvements, along with an idea of estimated costs and potential annual savings in energy bills.
A professional auditor uses a variety of techniques and equipment to determine the energy efficiency of your home. A thorough audit will include:
- Blower Door Test (used to de-pressurize the home and expose air leaks)
- Infrared Camera Scan (used to reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and missing insulation)
- Combustion Safety Testing (detects carbon monoxide leaks)
- Complete Basement to Attic Inspection
- Survey of Appliances & Lighting Systems
The following video Energy 101: Home Energy Assessment provided by the Department of Energy explains each of these steps in detail.
Home Energy Audits alone won’t save energy. You need to implement the recommended improvements. The results of the audit will help prioritize repairs and put a short or long term plan in place, depending on the extent of improvements needed and your budget.
A Home Energy Auditor should be certified through either the Building Performance Institute (BPI) or Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). Both BPI and RESNET have set standards for home energy professionals and are recognized by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. View a list of certified BPI accredited contractors near you.
Currently Seattle City Light customers can obtain a Home Energy Audit for $125. Rebate programs are available and in some cases, free weatherization services for those who meet income qualifications. For more information visit the Energy Conservation page of their website or call an Energy Advisor at 206-684-3800.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) offers their electric and natural gas customers a free HomePrint Assessment of their home’s energy use. It includes a customized summary of recommended energy efficiency upgrades, information about equipment rebates, contractor referrals, and helpful tips on how to save energy. For more details, contact a PSE Energy Advisor at 1-800-562-1482.
Snohomish County PUD customers with electric heat may qualify for cash incentives toward energy-saving home improvements. The Weatherization & Heating program includes eligible upgrades toward floor, wall & ceiling insulation, insulated windows, heat pumps, duct sealing & insulation, and Energy Smart loans. Contact the Energy Hotline with questions at 425-783-1700.
Beware – Energy Saving Scams! Snohomish County PUD warns of scams committed by phone, mail, text, and even in-person visits to homes and businesses. If you received a notice in the mail, someone visited your home or business, or you received a text or phone message demanding payment of an unpaid bill, please beware. Visit Snohomish County PUD or call 425-783-1000 for more details to report or avoid becoming a victim of an energy saving scam.