Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Home Energy Audit

Blower Door
When it comes to Energy Audits, the old saying "you get what you pay for" definitely holds true.

I can't count the number of times I have gone into a home after the homeowners had a "free energy audit" but still have high energy bills or continued comfort issues.   Free typically meant they got crap for an audit sometimes they have had "free" improvements done too.  By the time they are fed up and call us in, they have had little to no improvement or savings from their free audit/work.  Throwing more money down the drain.  I have even found where they did improvements but were dishonest in how much they improved it, often no actual improvement was  made.  I have also been to homes where they just spent $3500 on a radiant barrier with no improvement to the home.  I have been to homes where they had a brand new 5 ton high efficiency AC unit just installed but their house is now so humid they can't stand it and their bills have actually gone up.

Even if you are paying for an Energy Audit they are not all the same...  This is an area where experience really counts.

What a Quality Energy Audit should Include:

Blower door installed on a house
  •  An experienced RESnet or BPI certified auditor or one with both certifications.
  • A brief initial discussion about energy usage, problem areas, comfort concerns etc.
  • Blower Door test
  • Duct blaster test
  • Thermal imaging
  • A full diagnostic of all HVAC performance
  • Combustion appliance safety testing of any gas appliance.
  • Your house should be measured including windows etc
  • The auditor spending quality time in the attic and crawlspace
  • The audit should take 3-6 hours in your home.
  • A computer energy model to evaluate the recommended improvement
  • A quality detailed lengthy report showing their findings, recommendations and payback of recommendations, my reports run 20-35 pages.
  • Improvements should include no cost and low cost improvements even simple lifestyle changes.
  • An option for a post work "test out" to verify installed components
  • Often the utility will come through after an audit and do a quality control audit, this is good thing, if they ask, let them do it.  It keeps companies honest and ensures your home was assessed correctly with correct findings.

Missing Ceiling Insulation (lots more like this in the room)
 I never recommend having an audit done by a Window company, an Insulation company or an HVAC company, it's like letting the fox into the hen house... In my company we can install anything we recommend through our circle of quality subcontractors.  We manage all of them and the improvements as a general contractor.  But we do not walk down that path till we have given the homeowner their report.

Pic of above thermal."Our Master Bedroom is always so hot"

Since we can do any and all work we suggest we are far less biased than the window guy will be or the HVAC company is.  We also write the report and work order in a manner that will allow them to get quality bids/work from any contractor and we tell the homeowners they are welcome to.  We would love to do the work but our audit is not contingent on doing the work and neither is our advice.  Our advice is based on the individual house, the occupants and their needs.  If we don't put them first, we are no better than the guys running around knocking out 6 "free" audits a day.  We (team of 2-3) will only do one audit a day, most will take 4-5 hours, plus about the equal amount of time in the office running calculations and writing the report.

So what should this Energy audit cost?  There are a lot a variables but on average nationally it is between $400-$750+.  Every home I have audited the cost of the audit was more than recovered in the first year (even in  a few months) by following our suggestions.

There are several places to find Auditors:
  • Check with your local utility for any comprehensive audit programs (utility offered "Free audits" are a waste of time) 
  • Resnet. (Residential Energy Services Network)
  • BPI.org
  • Look into Home Performance with Energy Star.
  • Internet
  • Friends and Family who have had Audit's preformed.
Shop around, ask details about what they offer, ask them for references (you are about to spend good money on them), and ask for a sample audit report.  If you catch voice mail leave a message and wait to hear back, I never have my phone on when I am in a house doing an audit, but I always return calls when I am packed up and back in the truck.  Ask them pricing and see if there are any utility company rebates or programs to offset some but not all of the cost.  Don't go the free route, the free audit will often exempt you from far better utility programs that can seriously offset the cost of your improvements.  The only exception to that may be in a low income situation with a low income program (but buyer beware some companies will make "improvements" but fail to actually improve anything).

Keeping these suggestions in mind, you should have a good experience with your energy audit.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Wow, great info!