Thursday, April 5, 2012

Do You Need an Energy Audit?

After reading the Home Energy Audit post you may be wondering if your house needs an audit or not.  Well I will layout many the reasons you may need one.

Solar or Going "Off Grid" -  Yes, Yes & Yes.  You need an Energy Audit.  I will write a large post just on this topic alone in the next week or so....

Improvements  - Are you about to install new windows? Adding insulation? Installing a new AC Furnace or Heat Pump?  If you are, you need an audit first.  You will recoup the audit cost no problem. 
  I have saved homeowners a lot of money by helping them see what really pays back.  Usually where they need to spend money is not where they intended to.  We all have limited funds, we need to be sure that, where we spend the money is where it is actually needed and not wasting it on unnecessary things.  If you believe all of the advertizing out there, new windows will save you 30-50% on your bill, so will a new high efficiency AC.  More often than not those are not the items needed in the home.  I have countless examples of a homeowners wasting money on things that were at the bottom of the list with decades before it pays back.

Windows - Thinking of new windows?  Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it.  Get an audit first, the auditor will calculate the payback for all recommended improvements.  Most of the time I find that windows have a 30+ year payback some times its over 40+ years.  There are reasons to replace windows but if you are doing it for saving money you will not see the payback.  There are usually a dozen other things to spend all of that money on first.
Comfort - Do you have areas or rooms in you house that are always either hotter or colder than the rest of the house?  Does your house or certain rooms feel muggy or sticky.  Your house does not need to be this way, there are solutions to these problems, and often a very simple solution. 

Is your old AC Tired? - Is it time to replace your AC?  Well an energy audit may be in order, far too often homes have had their AC's up-sized each time they are replaced.  Or the house wasn't operating right so a bigger AC was installed.  Too large of an AC will cost you more money and will typically cause moisture issues in the home.  An AC needs to run for a period of time before it is up to peak efficiency, until it reaches this point is pulling allot of power.  Too large of an AC pulls more power and only runs a few minutes before shuts off.  When installing an AC a Manual J is needed.  A Manual J is a load calculation that defines what size AC the house needs.  The old thumb in the air or rule of thumb is not right.  If your AC guy is either unwilling or unable to do a Manual J, find a new AC contractor.  A Manual J is a requirement by most adopted building codes.   A Manual J takes into account all aspects of the home, the windows, insulation levels, electronics, people loads etc, etc.       

High Utility bills -If you are faced with high bills, whether they are always high or you have huge spikes, an audit can address the causes of those costs. There are many possible reasons for high bills, an audit can help ferret out what the issues are.  By just accepting the high bills and not making an effort to resolve the causes you are throwing money down the drain.

Are you about to buy a home? -Get an energy audit before you buy.  Ask the sellers for copies of their last year of energy bills.  You will get a home inspection right? They do not look at the energy factors in any real detail nor are they trained to diagnose energy issues.  Their inspection is only a visual inspection, they are looking for safety and general code issues.  You need to have a qualified Energy Auditor in to evaluate the issues.  I have seen many people walk into a new home oblivious to the what it will cost them each month in energy costs, only to be shocked by their first bill.  You are approved for your loan amount based on what the bank believes you can afford, all too often that is pushing the envelope.  When that first bill comes and it is $300 or even $700 dollars you are now in a world of hurt.  Know before you buy, while you still have the ability to negotiate repairs or the purchase price.

Selling your Home? - Read the above section, when selling your home it is vital that you address all of the areas that could become an issue, keeping you from getting top dollar for your home.  Often very simple and inexpensive items make a big difference in the performance of your home.  Any added value to a prospective buyer goes along way.  Peace of mind is added value.  Having the Energy Auditors report on hand will go along way to ease the mind of the buyer.  I have performed audits for sellers and making some small energy improvements.  I then write up another summary report indicating where the house stands as far as energy and the condition of the equipment with summaries of the improvements that were completed and what those improvements may save each month.
  This second report is geared more towards a buyer, rather than indicating everything that could be improved it is more focused on where things are now and what acceptable levels are.  I often on Home Inspections I see that they list every little thing that could be done, often sounding as though everything must be done or else the house is not a good buy because it is full of issues.  It makes the reader think there is a huge list of things that are needed when in reality most of the items are either not needed or are just the opinion of the inspector with little basis to justify the time, energy or cost fixing.

Curiosity - If you are curious if anything could be done to reduce your homes energy cost or increase your overall comfort, consider an audit.  I have even been able to save people real money who are in brand new homes.  I once went in to a house that was only a few months old, their bills were higher than expected.  In the matter of about 20 minutes I found the problem and a $5 fix saved them over $100 per month.  That is over $1,200 per year for as long as they own the home.There were also some simple lifestyle items that would also save them some money each month.

No home is perfect, every home has room for improvement.  The right set of eyes, backed with real world experience can decipher what your home's needs are.

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