What is a home energy audit?

5 min read

While “audit” is not the most exciting word, a home energy audit is actually something to be excited about. What is the purpose of an energy audit? A home energy audit is a simple process to determine how much energy your home needs and uses, and how energy-efficient it is overall.

There are a couple of ways to go through a home energy audit. One is by having a professional energy auditor come and assess your house, and the other is doing a basic review yourself.

We'll look at both options in this post—including the cost of investing in a professional energy audit and what you can expect to save by making the suggested improvements—to determine if it’s worth it.

We’ll also discuss what to look for in a professional audit, how to find a trustworthy auditor, and the things you might be able to spot-fix yourself.

Home energy audits

What is done in an energy audit? That depends on whether you decide to take a DIY approach or have a professional energy audit done. Obviously, doing it yourself will be less thorough, but it can move the needle forward for small energy fixes around the house.

Professional energy audit

When a professional energy technician—also known as an energy auditor—goes through your home with a fine-toothed comb, you’ll see big improvements in your home energy efficiency. Of course, better efficiency means bigger savings on your utility bills.

The auditor will go through a standard set of tests for various places, reviewing where energy might be leaking from your home and what can be improved. These include:

A visual examination of your home

Energy auditors can spot common problems just from looking at the inside and outside of your home. They might be able to spot cracks or other issues along windows, doors, walls, and eaves that might be obvious energy leaks.

Insulation checkup

By inspecting the insulation in the attic and other areas of the house, an energy auditor can determine whether it’s time to replace old insulation. In some cases, older houses might not even have insulation in places that matter the most, such as attics and dormers.

Or, if there is insulation, it might be worn out, which can mean lots of precious heating or cooling is sneaking out through the walls, wasting energy and money.

Checking for proper sealing

This can be anywhere—from along windows, walls, and doors to openings for electrical wiring, connection points in the HVAC system, and other places. Making sure these areas are sealed properly can close any energy gaps.

Water heater, furnace, and AC

Testing these major players in your home’s energy consumption will determine whether they need a good maintenance visit or if it’s time to replace them. While replacement might be a big investment, it pays off, as many newer models are far more efficient.

Door blower test

This is one of the coolest things a professional energy auditor can do for a next-level reading of where energy leaks may be hiding. The windows and doors are closed and a blower door machine (a specialized fan) depressurizes your house. Then the auditor uses an infrared camera to find air leaks.

Thermographic scan

This is another use of infrared cameras and heat mapping that can help energy auditors spot weaknesses in insulation.

Lighting checkup

A professional auditor will review all your lighting equipment to see what can be swapped out for more energy-efficient bulbs and wiring.

DIY Energy Audit

If you want to see what you can spot and improve on your own, you can do some of the following fairly easily.

  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs
  • Look for cracks and feel for drafts along windows, walls, and doors. Seal with caulking weather stripping or other methods
  • Make sure any ventilation systems are clear of obstructions
  • Replace air filters

How does an energy audit work?

All in all, having a professional energy audit is the best way to go. This is because you’ll know for sure where the major leaks are and you can address those first.

Some common tips that might be suggested by your auditor could also include updating windows, doors, and appliances to more energy-efficient models. Once energy leaks are discovered, things can be updated, and you can start seeing a reduction in your energy bills right away.

How much does it cost to have an energy audit?

A professional home energy audit might cost anywhere between $200 and $650.1 While this might seem steep at first glance, keep in mind that you can significantly reduce your energy bills with the suggested upgrades.

Depending on what you choose to update, your savings could be anywhere from a 5- to 30-percent reduction in yearly utility bills.2 This adds up to hundreds of dollars per year, and thousands of dollars over time.3

Another option for a professional energy audit is to find free energy audit opportunities through your local utility company, or even certain nonprofit organizations near you.

Just be sure your energy auditor is certified, can provide references, and has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau.

You can find a list of energy auditors on the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) website. RESNET is a nonprofit membership corporation founded by the National Association of State Energy Officials and Energy Rated Homes of America.

How else can a home energy audit help?

Doing an energy audit is always a good idea to help you save money on your energy bills. It’s also one of the best first steps you can take before installing solar at home. The more efficient your home is, the more optimized it is, and the better idea you’ll have of the size and type of solar system and panels you’ll need.

Plus, great energy efficiency on top of producing your own solar power is a one-two punch for getting control of energy costs. So, even if you already have solar, you can only save more by having a professional energy audit done.

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