Home Energy Audit: What Is It? Why Should I Get One?

What is a Home Energy Audit & Why Should I Get One? 

Written by Scott Fischer

What is a Home Energy Audit? Quite simply, a Home Energy Audit pinpoints how your house is losing or wasting energy. A Home Energy Audit will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time. Numerous states, including New Jersey, are offering financial incentives to homeowners who have a Professional Energy Audit performed on their home.

The financial and environmental consequences of irresponsible energy consumption have motivated consumers to become conscious of their energy usage.  Celebrities, politicians, news organizations, and social media are creating demand for Home Energy Audits as part of an overall trend to conserve energy, lower utility bills, and a desire to reduce carbon footprints. Mainstream celebrities including Martha Stewart, Suze Orman, Oprah, Brad Pitt,Leonardo DiCaprio, and Edward Norton each have publicly discussed the benefits of energy audits.

Among other publications, reporters from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, and Better Homes & Gardens have reported at length on the benefits of a Home Energy Audit.

A Home Energy Auditor possesses working knowledge of a variety of specialty trades. They are trained to view a home as one integrated system and they use specialized equipment to determine the energy efficiency of the home. As such, they might recommend work to one part of your home to enable another part of your home to work better. Simple examples of this would include air sealing to lessen the load on your heating system or applying solar film or curtains on windows to lessen the load on your air conditioning unit.

During a Home Energy Audit your home is temporarily depressurized using equipment designed for this purpose. While your home is depressurized, outside air is drawn into your home through holes, cracks, and gaps that would not normally be noticeable to the home’s occupants. This specialized equipment helps reveal hard-to-detect areas of outside air infiltration and missing and/or inadequate insulation.

Left uncorrected, outside air-infiltration creates a vicious cycle during the winter and summer months. Your furnace or air conditioner is continuously struggling to heat or cool the outside air making its way into your home. As your equipment struggles to keep up with this unwanted air-infiltration, it burns more electricity, gas, and/or oil which drive up your heating and cooling bills. A Professional Energy Auditor will spotlight how outside air is getting into your home and will make the repairs necessary to make your house more comfortable and energy efficient.

Home Energy Auditors also examine your heating, cooling, hot water, and ventilation systems. Often these units have not been professionally inspected since they were initially installed in your home. Each year hundreds of people die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and tens of thousands are suffering the consequences of being exposed to lower levels of carbon monoxide. A Professional Home Energy Auditor will perform a safety inspection on these systems using a combustion analyzer, gas detector, and carbon monoxide detector to ensure that your equipment is functioning properly and is not releasing harmful gasses into your home.
In addition to performing a safety inspection, a Professional Home Energy Auditor will provide information about the amount of energy consumed by your heating and cooling equipment and recommend energy efficient alternatives. Homes in New Jersey typically have inefficient systems that are more than twenty years old, costing homeowners a small fortune each year to operate. A Home Energy Auditor will provide information about energy efficient systems, including options powered by alternative energy. They will also provide you with up-to-date information on incentives and financing options being offered by state and federal governments to lower the cost of upgrading to an energy efficient system.

A Home Energy Auditor will examine the design and construction of your home along with additional ways that your home consumes energy. Common areas of improvement may include energy efficient lighting, eliminating phantom loads from electronic devices, utilizing or eliminating passive solar heat, circulating conditioned air with ceiling fans and/or ventilation systems, air sealing, and adding thermal barriers to prevent conditioned air from escaping your living areas.

At the conclusion of your Home Energy Audit, your Home Energy Auditor will review a detailed report with you outlining how efficient your home is. The report is generated using data collected during your Home Energy Audit that has been compiled and entered into sophisticated software. The report you receive outlines specific improvements that can be made to your home to increase energy efficiency and reduce your monthly utility costs.
Rather than simply generating a list of random improvements, the software prioritizes recommendations based upon those that will yield the highest return on investment and provide the homeowner with the shortest payback period (the amount of time that an improvement will take for it to pay for itself as a result of your lower utility bills) to ensure that the homeowner is not needlessly wasting money on expensive repairs or upgrades that will have little or no effect on their overall energy consumption. This report also highlights available rebates and incentives available through the New Jersey Home Performance with Energy Star Program that will help offset the cost of installing these measures.  As a homeowner you can now fully understand the expected energy savings and the expected payback period of your investment.

To confirm the effectiveness of any energy efficiency improvements, a second Home Energy Audit is performed after upgrades have been installed in your home. This second audit serves to confirm that the improvements are yielding their expected level of energy savings, that they have been installed properly, and that they will deliver on their projected energy savings to maintain their desired payback period.

Scott Fischer is an Energy Consultant with Ciel Power LLC.  Ciel Power LLC is a One-Source Solution providing customers with Residential & Commercial Energy Audits,Air-Sealing, Insulation, HVAC Services, and Energy Efficient Lighting and Technology Upgrades for clients in the metro-NY-NJ-PA Area.  Contact Ciel Power LLC at 201-632-3463 or visit www.cielpower.com for additional information.