The 411 on home energy audits
What is a home energy audit, and what does it usually cost? A variety of approaches, price points and follow-up actions may be chosen. Here is an overview of what to expect when choosing the right audit for your needs.
1) How much does an audit cost?
- Free audits are often available from utility companies. They usually consist of an energy survey by a third-party professional who visits many homes and can identify common problems. You can also get a free audit from a contractor or supplier from an HVAC, window or lighting company, for example. These professionals may be more likely to make a sales pitch for their product, but if you have already identified a particular area to make an improvement, going with a specific contractor may be helpful.
- Audits for problems that are more difficult to diagnose may run $300 to $1,500. In a scenario where you need an expert to provide more thorough diagnostic testing, energy modeling and assistance with determining the best installation choices, you can expect to pay more. However, if you think you may need to make a major investment in upgrading your home's energy efficiency, it could be the lower-cost solution in the long run.
2) What does the audit involve?
- An energy survey usually takes about an hour and consists of a brief interview with the occupants of the home, a walk-through and completion of a checklist. The auditor will then give recommendations for improvements, based on the results of the survey.
- In contrast, a comprehensive home energy audit combines a survey with additional diagnostics, such as home and duct tightness testing, utility bill analysis and energy modeling. The energy model can show you the baseline of where you are starting from and then quantify the improvement you would likely see from implementing different measures.
3) Who performs the audit?
- A consultant is trained in building science and can perform the energy audit, give advice, help you choose contractors and then test to make sure that the work was properly completed. These consultants are often HERS raters. A consultant may be less biased than a contractor in making recommendations.
- Contractors have the same training as consultants, but can also perform the improvement work itself with their own crews (or act as the general contractor and supervise the work). Such contractors may also be known as "building analysts" and some deliver what is known as Home Performance with Energy Star, a DOE/EPA program. A contractor may provide faster estimates and follow-up for implementation.
- A combined approach is also possible through organizations or partnerships that offer both consulting and implementation.
4) Choosing an auditor
Whatever route you take, look for an experienced auditor who has a certification, such as HERS Rater, HERS Auditor or Building Performance Analyst. Awards from BPI, Resnet or major trade organizations are also a good sign, as is a positive Better Business Bureau rating.