What to expect from a energy efficiency audit

The importance of green energy and energy efficiency in general is growing.  This is true both as pursuits that homeowners undergo to lower their energy bills as well as their carbon footprints, and as a blossoming inspection job sector.  In times of recession, this is a welcome trend.

Further to this, governments are encouraging this burgeoning sector, which also makes sense during times of economic recession.  After all, if  the average household uses less energy, then the burden on government pocketbooks are lessened, too.  This is not to mention the social and ecological implications, of course.

It should also be mentioned that the pocketbooks of average people are also a driving force, which is another element as to why the idea of an energy efficient home is so appealing.   But, what should you expect and prepare for when you arrange for a residential energy efficiency audit? Well, take a look here.

To start with, this is a basic list of what your inspector will need to know:

  • How many people live in your residence?
  • Is your home regularly occupied during the day?
  • To what average temperature do you set your thermostat at during summer and winter?
  • Are there any rooms you don’t use?

And here are a couple of other things it might be helpful to pull together to enable your inspector to get the most accurate assessment possible:

  • Note any  known issues regarding energy efficiency – drafty rooms, insulation issues, condensation problems, etc
  • Get a summary of your bills from your utilities companies, which may reveal your residence to be using above average energy, therefore indicative of a possible leakage issue that you may not be aware of.

The Blower Door Test
Here’s something else to possibly expect at some point in the process. One thing your inspector may do is to test your residence for leakage, which is a prime cause of heat loss and therefore extra expense when it comes to your utility bills.  One of the ways this is tested is by what’s called the ‘Blower Door Test’, which seems to suggest (to me, because I’m a geek)  Michael Caine’s famous line in the Italian Job. But, not so.

Here’s what a blower door actually is, and what it does as described on Wikipedia:

A blower door is a diagnostic tool designed to measure the airtightness of buildings. and to help locate air leakage sites. A blower door consists of a calibrated fan for measuring an airflow rate, and a pressure-sensing device to measure the air pressure created by the fan flow. The combination of pressure and fan-flow measurements are used to determine the building airtightness. The airtightness of a building is useful knowledge when trying to increase energy conservation or decrease indoor air pollution, or control building pressures. [read full article about the blower door test…]

Thermal Imaging Tests
Another thing your inspector may suggest are thermal testing and imaging, which also tests where your home is losing heat, known as your home’s thermal envelope.  By using thermal imaging and infra-red technology, the inspector will be able to see where your property is lacking in insulation, or where your insulation is performing poorly.  Taken from the US Department of Energy, here’s how thermal imaging is used in an energy audit:

Infrared scanning allows energy auditors to check the effectiveness of insulation in a building’s construction. The resulting thermograms help auditors determine whether a building needs insulation and where in the building it should go. Because wet insulation conducts heat faster than dry insulation, thermographic scans of roofs can often detect roof leaks. [read full article about thermal imaging]

The Whole Point
Basically, your inspector is an efficiency consultant of sorts, who will help you identify areas in your home to look at improving, to make your thermal envelope tighter, and more cost-effective.  And as mentioned on the BuildDirect blog, arranging for an inspection is also a great way to gain a tax credit for energy efficiency, if you happen to live in the United States.

Another aspect of all of this of course is the underlying idea that energy doesn’t come magically out of your wall.  It takes resources, and finite ones at that,  to sustain your life as you know it at home .  An inspection can really help to put this into perspective.  So, it’s not just about the money, although it is about that.  It’s about a shift in perspective, too, that one’s energy usage in a home has an effect outside of that home in one’s community, country, and planet.  And it costs.

For further reading on home energy inspections, and about ways that you can make your residence more energy efficient, check out these fine sites:

New World Energy Audits

U.S Dept of Energy

Massachusettes Thermal Imaging

How Stuff Works – Energy Efficiency



[The Blower Door Test Image was adapted from a picture by solarthermienator]

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