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What is an Energy Audit?

September 30, 2013

The words "energy audit" convey a specificity of action and purpose. There is a wide variety of prices, actions, and approaches. We can capture the general range of deliverables with a quick discussion of three areas.

  1. Price Range: Free to $1,500 per home
  2. Level of detail: from Energy Survey to Comprehensive Home Energy Audit
  3. Implementation: Consultant vs. contractor model

Invariably, this discussion will miss a type of audit. But understanding the features and how to apply the benefits of these approaches will cover 90% + of the elements to making a good decision for an energy-efficient home.

Level of Detail

Energy Survey
Essentially an energy survey consists of a short interview with the occupants and a quick walk-through of the home and is completed with filling out a checklist and delivering some recommendations. These energy surveys usually take about an hour and may or may not come with a presentation of a particular product or service – and an offer to buy.

Comprehensive Home Energy Audit (CHEA)
This process incorporates all of the elements of the Energy Survey. In addition, there are a number of additional services that are associated with a comprehensive energy audit. You will find home tightness testing (blower door) and duct tightness testing (duct blaster). You may get a utility bill analysis (12- or 24-month history) along with an energy model. The energy model may show you your current HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index and the potential improvement in the index by implementing various measures. There are other energy modeling systems that show you the baseline of where you are and then quantify the improvement from an energy conservation measure or basket of measures. You may find “smoke tests,” “infrared thermography,” and HVAC load calculations (to determine what would be the proper size AC and heating system).

Choosing an auditor

    What to look for in terms of credibility
  • Certifications like HERS Rater, HERS Auditor, Building Performance Analyst
  • Awards from BPI, RESNET and awards from Major Trade Organizations
  • Experience – from both the auditor team and from the auditor company
    Questions to ask
  • How long have you been performing audits?
  • How many audits have you performed?
  • Do you have any successful referrals?
  • What is your BBB accreditation rating?
  • What certifications do you have?
  • Who will come to my home?
  • What is the process?
  • Why should I choose your firm?
  • If I am unhappy, how will you know?
  • Do I have to use your service if you perform the audit?
  • What will you leave me with when you complete the audit?

Source: U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Home Guide