Ask Angie: Increase efficiency with a home energy audit
Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List
Dear Angie: I would like to have someone evaluate our home and make recommendations as to how we can make upgrades in order to save on our energy bills. Is there such a service? – Jeff S., Huntsville, Ala.
Dear Jeff: A home energy auditor can comprehensively assess how much energy your home uses and evaluate the measures you can take to improve its efficiency.
Professional auditors can offer non-invasive scientific testing to determine which areas of the home are not efficient. The most common test is a blower door test, in which a doorway seal and fan measure a home's air exchange rate to detect leaks. Another test, called a thermographic scan, uses infrared technology to determine over- or under-insulated areas.
The auditor should give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements to enhance your comfort and safety. Some common recommendations include sealing air leaks, sealing ductwork and adding insulation. You might be advised to consider upgrading lighting and appliances, especially if they’re older and not as efficient as newer equipment.
Some utility energy companies and state agencies even offer free limited energy efficiency testing. Check with your local energy provider to see if they have such a program.
There are also things you can do on your own to check your home’s efficiency, including checking the insulation levels in your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors and crawlspaces. You can check for leaks by holding a lit candle or incense stick around doors and windows. If the flame flickers or you see smoke from the incense stick being drawn toward the seals and crevices, you probably have a drafty area that needs sealed.
Ultimately, though, a home energy auditor will be able to offer a much more comprehensive view of your home’s vulnerable spots.
The result of a home energy audit should help cut down on your energy bills and enhance your level of comfort in the home. A good auditor should do a room-by-room examination, as well as a thorough check of past utility bills.
If possible, try to be present at the time of the audit. Make a list of any existing problems for the auditor, like drafty rooms or visible condensation. Walk through your home with the auditor during the test and ask questions.
Although the scope of an energy audit often depends on a home’s age, size and its design, a typical professional audit takes about three to four hours to complete and costs $250 to $800. An auditor should be able to provide proof of experience, education and applicable certification.
Angie’s List collects about 40,000 consumer reports each month covering more than 350 categories of home-related services. Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angie’s List to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at email@example.com.