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A Guide to Home Energy Audits

HVAC Logo IconBy Tom MoorMay 15, 2024
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Did you know that over time, homes can lose efficiency due to things like poor insulation, outdated HVAC systems, and sneaky air leaks? It’s like watching your hard-earned cash slip out the window along with all that conditioned air.

If you’re noticing signs of energy loss or are simply unsure about your home’s efficiency, consider hiring a professional to perform an energy audit. HVAC.com breaks down what a home energy audit entails, signs indicating you need one, and potential tax credits available to help offset the cost.

What Is a Home Energy Audit?

A home energy audit is a comprehensive evaluation of a home’s energy usage and overall efficiency – and is often the first step toward making energy-saving upgrades. During an audit, a professional inspects various aspects of the home, including insulation levels, heating and cooling systems, appliances, windows, and doors.

The goal is to identify areas where energy is being wasted and recommend improvements to increase efficiency, reduce utility bills, and improve your home’s comfort. During a standard energy audit, a professional may use tools like infrared cameras, blower doors, gas leak detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors to conduct a comprehensive assessment of each room, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A blower door test measures the airtightness of your home, while infrared thermography detects for temperature variations within floors, walls, and ceilings.

Based on the findings, a professional can then recommend potential home improvements, including:

  • Upgrading insulation in walls, the attic, and floors to reduce heat loss.
  • Replacing outdated or inefficient HVAC systems with energy-efficient models.
  • Sealing air leaks around windows, doors, and ductwork to prevent air leaks.
  • Installing programmable or smart thermostats to regulate temperature settings and reduce energy usage, especially when the home is unoccupied.
  • Replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving LED bulbs.
  • Upgrading to energy-efficient appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and washing machines.

Signs You May Need a Professional Energy Audit

Although it’s never a bad idea to schedule a routine energy audit every couple of years, it’s particularly important to watch out for following signs that your home may be inefficient:

  • Consistently high energy bills especially compared to a year or two ago.
  • Noticeable drafts or uneven temperatures throughout the home.
  • Difficulty in maintaining comfortable temperatures, with some rooms feeling too hot or too cold.
  • Old or inefficient HVAC systems that struggle to keep up with demand.
  • Excessive dust accumulation or poor indoor air quality.
  • The presence of moisture, which can indicate potential air leaks or insulation problems.
  • Ice dams forming on the roof during winter, indicating heat loss through the attic.

The Cost of a Home Energy Audit

On average, expect to pay about $200 to $700 for a home energy audit, with prices varying based on factors including your home’s size and location, as well as the complexity of the audit.

Using more advanced tools and methods such as infrared thermography, a blower door test, and energy modeling software can add to the overall costs.

Available Tax Credits for Home Energy Audits

Home energy audits for primary residences can qualify for a tax credit of up to $150. To be eligible, the audit must include a written report identifying cost-effective energy efficiency improvements. Starting in 2024, audits must be performed by a qualified home energy auditor certified by recognized programs listed by the U.S. Department of Energy or supervised by one.

DIY vs Professional Home Energy Audits

Deciding whether to hire a professional or attempt a DIY home energy audit? In most cases, it’s best to go with a professional who possesses specialized skills, knowledge, and equipment to conduct a thorough audit. Professionals can provide expert recommendations tailored to the specific needs of the home to maximize energy-saving opportunities.

Additionally, DIY audits may lack accuracy and overlook critical factors, potentially leading to ineffective or incomplete solutions. Overall, investing in a professional energy auditor ensures a comprehensive and reliable evaluation, leading to more impactful energy-saving upgrades for the home.

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