HVAC Q&A: What’s a Home Energy Audit and How Can It Save Me Money?

This is the first of a new series we’re offering on HVAC.com. We’re taking your questions and answering themhere on our blog, so homeowners just like you can have the inside scoop! Today, we are dealing with a question from Jonathan in Nebraska. Like many others, he is curious about the benefits of home energy audits. He writes:

“I’ve been hearing a lot about home energy audits and how they can save energy and save you money. What exactly are they? Do I need one?”

Home energy audits help you assess the efficiency of your home. By reviewing the interior and exterior of your home you can evaluate your home’s energy efficiency and determine where you can find energy savings.

Like with many projects around the house, your budget will dictate who performs your home energy audit. Depending on how much time and money you want to spend, you can either hire an HVAC professional who is energy audit certified or perform a DIY home energy audit.

Do-it-yourself home energy audit instructions

If you cannot afford the $500 to $800 that most homeowners spend on a home energy audit, you can perform a home test to locate some of your home’s inefficiencies on your own.

The first DIY home energy audit step is to review your energy bills.

Energy Star has a simple and useful tool, called the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick, that helps you compare your energy bills to similar homes across the country. If your bills are considerably higher than similar homes or they have been steadily increasing, you may have a problem.

Walk through your home and ensure that your doors and windows are free of any drafts.

Poor insulation and gaps in your windows and doors let indoor air escape and outdoor air in, costing you money.

Caulk and seal any drafty windows or doors.

This is one of the easiest things you can do to save energy and money!

Hiring a professional to complete an energy audit

For more thorough recommendations about how to save energy in your home, call a professional home energy auditor. Before you start searching the internet for professionals, call your utility company and research your local energy programs. Some utility companies and localities offer reduced-rate or free energy audits. If you can’t find one through your utility company, use our Find a Contractor tool on HVAC.com.

What to expect during a professional audit

Once you find a professional, there are several things you should expect during your two to three hour home energy audit.

First, your professional will walk the exterior of the home searching for leaks or broken seals and assessing your outdoor HVAC units, window location and plants or trees that affect your home’s energy use.

Next, your professional will inspect the inside of your home. Here, your HVAC pro will be looking to make sure that things like insulation, window seals, ventilation ducts and all other parts of your HVAC system are free of problems and running efficiently. As a part of the internal inspection, your professional should conduct two important tests: the blower door test and an infrared or thermographic test.

  • The blower door test is used to measure the airflow leakages in your home. Your audit professional will attach a blower door to your front door and blow air out of your home until it has reached a standard pressure. He will then measure the air flowing back in through the blower door and other cracks in your home, establishing where potential problem areas are.
  • Infrared scans, also called thermographic scans, are another tool energy auditors use to assess how much air your home is leaking. Often times, this test is performed during the blower door test to maximize the opportunities for finding leaks. Your professional will use an infrared scanner to determine whether or not the insulation in your home is effective and if not, where additional insulation is needed.

Saving money with your results

Once your auditor has finished, you will receive a report with the findings of your home energy audit. This report will include steps you can take to increase the efficiency of your home. This is where the energy savings is recognized.

In order to take advantage of your energy audit, take the recommendations of your energy audit professional seriously. Implement as many of the recommendations as you can, and I promise that your investment will pay off.

Have you had a home energy audit? Do you need more help understanding your auditors recommendations? Do you have any more questions about home energy audits? Share your experiences and questions in the comments below!