Home Energy Audits: Clues to Comfort and Savings

What’s the ROI of a home energy audit? It’s about saving money and the planet. For many homeowners, it’s also about making an older home live as comfortably as today’s most energy-efficient homes.

Home energy audits are designed to analyze how your home is using – and losing – energy. The results of analyzing home energy can make a huge difference in your monthly energy bills. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that homeowners can enjoy savings that total $4-7 for every $1 invested in a home energy improvement project. This pay-back over the lifetime of energy improvement projects is nothing to sneeze at, but cutting those heating and cooling bills is just one reason to invest in a home energy audit. Here are two more: comfort and health.

Home energy audits help fix hot spots and drafty rooms
In many older homes, indoor temperature can fluctuate by 10 or more degrees from room to room. This can cause unpleasant hot or cold spots that can make certain rooms of the house uncomfortable.

One winter, for example, a couple bought a home because they fell in love with a beautiful upstairs bedroom perfect for the wife’s home office. All winter and early spring she was ecstatic about working in her bright, sunny space. But as summer came on, the office heated up. No matter how low they set the air conditioning in the rest of the house, the room remained unbearably warm and the wife ended up having to move her office down to a dark, basement bedroom.

A home energy audit can identify what’s causing these uneven temperatures and suggest often simple ways to fix them. In the case of the upstairs office, the problem turned out to be with the insulation in the attic just above the room: in the course of a wiring project done by the previous owners, the insulation had been removed and not properly replaced. In addition, the duct to the room had come unsealed so that much of the air intended for the room was actually going into the attic instead of venting into the room. After these minor problems were repaired, the office – and all that bright, sunny living space – was no longer off-limits.

Home energy audits can identify similarly simple fixes for curing cold, drafty rooms. If you have a room that’s uncomfortably chilly, the obvious culprit may be the windows and doors. But before you consider replacing them, you might want to ask a home energy auditor to take a look. Professionals caution that even the highest-efficiency windows and doors will not deliver the expected savings – or comfort – unless they’re properly installed and sealed. In fact, simply re-caulking and adding new weather-stripping to existing windows and doors may go a long way toward sealing out drafts and evening out temperatures from room to room.

Home energy audits also focus on healthier indoor air
In addition to showing you where energy is being lost, a home energy audit can show you how to improve indoor air quality. For example, if droplets of moisture collect on the inside of your windows, there’s too much humidity inside your home. This can create a perfect environment for mold and mildew to thrive and unpleasant odors to linger in your home. Too much humidity can also cause maintenance nightmares – like peeling paint. On the other side of the coin, if your family suffers from itchy skin, nose bleeds or frequent colds, the humidity may be too low. Allergy and asthma symptoms can also be made worse by poor indoor air quality.

A home energy audit can help identify problems with air flow, humidity and other indoor air quality. For example, a home energy inspector may find that the source of excess humidity lies in a crawlspace under your home that lacks a proper moisture barrier.

What to expect from your home energy audit
Professional home energy auditors use equipment such as blower doors and infra-red cameras to gather data about energy levels and flow throughout your home. They examine the “building envelope” of your home – the outer shell that includes walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows and skylights and how they are installed and how well they’re working together and how they work with the geographic orientation of your house. In addition, they assess the condition and efficiency of your thermostats, vents and ductwork, and your heating and cooling system. At the end of the inspection, homeowners typically receive a written report that sums up the findings and offers recommendations for making improvements to save energy and improve the comfort and air quality of your home.

Make the most of the findings
Your home energy audit report will probably include numerous energy-saving projects. To prioritize which projects will make the biggest difference, define your own “comfort” priorities. For example, is it a higher priority to address indoor air quality or home energy costs first? Next, ask your home energy auditor to help you match costs against potential ROI. Adding attic insulation and re-caulking existing windows and doors, for instance, may come close to the energy savings and comfort you’d realize from installing new windows and doors – at a much lower cost. If you’d like to find out more about home energy audits or any of the other home remodeling services we provide, just give us a call!

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