“Audit” is not a word that conjures up positive feelings of excitement and optimism. And, while tax audits aren’t typically any fun at all, there’s another kind of audit that can be quite satisfying and end up saving you money: an energy audit.
All the phrase “energy audit” means is taking a detailed, strategic, and informed look at all the ways your household uses and loses energy: through appliance usage, energy leakage, unnecessary energy expenditures, and water usage. Such a detailed look can highlight the best and most effective ways to make your home—and your lifestyle—energy-efficient. An audit highlights the places where small changes might mean big impacts. Let’s take a closer look:
DIY Energy Audits
The first step in an energy audit involves simply being aware of the big issues: keeping heated and cooled air (what older generations referred to as “the bought air”) inside the home, and using less water, energy, and light consumption without affecting your quality of life. And, it’s worth doing, since you can lower energy bills by 5% to 30% annually, according to the Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
You can conduct an energy audit yourself—walking through your own home to assess it for energy or water leakages. Some require very little knowledge of construction or engineering, and some ask you to be fairly savvy at identifying building components. You might also need to be comfortable with going into crawlspaces, and coordinated enough to examine your chimney and roof.
The Department of Energy offers an excellent place to start with its guide to do-it-yourself home energy audits. Their suggestions help you locate air leaks, check for insulation issues, inspect your heating and cooling equipment, and offer tips on lighting, appliances, and electronics. If you want to delve deeper, both the HouseLogic website (run by the National Associate of Realtors) and This Old House offer helpful, descriptive, and clear instructions on ways to assess your own house. If you’re more ambitious in your DIY skills, then Energy Star, Energy Savvy, and Home Energy Saver all offer online assessment tools that guide you through an increasingly technical look at your home.
The Professional Energy Audit
The most comprehensive energy audit, though, is one conducted by professionals. These are certified experts who know exactly what to look for, how to measure it, and have specialized tools and equipment to help them measure extremely fine details on your home’s energy and water usage.
The best way to find a professional energy auditor is through the Energy Star website or through RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network). Energy Star is the certification you’re probably used to seeing on your appliances: It’s a program of the Environmental Protection Agency that works toward a more energy-efficient future. Both these resources will link you up with professional contractors who are knowledgeable and certified to conduct energy audits.
The auditor will want access to all areas of your living space. They will also do what’s called a blower door test: they’ll blow air through your house and measure how fast it leaks out. It’s also helpful if you prepare a list of issues you have noticed or concerns you may have noted; since that knowledge can help an auditor make an assessment as detailed and effective as possible.
After the audit, the auditor will provide you with a report detailing how your house uses energy and water, and the improvements you can make to have the biggest impact. This valuable information will arm you with a way to decrease your carbon footprint in a tangible way—not to mention save you money while doing it.
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