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Homeowners Benefit from Energy Audits

Posted on Thu, Jan 10, 2013

This article is written by Alisa Martin

energy audit diagram resized 600
Image courtesy Energy Audit Institute

Anyone who owns a home will benefit from having an energy audit done. An energy audit is also sometimes required by lenders when the borrower seeks a mortgage discount based on the Energy Star rating of a home. An energy audit will reveal ways that a building is losing energy, and the residents are losing money.

Some parts of an energy audit can be done by the homeowner themselves. Other parts of an energy audit can only be done by professionals with the right equipment.

Do-It-Yourself Energy Audits

Simple energy inspections tasks that can be done by a homeowner include:
• Checking insulation in the attic and under floors: A flashlight and a tape measure are all that are needed for finding out if a house has adequate insulation in these areas. The thickness of the insulation should be measured because it may be inadequate and need upgrading. All areas of the attic and basement should be checked to insure that the insulation is not missing in some areas.
• Checking the furnace and duct work. By starting at the furnace and following each duct, a homeowner can check if ducts are sagging or disconnected and losing energy. The return air filter is also easily checked and should be replaced when dirty for the most efficient furnace operation.
• Homeowners can check the Energy Star rating on appliances like furnace, refrigerator and clothes washer and considering replacing those that have low ratings.

Professional Energy Audits
Professional energy audit inspectors can do a more thorough energy evaluation. An energy audit inspector will look at all of the above items. They will also do a blower door test - something an average homeowner cannot do themselves.
A blower door fan is a machine that is temporarily installed over an exterior door opening. When the fan is turned on, it draws air out of the house and measures the flow of the exiting air. While the fan is running, the inspector checks around doors, windows and vents with a smoke pencil looking for air leaks. The test only takes about an hour and preparing for it involves:
• Opening all interior doors,
• Closing all vents and dampers,
• Turning down thermostats on the water heater and furnace,
• Cleaning out fireplaces so ash does not blow around during the test.
Blower tests will give the inspector information on the airtightness of the dwelling. However, blower door fan tests only give information for the weather conditions that are happening at the time of the test.

PFT Tests
A more sophisticate airtightness test is the perfluorocarbon tracer gas test, or PFT test. In this test, a small instrument emits tiny amounts of perfluorocarbon, a safe and odorless gas. Detectors are placed in other areas of the house that measure the amount of gas that reaches them over time. The devices are left in place for several days, or longer, so that a reading can be done under a variety of weather conditions. This test is more accurate if the house is in an area with extreme climate conditions, such as strong winds.

The Energy Audit Report
A home energy audit inspector will also look at utility bills as a part of the audit. The efficiency of refrigerators, dishwashers and heating and cooling systems is also evaluated, and a written report is issued to the homeowner. The report will explain the findings from the tests, observations about insulation and weather stripping, along with recommendations for correcting the problems. This inspection report can then guide the way for making the appropriate repairs and upgrades to appliances needed for lowering monthly energy bills.

Here's an introductory video on energy audits from the 360Chestnut Archives.


Alisa Martin is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Better Bathrooms focuses on Home Decór and Home Improvement bloggers.