Home Energy Audits: Measure Your Energy Costs and Add Up the Savings!

Whether you live in a new or old house, a home energy audit can help you discover some surprising ways to save energy — and money.

| December 2011/January 2012

Conserving energy at home is a great idea for many reasons. It cuts down on energy costs, and because most of the energy we use comes from fossil fuels, using less is beneficial for the environment, too.

In many ways, saving energy can be pretty simple. You can find dozens of different ways to conserve — such as turning down your thermostat in the winter, putting a blanket on your water heater or switching to more efficient light bulbs. But most homes are so inefficient that even after you’ve done all the easy home improvements, there are still dozens of ways to save money and energy. How do you identify them all and then decide which to do first?

Unfortunately, the improvements that save you the most energy over time tend to be expensive. Before you spend hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars on home improvements, such as buying a new furnace, installing insulation or putting in new windows, it’s nice to know how much energy they’ll actually save. Just as important, you’ll want to know how long these home energy upgrades will take to pay for themselves and start saving you money.

These questions aren’t just for older homes — new homes often have significant energy problems, says Ken Riead of Hathmore Technologies in Independence, Mo. Riead is a home energy rater (one type of certification for home energy auditors). He trains other energy raters and has been working in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy since the 1970s.

“New houses typically aren’t as solidly constructed as older houses,” Riead says. “New homes can leak more air, causing health and comfort problems, and the quality of the wood and other building components can be poor. Insulation is often very sloppily installed and, in many cases, missing entirely.”

A home energy audit can help, he explains. “Most homeowners aren’t knowledgeable about how to look for these problems, nor how to properly correct them. Unless your home is an Energy Star home or has undergone energy testing, you will likely experience high energy bills and comfort problems, so it is well worth having an energy audit performed,” Riead says.

B Knight
9/30/2012 4:24:24 PM

Very good article. As mentioned up front, a lot can be done as do-it-yourself, before going for a full energy audit. Finding air leaks appears to be the biggest benefit from this audit - with the quickest paybacks. This webpage shows you how to do a home air leak test yourself - Good comments about allowing "some" air leakage. I noticed that my furnace has an eight inch outside air feed directly into it. This helps to reduce drafts from around windows, oven fan, etc.

5/12/2012 5:05:27 PM

Nt one word about a thermal imagining camera. To me, that would tell more than anything.

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