An energy audit is performed using a calculator and computer

Like many homeowners, you too are perhaps searching for ways to lower energy consumption. And why not? It’s good for the planet, as well as your pocket. 

Installing energy-efficient solar panels and switching to LEDs generally do make a difference. However, an even better place to explore in pursuit of strategic energy-saving endeavors is energy audits

Don’t know what that is? Don’t fret. We’ve got you covered. In this post, we’ll help you learn everything necessary to know about energy audits.

What Are Energy Audits? 

An energy audit is a systematic and comprehensive analysis of energy consumption and use within a defined energy audit scope that identifies, quantifies, and reports opportunities for enhanced energy performance. Put simply, energy audits tell how energy efficient your property is.

During professional energy audits, you can expect an expert to come in and evaluate your:

  • Lighting
  • Appliances
  • Windows and doors
  • Cooling and heating system
  • Insulation and ductwork 
  • Water heater
  • Indoor air quality 

From there, the energy auditor will suggest how to improve your property’s energy efficiency and lower energy costs. Measures can include:

  • Adding insulation
  • Replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs
  • Upgrading older appliances
  • Replacing inefficient heating and cooling systems
  • Installing new windows or better sealing those existing

The goal of energy audits is to understand a property’s energy flow, process, or system to lower the amount of energy input while improving (or maintaining) your comfort, health, and safety. 

Are Energy Audits Worth Doing?

Energy audits are such a powerful tool because they prevent property owners from wasting their resources addressing the wrong problems. For example, you might think inefficient light bulbs suck most energy in your home, where in fact, the worst energy hog might be the pool pump driving more often than needed.

Additionally, professional energy auditors also have insights and equipment required to identify and fix smaller, unusual issues that you might have never noticed before.

The fridge in your garage, for instance, consumes energy even when empty. Likewise, several other appliances continue sucking power even when not necessary. Such invaluable information can save you significantly on your utility bills.

The plug of an appliance is juxtaposed with stacks of quarters in the background, indicating savings by unplugging devices

If you’re planning to put your property on the market, letting prospects know that you have recently performed an energy audit can make a positive impact on the scale of their offer. Why? Because it shows that you’ve been taking good care of the property.  

Moreover, energy-efficient properties are the most sought-after and comfortable living spaces. Plus, your property’s new owners will probably want to save just as much on energy bills as you. 

Whether you pick the DIY route or decide to call up a professional energy auditor, one thing is certain: you’ll be saving both energy and money while making your property a safer and healthier place to live.

Three Types of Energy Audits 

The level of detail of energy audits is based on their type. Generally, there are three common types of energy audits: 

Walk-Through Audit (WTA) 

As the name indicates, this energy audit features a walk-through inspection of your property to identify operational, maintenance, or deficient equipment problems while also identifying areas that need further evaluation.

Results of WTA 

  • Identification of energy-saving opportunities
  • Qualitative analysis of the implementation of energy-efficient measures 
  • Potential energy saving estimations

The final WTA report generally accompanies basic comments regarding a project’s feasibility.

A man holding an infrared camera while performing a walkthrough energy audit
Infrared cameras are often used in walkthrough energy audits to test airtightness.

Energy Diagnosis

Typically entails performing economic calculations and using metering devices to identify actual energy usage and losses.

Results of Energy Diagnosis 

  • Energy consumption breakdown (also known as an energy balance) 
  • List of energy-efficient opportunities derived from performance or building facilities.  
  • Financial assessment of all identified energy-saving measures to categorize and prioritize implementation 

Investment Grade Audit

Investment grade audits (IGA) provide detailed accounts of energy consumption, including a quantifiable study of the implementation with detailed maintenance, investments, and operational costs. It also comprises a thorough evaluation of the investment model.

Results of Investment Grade Audit (IGA)

  • Energy balance and the actual energy demand
  • List of energy-efficient opportunities, including energy-saving calculation and the investment required to implement them
  • Provide bundled measures, including financing, implementation, and savings verification plans.

Pros and Cons of Energy Audits 

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve outlined both the good as well as the bad aspects of energy audits: 

The Good 

Investing in energy audits can offer a myriad of benefits, including: 

Reduced Energy Costs 

Energy audits can help you reduce energy costs and save money in the long run. Professional energy auditors can uncover ways to improve efficiency, like upgrading heating systems, insulation improvements, and air sealing.

A pressure monitoring device in the foreground attached the rest of the blower door test system behind it
Blower door tests are commonly used in energy audits.

Keep in mind that it’s costlier to cool or heat a property that’s not energy-efficient. Between lack of insulation or air leaks, systems will need to work harder to substitute for the inefficiencies. 

Limited Carbon Footprint

Most utilities receive energy from fossil fuels. When you use less energy from the grid, you’re in turn consuming fewer fossil fuels, meaning you are living a more sustainable and greener lifestyle. 

Professional energy auditors can help cut down energy usage, making this planet a happier, healthier place for everyone.

A Safer & Healthier Property

With professional energy audits, you can identify essential repairs that go beyond energy saving, such as safety issues in your cooling/heating system, or mildew/mold growth which you might have never otherwise noticed.

Increased Property Value

Repairing insulation, upgrading from energy-sucking appliances, and adding energy-efficient fixtures, such as LED light bulbs or new windows, can increase the value of your property when you’re looking to sell. 

The Bad 

Here are some of the leading shortcomings of energy audits: 

Demands Action

Bear in mind, energy audits won’t save any energy, reduce carbon footprint, or shrink energy bills without any action. A professional energy auditor can tell you how to save energy, but only after acting upon their recommendations will you be able to benefit from an energy audit. 

Cost

In several regions, energy audits can be expensive. HomeAdvisor estimates that the average cost for a professional energy audit in 2021 ranges from $207 to $673. 

Risk of Inaccurate Result

The results, readings, or suggested improvements of energy audits aren’t foolproof. Any time somebody tries to interpret data, there’s room for error. While a minuscule risk, there’s still the possibility of inaccurate results, leading to measures that do not make much of a difference.

Limited Useful Life

Energy audits have a limited useful life or “use-by date.” As technologies evolve, the use of facility changes, energy tariffs change, and eventually, the recommendations in energy audits will turn outdated. For this reason, energy audits should be done every three years.

Signs You Should Get An Energy Audit

Still not sure if an energy audit is a good idea? If your answer is “yes” to one or more of the points listed below, it may be time to contact a professional energy auditor in your area: 

  • You suspect there’s an energy problem(s) but can’t identify it
  • You’ve made significant energy improvements but wish to maximize efficiency further
  • You’ve not made any energy enhancements in a while
  • Your energy bills are soaring though there haven’t been any changes in rate or consumption
  • You wish to enhance the energy efficiency of your property but don’t know
  • how

An energy audit is a must if you plan to add a renewable energy system (e.g. solar panels) to your property. Having a holistic view of the overall energy use can help you discern the specifics of the system to ensure a sufficient energy supply.

Final Thoughts

Energy costs aren’t getting cheaper so if you’ve been thinking about getting an energy audit, there’s never been a better time.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), this year, electricity rates will increase by 2.2% after a drop in 2020. The only way to counterbalance the increase is to utilize less energy, switch to an energy plan with a better rate, or both.

We don’t have control over the energy rates fixed by suppliers, but we control which supplier to choose and the amount of energy consumed. So for that reason alone, a professional energy audit is suggested for most property owners in 2021 and beyond.

With the help of an audit, you can begin making trivial changes in your property that’ll improve the comfort level while saving energy and lowering environmental impact. 

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