Home Energy Assessment
If you begin an exercise regime to improve your health, your trainer may have you complete a fitness test on the first day. This test is done to provide a starting point benchmark, so that you can see how far you've come at the program's end. The same idea applies to improving the energy efficiency of your home -- it can be very useful to know your home's starting point.
Energy assessments provide a starting point for improvement
In the energy world, the starting point fitness test is called a home energy assessment or audit. The energy audit examines the energy efficiency of your house before any changes are made. It can help you decide what needs fixing, what needs upgrading, and what needs replacement. It will identify simple, low-cost steps that you can take immediately, like weather-stripping your doors, as well as larger, more expensive projects like air sealing or insulation that will save you money in the long run. Most people also request a follow-up inspection after renovation work has been done to compare their home's energy performance before and after.
At minimum, a trained energy assessor will perform several tasks:
- A review of energy bills to identify basic usage and identify opportunities for savings
- A blower door test to determine air leakage rates (photo of air blower test on this page somewhere!)
- Infrared camera scans of your home’s walls, attic, and foundation to assess insulation levels and locate any possible air leak sources
- Efficiency and safety testing for combustion appliances like furnaces, boilers, gas fireplaces, and water heaters to ensure that they are operating properly and not contributing to indoor air concerns
- A visual inspection of the attic, walls, crawlspace, foundation, basement, windows, doors, and roof for any problems
You can contact your gas or electric utility company to arrange for an energy assessment that includes the full range of testing listed above. More comprehensive assessments, which may be necessary in the case of new construction or major remodel, are available from private contractors specializing in comprehensive home performance reviews. For a few hundred dollars of investment, you will gain many years of increased comfort and safety, and decreased energy use and environmental risk. To learn about ways of financing an energy assessment, see our more detailed Financial Assistance page on the topic.
Good times to inquire about assessment include before major repairs, replacements, or remodels. It can also be an asset when buying or selling a home. Typically, assessments cost between $100 and a few hundred dollars.