This efficiency review can help save money on your utility bills
By Paula Felps
Unlike most major purchases, homes don’t come with an owner’s manual for saving money. “If they did, then people could find a way to make all the different systems in their home work together,” says Damien Flaherty, a BPI energy auditor in St. Louis, Mo., who counsels owners on how an energy audit can save them money.
Instead, most consumers do the best they can to find ways to save money and increase the efficiency of their home’s appliances. But taking a whole-house approach to energy efficiency can save money while at the same time enhancing air quality. One of the best ways to do that is through an energy audit.
Energy efficiency for everyone
“Everybody can benefit from an energy audit,” Flaherty explains. “I’ve done everything from five-year-old tract homes to 100-year-old farmhouses, and in every case, I’ve found areas where they can save money and make their home run more efficiently.”
An energy audit is a comprehensive “top to bottom” assessment of your home. In most cases, in order to qualify for state or federal tax credits and deductions, the audit must be performed by either a BPI or RESNET certified auditor. The test, which can take up to four hours depending upon the size of the home, will look at several of the home’s sub-systems, including:
- Insulation and air sealing
- Foundation, roofing, and framing
- Water heating
- Appliances and lighting
- Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
- Combustion appliance zone
Based on what is found during the series of tests, the auditor will then make recommendations on everything from habits (such as turning off computers and entertainment equipment when not in use) to appliance upgrades to available incentives and rebates.
“They’ll end up with a lot of recommendations,” Flaherty says. “A lot of times it’s a bunch of little things which, one by one, don’t seem to make a big difference. But when put together, they can be very significant.”
Hiring an energy auditor
He adds that an audit can be extremely useful in helping homeowners identify energy-wasting behavior and learning how to correct those habits. It’s important to hire a certified, local auditor because they’ll be familiar with the regulations specific to that area, as well as being aware of local, state and regional incentive programs.
The cost of an energy audit
On average, a professional energy audit will cost between $300 and $800, depending upon the square footage of the home, the number of heating/cooling units, and even the proximity of the energy auditor. Implementing the auditor’s recommendations typically provide a savings of 20 percent or more per year.
“Regardless of whether it’s an old home or a new one, there’s almost always something that can be done to increase efficiency,” Flaherty says. For example, shutting down those computers and gaming stations when they’re not in use can show savings of more than $100 a year.
“People lose a lot of energy through air leaks, too,” he says. “Together, those small leaks can add up to the equivalent of leaving a window open five inches every day. They’re literally throwing money out the window.”