What Can an Energy Auditor do for you?

Ostensibly, energy auditors are testing for and detailing ways you can save energy in your home; but the testing process and the audit results help you not only determine a priority list for your most effective ways to save energy, but also outlines the means for you to be more comfortable, with all your family members breathing more healthy air.

The key factors that control your use of energy in your home also are critical contributors to your comfort and your health. We talk about key factors here. 

They can also help you deal with safety issues that you might not associate with energy issues at all, but are critical to your comfort and safety… we will blend those in as we proceed.

Money is valuable . You don't like to waste it.

Any purchase you make for an energy saving product should fit into a comprehensive home performance plan for you house. This statement, I hope, will make more sense, and have more import to you after you read through this page… I drop this tidbit here, because there are so many ways that BS slips into the information stream you need. We have a tendency being human to be attracted to freebies and bargains. Sharpies can take advantage by offering portions of quality services- corner cutting enterprises and solutions that fit our preconceived notions. Be patient here and as you gain perspective on the fundamentals, you can avoid BS, be aware of faulty conventional wisdom, and skip the greenwash- all options that will not provide a return on your investment. Here are notes on what you don’t want to buy here. 

Please be picky about whom you accept as an energy auditor or energy rater.

Two certification organizations stand out in this profession and you need to chose your expert from among them. Here are some notes on understanding the jargon of energy efficiency. It also intends to help making sense of the certifications you see in the market place.   

An energy audit, an energy survey comes in a form useful to you

The nice part is you can get as much help as you want at each level of analysis. Only as much as you need to decide what your next step is- what makes the most sense for you.

Your own situation and your conversation with an energy auditor will determine what level of service you get. You might be wanting help with something very specific, a problem with an overbearing  bonus room maybe  and the energy auditor will encourage you to also take a wider look at your home… see notes on seeing your home as a system; but the conversation you have with the energy expert will revolve around your wants and wishes.

You do want at least a subset of a fundamental repair not just some treating of symptoms. You need to know what is happening and why.

The first level of energy audit is a consultation and a home energy survey that does not involve diagnosis with testing equipment. It is, instead, a visual inspection- maybe simple testing at the surveyor’s discretion, and an assessment based on the training and experience of the professional. The theory here, is that there is not that much new under the sun, that what can be viewed- that what can be discovered by visual inspection and simple testing, can give you an effective overview and perspective, on the challenges and opportunities with your home.

This overview would cover

  • general building features – windows, doors, insulation, ducts – age of the home
  • HVAC  equipment type, characteristics and ages of the components
  • Inventory and report on your appliances
  • report on your lighting fixtures and lighting design
  • You will be asked about any comfort complaints
  • He or she will look for evidence of visible moisture issues

You will get a report on health and safety issues. How your home uses energy also impacts on health issues and combustion issues. The report will discuss potential issues with backdrafting and issues with combustion devices if you have them. More on this subject later.

A brief interlude

Your home is a system and should be looked at as system where- if you change one component- it can impact the other components of your home. Some of these impacts are good. Some of them can be problematic. We talk about seeing your home as a system here. This subject will come up again because it is so important yet so often ignored by specialized service contractors.

What you really need- eventually- is a building performance audit

A building performance audit provides you a a report on the condition of your home based on testing and analysis through building science. The next level of service is the complete Building Performance Audit

A Building Performance Audit includes all of the inspections provided in the Home Energy Survey but also includes diagnostic testing using specialized equipment which we will describe in detail in the coming links.

Using this array of tools, the audit can tell you

The volume of and location of air leaks in your building envelope.

The building envelope is the boundary between conditioned and unconditioned spaces in your house. It has two key components: the air barrier and the insulation and to assess these, the auditor needs physical testing as well as visual inspection. Details of the testing and inspection processes are  here. We introduce blower door testing and  thermography here.

The amount of leakage from HVAC return air and supply ducting.

Ducting issues are a big source of problems in homes. Ducts leak, poorly insulated ducts carrying your cool conditioned air through hot attics, poor air balance, return air issues….  We don’t really know what is happening with the central air ducts until we have a thorough visual inspection and do some actual air testing. We go into the details of assessing HVAC ducts here.

We will briefly mention thermography here.

Thermography is a powerful tool which allows the operator to detect  minute changes in temperature on walls, floors and ceiling surfaces. Thermography can help detect  how well air ducts are working in spaces that are not as conducive to physical inspection.  Clear gradients in levels of radiation at boundaries detectable by the thermal scan  mean something on the surface of the component is allowing a thermal gradient and these are related to possible insulation issues, moisture issues and/or air leakage issues. Not all inspectors use thermography and in fact, thermography can be abused as a sales tool; but as times move forward, thermography will become a more used tool.  We go into the details of thermography here.

Energy Auditors using blower doors and air pressure measuring equipment and duct testing equipment create real data that will be blended with information  from careful observation to move well beyond educated guessing about your home. The combination of testing, observable data and modeling software  can be used to give you a clear and useful picture of the condition of your home and how it uses energy.

The energy auditor will also use tools for combustion analysis where necessary-

Does your home have combustion appliances in it? You need to be sure you are safe from CO- carbon monoxide- as a result of potential situations where your home can be under negative pressure and not allow combustion devices to evacuate combustion gases properly. We discuss combustion issues at length here. Combustion issues can make you sick. Combustion issues in homes can kill.

Your energy auditor will also help you find any potential issues with water leaks, moisture and condensation.

These 3 forms of water destroy more property than about anything else. Billions and billions of dollars worth each year. Humidity is bad but the real impact starts when it finds a cold surface to condense on. All these issues then come across the perview of the energy auditor- who understands that moisture is the nemesis of reliable structures and energy efficiency homes.  Now your energy auditor might be more modest that I and chafe a bit with me building him up as a property inspector. We also know some good property inspectors. If you have concerns about actual leaking water, we start that conversation here. 

What does your home performance audit provide for you?

You get a detailed report.

As part of the audit you will get a whole-house evaluation and a computer software analysis that identifies and prioritizes recommended projects for improvement. The detailed report provides retrofit recommendations and specifications for you to hire qualified contractors to perform the recommended projects. This analysis can take 3 or 4 hours depending on the size of the homestead.

Home energy audits are not free, but you can get help paying for one. You need to watch out for free though. Lets look at the issue of paying for energy audits. There are things to be aware of, and there are energy evaluations to avoid. Lets look into the details. here. 

This report is essential to understanding the priority of issues in your unique house so that you know where you can most effectively invest money and conversely, understand what kinds of options are a clear waste of money.  We talk about picking through what makes sense for you here. 

Now we will talk about the the HERS index.

The HERS index is specific to RESNET energy raters and this can be used for a variety of special purposes including qualitfying  for an energy effcciency mortage where ou can get the income to invest in energy savings and pay for it from the monthly savings. This  is an  essential conversation and we have that here.

Any questions? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

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