Home energy audits: what to expect and how much they can save you

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a home with solar panels saving money
Home energy audits will show you how to stop losing energy - and start saving money.

Chances are you’re spending too much on your electric bill each month. In fact, your money is probably going right out your window - literally! One of the best ways to reduce your energy bills is by making energy-efficient upgrades around the house, but it can be hard to figure out where to start.

That’s where home energy audits come in. A home energy audit will help you see the big picture of how your whole house uses energy, so you can start transforming it into an energy-efficient home. But are the savings you get from an energy assessment worth the investment you have to make? Let’s find out. 

Home energy audits at a glance:

  • A home energy audit is an inspection of your home that identifies how your home uses energy and how you can improve your overall energy efficiency.
  • Home energy audits can lead to lower electric bills, ensure a lower carbon footprint, increase your home value, and even make your house a safer, healthier, and happier place to live.
  • Professional home energy audits usually cost between $100 and $500 but can cost more depending on the size of your home and the tests that are conducted.
  • A home energy audit can cut your electric costs by up to 30%, but the energy-efficient upgrades require some upfront investment.
  • You can also perform a DIY home energy audit using this checklist if you don’t want to hire a professional.

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    What is a home energy audit?

    A home energy audit, sometimes referred to as a “home energy assessment”, is a whole-house inspection that assesses how your home uses energy. During an energy audit, a professional auditor will complete a walk-through of your entire house and conduct a few tests to find ways for you to improve your home’s energy use. 

    Some of the most common tests completed during a home energy audit include: 

    • Blower door tests to measure air leakages through doorways
    • Thermographic inspections with infrared cameras to find hot and cold spots in your home, and potentially identify sources of air leaks (like around fireplaces or floorboards)
    • Indoor health screenings to look for signs of carbon monoxide and mold
    • HVAC system efficiency test to see if there are air leaks 

    Once the inspection is complete, the auditor will have a better understanding of your home energy consumption so you can determine what energy efficiency upgrades will be most beneficial to you.

    How much do professional home energy audits cost?

    The average homeowner can expect to spend a minimum of $100 to about $500 for an audit, but it can cost upwards of $1,000 depending on the home. 

    Typically, you’ll see that home energy audits are billed on a per-square foot basis with rates that range from $0.10 per square foot to $0.40 per square foot. So, the larger your home, the more expensive an audit will be. 

    The cost may also vary depending on the types of tests that the inspector performs. For instance, a blower test to look for air leaks could increase the price of the audit if it’s not already included in the initial price. 

    DIY home energy audit

    A home energy audit can be expensive, so if it’s not in your budget to hire a professional, you can do the inspection yourself! 

    You won’t have all the same tools and training as a professional auditor, so you might not catch all of the problems they would. But, you can still end up saving a decent chunk on your electricity bill by identifying issues on your own.

    Here are a few key things to keep an eye out for:

    • If there’s anywhere in your home that is noticeably drafty, look for air leaks around windows, doors, floor boards, and outlets; if you identify a leak, caulk or weatherstrip the area
    • Check out insulation in your home. If your attic floor joists are visible, you’ll probably need more insulation; you can also peak behind outlets to see if your walls are properly insulated
    • Change your lightbulbs; switching to LED lightbulbs is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency

    You can download our DIY home energy audit checklist here for a complete list of what to look for to make your home more energy efficient.

    Timing matters! The sooner you get a home energy audit and increase your home’s efficiency - the better. With that in mind, some seasons are better than others for efficiency upgrades, depending on where you live. If you live in the Northeast and you notice your heating costs seem too high, consider an audit and upgrades before the next winter season to maximize your savings. But if you live somewhere like Texas or Arizona, you’ll be better off making your upgrades before the summer heat hits so you can keep your house cooler without spending a fortune!

    How much can you save with a home energy audit?

    If you complete all of the upgrades suggested during your home energy audit, you could end up saving 30% on your electricity bill, meaning your $150 utility bill could drop to $105, just by improving your home’s energy efficiency.

    However, this will take a significant amount of upfront investment. Here are just some of the costs and savings associated with energy-efficient upgrades for the average American home: 

    Improvement Cost 10-year energy savings
    Re-insulating home $2,000 $1,600
    Energy Star refrigerator $1,500 $150
    Energy Star washer and dryer $1,500 $580
    Sealing ductwork $700 $700
    HVAC tune-up $150 $570
    Installing LED light bulbs $100 $3,000
    Caulking windows $50 $700
    Weatherstripping doors $20 $700
    Total $6,020 $8,000

    As you can see, in less than 10 years you will save just as much as you spent on your energy-efficient home improvements! Of course, you should keep in mind that the actual costs and savings you will see depend on your home, the appliances you choose, and the contractors you go with. 

    You also don’t have to make all of these energy-efficiency upgrades all at once, or even at all! For example, if your refrigerator is working just fine and you can’t afford to replace it just to use a little less electricity - don't sweat it. It’s your home, you can make the decision on what energy efficient upgrades are most worth it for you.

    Pro tip: When you are looking to make some of these energy improvements, check to see if your state or utility company offers any energy-efficient rebate programs, like the Mass Save program in Massachusetts.

    Benefits of a home energy audit

    Investing in a home energy audit has many benefits, including:

    • Lower electricity bills - By decreasing the amount of electricity you use from your utility, you end up having to spend less on electricity every year
    • Shrink your carbon footprint - Most utilities get their electricity from fossil fuels - when you use less electricity from the grid, you in turn are using fewer fossil fuels, meaning you’re living a greener, more sustainable lifestyle
    • Healthier and safer home - With a home energy audit, you’ll be able to identify necessary repairs that go beyond just saving energy, like safety issues in your heating and cooling system, or mold and mildew growth that you might have never noticed otherwise
    • Having a more comfortable home - You’ll be aware of things like drafts and insulation issues that you can fix to not only keep your energy usage down but keep the temperatures in your home more stable
    • Increase home value - Upgrading to Energy Star appliances, repairing insulation, and adding other energy-efficient fixtures like new windows or LED light bulbs can increase the value of your home when you’re looking to sell

    Is a home energy audit worth it for you?

    For most homeowners, doing a DIY home energy audit should suffice. You can identify and implement efficiency improvements like changing light bulbs or weather stripping doors to prevent energy losses on your own without having to pay for an inspection.

    However, if you have an older home, you might want to consider hiring a professional. Older homes tend to experience much higher energy losses through things like drafts and are more likely to have issues with mold and air quality than newer homes. If this is the case for you, hiring a professional to conduct tests would be worthwhile.

    You may also want to consider hiring a professional home energy auditor after you buy a home as part of your already-planned home renovations. This way you can identify any problems with air leaks, the HVAC system, or air quality issues right from the get-go, and incorporate them into any projects you were already planning to complete before moving in. 

    Whether you choose the DIY route or opt to call up a professional auditor, you’ll be saving energy and saving money. Plus, you’ll be making your home a safer and healthier place to live. 

    If you want to cut down on your electric bills even more, consider installing home solar panels. Solar panels can completely eliminate your utility bills, all while powering your home with renewable energy. It doesn’t get better than that! 

    Find out how much you can save by switching to solar
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Catherine Lane

    SolarReviews Blog Author

    Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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