Home energy audits: what to expect and how much they can save you
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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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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!
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|
|Energy Star refrigerator||$1,500||$150|
|Energy Star washer and dryer||$1,500||$580|
|Installing LED light bulbs||$100||$3,000|
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.
Investing in a home energy audit has many benefits, including:
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!