Last Updated on December 18, 2019
Have you gotten a home energy audit yet? No idea what one is or why you’d want one? When you hear about the fantastic advantages of getting an energy audit done on your home, you’ll be eager to get one — I promise!
I know, the word “audit” doesn’t have the best connotations… But unlike the scary kind done by the IRS, a professional energy audit of your house is a completely positive experience that will likely save you thousands of dollars in the years you live in your home.
I’ve had two, and they’ve paid for themselves many times over. Plus they are an incredibly educational experience — you’ll be amazed by how much you learn about the way your house works.
What is an energy audit?
When a professional energy auditor comes to your home, he or she does a thorough inspection of your house, looking at insulation where it’s visible, evaluating how well-sealed your house is, where it’s wasting electricity, and so on.
They’ll walk all over the house with you to look at windows, doors, and other places you may be leaking heat. They’ll check over the last year’s energy bills to help get a sense of how your family is using energy and where you might have opportunities to save.
Most audits include a useful diagnostic called a blower door test, using a high-power fan to suck air through your house in order to measure how well sealed it is. It also allows the auditor to go around the house with you to find places you can feel cold air coming in so they can seal them up.
During our blower door test, the auditor had us put our hands in front of some of our outlets. It turns out 20% of heat loss from your home is through the electrical outlets.
We learned that even though I knew enough to install foam sealers behind all our outlet plates, that cold air was making its way in through the outlets themselves. Live and learn.
The auditor told us to get some of those plug covers you get when you’re babyproofing, even though at the time we didn’t have any kids. Presto! Two dollars later, we were already better sealed against the subzero temps of Minnesota winters, as well as from the heat of summer.
If the temperature difference is enough, an auditor can also perform a complete infrared scan of the house. I *highly recommend* getting the infrared scan, even if it costs a bit more.
An infrared scan takes all the guesswork out of finding places that need sealing or more insulation, showing you where frigid winter air is getting into your cozy home. The auditor will give you a document with infrared images of every wall in your home, which can be a vital tool for remedying all those cold spots around the house. Here are some they found during our audit:
We had had insulation blown in before our infrared test, and when the auditor scanned our walls he found numerous spots the insulation hadn’t reached, shown in dark blue and purple above. I sent the scans to the insulation company, who explained that quirky old houses like ours sometimes have barriers that prevent insulation from reaching certain spots, especially above windows.
Armed with the infrared scans, they came back and filled in the places they’d missed. We’d have never known without the infrared images of cold spots like those.
The sooner you get a home energy audit, the sooner you can stop wasting energy and money on heat. Why would you want to pay more to pollute?
While you’re waiting for your audit, you can save quite a bit with these ridiculously simple energy saving tips.
Related: Green living often costs less than wasting. Learn how to Go Green to Save Money and the Planet!
How Do I Get an Energy Audit?
Many utility companies offer deeply discounted energy audits, so start by calling yours to see if they have a program for homeowners. You’ll often find promotions where the auditing team will not only complete a thorough examination of your home, they’ll seal up the leaks they find, replace inefficient lightbulbs with free energy efficient LEDS, add aerators to faucets and showers if you want them, and possibly set you up with a free programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one. Our utility contracts with a local nonprofit that sends out auditors in our area.
All those freebies and labor we got with our home energy audits easily paid back the minimal investment to get the audit done. And then what we did to improve building efficiency following their recommendations saves us hundreds every year we’re in our home.
Our utility subsidizes the cost of home energy audits. Currently, they’re doing energy audits with an infrared scan for only $50, which is an amazing deal considering that they will give you much more than $50 worth on energy-saving supplies like aerators and lightbulbs. Our audits have paid for themselves and then some!
If your utility doesn’t subsidize an energy audit, you can hire an energy auditor yourself through the Residential Energy Service Network. The full price may be more in the neighborhood of $300, but even if they don’t make any upgrades for you, following their recommendations will easily help you recoup your investment in heating and cooling very quickly. And then for as long as you’re in your home, you’ll be enjoying the savings year in, year out, with no extra work on your part.
Related: How to Save Energy & Cash
Saving Big with Green Upgrades
The simple fixes we did to make our home more energy efficient have now paid for themselves many times over, and our home is also far more comfortable and cozy in winter, as well as cooler in summer. When we moved in, our heating bills sometimes topped $400 even though we kept our house at 60 degrees or lower most of the time. Once we had kids, we started keeping it quite a bit warmer, but we’ve rarely seen a bill over $150, even when winter temps stay below zero for weeks on end.
All that savings has allowed us to invest in other green upgrades that are likewise paying for themselves — and then paying us in perpetuity.
We installed a geothermal system, which heats and cools our home far more efficiently than conventional furnaces and air conditioners, so the system saves us big on heating and cooling all year round.
Two years ago we added a home solar system that covers about 60% of our electricity needs (we buy the balance at a discount from a community solar garden). Those panels will soon pay for themselves as well, and after that we’ll be pocketing hundreds of dollars per year that we don’t have to pay in electricity.
Related: Green Remodeling Tips
All that saved cash can go to another money-saving green investment: a super fuel efficient car that runs on electricity so we can zip around town without polluting the atmosphere.
Our home and ecological landscaping are already climate-positive, and soon our car will be as well. It’s surprisingly easy (and affordable) to live carbon free. In fact, you’re paying more to add carbon to the atmosphere. In addition to sealing up your home to cut waste on energy, finding ways to head toward zero waste in other areas of your life will also save you money while cutting your ecological footprint.
Carbon-free living is something we can all be working toward right now, and it’s become waaay easier in the last few years. Start your money-saving journey toward a carbon neutral home with an easy home energy audit and stop throwing your money out the window.
Have you had an energy audit? If not, I hope you’re planning to schedule one soon!
Pin to save this info on a home energy audit for later!
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.