Performing a Home Energy Audit
If you’ve ever wanted to understand how much energy your home consumes, where it may be losing energy or why a certain room is too cold or too hot, a home energy audit could answer these questions—and more. It’s a good place to start if you want to reduce your energy bill or your “carbon footprint”.
An energy audit is simply an assessment of your home’s energy use. Its outcomes can help you decide what actions to take in order to improve your home’s energy efficiency, comfort, and worth.
Types of Audits
What type of audit is the best for your home and family? Depending on your concerns and what type of upgrades you want to make, you’ll have to decide if you need a basic DIY assessment or an advanced professional audit. There may be rebates available from your utility company, or municipal or provincial governments for professional audits and energy efficiency upgrades.
DIY Home Energy Audit
A do-it-yourself audit can help detect minor issues. Like a professional audit, you’ll complete a walk-through of your entire home to identify small air leaks and drafts, and evaluate the performance of existing insulation and mechanical systems. Use a checklist as you go to keep track of inspected areas and issues that may need to be addressed. Your DIY audit checklist should include locating air leaks, checking insulation, and inspecting cooling and heating equipment. Once your DIY audit is complete, you can seal leaks and/or add insulation as needed.
The big benefit of a DIY approach is it can give good insight into areas of energy waste without incurring the cost associated with hiring a pro—though you may want to hire a professional if you have an unresolved issue.
DIY energy audit: What to look for
Air movement: just by placing a hand or a lit candle in front of a potential point of air leakage can be felt or seen.
Windows: make sure that there are no cracks in window panes, caulking, or weather-stripping.
External doors (including home to garage): air should not be able to escape beneath the door.
Insulation: all insulation levels should meet the required minimum amount. Also check for any gaps or areas where insulation should be but is not present.
Attic: look for holes. Light from the outside should not be coming through the attic ceiling, and if there are dark areas on insulation, that means air and dust is getting through. The attic hatch should not allow air leaks when closed.
Unfinished basement/Crawl space: look for holes. Light should not be penetrating through any walls, cracks, or holes.
Mechanical systems: decide if air filters need to be changed and try to find the efficiency of your system. For different products, this is typically expressed in AFUE (furnaces), SEER, EER, and HSPF (air conditioners and heat pumps), and TE or EF (water heaters).
Ventilation exhausts: all kitchen, bathroom, and clothes driers that exhaust to the outside should close when not in use. Check outside to see if the back-draft flaps move freely and close.
Professional Home Energy Assessment
A professional home energy audit may be the right option if you are interested in a more thorough examination of your home, or are considering multiple energy efficient upgrades. A professional auditor has specialized assessment tools to pinpoint exact needs and can even estimate your projected savings for various home improvements. You can find a certified auditor by contacting your local utility, and you can find out if your utility, or municipal or provincial governments offer any subsidies for the audits and energy efficiency upgrades.
If you’re going to invest in an energy audit, make sure you hire a professional who’s equipped with the technology and tools to give you the most accurate readout. You may find lower-cost auditors, but they may not have the advanced diagnostic tools to maximize your opportunities for savings. The incentive and rebate programs will identify recognized qualified auditors.
Pro audit: What to expect
During the audit, the auditor will do a walk-through of the entire home and perform multiple tests to assess where a home is losing energy.
- Blower door test: detects any air leaks that may be occurring and evaluates the airtightness of a home
- Infrared imaging: finds any air leaks, insulation problems, and possible moisture issues occurring in walls
- Efficiency metering: inspects appliances to confirm that they are working correctly and safely
- Insulation: checks that all insulation levels meet the required minimum amount, and for any gaps or areas where insulation should be
- Attic: looks for holes or light from the outside coming through the ceiling, and for dark areas on the insulation, indicating air and dust is leaking through
- Unfinished basement/Crawl space: looks for holes or light that is penetrating through any walls, cracks, or holes
- Mechanical systems: decides if air filters need to be changed, and tries to find the efficiency of your system
Make sure your auditor plans to use at least some, if not all, of these specialized tools. If not, you may want to find one who will.