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.
Financial Incentives for Insulation
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.
Key Checklist for Inspecting Insulation Jobs
The Key Checklist For Inspecting Insulation Jobs is a useful information source for determining whether the insulation in walls, ceilings and floors are properly installed. It can be used by new home purchasers prior to delivery inspection or homeowners looking to ensure proper installation by contractors on major home renovations.
- Cavity Fill. The batts or loose-fill should fill all standard and narrow cavities completely: no gaps at the top or bottom.
- Electrical Wiring. Insulation should be split or cut to fit around wiring.
- Electrical Boxes. Batts should be cut to fit around electrical boxes with a piece placed behind each box.
- Plumbing. Insulation should be placed between the outside wall and the pipes.
- R-value. The R-value should be marked visibly on the insulation, and should face the interior for inspection. The R-value should meet or exceed the minimum code requirements.
- Fitting. Batts should friction fit snugly in the cavity, and not be overly compressed.
- Vapour Barrier Placement. It should be as continuous as possible and installed towards the “warm in winter” living area except in extremely humid areas.
- Vapour Barrier Materials. Install continuous vapour barrier per the building code. Appropriate vapour retarder materials include continuous polyethylene materials having a water vapour permeance of max 60 ng/pa sm2 (1.04 US Perm) as defined by the code.
- Bay Window. The outside wall, extended floor, and ceiling should be insulated.
- Window and Door Areas. Spaces around windows and doors should be filled with insulation and sealed with an air barrier material to prevent air leakage around openings.
- Band Joists. Install batt insulation with a vapour barrier in band joists.
- Cantilevered Floors. These should be insulated at the floor Rvalue requirements.
- Attic Openings. The attic opening should be insulated with insulated covers or a piece of batt insulation at the same R-value as the attic requirements and secured in place.
- Attic Cards. A completed attic card must be installed in the attic as required by the CAN ULC S702.
- Attic Rulers. When blown insulation is used, it is good practice to install attic rulers, one for every 300 square feet of attic area. The installed thickness of blown or poured insulation should not be less than the minumum settled thickness of the attic card.
- Eave Baffles. Baffles must be installed on eaves with vents to ensure minimum required ventilation per code.
- Knee Walls. Knee walls should be insulated at wall R-value requirements.
- Air Infiltration. All insulation requires proper air sealing or the installation of a rated air barrier. All air paths should be sealed using caulk, tape, air barriers, or other sealing measures.
- Wet-Installed Insulation. Any insulation installed with water should be thoroughly dried before covering with gypsum board. Humid climates may require longer drying times.
- Combustible Sources. Keep all insulation at least 3 inches away from combustible sources such as chimneys, non-IC fixtures, and heated flue pipes.
- Unheated Rooms. The walls, ceilings, and floors between living space and unheated areas must be insulated. All areas separating a conditioned space from an unconditioned space MUST be insulated to the minimum requirements in the applicable building code.
- Shower/Tub Enclosures. Insulation must be installed between tub enclosures and outside walls.
- Wet Insulation. Incidental wetting during installation is not usually a problem. Fibre glass or mineral wool batt insulation wetted with clean water can usually be dried and reused. All saturated loose-fill insulation should be replaced.
*This checklist is intended to provide useful guidance on how to improve the quality of installation of insulation products. Use of this guide does not ensure or guarantee compliance with building codes, acceptance by building inspectors, or compliance with any other type of governmental or building requirements. Use of these guidelines does not guarantee any specific level of energy savings or dollar savings. Use of this guidance does not guarantee that mistakes have not been made in the installation process. NAIMA Canada encourages consultation with individual manufacturer’s guidance on proper installation of their specific products.*