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Five Easy Energy Auditor Hacks - Should You Spend the Money for an Energy Audit?

Performing a home energy audit without proper testing equipment or training is not possible, however every homeowner can follow the simple home energy auditor hacks below to decide if getting a comprehensive home energy audit is worth the investment. 

In fact, going through these five energy auditor hacks will actually help you gain some control over your energy usage and comfort.  

Reviewing these five items around the house will help shape your decision as to whether a home energy audit will be able to provide you with any valuable insights beyond the general recommendation that you need to add insulation and a new HVAC system.

For the more complicated treatment methods and weatherization work, it is best to hire trained professionals so that you only have to make the investment one time. 

Is an Energy Audit worth it?

These statistics, provided by Pepco, show that heating & cooling loads top the charts in terms of energy use.

Understand the Main Targets to Make a Home More Efficient

You do not have to be a certified home energy auditor to figure out if your home is not energy efficient. 

If you are wondering if your home is a good candidate for a comprehensive home energy audit then you can follow the five energy auditor hacks below in to see how your house ranks.

Important Note Before Beginning
Take a look at the simple energy consumption graph.  According to the local power company, average US households consume heating and cooling the most.

Therefore, it is important to find ways to reduce heating and cooling costs if you truly want to achieve an efficient home.

A comprehensive energy audit can uncover great opportunties for improvements, but it is best to go through the hacks below to see if your house is a well-suited for the extra investigative work that comes at a cost.

Do I need an energy audit?

A blower door test is part of a home energy audit & can help pinpoint leaks to the outside in a residential building.

What is A Comprehensive Home Energy Audit?

In order to decide if you need a comprehensive home energy audit, it is helpful to have a specific idea of it's overall function.

According to the EPA Local Residential Energy Efficiency website, existing residential homes typically offer several opportunities for energy efficiency improvement.  

Since each home is unique due to additions, personal touches and different levels of upkeep,  opportunities may differ from home to home, even within the same neighborhood.

The EPA says  "energy audits assess how much energy a home consumes and evaluates measures to make the home more energy efficient".

comprehensive home energy audit

If you are paying your energy bill, yet you are still uncomfortable - a comprehensive energy audit may be right for you.

Hack #1: High Energy Bills & Lack of Comfort

Of all of the instruments and tools on the market to determine temperature, humidity and air speed, hands down the best measurement for comfort is the human body.

Comfort is defined by considering all of the following:

  • Air temperature
  • Humidity levels
  • Air movement
  • Surrounding surface temperatures
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Activities inside the home
  • Personal metabolic rate
  • Clothing

If you are consistently uncomfortable in your home and you are paying your energy bill then suffice to say that is one strong reason to considering getting a comprehensive home energy audit.

House leakage is a sign of needing an energy audit

One quick way to check if you should have a home energy audit is to look up at your rim joist next time you are doing laundry in the basement and look for spider webs. 

Hack #2: Check for Air Infiltration

Pathways for air to communicate between the inside and the outside of the home are considered "air leakage points" and must be on any do it yourself home energy checklist.

Some of the most interesting concepts about how to make a home more energy efficient can be identified by items that are hiding in plain sight! 

A clear cut sign that you should get a home energy audit is if there are a lot of spider webs around the house, especially in areas that are connected to the outside.  One example of where this is usually a problem is at the top of the foundation wall in a basement. 

Another place this might happen is at the ceiling of the closet next to the attic hatch.  

Spiders instinctually create webs where there is air movement. 

If you see a spider web - then you are likely to have found an air leak and you spot a lot of them then you have a leaky house!  Get an energy audit with a blower door test to find all of the places where holes exist. 

Low insulation is cause for an energy audit

If you can see the ceiling joists at the attic floor then it is a safe bet that you need more insulation to have a more energy efficient home.

Hack #3: Assess Insulation Level

I have bad news for you - if you want to decide if you need a comprehensive home energy audit, you will need to pop you head in the attic.

Any home energy audit checklist needs to include consideration of the insulation.

Most older homes are only at 50% of the required R-Value (and sometimes less!). How much do you have in yours?

A very simple way to determine if you should get a home energy audit is to determine what the current R-value is of the insulation you currently have around the house.  You can use this guide to determine what calculations you need to use for measuring R-value.

Here is a list of the general R-values for the different areas around the home that are required to be insulated:

  • Recommended Flat Attic Insulation Level - R49
  • Recommended Sloped Attic Insulation Level - R38
  • Recommended Vertical Wall Insulation Level- R13
  • Recommended Rim Joist insulation Level - R19
  • Recommended Cantilever Insulation Level - R25
  • Recommedned Crawl Ceiling Insulation Level - R25

Insulation resists the flow/transfer of heat and therefore will keep the heat inside during cold seasons and outside in warmer times.  A lack of insulation in the attic is a very good reason to have a comprehensive home energy audit because it will likely yield additional opportunities in other areas where insulation is less than effective.

Signs you need a home energy audit

An example of a knee wall in your attic is a 9’ ceiling in the hallway and the 12’ sloped ceiling in the master bedroom.  The transition creates a wall in the attic and it is a weak point.

Hack #4: Check for Knee Walls

A knee wall is best described as a vertical wall that touches living space on one side and it also touches the "outside" on the other side. 

The difference between a knee wall and an exterior wall is that the knee wall typically has one side to the inside living space and one side to an attic area. 

Insulation is only going to work if it is in good (almost perfect) contact with the surface in which it is meant to insulate.  Unfortunately, due to poor installation, exposure air flow and gravity knee wall insulation is rarely in good contact with the knee wall surface.

If your home has a lot of kneewalls around the home, it is a good idea to have a comprehensive home energy audit.  You can learn about the different types of knee walls here.

Often times, thermal imaging can reveal issues with poorly sealed and insulated kneewall that cannot be accessed otherwise.

Kneewalls, in addition to being notoriously under insulated, are also very leaky and require a trained eye for spotting, measuring and prescribing solutions, so having more kneewalls is cause for a more in-depth investigation.

Home energy audit

Disconnected or loosely insulated ducts, such as this one, are more costly than leaky ducts within your conditioned space.

Hack #5: HVAC Duct Inspection

According to the EPA and other studies, the ducts in your home can be leaky enough to account for up as much as 30% of total energy loss.  

In order to determine if you should get a comprehensive home energy audit, the first question related to this important step is to know where the ducts are located.  Ducts that run through the attic or a crawl space will cost more if leaky.

One easy way to determine the location of your ductwork is to look at where the supply registers are located.  Generally, in the upper most floor of the home, if the registers are in the ceiling, ducts are likely in the attic.  If your ducts are in the floor above a crawlspace, then you know your ducts are running through the outside space and should be evaluated for insulation and leakage.

A comprehensive home energy audit will thoroughly investigate duct insulation levels and leakage and in some cases may perform testing.

Although ducts that are inside the conditioned space of the home are prone to leakage and pressure imbalances that can cause comfort issues, the waste associated with them is not nearly as significant as ducts thare outside of the thermal envelope.  As a result, a comprehensive home energy audit is less needed for the house with ducts inside the "envelope" and more in order for a house with ducts running outside of the "envelope".

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