Every House Needs an Energy Audit
Inspecting a house for inefficiencies is the first step toward optimized comfort and minimized utility costs.
Magazine extra: Follow John Jennings, an energy auditor at the firm Steven Winter Associates, while he makes recommendations on how to insulate a new shed dormer in an old home, where to insulate a garage workshop for the most impact, how to find wall-cavity R-values easily, and whether or not you really need to replace your old boiler.
In the bill from her gas company, Leslie MacKensie of Minneapolis learned that she could have a free energy audit performed on her house, so she made an appointment. After assessing the 1915 bungalow, the auditors showed her air leaks and other problems that resulted in a monthly bill of $110. The auditors left her with weatherstripping and foam-insulation pads to install, along with a list of other needed improvements.
Chipping away at the list has had dramatic results. Even after she expanded her home with a small addition, her current gas bill averages $80 a month. “Almost as important,” she says, “is that now our home is really comfortable to live in all year round.”
Home-energy auditing-the process of diagnosing and recommending improvements to reduce a house’s energy consumption—is not a new idea, but the reasons to get an audit are more pressing as concerns about costs, comfort, personal health, and the environment loom large.
Along with free or reduced-cost audits offered by utility companies, an increasing number of private companies perform audits. And while an old leaky house might be the obvious choice for an energy-waste diagnosis, new houses can benefit, too. The results can be an excellent marketing tool for builders and can help homebuyers qualify for an energy-efficient mortgage, which uses energy-cost savings to lower debt-to-income ratios.
The most important thing to note about energy audits, however, is that they don’t save money or energy. Implementing the recommended improvements…