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Use a Professional Energy Audit to Maximize Home Improvements

A home energy audit is the first step for assessing how much energy you use in your home and how you can improve your home’s efficiency . Professional home energy audits will provide you with the most thorough picture of your energy use and the most complete analysis so you can prioritize improvements.

Why a Professional Home Energy Audit?

Of course you can conduct your own walk-through of your home, noting problems such as air leaks, too much humidity or condensation, or hot and cold spots in your rooms. You would also assess heating and cooling equipment with the help of a professional, who could suggest upgrades or replacements. But for the best results, hire a professional auditor with the right equipment and expertise to evaluate your home and conduct key tests. A professional audit could help you realize from 5 to 30 percent in energy savings.

Preparing for an Audit

To prepare for your home energy audit, make a list of problems, including drafts, air leaks, uneven cooling or heating, high humidity, excessive condensation, poor indoor air quality, equipment that short cycles or runs continuously, or unbalanced delivery of conditioned air. Collect your utility bills for the past year. Make notes that will help your auditor assess your home, such as number of hours the home is occupied and by how many people, average thermostat settings and square footage. Then discuss with your auditor the problems you’ve detailed, and be sure you’re in agreement about what the auditor will do.

The Auditor’s Tasks

The inspection of your home will include the exterior as well as the interior, with the auditor measuring wall area, location and number of registers, and the number and size of windows and doors. He or she will be looking for air leaks and inspecting the condition of weatherstripping and caulking around windows, doors, outlets and fixtures. The thermostat type will be noted, as will framing type and the type, location and R-value of existing insulation. The auditor will make note of fireplaces and all appliances operated by combustion, including the water heater, range and dryer. The furnace should be tested for proper combustion and fuel leaks. The water heater’s connections should be checked, as should its insulation.

The auditor will inspect your home from basement to attic, including the kitchen, bathroom and utility room. Ducts and dryer vents will be inspected and vent fans assessed for flow rate. The auditor will use a watt meter to measure energy use for electrical appliances.

The auditor should also do a health and safety inspection, noting and testing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Lighting and wiring should be assessed for safety. An evaluation of indoor air quality may also be included, with problems such as excessive humidity or hazards such as lead-based paint noted.

Testing Home Efficiency

Two tests are generally performed for most home energy audits: a blower door test and a thermographic scan.

In the blower door test, a powerful fan is placed in the frame of one of the home’s exterior doors. Once the fan is turned on, it pulls all the air out of the house and the interior pressure is lowered. Simultaneously, higher outside pressure pushes air through the home’s cracks and crevices. The leaks can then be detected with the use of a smoke pencil.

Thermographic inspection equipment measures surface temperatures by means of still cameras and infrared video, and they’re usually conducted during the blower door test. The cameras show temperature variations that register white where it’s warm and black where it’s cool, so that the auditor can recommend where insulation should go.

When the tests are done, the auditor will complete the report and discuss recommendations for improvements with the homeowner.

For more information on a home energy audit, as well as Kearney and Sons Heating and Air Conditioning’s cooling solutions, give us a call at (757) 269-9589.

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