Homeowner energy audits are great for the basic stuff, but if you really want to know what’s going on in your home energy-wise it’s best to commission a professional energy audit. Chances are what’s found will shock you.
This post takes a deeper look at professional energy audits. The information presented is meant to give homeowners a better understanding of energy audits when working with an Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor to implement change.
The Professional Home Energy Audit
The place to start, of course, is finding someone to do the energy audit. The first thing to do is call the Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor you currently use, if you are using one, and inquire whether service and repair technicians have the proper training and equipment to conduct energy audits.
This is important because assessors must be trained and certified in any number of building inspection and energy assessment protocols, methodologies, and processes. If you’re unsure if the Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor has properly trained and experienced technicians, you can always use a professional energy auditing company.
Cost will vary for a variety of reasons, including the home’s size and architecture, even the competition among Arlington, TX air conditioning contractors and energy auditors in the area.
In general, home energy audits range from a couple hundred bucks to about $500, depending, again, on your home. If you use a regular Arlington, TX air conditioning contractor for service and repair, you may receive a valued-customer discount. In some cases, energy audits may be subsidized by local governments or even utility companies. Call local government utility offices and ask, check websites, send an inquiring email.
The Professional Auditor’s Toolkit
The Department of Energy does not require formal energy auditing certification, at least not yet, but there are two great resources to help homeowners understand energy auditing: Residential Energy Services Network and the Building Performance Institute.
The DOE has been “pushing” its whole-house systems approach to energy efficiency as a methodology that considers:
- the house as an energy system
- with interdependent parts,
- each affecting the performance of the entire system
A part of the DOE’s whole-house systems approach is the Home Energy Score, a national rating system developed by the DOE for you to learn about your home’s energy performance and see how it compares to others in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area and nationwide.
The Home Energy Score provides homeowners with recommendations for energy upgrades as well as an estimate of how these improvements can reduce utility bills and improve your Score. But to have a Home Energy Score assessment done, it must be performed by a professional auditor.
The professional auditor has many more resources on hand than the homeowners do, and this is ultimately what you’re paying for.
- The professional energy auditor starts with the basics, tools that most likely are already in the homeowner’s toolbox such as:
- Telescoping ladder. It’s easy to move around the home and reaches into the attic and other high places.
- Screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrenches. To remove outlet plates, inspect appliances, and anything else that comes up needing removal for inspection.
- Tape measure. 25 feet. For room dimensions and making other measurements.
- Flashlight or portable battery-operated lighting. To see behind appliances and into dark places.
- Digital camera, or the camera on a smart phone. Take pictures to document the home. Helps to snap a pic in a hard-to-reach area to see what’s up.
- Soap bubbles. Use to confirm fuel leaks in combustion appliances.
- Telescoping mirror. To see around corners and in restricted places.
This is the type of equipment that sets apart the professional energy auditor:
- Digital probe thermometer. For testing temperature rise in heating equipment and fan operating temps.
- Draft gauge. For testing chimney drafts.
- Moisture meter. Measures moisture in wood and other materials.
- Infrared camera. Helps determine air leakage.
- Combustion analyzer. Analyze flue gasses in vented combustion appliances and measure flue gas temperature, leaks, and carbon monoxide.
- Blower door test. Large fan that depressurizes the home by sucking the air out. Simulates the effect of a 20 mph wind to allow the auditor to find leaks.
- Gauge that measures the differences in pressure in a home to pinpoint air leakage and test exhaustion devices for proper operation.
- Smoke generator. Produces thin stream of smoke or non-toxic fog to help find air leaks.
- Watt meter. Measures the electrical energy used by various devices throughout the home.
The Auditor’s Checklist
Every professional energy auditor follows a particular protocol or methodology when inspecting and evaluating your home. Some of these include:
- Pre-analysis. The auditor examines the past 12 months of fuel bills to determine energy consumption. It’s handy for you to find this information before an audit, although it’s not always pleasant. If you pay your utility bill online this may be already available and much easier to compile.
- The auditor or service tech talks in depth with homeowners to learn about how the home performs, the comings and goings of the residents, and any heating or cooling issues they face.
- Exterior inspection.This includes HVAC equipment, how it enters or leaves the home, as well as the foundation, doors, windows, eaves.
- Interior inspection. Just like the outside, only from an inside perspective. Particular attention is paid to window and door seals, skylights, chimneys, attics, crawl spaces.
- Electrical assessment for safety.
- Combustion appliance inspection. Particularly important when considering ventilation.
- Health and safety inspection. Includes indoor air quality.
Every professional energy auditor follows a particular protocol or methodology when inspecting and evaluating your home, including the use of comprehensive tools and softwares. When considering what company to hire, discuss what tools will be used and procedures followed.
- Various advanced diagnostic tests pinpoint and quantify energy waste and indoor air quality issues. These can include Blower Door tests, Duct Blaster Tests, air quality monitoring, among others.
- Blower Door. Home tightness test. Determines air infiltration rate for air entering or leaving a building. A properly sealed home will reduce energy consumption due to air leakage, diminish potential condensation problems, avoid climate discomfort because of air leaking in from the outside, and verify air quality is not compromised.
- Did you Know? The average home has enough air leakage to add up to a two-foot-square hole. Energy.gov says that’s like having a medium-sized window wide open the entire day.
- Duct Blaster. Duct efficiency testing. The device is used with a blower door and can measure the tightness of the duct system.
- Air Quality Monitoring. Helps when a home has sensitive needs: people with circulatory, respiratory, or other health concerns, pregnant women, the aged, and children. Monitor is used to track and quantify particulate matter, odors, chemicals, carbon monoxide, relative humidity, and temperature levels in the home.
- Performance Modeling. Companies use various softwares to model performance, but the Department of Energy provides REM/Rate to provide unbiased verification of an analysis and suggested solutions.
Home Energy Score Assessors
If you are interested specifically in a Home Energy Score audit, assessors you would hire from Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas service companies must hold relevant credentials from one of the residential trade organizations.
Organization/Minimum Accepted Credential
- American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)/ASHI Inspector or Certified Inspector
- Building Performance Institute (BPI)/Building Science Principles Certificate of Knowledge
- International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)/Home Energy Inspector
- National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI)/Certified Real Estate Inspector
- National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI)/Green Certified Professional, Certified Remodeler, or Master Certified Remodeler
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE)/Air Conditioning/Heat Pumps, Gas/Oil Heating, or Gas/Oil Hydronics
- Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET)/HERS Rater
Assessors with the necessary credentials must also pass a two-part test in order to access the Home Energy Scoring Tool. The test includes practical and written portions. The practical exam takes place in the Home Energy Score Simulation Training (the Sim), a 3-D simulation environment. Once they have passed the test and are qualified to score homes, new assessors must be accompanied by a “mentor.”
What the Assessor Looks For
When an assessor conducts a walk-through, he or she will collect about 40 pieces of information about your our home’s “envelope” (insulation, windows) as well as its heating, cooling and hot water systems. The data is similar to what other professional auditors collect but instead will be entered into the Home Energy Scoring Tool software.
The software converts the estimate for how much energy will be used for heating, cooling, and hot water into a point on the 10-point scale. This scale accounts for differences in weather conditions by using the zip code to assign the house to one of more than 1,000 weather stations. The software was designed so that Scores for different homes can be compared to one another regardless of where the homes are located or the number of people currently living in those homes.