Habitation Solutions

Attaining a Successful Energy Audit

I am a freelance architect who conducts residential energy audits.  I conduct these energy audits because of an interest in energy efficiency and a desire to grow a business that offers customers a wide variety of services in sustainability, green architecture, and energy-efficiency.

A residential energy audit consists of a visual inspection and, sometimes, diagnostic testing (blower door testing and
) of a home.  The visual inspection consists of inspecting insulation, windows, mechanical systems, lighting, appliances, and other miscellaneous items.  Customers are asked for their Xcel (Electric and gas) bills so the amount of energy being used can be ascertained.  Customers are welcomed to be present during the audit.  When customers are present, I make comments and recommendations; the audit is meant to be interactive, informative, and educational.  When the audit is completed, an audit report is prepared for the customer.  The audit report is a summary of the findings of the audit.  Recommendations regarding how to fix energy-efficiency problems are included in the audit report.

Residential energy audit customers are extremely varied.  Some customers are very interested in the audit process.  They follow me around the house, ask questions, take notes, and provide me all of the information I request.  These customers learn a lot about energy-efficiency, how their house functions with respect to energy usage, and how to save energy.

Other customers are not as engaged in the energy audit.  They tell me to collect the information while unaccompanied, do not get me the information I request (Xcel bills), and, quite often, ask me to mail the audit report to them rather than have me present the report to them in person.  This group of customers do not get as much out of the audit as the first group of customers I described.

I offer three types of residential energy audits—a Standard Audit, a Blower Door Audit, and an Infrared Audit.  A Standard Audit consists of a visual inspection of the house and includes features listed above.

A Blower door audit includes everything in a standard Audit, plus there is a Blower Door test.  A blower door test determines the air-leakage of the home.  The results of a blower door test are measured as air-changes per hour (ACH).  The determination of ACH of a home is a really good way to determine how large of a problem the air-leakage is.  A good or bad ACH number helps an energy auditor determine the amount of air-sealing that is needed.

An Infrared Audit test includes everything in a Standard Audit and a Blower Door Audit, plus infrared scanning is conducted.  Infrared scanning gives an energy auditor, and the customer, a good idea how well insulated a home is.  Looking at the home through an infrared camera shows, very graphically, how warm or cold the surfaces of the home are. The temperature of the walls, ceilings, etc., shows how much, or little, insulation is in the wall.  One can, then, determine where more insulation is needed.

My customers vary greatly in their selection of the different types of audits.  Roughly, the same number of customers selects the Standard Audit as the Infrared Audit, and about 5% of my customers select a Blower Door Audit.

Customers who select the Infrared Audit receive a much better energy-efficiency assessment of their home than the customers who select the Standard Audit.  Infrared scanning gives the auditor more information to make an assessment of how well insulated the house is.  A better assessment of the amount of insulation in the home results in a better recommendation to fix a poorly insulated home.

In conclusion, the more involved customers are with the auditing process and the more cooperative customers are in providing the auditor with information about their home, the better the assessment the auditor will be able to make regarding energy-efficiency problems of the home.  The more information the energy auditor is able to collect during the audit, through the customer purchasing a higher level of audit (blower door or infrared audit), the better assessment the auditor will be able to make regarding the energy-efficiency problems of the home.  More and better information will enable the energy auditor to make better recommendations to fix problems.  Fixing properly diagnosed problems results in more energy-efficient homes.

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