Don’t wait until the big freeze to take an energy inventory

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, the harsh, cold days of winter are just around the corner. So before you hunker down anxiously watching your oil tank levels fall, check your home’s energy efficiency.

Not only will a professional home energy audit help to identify where your home is losing energy; it will also provide detailed, cost effective ways to conserve energy; options on how to increase the efficiencies of your heating, cooling and ventilation systems; as well as ways to improve the air quality inside your home.

To achieve reliable, detailed results, a professional energy auditor will fully inventory all of the important physical characteristics of your home from cellar to attic; building dimensions, existing insulation, window sizes and condition, as well as a thorough analysis of past utility bills and any history of repairs or remodeling. According to David King of Energy Auditors New England, “If you are prepared, informed and willing to watch and ask questions, you will get the most out of your audit”.

Before the audit, King recommends that owners take note of any existing problems, whether it be a drafty room, a musty odor or a window that often drips with condensation. Residents’ behavior will also be analyzed, e.g., average thermostat setting for winter and summer, number of residents, number of unused rooms, etc.

In addition to analyzing the building’s physical characteristics, King utilizes tools of the trade such as a blower door, an infrared camera, and remote sensors to detect carbon monoxide, humidity, and temperatures throughout the home. A blower door test determines how airtight the building is. By lowering air pressure inside the house it causes outside air to flow through unsealed cracks and openings. During the test you can actually feel the air rushing in through previously unseen areas, demonstrating precisely where your hard earned heat disappears all winter long. But a blower door is not just a tool for finding leaks, “Understanding the threats to the air quality in your home is equally important to building and occupant health. Rising carbon monoxide levels, excessive or inadequate moisture levels, and insufficient ventilation systems are only a few critical measurements provided by blower door tests,” says King.

Thermographic scans may also be conducted using infrared video and still cameras. The resulting images actually show thermal and moisture conditions inside walls and concealed areas helping to determine the need for or the effectiveness of insulation as well as air leakages throughout the building. King recommends that thermographic scans be scheduled during colder months as they are most effective when there is a significant difference between inside and outside temperatures.

At the conclusion of the energy audit, your auditor will prepare a full report showing the existing conditions of your home. “The most important aspect of these reports,” says King, “are the detailed options a home owner may take to improve conditions. Not only will you learn how to make the systems of your home work together more effectively…but you will gain the financial analysis to help decide which steps are most cost effective and will have the greatest impact.”

Here are some tips for a great audit:

1. Have a year or so of utility bills available eg: heat, hot water, electricity. (not phone or cable). Best to have them all,
but don’t worry if some are missing.

2. Ready access to all areas of the house especially the attic and cellar/crawl space. The Auditor will provide ladders,
flashlights, etc. Do not worry about laundry, dishes, or housekeeping, the Auditor is blind to those conditions.

3. History of any repairs or renovations. Any information regarding construction or building conditions that are not
readily observable on site.

4. Any house plans you may have on hand.

5. If work is planned or being considered, the attendance of your builder or Architect would be welcome.

6. Any manuals, documents or invoices regarding your furnace/boiler, hot water heater, major appliances.

7. Be prepared to configure the house in winter mode. Windows and storms closed, A/C units covered or removed,
insulation panels installed, etc.

8. Milk and cookies for the Auditor…

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