Home Energy Audits Explained

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Over the last several months I’ve talked about the importance of using energy audits in your projects.  However, I’ve not (my apologies) ever really explained what they are and what the goals of doing them . . . here goes:

The goals of an energy audit

  1. Determine the overall efficiency in the energy usage of a property.
  2. Discover any and all problem areas as they relate to #1.
  3. Provide an impartial recommendation of what the property owner/tenant should do to fix #2.

There are two main areas that an energy audit covers- energy efficiency and energy conservation.  Energy efficiency measures how effectively the tested mechanism/appliance/etc. uses energy*. Energy conservation measures the total amount of energy that is consumed.
*Energy includes: electricity, gas and water.

By measuring both areas of a property you can get a greater understanding of the repairs you need to do and the projected future performance of the home.

Typically an energy audit consists of:

  1. Visual inspection of the home and appliances/systems.
  2. Blower door test – Used to de-pressurize the home, see airflow patterns and see where there are leaks that need to be fixed.
  3. Thermal imaging pictures – Used to spot potential problem areas behind walls/ceilings and floors.  These infrared pictures can literally see through drywall to give you an accurate view of hot spots, missing insulation, electrical issues, etc.
  4. A typical energy audit will cost a couple hundred bucks and take 3-4 hours to complete.

Here’s why energy audits can be a good idea for an investor:

  1. Gives you a very accurate picture of your property (both the good and the bad).
  2. Usually has a rebate attached so you can get your $ back.
  3. Allows you to potentially get rebates for repair work you were going to have to complete anyway.*
  4. Gives your end-buyer significant peace-of-mind.  They can see exactly what the issues were and what you fixed/upgraded.

* Investors leverage this all of the time.  Recently an investor in Detroit got a rebate check for $750 for adding insulation and fixing a hole in a wall that he was planning on repairing anyway.

If you’re considering doing energy audits on your projects, I’d recommend using an auditor from the Building Performance Institute.  They go through a rigorous 7 day training program (5 days of classroom instruction and 2 days in the field) and have to pass a test to be certified.  These are the most qualified energy auditors you can find.

As always, please let me know what questions or comments you have.

Photo: Ryan McFarland

About Author

I help real estate investors increase profits and property values through a variety of green strategies. I help clients find hidden rebates, tax incentives and credits to maximize returns on any property. www.JimSimcoe.com

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