Home Energy Audits

Sources of energy inefficiency in a house. A home energy audit can help you figure out where you can make the most improvements to save money—and heat! Image from Energy Detectives.
Nothing like a good, ol'-fashioned winter to bring to light all the places in a home that don't hold heat. Whether you've got old windows, outdated insulation (or a total lackthereof), breaks in caulking or weatherstripping or gaps under doors, inefficiency in the home can account for major heat loss.

To those of us untrained in heating and cooling, figuring out where your home is most inneficient can be a daunting task. So states, many of them for free, offer home energy audits to individuals and families to figure out exactly where a house is losing energy—and money. Here's how it works: You fill out a form to apply for a home assessment. Based on income level, it is determined whether you will pay a low fee or none at all to have a professional come to your house for an inspection. Once you've been approved, you call up a certified contractor and arrange for the assessment. Here's the information for those of you in New York.

The technician will perform a series of tests in order to create a full report on your home's energy efficiency. He or she will look for air leaks, examine insulation, inspect the furnace and duct work, perform a blower door test, and even use an infrared heat camera. With your report in hand, you can apply for tax credits or low-interest loans to help cover upgrade costs. Another option is to apply for on-bill recovery financing; in which you pay off a loan through payments made on your utility bill. Often, your energy savings will cover most of the cost of the work.

The nicest thing about this home energy audit is that it puts the power in your hands. You'll know what the most cost-effective angle is to take for increasing your home's energy efficiency because you'll know which aspect of your home's energy use is the least efficient and therefore the most cost-effective to correct. Many energy-saving upgrades pay for themselves in the first couple of years. That's a fast turnaround on a relatively minor investment!

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.