Here is the last in our weekly series of excerpts from the EBook, “6 Weeks to a Greener Lifestyle.” See the note at the end of this post for more information. — Paula
Even if you are a seriously dedicated DIY (do it yourself) enthusiast, you are best served in the long-run by hiring a professional to perform a home audit. A well-done audit requires special knowledge and skills, and even some special equipment.
Special recommendation: check with your local utility provider to see what audit services it provides or recommends. Often your local utility will offer a free home audit (mine does). If so, this is a great way to get a start on improving the energy and water efficiency of your home without spending a dime out-of-pocket.
A high-quality auditor will visit the location and do a complete and formal inspection of the property. They might request utility bills from the previous year, and they will assess each and every system and appliance in the home. Their goal will be to show the homeowner how to reduce the costs permanently while also making the home much greener. Remember, this is not some sort of mold or toxin inspection, or some other form of home inspection, for that matter. It is simply an energy usage assessment, which will involve a look at everything from doors and windows to light bulbs and caulking.
*NOTE: You will want to do a bit of comparison shopping to see what auditors in your area are offering to their clients. They might be from the utility company, they can be official home inspectors, or they might even be a licensed “handyman” looking for extra work. It behooves the homeowner to select a provider who is aiming only at giving clear information and not at generating a bit of additional work for himself/herself.
When finished with the full inspection, document review, and assessment, most professionals will provide their clients with a printed report indicating the areas of concern, the best ways to address them, and the amount of financial payback that can be expected from making the recommended changes. If a few of these items are not included in the fee for the audit, ask for them or select another provider.
What exactly is the auditor going to do when they come to your home? You will be surprised to learn that a full-fledged inspection of the attic, basement, crawl spaces, and living spaces will occur. Special air moving machines will show where leaks are present in doors and windows as well as pipes and household vents, and special mathematical formulas will determine exactly how much your home and energy usage are actually costing you. The inspector is going to assess every single appliance in use, and will use your household energy bills to create a “base load rate” figure.
This is a figure that determines the monthly average spent on everything from cooking and laundry to lighting and water heating, but only when the heating or cooling systems are not in use. They will then add up all of the bills that reflect the costs of heating and cooling to get a monthly average for that, as well. These figures are combined and a valid base load rate is determined. The auditor will then try to use this figure to demonstrate the payback rate for all of the improvements or changes they recommend.
For example, if an audit reveals that a homeowner is using excessive amounts of electricity because several appliances are not energy-efficient, the auditor will be able to mathematically demonstrate the amount of money saved through a replacement of these machines. They will also show how fast the replacements will generate a return on the investment, and the overall amount of energy dollars saved by the upgrades.
That demonstrates how the base load rate is one of the most powerful tools for understanding how much money is spent unnecessarily on energy consumption. You will also quickly see how wasteful, in terms of energy and water, an inefficient home can be.
Your audit will draw a very clear comparison to things as they currently stand, and then show you how things can be made better through some strategic investments in simple energy-saving steps. You will also likely be given the option to consider more efficient, energy-saving appliances where appropriate.
A good auditor will provide you with a written summary and list of recommendations that you can follow. They can include such items as:
- Replacement windows and doors
- Replacing appliances or entire heating and cooling systems
- Installing entirely new insulation in walls, ceilings, and floors
- Repairing and filling cracks around doors, windows, ceilings, and walls – including areas such as light and electrical switches which leak heated or cooled air
- Upgrading or servicing heating and cooling equipment
- Implementing improvements in the household lighting (usually done by replacing old-fashioned incandescent with CFLs).
Once your audit is complete (either a self-directed or professionally done audit), the first thing to do this week is create a plan to do everything that you can possibly afford to do, based on the recommendations of the auditor, or your DIY self-audit.
Steve Stillwater is passionate about developing a greener lifestyle, and his goal is to show you how to incorporate easy-to-implement green living ideas into your life. He blogs and writes regularly about green living ideas and provides a continuously updated green news feed on his website. For more information or to buy and download the full Ebook, “6 Weeks To A Greener Lifestyle,” just follow this link.