Should I Get A Free Home Energy Audit?

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Whether to pay for an energy audit - and if so, how much - is not a simple question. The answer largely depends on your goals for the audit, the age of your home and your reason for considering the audit in the first place. Let's take a look at the available options along with some situational recommendations to hopefully make sense of it all.

1. Free energy audits from the utility company:
NOTE: If it seems counter-intuitive that the company you pay for power would help you reduce your consumption of it, congrats on being a perfectly logical person. The reason they do this is two-fold, and somewhat related. One, utilities are desperately trying avoid demand reaching capacity levels where they'd be forced to build exceedingly expensive and bureaucratically impossible new power plants. Two, the threat in impending carbon taxes has them looking to reduce their emissions sooner than later.

The price is right, so there's little downside other than the time spent with the auditor, but the audit itself will be cursory with accompanying recommendations that you can probably figure out on your own. Don't expect much more than boiler-plate suggestions about replacing incandescent light bulbs, caulking or weather stripping old doors and windows, and brochures for Energy Star approved appliances. Also, implementing these changes - or possibly taking on more involved projects, like window replacements or new insulation - will require finding a whole new group of contractors that the utility people aren't plugged into (pun intended).

It's not a bad route if you want some baseline professional insight on where you can save, but it's not suggested for older homes where more investigation and repairs will be required.

2. Free energy audits from an auditing company: What's happening here is that the energy audit itself is purely a loss-leader for the auditing company, with the underlying intent of roping you in for bigger sales. Like most loss-leaders, it's cheap, easy to buy and doesn't come with much reward. The goal is simply to get a peek at what sort of expensive home improvement services they can sell you (ahem, recommend), if nothing else to recoup the cost of sending someone out to conduct the audit in the first place. Also, knowing that the conversion rate from free audit to paid project will be low, they won't spend much time on your property getting into the true guts of your unique needs. The recommendations will be a step up from the free audit courtesy of the utility company, but mainly in form, not function, much like the quick-and-dirty automotive assessment you receive after getting your oil changed at a quik-lube shop.

If you can endure the persistent sales pitch from the back-office that will follow, or genuinely think a cursory audit is all that's needed to diagnose a relatively obvious energy loss issue, then by all means go this route. Just stick you your guns if you choose to take on making the recommended changed yourself.

3. Paying $200-$300 to an auditing company. This may seem like a hefty ticket to poke around your home, but it barely covers costs when you take into consideration the manpower, equipment and analysis required for a thorough audit. Regardless, it's not chump change. What you will get in return is the installation of a blower door that sucks air from the home to identify potential weaknesses, an infrared gun scan to look for heat pattern irregularities and comprehensive checks on all duct seals and insulation. They'll take a couple days after the initial audit to compare findings with data from past energy bills, and will likely follow up with a mix of fixes you can do yourself and others they'd like to help you implement, ranging from inexpensive caulking or weather stripping to new doors or windows.

The money for the companies offering this option is still in the improvements, but they're more motivated to do an expert analysis since their costs are covered up front.

4. Paying $400+ from an ‘independent' auditor. Companies offering this tier of service can go into a large home with myriad mechanical and structural issues to consider and produce truly unbiased recommendations for areas to improve energy efficiency and comfort. Like a fee-based financial advisor, they have no products to sell, so their goal is simply to give the best advice possible based on their research.

It's a hefty price tag for a typically non-emergency service, but many homeowners take comfort in the simplicity of analysis for the sake of analysis. Another consideration is that implementing changes will require contacting a third party and a whole new round of estimates.

GreenTechBuyer generally recommends option three as the best combination of analysis, recommendation and ease of implementation. This is also admittedly the model of most of our preferred vendors. If you'd like to be contacted by top home energy auditors in your area, we're happy to help you out on our Buyer page.

http://www.GreenTechBuyer.org

 

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