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Ready for That Home Audit?

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

Ready for an audit? This one actually will put money back in your pocket rather than take it away. It might be time for your home to have an energy audit. Energy audits evaluate where your energy dollars go and what upgrades will allow you to save annually on fuel consumption. In order to have any home's energy usage audited, information about the structure, size, appliances (large and small), and other details are needed.


While there are many ways to have a home's energy expenditure evaluated, one way is to visit web sites such as hes.lbl.gov. This is a web-based energy audit that checks for home energy savings. This sparked my interest with the question, "How well can an on-line program evaluate my home?"

The Audit Itself

While some parts of the audit were tedious, most of the answers to the questions could be found in my filing cabinet. Information such as the BTUs of my furnace, the square footage of my windows, and the height of neighboring trees was all required. At times I assumed that an accurate guess was good enough; I wasn't going to scale the pine tree in my front yard to assess its height.

I invested over an hour just to enter all the information. The nice thing is that the program saves your information as a session number, and you can return to it in the future without reentering the information.


The Results

It took less than one minute for my calculation to be complete. When it was finished, my home was well above the average for my area. Yet, I consider my home to be an efficient and well-insulated home. I started to list the faults I found with the program which could allow a margin for error.

First, most choices are up to date, but some were lacking. What did I expect from a drop down menu? When I was asked to choose the year that my refrigerator was built, the newest choice I had was 2005. While a 2005 and a 2006 appliance are most likely similar in energy consumption, there could be some benefit for the newer model. The program also didn't provide all the choices for the type of refrigerators; there was no option for bottom freezer which is more energy efficient than a top freezer.



When all was calculated, my selected upgrades list seemed like something I could have brainstormed in less time than I put into the program. It suggested I upgrade my 85% efficiency heating unit (the highest efficiency rating for an oil boiler), and stated that I would benefit by replacing my one year old water heater. Maybe what it suggested was that I convert my electric water heater to an oil heater, but with a simple numbered list and no explanation I'm left guessing.

When my evaluation was over, my suggested list of upgrades is quoted as follows: "1. Oil boiler 2. Electric water heater 3. Dishwasher 4. Indoor lights 5. Air sealing 6. Roof insulation 7. Wall insulation 8. First Freezer 9. Boiler pipes 10. Refrigerator 11. Clothes washer 12. Floor insulation 13. Ceiling fan 14. Windows 15. Room air conditioner 16. Attic insulation 17. Cool roof." This shopping list of items gives little direction and leaves me wondering what isn't listed. I have a feeling that the calculations are little more than generic results.


What's Best?

In the end I found that free on-line energy evaluations provide exactly what's expected. Should I make all seventeen upgrades, my estimated yearly savings will be $65, according to the site.

The better option is to do some homework and avoid the calculators that estimate our homes' efficiencies. Discuss do-it-yourself home energy audits with your local home improvement store or do some web research about energy audits. Some hardware stores provide checklists on line or in the store which will help you do a walking evaluation. Professionals can do the same, but they can cost several hundreds of dollars. The best thing that the on-line evaluation gave me was a list of home elements to consider when looking for ways to lessen my home's energy waste.

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines as well as online newsletters. She teaches writing in the public school as well as at the collegiate level. Contact her at Englishteach@rcn.com or visit her website at http://users.rc … avedamutt/Writer

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 23, 20080 found this helpful

Thank you for that story and link - it was VERY helpful

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