5 questions about home energy audits

The summer months may cause homeowners to wonder what they can do to save on energy bills, especially when trying to cool their home. Instead of just deciding to turn down the thermostat, which may cause a feud among residents, one option is a home energy audit.

Adam Bunyard, general manager of Snappy Electric, Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, a residential heating and cooling specialist in metro Atlanta since 2006 and a member of the GreenHomes America franchise network, answered five questions about home performance energy audits, insulation, and air and duct sealing.

1. Why should a recent homebuyer have an energy audit?

Existing homeowners and people who are purchasing homes fall into the same need of an energy audit. It provides a detailed energy plan. It also allows them to prioritize energy improvements. After an audit, when we present them with a report and the findings, it breaks down all the different items through the house — appliances, windows, heating and air. It has a pie chart with a percentage of energy consumption each one is using. It allows you to see which portions of your home need to be addressed. The overall goal is to lower the annual energy bills. It also provides more comfort throughout the house with the addition of insulation and air sealing, as well as indoor air quality.

2. What areas typically consume the most energy?

Your average homeowner typically thinks their windows are the biggest issue with high energy bills. In reality we find that sometimes those are very low. One of the biggest things you can do is the air sealing and insulation of the home. You’re actually losing your conditioned air that’s created through your heating and air systems through holes in the house (such as in the attic). It requires your heating and air systems to work twice as hard. The first thing you want to do is air seal the home. Other issues are older appliances like washing machines and refrigerators.

3. What’s an example of how homes lose air?

Imagine your AC system is cooling an x amount of air to cool your main level. That air escapes through penetrations you can’t really see, through can lights and receptacles and light switches or under the trim of your house where there’s a gap between the sheetrock and the floor. You have new air coming in that has to be conditioned to match the thermostat setting. Air movement is very important to control.

4. How could an energy audit help a homeowner make adjustments during the summer?

In this region, your major energy savings are going to come from your cooling bills. You want to get the improvements done — the insulation and air sealing, and possibly programmable thermostats, weatherstrip doors and sealing around windows. It helps year round. They’re going to see the biggest savings on energy consumption through the summer, which is the cooling season.

5. How much do energy audits typically cost and how much time is involved?

It ranges, but typically it’s between $300 and $500 (for an energy audit that includes a blower door test to locate and measure air loss). It takes two to four hours, depending on the size of the house.