Saving Money on Heating Oil and Energy Bills with a Home Energy Audit
by Joanne Eglash
Establishing a goal to make your home more energy-efficient is a win-win proposition. First, you’ll reduce your bills, resulting in extra money in lean times. You may even earn tax credits. Second, you’ll help the environment by making your home eco-friendly, contributing to the nation-wide effort to “go green.” What’s not to like?! You may have heard that home energy audits can help you to learn just how to achieve those goals.
The term “audit” can cause apprehension – many of us associate that word with the IRS. Home energy audits, though, are much less intimidating in terms of what they involve.
Is a Do-It-Yourself Audit for You?
A variety of online sources offer guidance with performing your own home energy audit. For example, the U.S. government’s Energy Star website includes a quick, free yardstick online. You just fill in the fields to get recommendations. Before you start, be sure to gather up these three items:
1. the last year’s utility bills or a one-year summary from your utility company
2. your energy use and costs for the last year: You’ll need your last 12 months of utility bills a list of the energy sources for your home, such as propane, kerosene, natural gas, electricity, etc.
3. your home’s square footage.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) also has useful information on their Website for making your home more energy efficient. In addition, you can find information about alternative sources of energy, such as solar energy and wind technologies.
Should You Consider Using an Expert to Perform a Home Energy Audit?
These days, Do It Yourself (DIY) projects are “hot” – and hiring an expert at some expense is not. Unless, that is, using an expert can result in tangible savings.
For an overview of the potential cost-savings in doing a full home energy audit, the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) provides detailed information on their website as to how you can qualify for an income tax credit of up to $1,500 for installing various types of items, such as insulation, in your home.
A full home energy audit also can help you learn about ways to lower your utility bills. The ASE, which has a DIY Home Energy Checkup tool on its website, notes that their online tool is “designed for educational purposes only,” with estimates based on typical single-family residences for different climates. However, because the potential ways to cut your utility bills may vary widely from one home to the next, an expert can guide you through what is involved in assessing how best to achieve that goal for your own family.
If You Hire a Professional Home Energy Auditor
If you decide to hire a professional home energy auditor, be sure to seek out someone who is insured and has a current license. Request and check references to make certain that all of them were satisfied with the work completed and any associated fees. In addition, contact your local Better Business Bureau, provide them with the name of the company or contractor, and request details about any complaints against the company. You should also seek out an energy auditor who uses a calibrated blower door and performs his or her own thermographic inspections .
And because the ultimate goal is to save yourself money, take the time to investigate whether your utility company will help to pay for the costs. Depending on where you live, the company may even handle all charges, conduct their own home energy audits, or provide recommendations for auditors in your area. Find the contact information for your utility company by going online to The Utility Connection. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers Website has a section called Learn More that offers direct contact information for related resources.
Depending on where you live, you also may be able to get guidance from your state or local government energy or weatherization office in finding an organization or company in your area that performs energy audits. In addition, the Energy Savers site suggests looking in your telephone directory under headings beginning with the word “Energy” for companies that perform residential energy audits.