Question: I own an older Arlington home with fairly high utility bills (in my opinion), do you think a home energy audit is a good investment?
I think that you will find a good home energy audit to be well worth the investment. I personally own an Arlington home that is about 6 years old and an energy audit discovered a valuable list of improvements for us to make. I’m happy to report that most were accomplished for little to no money.
Our energy audit cost $400, but has saved us many times that amount of money on gas and electric usage. In fact, I wrote an article earlier this year about how Dominion Power had accidentally switched our account with my neighbor, who owns the exact same house. Once the administrative mess was cleaned up, we were credited almost $1200 for the lower energy consumption of our house.
I spoke with Chris Conway, one of the area’s leading home energy auditors. He confirmed that most improvements are very low cost with a resulting 5%-30% savings on energy bills.
Chris explains that his audits typically include a blower door test and thermographic scan of the home, but the most important benefit of a home energy audit is the homeowner education. He teaches you how to achieve a tight building envelope for a long term return on investment. According to the Department of Energy, 54% of your total energy bill comes from heating and cooling. With the right information you are empowered to make decisions that will provide the biggest bang for your buck.
Though I would recommend a home energy audit for most homes regardless of age, older homes tend to have the most room for improvement. A blower door test will reveal exactly how much conditioned air your home is leaking per hour. In older homes, this is sometimes equivalent to leaving a window or door open 24×7.
Chris recommends an energy audit for anyone interested in making home improvements, improving air quality, saving money on energy bills, increasing comfort, mitigating moisture problems, or reducing your carbon footprint. During our conversation he mentioned a startling fact that recent EPA data states 1 in 5 families have a member with respiratory problems and a typical home can actually have up to 3 to 4 times more contaminants on the inside compared to the outside. A simple home energy audit can address these types of environmental issues.
There are more than a few home energy auditors to choose from in the Arlington area. I spoke to at least half a dozen before choosing someone for my own home. I was curious about their background, education, track-record, equipment, references and philosophies. I also wanted a sense that they would spend time educating me about my home. Feel free to contact me for a list of the local home energy auditors I would recommend.
The cost for a professional home energy audit can range from $150-$600 depending on the depth of the audit and the size of your home. If you are worried about the cost, you can look out for promotions from companies like Everblue and Dominion Power. State funded programs have also existed from time to time.
My final piece of advice is to make a list of any issues you are having, such as rooms that are notoriously drafty, cold, warm or damp. These insights will help the auditor identify the best solutions for your home.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.