Is an energy audit worth it?
April 6, 2009 2:12 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a home energy audit? This article says old houses use up to 50% more energy than new houses!!! Our house was built in the 1880s, and it's big enough (around 3000 sq. ft.) for waste to matter. We also live in Chicagoland, so we use a lot of heat.

Our utility companies don't offer free audits, so getting one could cost several hundred dollars. Has anyone actually saved money because of changes recommended by an energy auditor?
posted by walla to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It depends. If your house has new windows, a recent HVAC system and decent insulation, then no, but if your house hasn't been significantly updated in the past 20 years, it's probably a good idea.
posted by electroboy at 2:15 PM on April 6, 2009

I'm no expert, but I'd think that if you have the time, you could find the tips and checklists online and do the audit yourself. A lot of them are going to be easy things: Do you have enough insulation? Are your windows double (or triple) paned? Are there leaks under the doors or window frames? Is your hot water heater insulated? etc.
posted by chrisamiller at 2:16 PM on April 6, 2009

Some of the home energy audit's involve specialized equipment like the blower door and infrared cameras, so you wouldn't be able to duplicate that with a DIY solution, but insulating and caulking would certainly help.
posted by electroboy at 2:23 PM on April 6, 2009

I am an electrician, and have seen energy audits. I have never seen one that was useful. They all seem to present obvious info, and essentially accomplish nothing.

Energy conservation however can dramatically decrease your monthly bills, and it is certainly wise to take steps toward that goal.

Are your door jambs drafty? Fix it.

What are your windows like?

How old / efficient is your HVAC system? your water heater?
There is a point at which replacing them will actually save you money.

Next time you paint a room, caulk the heck out of the room first, then paint. Fill in every crack, everywhere. Are there cracks in your window frames and door frames? You could caulk them now?

How is the insulation in the attic?

Personally, I would start reading up making your home efficient, and start doing it yourself slowly. Suppose you get a home energy audit (and it is actually worth while), and you learn all these things you can do - can you afford to do it all now? Probably not. More likely, you will do it slowly, step by step - so you have time to learn about it.

First project, stop the drafts around those old doors.
posted by Flood at 2:28 PM on April 6, 2009

I did a home energy audit on an 1890's era Victorian home. It was money well spent. The consultant helped us prioritize our improvements so that we got the most bang for the buck. There was a lot of counterintuitive advice, due to the realities of really old homes. Some things that I would have done were advised against. Other bits of advice made big improvements with very little work. Make sure you find a consultant that's been in the business a long time. Make sure they are not contractors. Otherwise, your paying a salesman to sell you insulation and caulk.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 3:15 PM on April 6, 2009

Look into tax rebates, where I live you need to have the audit first before you can qualify for tax rebates.
posted by furtive at 3:16 PM on April 6, 2009

Hire Flood to come check out your house. You may be able to get free help. The gas company, electric company, or others may have free audit programs. I had an energy audit on my old house, and it was somewhat useful. It was free, so it was an excellent investment.
posted by theora55 at 3:47 PM on April 6, 2009

What furtive said. Governments in Canada are giving money for energy-efficient retrofits but energy audits need to be done beforehand. If it's the same in Chicago then getting an audit could pay for itself if you do any retrofits.

Probably the easiest way to see if the whole thing is worth it is to see what other people pay for their utilities, especially those in newer houses. If you see big differences and are willing to pay some cash now for long-run savings then an audit could be useful.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:43 PM on April 6, 2009

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