Basics of an Energy Audit

In this era of energy conservation and sustainability the home energy audit is quickly becoming a common service. What many people don’t realize is that this service has been around for several years but it has just recently come to the attention of the mainstream media. With this new found attention, like many of the sustainable services, the demand for energy audits is increasing at an accelerated pace.

With this increase in demand and as you may be considering using this service yourself it may be beneficial for you to learn a little bit about the basic ideas behind the energy audit. This includes a few terms, the purpose of the audit, the main goals and what knowledge a auditor must have to perform the task.

Two Important Terms

There are two main trains of thought typically considered when discussing energy use. The first of these and the most commonly used terminology is energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is the thought of giving consideration to maximizing the economic benefits of wise energy use. Examples of this would be the purchasing of more energy efficient appliances, CFLs or a higher SEER HVAC system. While this is the more common term these improvements tend to require a larger investment at the beginning.

The second train of thought is energy conservation. Energy conservation is the process of reducing non-renewable energy use and its resulting environmental damage. Conservation includes items such as behavioral changes and improvements that reduce your energy consumption such as insulation upgrades. The improvements in this category will typically have very short payback periods.

When considering recommendations improvements in both of these categories are important. It is the auditor’s responsibility to consider all the improvements and create a comprehensive plan outlining these improvements for the homeowner. In order to do this the auditor must first understand their purpose when performing the audit and the major goals.

The Purpose of an Auditor

When performing the audit an auditor is to objectively perform certain task. These tasks may vary slightly in execution but in the end an auditor should perform all of these items with the possible exception of two. The most important concept of these tasks is that in order to perform them properly the auditor must perform them objectively.

1. Identify the energy consumption in the home.
- This is the main concept of the audit. The auditor is to view the home and determine the primary areas of energy consumption in the home so that recommendations can be made.

2. Note current and potential safety problems.
- An auditor must identify any health or safety issues in the home that they come upon. This is imperative as some problems such as combustion back drafting may be increased with recommended repairs. The auditor must also predict any possible issue that may arise due to performing the recommended improvement.

3. Recommend appropriate measures
- The auditor must formulate recommendations based on their findings and these recommendations should be made according to their payback, return on investment or carbon footprint reduction.

4. Estimate Cost
- Some auditors may help estimate the cost of repairs. While this step may be performed while determining the recommendations an auditor may not chose to supply the actual cost to the homeowner for various reasons.

5. Explain behavioral changes
- This is a key part of an audit. Behavioral changes are some of the most cost effective improvements a homeowner can make. While these may be very hard for an auditor to observe they can make some assumptions and make recommendations off of these.

6. Provide a written record
- An auditor needs to provide a written report of some form to the homeowner so they have a record of what improvements to perform.

7. Quality Assurance
- This is another step that the auditor may not perform. Depending on the wishes of the homeowner an auditor may return to verify repairs were performed properly.

Major Goals of an Audit

There are four major goals of the audit

1. Conserve energy, increase efficiency and save money
2. Reduce the carbon footprint of the home by reducing energy by products
3. Increase comfort in the home
4. Enhance the buildings health and safety

Use a low flow shower head

Low flow shower heads can help you save in two ways. The first is the most obvious in that it reduces the amount of water you use. For everyone on a public water system this reduces not only the cost of the water but the sewer charges as well. This can be beneficial to some people but others on a well may not see a monetary savings in this way.

The other method of savings is one that everyone can receive. This is savings through the reduction in water heating. As you use less hot water for showers you in turn can save in the heating cost of your water.

Many individuals will complain about the reduction of the water flow but several advancements have been made to minimize the perceived difference. This minor difference is certain acceptable considering the new shower head can potential reduce your consumption in half.

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