Keith arrived at 9 a.m. on November 19. The inspection lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. When he was done with his inspection, I asked Keith several questions about my house, as well as about home energy efficiency in general.
First, I asked Keith to explain his work as energy auditor. He likened his role to that of a doctor. "We give houses physicals because they're energy sick," he said. After an inspection, he sends the homeowner his "prescription" for how to make a house "energy healthy." He also refers the homeowner to "specialists" (insulation contractors, etc.).
Unlike window, insulation, and HVAC contractors, who may inspect homes and write estimates for ways to make a home more energy efficient, a home energy consultant's inspections and recommendations are unbiased because a consultant does not sell products or services (other than the service of inspecting a home, of course).
Keith's inspection consisted primarily of air pressure and wall insulation tests, including an infrared scan and a blower door test. He told me that our house's air change rate per hour is 7.5. That means our house needs to be re-heated about seven and a half times every hour. The goal should be fewer than three.
The main problem with our home, he said, is a few uninsulated walls, particularly one he identified in our upstairs that opens into the attic. Conditioned air is flowing out of the top of our house, causing our home to be drafty, inefficient, and dry.
Incidentally, Keith said the 92% efficiency furnace we bought two years ago will only works at 92% if the house is properly sealed.
Keith has yet to send us his formal report, but in our informal conversation he said adding insulation to the uninsulated walls will be key to tightening up our home and improving our air change rate per hour.
As soon as I've received Keith's final report, I will begin getting estimates on insulation. Then, once we've made certain changes to our home, Keith will come for a follow-up visit to inspect work and verify safety (there are risks that go along with making a home more air-tight, e.g. carbon monoxide poisoning and mold/humidity problems). Keith's inspection fee of $375 covers both his first inspection and his follow-up visit.
With Keith's report he said he will send me a list of consultants who can make necessary changes to my home. In order to be on Keith's list, consultants must meet certain standards; underperforming or unethical companies don't make the cut. Keith said he receives no money from the contractors he refers.
FYI, if you're wondering about the efficiency of your lighting and appliances, home energy consultants don't typically assess these things. Their focus is on home heating and cooling, the most significant part of a home's energy bill.
Here are some other things I learned from Keith during his visit:
That said, there are many tax incentives that can bring down the high price of retrofitting a home to make it more energy efficient, and having a formal energy audit can make a consumer eligible for some of these incentives.
As soon as I hear back from Keith I hope to share his verdict and discuss our future plans. In the meantime, have a merry Christmas and a happy, blessed 2010!