Energy audit: How much energy are you losing, Atlanta?

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Are you an Atlanta homeowner interested in learning more about how to lower your utility bills? If you...

Are you an Atlanta homeowner interested in learning more about how to lower your utility bills? If you are, and you have been looking into energy efficiency, then you know there are many ways to make your home more efficient. However, some efficiency upgrades may prove more beneficial to you than others depending on the existing energy use of your home. So, you need to find a way to prioritize those upgrades in the best manner possible for the quickest and most effective benefits. An energy audit, also known as an energy assessment, is beneficial for any homeowner looking to lower his or her energy consumption. It helps identify energy inefficiencies and prioritize improvements to help you spend where you can save the most.

What are the benefits of having an energy audit?

Aside from helping you find the best ways to lower your energy bills, a home energy audit can help with achieving several other benefits.

  • Temperature stability: An auditor will analyze your attic insulation, ductwork, A/C unit, furnace, thermostat, heating and cooling habits, and discuss the best ways to air seal your home. You will learn how to maximize your home's comfort level by addressing any system inefficiencies and/or air infiltration issues. In turn, this will help you stabilize temperature levels, keeping your heated and cool air inside and reducing the strain on your heating and cooling systems. This will help keep the summer months cooler and winter months warmer for a comfortable home year round.
  • Moisture and air infiltration: An audit can help you discover problem areas such as poor ventilation, moisture problems or air leakage.
  • Lower the carbon footprint: Through incorporating the recommendations of an audit, you will have a more energy efficient home, minimizing your impact on the environment.

"Free energy audit" offers

There are several kinds of companies offering "free energy audits." These companies usually offer some kind of efficiency upgrade product such as insulation or radiant barriers. So, if you do elect to use one of these kinds of offers, keep in mind that you will most likely have to hear a product pitch at the end of the audit. Furthermore, the audits are limited in that they do not typically use the specialized equipment that a professional home energy auditor uses. Utility companies also sometimes run free or discounted energy audit offers, so if you are interested in learning more about those, contact your utility company to see about any currently available offers.

Professional home energy auditor

An experienced auditor basically analyzes your energy usage from every aspect of the home using a variety of specialized equipment, and this is the most accurate and specific kind of energy audit. A professional auditor will give you the most in-depth analysis of energy loss, pinpoint inefficient systems and provide the best advice and strategy for cost-effective upgrades. Professional auditors do several tests during their inspection, and these include the following:

Thermographic inspection: A thermographic inspection is done, typically on the interior of a residence for maximum accuracy, to detect thermal abnormalities, heat losses and air leakage. This kind of inspection incorporates the use of many tools such as the following: a thermal imaging camera showing heat leakage, a point radiometer indicating radiation levels of a particular spot and a thermal line scanner to show radiant temperature variations along a line. Through the use of these tools, an auditor can determine areas that are lacking in adequate and properly installed insulation. They can also use this technology to detect roof leaks and moisture problems.

Blower door test: This test uses a fan mounted to an exterior door frame. It effectively lowers the air pressure inside the house by pulling the air out. As a result, air loss through openings within the home are exposed and become more prevalent. The best kind of blower door test is conducted with a calibrated blower door, because only with a calibrated blower door can the auditor determine the amount of air leakage and resulting effectiveness of an air seal repair. Keep this in mind when hiring an energy auditor and make sure that their blower door unit is calibrated.

Smoke pencil: A smoke pencil is a tool with a tube and a trigger that uses nontoxic smoke fluid to operate. It is used in suspected draft areas by pressing the trigger to emit a noticeable smoke. Then the movement of the smoke is monitored and the direction is noted to identify the location of the air leak.

Prepare for your professional home energy audit

There are things you can do to prepare for your audit. Here is a list to help you get ready:

  • Check reviews and/or references for your potential auditor.
  • Only hire a professional auditor who uses a calibrated blower door and conducts thermographic inspections. If you are hiring a professional auditor, you will want the most accurate report and recommendations.
  • Get your utility bills for the past 12 months ready as this helps an auditor determine key areas of focus.
  • Discuss any known existing problems with your auditor.
  • Ask auditors if you need to move furniture away from the walls or if you need to remove any drapery prior to their arrival. Also, ask them if you need to do any preparation for the blower door test.

Tip: One simple DIY way to lower energy consumption is to makes sure you change all your light bulbs from incandescent to lower wattage compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED bulbs. To give you an idea of the difference in wattage use and longevity, a 60-watt light bulb lasts roughly 1,500 hours, whereas a CFL equivalent runs at 13 watts with a life of 8,000 hours and an LED equivalent runs at 9 watts with a life of 50,000 hours.

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