What is an energy audit?
There are several meanings that come to mind when the word “audit” comes up. For college students, an audit would be taking a class that wouldn’t be credited. For businesses, it means inspecting or verifying official business accounts by an external qualified accountant. However when one speaks of an Energy audit, it is a methodical and thorough examination, review or inspection of the current energy consumptions of a particular location with scrutiny. But for what end? Simply put, an energy audit is done to check how much of the energy used for cooling or heating is effectively used or wasted in an effort to minimize and cut down spending on high bills. Households may have the dilemma when seeing their power bills sky rocket and puts them with options of either purchasing cheaper or low quality environmental systems which barely provides comfort or just crank up the power when heat or cold is insufficient, causing the machines to work double time and doubling the bill. An energy audit takes a look at the whole living containment system and not just the energy providers. Even the most advanced cooling or heating system will not work up to par if there are places where air simply slips out or due to inadequate insulation.
Basically an energy audit pinpoints areas in one’s home where the energy is leaking or seeping out. One will be amazed on the tremendous loss of energy with multiple gaps, cracks or improperly closed windows or doors all over the house. Energy Audit can be done either by the owners by doing what is called a Do-It-Yourself Energy Audit while the other option is the Professional Energy Audit. The first one requires the home owner to make a diligent and careful walkthrough of the entire home, locating possible areas for air leaks. Window and door frames that rattle is a definite indicator there is air leakage. Electrical outlets, gaps in baseboards, poorly sealed openings where pipes are installed or cracks due to wear-and-tear are also possible areas where heat or cold can either sneak in or out. Practical methods such as using an incense stick or wetting one’s hand can assist in finding the air leaks. By turning off all heat producing machines and appliances, closing all doors and windows, and turn on exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms, air passing through the leaks will be stronger. As one walks through specific locations, the wavering smoke or coolness of the hand as the air hits it will help mark the spot that needs attention. There are remedies such as adding a rubber tape or door flaps that prevent air for leaking through the sides or under opening of the doors, or sealants to cover cracks. Detecting and corrective sealing of leaks can give savings ranging from 5% to 30% on power. Poor insulation and ventilation is also a cause for running up the bills either by increasing the heat because it rapidly escapes or increasing the air-conditioner because the heat is trapped. Homes are built with an certain amount of insulation and older buildings are known to have lesser insulation.
For a more thorough and detailed audit, professional services can be used to go over each and every inch of the household. Data gathering is an essential step for professional auditing. Electric bills form the past months are studied, checking the thermostat readings per room and how much time are the rooms used and by how many people. The Blower Door Test is the most commonly used test. By sucking all the air out of the house using a fan and monitored by pressure gauges, with the data collated, the auditor can quantify how much air leakage is present. The Blower Door Test is also used to check if the sealing remedies are effective.
A Thermographic Scan is also an effective tool that auditors use. These tools use specially designed infrared video or still cameras that detect where there are heat build-ups, thermal envelopes, or drops of temperature in areas where heaters should be working. Both the Blower Door Test and Thermographic scans work well to give the most accurate picture of how the energy is being distributed throughout the household.
Having an energy audit done is a good investment for it will give savings for the future to come. Energy audits are also recommended for people who are scouting to purchase a new home. So before one thinks of replacing equipment to heat or cool the house, it may not be the problem. Devote some time to go around the house using the practical tools and it may lead you to a more comfortable home and a less empty pocket.