A Home Primer For Energy Audits

May 24th 2011
A Home Primer For Energy Audits

Home energy evaluation, audit, rating - they all mean the same thing when you are qualifying for any federal or provincial government upgrade grants.

Now folks, I do not want you to think for a moment that energy audits are not required. I am a strong supporter of having them done at whatever the nominal cost may be.

The whole idea is to identify where your home rates on a scale from 0 to 100. The audit cost will have a very quick return on your investment if performed properly.

I have heard some very interesting stories of how energy audits are performed, ranging from a brief chat across the kitchen table to three hours spent up and down ladders, down in crawl space and up in roof cavities.

But believe me, some of my listeners have described some unbelievable stories that really raise the hair on the back of my neck.

The average energy evaluation should take about two to three hours, depending on the size of your home.

Keep in mind you will see some advertisements that state buy "our" furnace, windows, heat pump and receive a free energy audit. You know the old saying that "there is no free ride"

I am not going to suggest that it will not be a great deal for you; but as I have already said, you must prioritize your upgrades. When you receive an offer for a free energy audit you may very well be committing to a purchase of windows or heating system.

Keep in mind it is the purchase of expensive items you will normally be offered a free energy audit, rather than some of the more important, but not so cosmetically pleasing items such as insulation, draft-proofing, exhaust ventilation and heat recovery systems.

Here is what you should expect from an energy audit: An auditor with the answers on how your house works.

Not just a computer software program that pops out answers.

How much insulation do I have now in my walls, ceiling, basement and crawl space? (The energy adviser will have to look.) What should I have and why? What does R-value mean? What is vapour barrier?

Answers on exhaust venting. Bathroom fans, range hoods, HRV (heat-recovery ventilator): Why are they necessary when older homes have none of the above? How should they be installed? What does CFM relate to?

What is the difference between an ENERGY STAR rated window and a standard insulated glass window? What is Argon? Are triple glazed windows better value? Should I put better windows in the west and south elevations of my home?

Why is a fan-door test done on my home? What does a negative or positive air test mean? What does a smoke-pencil test prove? What is makeup air? What is combustion air?

Will my new furnace be smaller or larger physically or in BTU output? What is a BTU?

I have listed six points that a qualified home energy auditor should address. As stated in recent columns, here again is a priority list of where to obtain the biggest bang for your buck: Deal with your house as a system.

Upgrade insulation and draft-proofing.
Upgrade heating, air conditioning and ventilation.
Upgrade windows and doors.
Undertake other Upgrades for ENERGY STAR products