If you’re interested in cutting your home’s energy use (not to mention your monthly bills), you have to know where your energy is going in the first place, and much of it might be out the window (or through the door, roof or basement). An energy auditor can help you pinpoint your home’s worst insulated areas, discover air leaks and help determine your furnace’s efficiency rating so that you can figure out the best places to spend your money to make the biggest difference to your home’s overall use of energy.
Energy audits can help in two ways:
- An audit will help you decide where the best places to spend your money will be. Sometimes it’s as simple as increasing the caulking, weatherstripping and attic and basement insulation. Many times it involves increasing the insulation in your walls and/or replacing old doors and windows and upgrading the furnace.
- If you’re planning to do significant renovation work to your home, an energy audit is a good place to start because in addition to the Ontario government rebating 50% of the fee (up to a maximum of $150), if you follow the audit’s recomendations, you may qualify for federal, provincial and municipal grants and rebates for any heating and cooling and insulation upgrades you make — but only if you’ve done an energy audit by a certified auditor before you begin work. (Note: the energy audit company has to return for a final visit after the upgrades have been made to measure the improvements made. When you’re interviewing companies, make sure to ask how much the return visit costs.)
What does an energy audit entail?
The audit process takes about 3 hours and the auditor needs access to your attic and basement in order to do the full audit. The auditor will:
- check the insulation in the attic and basement as well as the exterior walls,
- do the blower door test to find air leaks in the house,
- look at your HVAC equipment to let you know if it’s in need of upgrading,
- ask you some questions to find out what your daily energy needs and uses are.
All this information is recorded and incorporated into a final report they send you a few weeks after the audit.
The report contains recommendations regarding what you could do to increase your energy efficiency and home comfort, it also provides you with a list of companies that can perform the remediation work. Some of the work, such as caulking and weatherstripping, is usually simple enough for a homeowner to do.
Cost: The starting price for an energy audit is around $300. The price increases with the size of the house. The Ontario government will rebate your audit fee and usually the audit company will fill out the paper work on your behalf. In order to qualify for the federal and provincial energy efficiency grants you have until March 31, 2011 to fulfill the requirements once you’ve had the audit in order to receive the rebate, so make sure you’re ready to make home improvements once you’ve hired the auditor. (Note: the original amount of time to fulfill your energy upgrades was 18 months under the Federal government’s EcoAction plan, however, the ecoEnergy Retrofit grant plan is due to expire on March 31, 2011.)
Our experience: We hired Greensaver to do our audit about 5 years ago, before the ecoEnergy Retrofit grant program was in place so we missed out on some substantial savings and rebates. However, the report Greensaver produced was concise and gave us a to-do list to help fix all the leaks along with their list of recommended trades (themselves being one of them). It also indicated how much more efficient our house could be if we implemented all the upgrades.
We upgraded the 1950s enormous picture windows to Energy Star windows, caulked and added weather stripping around doors and newer windows and noticed increased comfort level, a small decrease in our heating bill. The biggest difference would have been if we’d insulated the front half of the house (double-brick, no insulation in between) as our furnace was already high-efficiency. Unfortunately we moved before we could tackle that project.
Is an energy audit worth it? If you’re prepared to make the changes or are planning on renovating your home in the next 15 months, an energy audit absolutely worth it. Further, if you are plannin on upgrading your furnace or air conditioning anyway, an audit gives you access to federal, provinical and municipal grant money. Note however that that energy efficiency grants are only available for older homes and not new builds. An older home is defined as any home that is older than six months. During the first six months of owner occupation, it is still considered the builder’s responsibility.
Where to find Energy Auditors: