How Do I Prepare For An Energy Assessment?

What is an energy assessment?

How do I prepare for an energy assessment?

An energy assessment, also known as an energy audit, is an inspection and analysis of a home’s energy efficiency and energy use. The goal is to identify ways to improve energy performance and save on energy costs (1).

There are a few different types of home energy assessments (2):

  • Walkthrough assessment – A professional assessor does a visual inspection of the home and provides energy-saving tips. This is a simpler and lower-cost option.
  • Computer modeling – Special software is used to create a detailed model of the home’s energy use. This provides more in-depth analysis.
  • Blower door test – A large fan is mounted in the home’s doorway to measure air leaks. This quantifies how leaky the home is.
  • Thermographic inspection – An infrared camera detects heat leaks. This shows where insulation may be inadequate.

The main goals of an energy assessment are to (2):

  • Identify inefficient building features and problems areas.
  • Recommend energy efficiency upgrades.
  • Provide information to help prioritize upgrades.
  • Calculate potential energy savings from improvements.

Overall, a home energy assessment aims to help homeowners reduce energy waste, lower utility bills, increase comfort, and create a healthier indoor environment.



Why get an assessment?

There are several key reasons to get a home energy assessment:

First, an assessment can help you find ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. An assessor will inspect areas like insulation, windows, doors, heating and cooling systems, appliances, and lighting to identify upgrades that can reduce energy waste. This can lead to lower monthly energy bills. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average homeowner can save 20% or more on heating and cooling costs through energy efficiency improvements (source).

Second, an assessment can make your home more comfortable. Sealing air leaks, adding insulation, and upgrading systems can improve temperature regulation and air quality. No more drafty rooms or uneven heating and cooling!

Third, an assessment may qualify you for rebates and incentives on energy efficiency upgrades and products. Many utility companies and local/state governments offer these programs to encourage homeowners to reduce energy usage. The assessment provides documentation needed to participate.

In summary, a home energy assessment is the first step to optimizing your home’s performance, reducing waste, lowering bills, and making your living space more comfortable for you and your family.

What to Expect

When you get a home energy assessment, a technician will come to your home and conduct a thorough inspection and analysis of your home’s energy efficiency. This usually involves 3 main components:

1. Inspection – The technician will assess all areas of your home, looking for areas of air leakage, insulation gaps, heating and cooling issues, among other things. This involves a room-by-room visual examination of the entire home.

2. Measurements – Various measurements will be taken using specialized equipment. This may include an infrared camera to detect leaks, thermometers, and a blower door test to measure air tightness 1.

3. Computer modeling – The data collected is entered into energy modeling software, which generates an analysis of your home’s energy use and costs. Recommendations for improvements are provided.

The assessment will look at all aspects of your home’s energy efficiency including the building envelope (insulation, windows, etc), HVAC systems, appliances, lighting, and more. The typical home energy audit takes 2-3 hours to complete, depending on the size of your home.

How to prepare

Preparing your home properly before the assessment can ensure the process goes smoothly. Here are some tips:

Declutter access areas – Make sure attics, basements, crawl spaces, and other areas the assessor needs to inspect are clear of clutter and debris. This allows them to thoroughly examine insulation levels, air leaks, ductwork, and more.

Have appliances/equipment accessible – Furnaces, water heaters, and other equipment should be easily accessible for inspection. Clearing around them ahead of time saves time during the assessment.

Share utility bills – Providing copies of recent utility bills gives the assessor insight into your home’s energy use patterns over time. This helps inform their analysis and recommendations.

Be present during inspection – Though not required, being home during the inspection allows you to ask questions and gain a better understanding of your home’s energy performance as the assessor evaluates it.

Questions to ask

When interviewing potential energy assessors, you’ll want to ask questions to understand their qualifications and what the assessment will entail. Some key questions include:

What are your credentials and certifications? Look for BPI Goldstar certification or similar industry accreditations.

What exactly is included in the home energy assessment? Will you evaluate the home’s insulation, air leaks, heating/cooling systems, appliances, lighting, water use, and more?

How long after the assessment will I receive the full report detailing your findings and recommendations? Expect a turnaround of 1-2 weeks.

What is the total cost for the home energy assessment? Are there any rebates or incentives available that could help cover the cost?

Asking these key questions upfront will help you understand what to expect during the energy assessment and how much value it will provide.

Compare service providers

When choosing an energy assessor, it’s important to look for professionals with proper certification and experience. Two of the main certifications to look for are Building Performance Institute (BPI) or Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) certification. These programs require extensive training and exams to ensure assessors understand building science and can properly evaluate a home’s efficiency.

In addition to checking certifications, review the assessor’s qualifications, years of experience performing assessments, and customer reviews. Experienced assessors will have performed hundreds or thousands of assessments and have expertise identifying issues specific to your region and home type.

Be sure to get quotes from at least 2-3 companies and compare costs. Prices can range widely, so it helps to understand exactly what’s included. A lower cost assessment may be more limited in scope. Some providers offer more comprehensive diagnostic tests for additional fees. Make sure you understand what you’re paying for.


Interpreting the report

The report from your home energy assessment will contain detailed information on your home’s current energy performance and recommendations for improvements. Here’s what to look for:

Details on home’s energy performance

The report will evaluate areas like your home’s insulation levels, air tightness, heating and cooling equipment efficiency, lighting, appliances, and more. It will use diagnostic tests and modeling to estimate your home’s overall energy efficiency and where the greatest waste and potential savings are.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the report will likely contain “itemized cost savings, payback periods, and the benefits of implementing recommended energy-efficiency improvements” (source). Understanding your home’s performance metrics can help you prioritize upgrades.

Recommendations for improvements

Based on the assessment, the report will suggest improvements to increase your home’s energy efficiency and comfort. Common recommendations may include adding insulation, sealing air leaks, upgrading heating/cooling systems and appliances, replacing windows and doors, and installing efficient lighting.

The Energy Audit report will itemize cost estimates, projected energy savings, and payback periods for each upgrade so you can evaluate your options (source). The auditor can help explain recommendations to determine the best investments for your home.

Estimated costs and savings for upgrades

For each recommended upgrade, the report will estimate upfront project costs along with projected annual energy cost savings. It will also calculate simple and extended payback periods to help you understand the time needed to recoup your investment through energy savings.

Many utility companies and government agencies offer rebates and incentives to make recommended upgrades more affordable. Be sure to factor available incentives and tax credits into the true out-of-pocket costs for improvements.

Prioritizing upgrades

When planning energy-efficient upgrades for your home, it’s important to prioritize the improvements that will provide the biggest energy savings. Focus first on the areas with the largest energy waste, such as inadequate insulation, inefficient heating and cooling systems, old appliances, and poor air sealing. Identify upgrades that will address these major problem areas.

Also consider the payback period when deciding which upgrades to tackle first. Improvements like air sealing and insulation typically have faster payback periods of a few years or less. More expensive upgrades like HVAC system replacement may take 5-10 years to yield a full return on your investment. Focus first on quick payback items to start reaping energy savings right away.

Finally, be sure to research available rebates, incentives, and tax credits that can help offset the costs of energy efficiency upgrades. Many utility companies and state/federal programs offer rebates for common upgrades like insulation, ENERGY STAR appliances, and HVAC system replacement. Taking advantage of these can improve the payback period. For example, see for federal tax credits available.

Financing options

There are several financing options available to help pay for energy efficiency upgrades in your home. Taking advantage of these can help make upgrades more affordable.

Many utilities and local/state governments offer rebates and tax credits for energy efficient upgrades like insulation, air sealing, new windows, energy efficient appliances, and renewable energy systems. These can offset 30% or more of the project cost. Be sure to research available rebates and credits before starting any upgrades.

Energy efficient mortgages allow you to finance efficiency upgrades as part of your home purchase or refinance. The improvements allow you to qualify for a larger loan while the utility savings help pay the mortgage.

Home equity loans use your home equity as collateral to fund upgrades. Interest rates are usually lower than other financing options. Payments can be structured so monthly savings exceed the payment amount.

On-bill financing, offered by some utilities, covers the upfront cost and lets you pay it back over time on your utility bill. If you move, the repayment obligation stays with the meter/utility account.

Hiring contractors

When hiring a contractor for major projects, it’s important to do your due diligence:

  • Get bids from multiple contractors to compare prices and services offered. Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true.
  • Verify that contractors are properly licensed, insured, and have credentials from reputable organizations like the Building Performance Institute (BPI) according to this article.
  • Check references and reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau to ensure contractors deliver quality work and good customer service.
  • Get a detailed written scope of work and timeline from contractors before signing a contract. Understand exactly what will be done and when to avoid surprises.

Taking these steps helps ensure you hire qualified, reputable contractors that will deliver energy efficiency upgrades properly.

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