A home energy audit identifies specific improvements you can make to the structure of your home and its energy management to help reduce energy costs.
Why Get a Home Energy Audit?
A professional home energy audit can help you identify energy drains, such as holes or gaps, and energy hogs, such as inefficient heating and cooling systems and appliances. Once you fix the drains and hogs, you'll:
- Save money on energy costs
- Improve the comfort and health of your home
- Reduce long-term maintenance problems
- Leverage more money for home improvement projects
- Decrease your impact on the environment
Save Money on Energy Costs
Investing in energy-efficiency improvements in your home is one of the best investments you can make. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that every $1 invested in an energy improvement project can yield $4 to $7 in energy cost savings over the life of the improvement. Energy audits can help you identify opportunities that can save you hundreds of dollars.
Improve the Comfort and Health of Your Home
Sealing the holes and gaps around the foundation, windows, door, attic, and other parts of your home stops conditioned air from leaking out and prevents outside air from leaking in. The combined effect of these leaks often equals that of leaving a window open all day. Stopping air leakage makes your home more comfortable, improves the air quality, and improves the efficiency of your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system.
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Reduce Long-term Maintenance Problems
Water damage, ice dams, mold and mildew, condensation on windows, and peeling paint caused by fluctuating indoor environments can lead to costly home improvement projects. Sealing and insulating the "envelope" or "shell" of your home (the outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors) and using an appropriately sized HVAC system can reduce the frequency and severity of high-cost maintenance problems.
Leverage More Money for Home Improvement Projects
Many consumers use low-interest loans to remodel and update their homes. Another option is to obtain an energy-efficient mortgage. These mortgages allow borrowers to leverage anticipated savings from energy efficiency improvements in a home to increase buying power. With the savings generated from reduced energy costs, energy-efficient mortgages almost pay for themselves!
Decrease Your Impact on the Environment
Did you know that homes pollute more than cars? An average of 60 percent of the electricity used in a Montgomery County home is generated from fossil fuels. Together, electricity and natural gas and/or heating oil used in the home are responsible for emitting tons of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants. An energy-efficient home uses less energy and therefore has a smaller impact on the environment.
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Professional Home Energy Audit Programs
Several programs train and certify contractors to conduct standardized home energy audits. Having a certified contractor conduct your audit ensures that it complies with the program's standards. See the list of local energy audit programs below to find the one that's right for you.
Note: Many energy auditors are not contractors, so they have no financial stake in making home improvement recommendations.
Maryland Home Performance with ENERGY STAR
The Maryland Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is a whole-home approach that aims to seal air leaks, seal ductwork, add insulation, improve heating and cooling systems, and upgrade inefficient lights and appliances.
Find a local ENERGY STAR energy auditor.
RESNET Home Energy Rating
The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) is an industry nonprofit that created national standards for building energy efficiency rating systems. RESNET auditors use the HERS Index—a scale representing the energy use of a home. A HERS index of 100 represents the energy use of the "American Standard Building" and an index of 0 indicates that the proposed building uses no net purchased energy (Zero Energy Building). RESNET auditors provide a score and a list of recommendations for cost-effective home improvements.
Find a local RESNET energy auditor.
Home Energy Tune-Up
The Home Energy Tune-Up was designed for owners or buyers of older homes who want to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes rather than rate them. The final report provides many opportunities for home improvements. Tune-Up providers can often connect you to financing options for home improvements. A Tune-Up costs less than a HERS rating and can be done as part of a regular home inspection.
Find a local Home Energy Tune-Up certifier.
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What Should I Look For in an Energy Audit and Auditor?
Energy audits vary in scope, features, and costs. Some audits provide a walk-through offering simple energy savings. Others go into great depth on the condition of your home and opportunities for improvement. Carefully consider what's right for you and your home.
Like finding a good mechanic, it's important to find a good energy auditor. When selecting an auditor, always:
- Determine the type of audit most appropriate for your home and budget.
- Check the Web pages of the programs listed above for a list of certified auditors.
- Ask your friends and neighbors if they've had an audit and, if so, who they used. And if you have a good audit experience, remember to spread the word!
- Get references from potential auditors, and check to see if the references were satisfied with the work.
- Visit the Better Business Bureau and research complaints against the company, or check Angie's List for customer reviews and business ratings.
- Get quotes from multiple auditors. The quotes should clearly outline what is included in the audit and list any additional fees or services. The most thorough audits include a thermographic scan or a blower door test or both.
- If your auditor provides home improvement services, Make sure that he or she has the appropriate contractor licenses. Learn more about professional licensing in Montgomery County.
- If your energy auditor is also a contractor who can complete the improvements recommended in the audit, make sure the audit report includes a detailed list of recommended improvements. You can then compare quotes from other contractors.
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How Much Does a Home Energy Audit Cost?
Professional home energy audits in Maryland, depending on the type of audit and the tests included in the review, can cost between $300 and $700.
Doing an Energy Audit Yourself
Several online tools are available for do-it-yourselfers who want to conduct their own energy audit. They can help you find many energy savings opportunities. Gather a few months of electricity and energy bills, and try one of these to get started:
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Incentives for Energy Audits and Home Energy-Efficiency Improvements
At this time there are no federal, state, or county incentives for energy audits. However, retailers and other service and product providers offer some incentives and special offers to help defray home improvement costs.
State Tax Credits/Other Programs
The Maryland Energy Administration's Geothermal Heat Pump Grant Program offers residents up to $1,000 in grant money for the installation of a geothermal heat pump.
Utility Programs and Local Rebates
The Maryland Public Service Commission is reviewing proposals from the three utilities serving Montgomery County (Pepco, Allegheny Power, and BG&E). The proposals include energy-efficiency programs that would be funded by a small surcharge on each consumer's utility bill. The utilities already provide an incentive for compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
In addition, retailers often provide special incentives for energy-efficient products. To find rebates from retailers in your area on CFLs and other ENERGY STAR-qualified products, use ENERGY STAR's Rebate Finder Tool.
Information for Renters
Even if you rent or lease your home, you can still benefit from an energy audit. But be sure to check with your landlord before getting a professional energy audit or undertaking any improvements. Find helpful do-it-yourself tips for apartment homes and do-it-yourself tips for renters of townhomes and single-family homes.
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Do You Have Specific Questions about Obtaining an Energy Audit?
Search ENERGY STAR's Frequently Asked Questions for Home Improvement. You'll find a comprehensive list of questions and answers like these: Does changing my furnace or air-conditioning filter each month save energy? Can I over-seal my house or make it too tight? What are typically the most cost-effective improvements that I can make to my home to save energy?
Do you still have a question or a comment about energy audits? Email DEP at email@example.com.
Share Your Story
Did you get an energy audit? Tell us your story. Email DEP at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and home address in the email.
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