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Auditing your home’s energy efficiency

A home energy audit can help reduce your energy bills, make your home more comfortable and help you decide whether to invest in a new energy source, a new heating and cooling system or an upgrade of your current system. 

A caveat: If you don’t feel comfortable with an auditor coming to your home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can conduct your own energy audit using a website or app. With these, you can learn about energy use and potential efficiency upgrades, but a comprehensive, in-person energy audit provides much more information. 

Otherwise, for an in-home energy audit, there are two options. The least expensive is a home energy survey, or a “walk-through” audit that is essentially a visual inspection. 

The second, more comprehensive energy audit requires more time and uses several diagnostic tools, at an average cost of about $400. 

Check with your local electric cooperative to see if it offers energy audits or a rebate program that includes audits. 

A blower door test measures air leakage in your home. Photo: Ingo Bartussek

What it covers 

A comprehensive energy audit looks at four main areas. The first is the envelope of your home, which includes all the places where the exterior and interior meet— roof, walls, doors, windows and foundation. 

Tools for this include a blower door test, which uses a powerful fan to depressurize the building to see how well-sealed your home is. Other tools include a thermal imaging camera that pinpoints hot and cold spots. 

The second focus is examining the efficiency of your home’s HVAC (furnace/air conditioning) system and water heater. If your home has air ducts, the auditor can test to see if the ducts are properly sealed. 

The third area the auditor reviews covers lighting, appliances and other plugged-in devices. 

Health and safety comprise the fourth focus. Does your home have the correct number and placement of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors? Should your basement be tested for radon emissions? 

After the energy audit is complete, the auditor should sit down with you and explain the findings in detail and discuss ways to operate your home to achieve more energy savings and more comfort. 

For more energy efficiency information, go to www.togetherwesaveky.com, www.touchstoneenergy. com or www.energy.gov.

PAT KEEGAN and BRAD THIESSEN write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. 

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