If You are Sick, Call a Doctor – If you Want to Cut Your Utility Bills, Call an Energy Auditor
By Grady O’Rear
Last month’s article offered a number of suggestions about home energy saving solutions. The first suggestion was to hire a certified energy auditor. An energy auditor can help identify the “low hanging fruit” of potential energy saving improvements that fit a range of budgets. The auditor can also estimate the payback periods related to particular improvements, so you can better evaluate your options.
Energy audits aren’t just for homes; they are also a worthwhile tool for commercial buildings. With assessment results in hand, you can recommend and provide energy saving improvements to your clients. And this green service package can emphasize a whole-property approach to occupant comfort, safety, and health.
Residential Energy Audits. An hour long “house call” from an energy auditor is a first step for many homeowners. Usually this assessment will produce an energy score, as well as a listing of recommendations for energy improvements along with their estimated cost.
A more thorough energy audit for residences uses special equipment like a blower door test and/or thermographic scan to determine how much and where the home’s building envelope is leaking, assess combustion venting and identify moisture problems. Recommendations are made about the most cost-effective upgrades. In most cases, caulking, sealing, insulation and lighting improvements are needed. This second level energy audit can cost several hundred dollars.
Commercial Energy Audits. In commercial buildings, more thorough energy audits are usually needed. Energy efficiency recommendations can also be part of a retrocommissioning quality assurance process that helps building equipment and systems function more effectively together. As to the energy renovations themselves, timing can be an important factor. If coupled with new construction, expansion or major renovation, energy efficiency improvements can become a small percentage of total project costs. If not properly timed, major energy upgrades like a new HVAC unit or major insulation retrofit might be harder to justify.
Also with commercial buildings, it is important to focus on getting an integrated package, rather than asking for a list of recommended energy improvements with a short-term payback through utility savings. An integrated package can blend improvements with short- and long-term paybacks that, if collectively performed, might all pay for themselves in 2-3 years. It is also important to work with owners to find ways to educate and involve staff in order to ensure their participation and realize maximize operating benefits.
Financing. Thankfully, despite some benefits expiring, there are still some federal tax incentives remaining. A number of state and local governments also have further incentives. Go to www.dsireusa.org to learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives in your state. Information about additional energy-related governmental programs can be found at www.energystar.gov
Green Jobs. And remember, energy auditors in your area might be seeking contractors to deliver energy efficiency improvements. By alerting energy auditors in your area about your green credentials and experience, your firm will be a more likely candidate for referrals.
NHCA has asked Green Advantage to provide a monthly column in its newsletter. Grady O’Rear is President/CEO of Green Advantage, a national certification for builders – www.greenadvantage.org He can be reached at
|Chris Haddox, Visiting Professor at the University of West Virginia in Sustainable Design, gives instruction to students about thermographic imaging. Chris is Green Advantage Certified, LEED - AP and HERS Certified.|
Professor Haddox instructs students in the proper administration of a blower door test.