energy audits: overview

What is an energy audit?

A home energy audit is a review of all aspects of an existing building's energy performance, conducted in order to assess current levels of energy consumption and identify opportunities to improve efficiency, save money on utilities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Home energy audits range from basic to comprehensive, depending on the level of detail the homeowner or property manager wants to obtain and the investment in energy efficiency that he or she is willing to make.

Most basic energy audits survey the performance and condition of home insulation, lighting, and heating and cooling equipment. During a comprehensive home energy audit, auditors use additional special diagnostic equipment to detect air leaks and temperature changes within the home and locate areas that could be targeted for energy-efficiency improvements. Some auditors also examine monthly utility bills

Photo Credit Rick Keating
to identify usage patterns that could be altered to improve energy efficiency.

Why conduct an energy audit?

The most immediate reason to conduct a home energy audit is to gather neutral, professional information about the current energy efficiency and utility costs of a home, sometimes in fulfillment of the requirements of financing or other incentive programs. An audit report provides a baseline measure of building performance and identifies specific areas in which energy performance may be improved. An energy audit on its own, however, represents only the first step towards improving home energy-efficiency. Lower monthly utility bills and long-term cost savings can only be achieved by implementing the recommendations enumerated in an audit report. These can range from simple weatherization improvements to more extensive and costly actions such as replacing older appliances with more efficient models.

The U.S. Department of Energy maintains that even relatively simple improvements identified in audit reports, such as locating air leaks and reducing drafts with weather stripping or caulk, can reduce home energy consumption by five to 30 percent. Energy use associated with lighting, which accounts for ten percent of a home's electric bill, can be reduced by switching to lower wattage bulbs or compact fluorescent lights. [1]

In addition to improved energy performance and long-term cost savings, the implementation of home energy audit recommendations reduces residential greenhouse gas emissions, which make up an estimated five percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. [2] The U.S. EPA reports that if all homes were to reduce home energy consumption by 20 percent, carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 200 billion pounds annually. [3]

In what kind of homes do energy audits apply?

Home energy audits can be conducted in any type of home and in any geographic region. Most diagnostic tests and tools used to assess energy use in residential buildings remain constant, although the recommendations from energy audits will differ based on regional climate, as well as the size and type of property undergoing the assessment.

Learn more
about energy audits to measure and verify performance

Go back to learn about other policies that improve residential energy efficiency

[1] Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments. U.S. Department of Energy Energy Savers Website.
[2] Residential and Commercial Emissions in the United States. [PDF] 2009. Washington, DC: Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
[3] House Calls. January 2009. By Patrick O'Toole. Qualified Remodeler Magazine.