Professional Home Audits - Do they Help Cut Costs?

I am a strong advocate of professional home audits; they can provide a useful view of a home's performance and its potential. This is similar to a home inspection, but focused on energy.Most home auditors are certified building professionals who have specific training in building systems, and should be able to identify the energy abusers in a home.

What Energy Auditors Do

Professional auditors perform specific tests with instruments and diagnostic equipment that include to check the air leakage in your home, the level of insulation in attics and foundation, the condition and efficiency of your mechanical systems, and the safety of all combustion systems, and the potential to add renewable energy for your home.

An auditor usually provides a full detailed report that identifies the results of the diagnostic testing and shows the areas where improvements could be made. There is usually an analysis of the waste, and the potential savings for each recommended energy savings measure.

This audit report is your blueprint for prioritizing projects according to savings, and cost for each upgrade.

Most auditors are affiliated, or are themselves, contractors that can perform much of the recommendations. You have the option to bid some or all of the energy projects to one or a number of qualified contractors, and perform some of the work yourself.

One note of caution: Do your homework and verify the contractors' qualifications, certifications, previous work history, reputation, and obtain references.

Why Are Audits for Older Homes NOT Common?

Even though professional home audits are slowly working their way into existing homes, and some localities are beginning to mandate energy audits in real estate sales, they still do not play an important role in assessing older homes. Nor do they contribute significantly in the banking industry for establishing a home’s worth (market value).

The cost for a home energy audit starts at around $400.00 for an average family dwelling and increases dramatically with the size of the house. Energy audits can range as high as $2,000 to $3,000 and depending on the original efficiency of the home, may not provide enough energy savings opportunities for the buyer to warrant the expense.

Most homeowners of older houses are remiss to pay the price for a home audit. For this audience, empowering the homeowner to understand and perform a simple home assessment may be a better path to overcoming green technology obstacles.

The Drawback to Audits for Homes That Are For Sale

Oddly enough, for real estate that is on the market, audits can complicate sales.

According to Jeffrey Olsen from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, “most audits, including phase I and II environmental studies are required by the lender as a means of avoiding liability.

With some exceptions such as termite and radon inspections, the cost of audits rests with the buyer. Because an energy audit would significantly benefit the buyer, this audit would probably be their responsibility.

Since the audits would probably not indicate situations that would be unhealthy or structurally unsafe, there would not be any regulatory obligation for the seller to pay for the fixes.

While the intent of the audit is to identify areas where efficiency upgrades can save money, many potential buyers might use them as a measuring device to avoid certain homes that are more energy inefficient. This could result in reduced sales to older homes in older neighborhoods.”

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