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In many cases, it is useful to learn more about the current energy performance of your home before taking action. If you don’t know where to start, a home energy audit can be a useful first step. There are two main types of audits available, 1. highly subsidized utility audits (the Community Energy Services program offers a similar assessment that also adds a number of direct improvements) and 2. a much more detailed home performance audit – both take in the range of 1-3 hours in the home.
Subsidized Utility Audit
- You can get a basic walk-through audit from Xcel or Centerpoint for $35, but the most useful information will be gained from a blower door audit ($60 through Xcel) or a blower door and infrared audit ($100 from either Xcel or Centerpoint). The Community Energy Services program ($30 co-pay) also provides an assessment similar to the blower door audit and also installs $200-$400 worth of energy saving upgrades like programmable thermostats, CFL lighting, and more – this program is only available for owner-occupied buildings of four units or less.
- Pros: Low-cost, and provides basic information about any problems in your home, including a blower door reading that tells you how much air loss your home has. Community Energy Services program also offers many direct improvements as part of the co-pay. Makes one eligible for utility rebates on energy efficient upgrades.
- Cons: Does not provide a point-by-point identification of action items that need to be taken or how best to address them. Does not describe specifics (where air sealing needs to be done, where insulation needs to be added, etc.) and what to do to avoid negative ventilation impacts of contractor work. The utility audits often take 4-8 weeks to schedule.
Detailed Home Performance Audit
- You can get a detailed home performance audit including a blower door test, infrared scan of your home, and combustion test from several private companies such as Affordable Energy Solutions and SustainMax usually for $250-$450 depending on the provider and the complexity of the assessment.
- Pros: Detailed and specific recommendations identify each improvement that needs to be made and what should be done to remedy the situation, creating a work specification for potential contractors. Provides a report complete with explanations and blower door readings and infrared images identifying all items of concern. Uses a home as a system approach to identify ventilation concerns for work performed. Timely. Usually also creates eligibility for rebates from utilities. Some providers (such as SustainMax) will discount the cost of the assessment from the work they perform if you decide to conduct insulation upgrades with them.
- Cons: More costly than utility audits, and entails more detailed information that may be challenging to understand.